Monday, September 24, 2012

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 26th Ordinary (Day 1)



 Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22
7 When the king and Haman came in for the banquet with Queen Esther, the king said to her, “This is the second day we’ve met for wine. What is your wish, Queen Esther? I’ll give it to you. And what do you want? I’ll do anything—even give you half the kingdom.”
Queen Esther answered, “If I please the king, and if the king wishes, give me my life—that’s my wish—and the lives of my people too. That’s my desire. We have been sold—I and my people—to be wiped out, killed, and destroyed. If we simply had been sold as male and female slaves, I would have said nothing. But no enemy can compensate the king for this kind of damage.”
King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is this person, and where is he? Who would dare do such a thing?”
Esther replied, “A man who hates, an enemy—this wicked Haman!” Haman was overcome with terror in the presence of the king and queen.  . .
Harbona, one of the eunuchs serving the king, said, “Sir, look! There’s the stake that Haman made for Mordecai, the man who spoke up and did something good for the king. It’s standing at Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high.”
“Impale him on it!” the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the very pole that he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger went away.
9:20 Mordecai wrote these things down and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces, both near and far, of King Ahasuerus. 21 He made it a rule that Jews keep the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as special days each and every year. 22 They are the days on which the Jews finally put to rest the troubles with their enemies. The month is the one when everything turned around for them from sadness to joy, and from sad, loud crying to a holiday. They are to make them days of feasts and joyous events, days to send food gifts to each other and money gifts to the poor.

Queen Esther must have wondered at times what her life was all about.  A Jewish woman in the harem of a foreign King – what can she do there to serve her God and her people.  The reading from Esther shows us what she could, and at great risk and with extraordinary courage, did do for her God and to save her people.  Her Uncle Mordecai had advised her to take her courage in hand and act to save herself and her people capping it with the observation, “But who knows?  Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be a part of the royal family” (4:14).

There it was!  “For a moment like this” – this was what Esther’s life might well mean, why she had been placed in the royal harem.  This observation of Mordecai’s cast a patina of meaning and purpose over what likely seemed an impenetrably odd and meaningless (from the point of view of her faith) setting into which God has placed Esther.

Wayne Watson has recorded a poignant and moving version of Mordecai’s challenge to Esther.  His song invites us to muse on the possibility that who and where we are and all that has brought us to this place has made us just the people to act on behalf of God and his people, and his world in just the ways to which we have access.

This is the missional challenge par excellence:  what will we do with this moment in this place with these people to demonstrate and invite them to join us in serving God’s mission in the world?

We live most of our lives outside the church, outside of worship services, outside of specifically “Christian” activities with people who may or may not share our convictions about Christ at all.  This is where “church” needs to happen!  With these people wherever we encounter and spend time with them is the time and place “church” must occur.  We must, like Esther, constantly ask ourselves if it is “for a moment like this” that God has called, equipped, and sent us forth to serve him.

And this question is not just for a moment but for a lifetime.  In fact, I suspect, it is the question that ought to govern and unsettle our lives at all time and in all places.  “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” is the form Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave to this question from prison within the belly of the beast of Nazi Germany.  For us, in the bowels of the beast of global capitalism with threatens to overwhelm the many for the benefit and gain of the few, Bonhoeffer’s question echoes powerfully and insistently.

Let’s give a listen to Wayne Watson’s sung version of this challenge and allow it to sink into hearts and, hopefully, leaven our living as God’s people in this world.