Sermon: For Such a Time as This

“….for Such a time as this”  based on Esther 4:14b.  This is a Stewardship Sermon delivered to the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church congregation on October 23, 2013.

Today, a “story book” version of our scripture from the Old Testament book of Esther.  Esther is a short book found between Nehemiah and Job.  It is considered to be an ancient Jewish novella set during the Jewish Diaspora in the Persian Empire roughly 250 years before the birth of Christ.

In the fourth chapter of this short book, Esther becomes the queen.  Her Jewish cousin Mordecai reminds Esther of her ancestry and her duty as the queen to come to the aid of her people – those who are being persecuted.  This scripture is a wonderful verbal exchange between Mordecai and Esther, Mordecai who says,

 “Perhaps you were given that crown for such a time as this.

 Now is the time …

Because this is complicated story, I hope you enjoy this version written by the Rev. Libby Tigner, a United Church of Christ pastor[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 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 this rash behavior. The king, because he did love her, raised up his golden scepter and she was able to approach. While there is a little more to the story, 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]

This is the Word of the Lord!

 Thanks be to God!

 I.

Do you feel  “overwhelmed” with all that is going on in the world?  The wars, politics or economic forecasts?  Health issues, lack of good paying jobs?  Insurance?  Corporate greed?  There’s a lot going on!  I am frustrated.  The protests that are canvassing the entire nation seem to have one common theme:  the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer and the middle class is being squeezed into oblivion.     

I was talking to a woman this past week who is extremely frustrated.  She said that for the first time in her life she felt like she would have to put all of her bills in a bag and just pulling them out one at a time to pay them as she can / if she can…..

This story is being repeated over and over again in hundreds of households in this community, in tens of thousands of households across this nation.     

And here were are in the middle of a stewardship campaign asking for pledges to support the work of this church! 

In desperate times I know and fully understand times are tough.  For some, how can you pledge what you don’t have?  That’s why I encourage those of us who can do a little bit more to pick up the slack, may wish to do so if for no other reason to make up for those who are ‘tapped out’! 

For those who have hit rock-bottom financially?  There is something important you can give:  YOUR PRESENCE!  RIGHT HERE!  IN THIS PLACE!  IN THIS SANCTUARY!  IN WORSHIP!  Where we can PLEDGE our lives to God.

In reflecting on the story of Esther, I want to preach not on MONEY but rather: WHAT WE HAVE TO GIVE AS DISCIPLES – AS LEADERS – AS ADVOCATES AGAINST THE INJUSTICES WE SEE THAT DEFY WHAT GOD WANTS FOR ALL HIS CREATED CHILDREN. 

It is “for such a time as this” we are called as disciples and advocates to step up our game in serving our Lord as active, committed members of the body of Christ – the church.  

II.  Some more reflections on our story from the book of Esther….

As the story of Esther unfolds, the two people between whom the primary conflict lies are Haman and Mordecai.  They are symbolic of larger, global issues…..particularly with Haman wanting the king to eliminate the entire Jewish race.  But 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 the injustices?  This threat against all the Jewish people?

If Esther had not found the strength deep within herself to face this moment of truth, the story would have ended with her death and the slaughter of the Jewish people. This was a defining moment for Esther, just as Mordecai said, “Perhaps, for such a time as this” to do something instead watching from a distanced as the Jewish world would have been destroyed…..

For us:   

This story is asking if we will first (1) stand with Esther in naming the injustices as we see them and second (2) muster the courage to do what is right in the face of the injustices.   

Standing with Esther and knowing what God has given us through Jesus life and death and resurrection, how can we NOT respond as advocates against the injustices we see in the world?

We are in this inner-city neighborhood because of our commitment, as Christ’s church, to help the people who need us in this community.  We open our doors to the youth center because of our commitment to help the children in this community.  We maintain a playground so children will have a safe place to play. We donate literally thousands of dollars to mission, through our budget and special offerings – close to $15,000 – because we know it is the right thing to do, for such a time as this, in the name of Jesus our Lord.  More than money, we share this building rent free with this community.  We give of our time and talents in caring for this church – because we care for this community.   

From our church constitution:  We reach out to “offer care and nurture to God’s children, to speak for social justice and righteousness, to bear witness to the truth and to the reign of God that is coming into the world.”  (G.1.01b)

From our church mission statement: “We reach out with historical determination to share the Good News of the gospel in our church, neighborhood, city and world.” 

From an Old Testament perspective:  Esther calls us to be stewards in identifying / then addressing the injustices people face in their lives daily lives.  Our identity as a church is tied to this location as we work in mission to bring Christ into this ‘stressed’ neighborhood. 

From a New Testament perspectiveJesus is our motivation for doing God’s work, as the living body of Christ.  Christ is alive and working in this community to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, bring comfort to the distressed, struggling with us to bring peace into the homes and hearts of those we encounter as Christ’s church.

It is for such a time as this  to be Christ’s church, the Warren   Avenue Presbyterian Church, to combine our resources with our passions in making this a better world in which to live.

 III.  “….for Such a Time as this….

In summary:

Travel with me again into the world of Esther as leaders of the church.  Esther reminds us  “for such a time as this” – today in this time and place — to step forward with our commitments to do what is honorable and right in the eyes of God.  Not alone but together, as Christ’s church, “for such a time as this”  to step forward with a renewed-heart-felt commitment to do and be what you feel Christ is calling you to do and be…..not tomorrow….but God saying “for such a time as this” – TODAY – where the needs are prevalent NOW….to respond with courage in doing what is honorable and right – NOW — in the eyes and heart of God.  

This message is not just for some of us but ALL OF US who call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ…called to do what is honorable and right with our time and talents and commitments.  The moment of truth – as it was upon Esther is upon each of us NOW – TODAY!

For Such a Time as This!

To give our time and talents and money – and ALL

in the name of the living Christ.

Amen

 


[1]   Used with Permission from Libby Tigner, First Congregational Church,  Long   BeachCalifornia, October 24, 2010

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

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