Esther 4: 9-14
Jews have a holiday that occurs once a year usually in March but sometimes it can occur in late February, it depends on the lunar cycle. It’s Purim. The Bible instructs that it should occur on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar. This is one of the happiest holidays of the Jewish year, Jews all over the world engage in festive merry-making, dress in costumes and use noise-makers called graggers and these yummy triangular cookies with jam inside of them called Hamantaschen appear. It is also a time in which Jews are instructed to give tzedakah or charity as the Bible says,
“And Mordecai inscribed these things and sent letters to all the Jews… to enjoin them to make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and the fifteenth day thereof, every year… a festive day: to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."1
You see Purim is the remembrance of a time long ago when in the city of Shushan, Persia a wicked man named Haman, an Amalekite, tried to kill the Jews but the Jewish queen Esther saved them with help from her cousin Mordecai. It’s not an historical account but a story written within an historical framework. It's a celebration for Jews when the Megillah or scroll of Esther is read. And although God is not named once in the entire Megillah, it’s a story of God’s providence and redemption and a story in which one woman, Esther, rises to the call to save the Jews from certain death.
Let’s hear our focus passage from the Megillah of Esther:
Ha-thak (eunich in the court of King Ahashuerust) went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Ha-thak and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.”
When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish.
Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
I want you to remember the phrase, ‘for such a time as this’ but first, let’s put this passage in context because it is a plot that is laced with twists and turn, and lots of complications. After the destruction of the southern kingdom of Judah the people are taken into Babylonian captivity in what is known as the diaspora (Jews spread throughout the region). Persia conquers Babylon, some people return to Jerusalem and some stayed where they were which is the case for Esther and the Jews in Persia.
The plot simply is King Ahasuerus deposes Queen Vashti and then he holds a beauty pageant to find a new queen. Esther is chosen. Her cousin Mordecai discovers Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. Haman was a vizier in the King’s court. Mordecai tells Esther she needs to intercede. “For such a time as this”. Haman finds out and plots again to have Mordecai hanged but Esther tells the King about the plan to kill the Jews. He finds out who was behind this all and of course it was Haman who then was hanged. Mordecai is recognized as a good guy and the King sends out a decree that the 14th day of Adar a feast shall happen which is Purim.
The story all hinges on Esther who, by providence, happened to be the right person at the right time to do the job that needed to be done. You might say she was called for a specific purpose in the pervading providence of God.
It is that way in life you know. Sometimes you just happen to be the person who is available and willing to do a job and you are there at just the right time. You often see people being interviewed on the news for being a hero because they helped or saved someone in distress. They are unassuming bystanders who without hesitation intervened and helped to save someone. That’s what Mordecai was indicating to Esther when he said, you Esther were called to do this particular job, you were called for such a time as this.
Sometimes we can plan and plan and plan and nothing pans out but then things just happen and you are in the right place, at the right time and bingo! You were able to effectuate good. So you never know when you will be called into God’s service. It’s about being open and willing to take a chance that what you are sensing is the right thing to do. And it is about trusting that God can and will use you for greater purposes.
Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner notes: “The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak … He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys … ‘Be not afraid, for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him.”[i]
God is with you in your life journey make no mistake about that. So the question is what are you doing on and with your journey? Are you letting God work through you in order that someone else can experience life giving justice and peace?
Next Sunday evening I hope that you will join me in ‘Conversations’. We are living in unusual times right now. All you have to do is to look at the news or the paper and see that people are hurting in so many ways. People have lost their homes and their livelihoods to natural disasters, people are dying when going to concerts and night clubs, people are the victims of hate, prejudice and bullying and it doesn’t look like any of this will stop in the near future.
For such a time as this we can gather together and talk. We can talk about how this is all making us feel. What does it do to your psyche every time you hear of such destruction? How might we keep the faith when it seems as if evil has been unleashed around us?
For such a time as this we can pray about where God most needs us. We live a pretty cushy and privileged life here, you have to admit. But that doesn’t preclude us from rising up, rolling up our sleeves and doing some grunt work. In fact, we have a responsibility to do so. That’s what Jesus does and we are his followers so we must too.
For such a time as this we have been called into action. Let us, like Esther rise to the occasion and be God’s messengers of hope, of peace, of justice. There is no other time but now, for such is the time.