For Such a Time As This

“”For Such a Time as This”

November 17, 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

 SERMON DELIVERED THE SECOND TO LAST SUNDAY BEFORE MY DEPARTURE AS SENIOR PASTOR OF THE WARREN AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, SAGINAW, MI.  I SERVED THIS CHURCH FOR 28 YEARS.  

Esther 4: 14b  “…..for such a time as this.”

Esther is a short biblical book found in the Old Testament between Nehemiah and Job.  It is considered to be an ancient Jewish novella.  This novella was written roughly 250 years before the birth of Christ.

 

In the fourth chapter of this short story Esther becomes the queen.  She has a Jewish cousin named Mordecai.  He reminds Esther of her ancestry and her duty as the queen to come to the aid of her people – particularly those who are being persecuted.  This ancient scripture is a wonderful verbal exchange between Mordecai and Esther giving me the title for this sermon. 

 

Let us listen this morning to God’s Word that comes to us from a version of our scriptural story written by Pastor, Rev. Libby Tigner:[1]    

 

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in the land of Persia, there lived a beautiful queen. She was the most beautiful woman in all the land, and her husband, the king, who was the ruler of the entire Persian empire, loved her very much. The queen’s name was Esther.

 

Now it so happened that Esther was Jewish, the greatgranddaughter of people

who had been taken to Babylon in the exile, more than a hundred years earlier. For whatever reasons, not all the Jews returned to Jerusalem when the exile ended. Esther’s family was among them, and they now lived in Persia. It also so happened that Esther was an orphan, and had been adopted by her cousin, Mordecai, who took care of her.  But when Esther was chosen to be the bride of the king and became the new queen, she, of course, went to live in the palace.

 

Her uncle, Mordecai followed her there, and stayed nearby, so he could keep an eye on her.

 

The king’s prime minister was named Haman, and Haman, well, let’s say he had an ego. He required absolute obedience and obsequiousness (flattery and sweet talk). He demanded that everyone bow down to the ground as they entered a room, or anytime he walked by. And since Mordecai was always near the palace, watching out for Esther, he and Haman crossed paths frequently. Mordecai refused to bow down, said that he was Jewish and that he was not going to bow down to any human being; he would only bow before God. As you can imagine, Haman was not pleased.

 

Haman devised a plot to punish Mordecai – in fact, to punish the entire Jewish

community living in Persia. He went to the king and told him that there was an entire group of people who were “different,” who disregarded the king’s laws, and who needed to be rooted out and destroyed. Obtaining the king’s permission, Haman devised a plan to kill all the Jews in the land.

 

Mordecai heard of Haman’s plan, and went to Esther and said, “You have got to

go to the king and stop this thing from happening!” Esther said, “What do you think I can do? I may be the queen, but I have no power. I can’t go to the king unless he sends for me. If anyone goes before the king without being summoned, the punishment is death! Only if he raises up his golden scepter to someone will that person live.”

 

Mordecai said, “You may be the queen, but you are still a Jew, and they will kill

you, too. You are the only hope that we all have. Who knows? Maybe this is the very reason that you are the queen. Perhaps you were given that crown for such a time as this.”

 

Esther went to the King, unsummoned, not knowing if she would live or die

because of his rash behavior. The king, because he did love her, raised up his golden scepter and she was able to approach.

 

……… the ultimate result is that, because Esther dared to approach the king, Haman’s  evil plot was exposed, he lost his position and his head, the execution of the Jews did not happen, Mordecai and his family were elevated to positions of honor, and there was great a great celebration. [2]

 

With all the evil forces in the world that could have prohibited Esther from moving forward in faith, she prevailed…..she did what was right in the eyes of the King….and there was a great celebration!

 

This is the Word of the Lord.   Thanks be to God! 

 

 

 

 

 

I.

 

As the story of Esther unfolds, there is a primary conflict between two people, Haman and Mordecia.  This conflict between these men is symbolic conflicts or issues in our world today – particularly with Haman wanting the King to eliminate the entire Jewish race and Mordecia coming to the defense of the Jewish people.  I suppose, in our political reality (world), this would be like those in the Middle East who would still like to see Israel – the Jewish race – destroyed. 

 

The act that is central to the story is Esther’s moment of truth. Will she risk everything in naming and then standing up to those who want to eliminate the Jewish race?    

 

As Christians in our reality – in our world – what will we risk in naming and addressing issues and injustices we see?  For example, the poverty we see on our streets?  The hunger?  The unemployment?  The Racism?  The world reality that sees the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  If Esther had not found the strength deep within herself to face this moment of truth in her life, the story would have ended with her death and the slaughter of the Jewish people.  The question we must ask:  What will we name and then stand up for as Christ’s church?   What are we willing to risk in order to be doing what is right and just in the name of our Lord?   As our constitution says, are we willing to “risk losing our life in trusting in God alone”, Soli Deo, to be Christ’s church?[3]  The confessional statement from the Brief Statement of Faith continues to stand out in thinking about this story of Esther up for what she knew was right and just – “In life and in death we belong to God!”[4]

 

This is a core concern for this church.  It is why this church has remained in this building at this location when the popular, easy, low-risk thing to do would have been to move.   This church has risked putting everything on the line in “doing justice, loving kindness, and forever humbly walking with God” in serving the people of this city – especially the children in this city.[5]   In this time and place, following the heart of women like Esther and the prophet Micah, this church has “remained in this inner-city neighborhood by choice with historical determination” to be doing God’s work![6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

In recent history, one of the greatest accomplishments of this church has been in nurturing a “collaborative environment” in which to work with those in the community who share our values in providing quality programming through the use of this wonderful building.  As a smaller congregation we have learned that we don’t have the capacity – the time or money or people – to run, by ourselves, a large program for children and youth.  But we do have this building.  We have a passion to be serving our Lord.  We have learned how to collaborate with others who do know how to do this type of important programming! 

 

I have seen too many churches try to run huge programs by themselves without the resources required to do a good job.  This hasn’t been an issue for us.  We have partnered with some wonderful people who know how to run after school programs, mentoring programs, youth programs.  One of our greatest assets is our ability to partner with others in blending the resources of this community with a passion to be doing what is just and right for this community. Lest I again be caught boasting too much, you should be proud of what this church has accomplished in nurturing collaborative partnerships with others. 

 

 

It is by the grace of God, “for Such a time as this” to again approach God in asking:  What would you have us do next?  With a change in leadership, what is your plan for this church?

III.

 

You, the members and leaders of this church, are entering into a “discernment process” in mapping out a future for this church.  Just like Esther making the decision whether she was going to approach the King, we have decisions to make in approaching God in asking for guidance and support for the ministries we envision doing as a church.  It is now and again,

 

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to listen for what God is calling this church to do and become….

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to renew our commitment to faithfully serve Jesus Christ with our time talents and financial resources….

 

for such a time as this …

 

… to place our passions, our hearts, next to those things we feel God calling us to be doing..

 

for such a time as this …as stewards of all life….

 

 … to put your lives and perhaps, also, the life of this church on the line, as Esther did – as Jesus did – for what we believe!

 

Three solid, unchangeable, immovable affirmations in contemplating the future:   

 

  1. God is not going away.
  2. Jesus is always going to be in and between us, for we truly believe we are called to be doing Christ’s work in the world today as the living body of Christ.
  3. This city isn’t going away.  But what about the church?

 

Along with Esther we must ask, “for such a time as this”, to move forward heeding God’s call to be Christ’s church!

 

We are all stakeholders in all God has entrusted our care.  Will we stand up for what God calls this church to become? Pastors come and go.  Leadership changes.  Church membership changes.  But God does not go away.  Christ is always near.  This city is not going away.

 

May our prayer be:

 

for it is such a time as this, Lord, for us to be and do as you would have us become as Christ’s church….in sharing God’s love with others—now and forever.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1]   Libby Tigner, First Congregational Church,  Long BeachCalifornia, October 24, 2010.  Permission Granted to use 11/16/2013.

[2]  I believe I got this version from BIBLE.ORG, Women of the Bible, by Kay Daigle.

[3]   F-1.03, New Form of Government       G-3.0400 Old Form of Government

[4]   Brief Statement of Faith, Line One

[5]   Micah 6: 8

[6]  “by choice;  historical determination” – phrases from the church Mission Statement.

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