Sunday Service 30th April - Esther
Esther : When power is limited (Alva Version)
Welcome to our reflection for 30th April.
A lot has happened to Esther since last week.
Her uncle Mordecai has thwarted an attempt on the Kings life.
In the process he was given a royal gift of being led with respect by Haman, the king’s chief advisor round the city.
Later Mordecai refuses to bow before Haman, claiming he will bow only before God.
Haman takes this slight personally and has hatched a plot to kill all the Jews in the Empire by tricking the king into a royal proclamation that they were to be slaughtered without mercy.
Mordecai reacts to this by telling Esther that she has to do something, when she resists by saying she has no influence on the king and that it would put her in mortal danger Mordecai responds by saying that ‘maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen.’
Maybe this is a good time to remind you that no matter what is happening in your life, that there are things that you can do, like praying for a situation.
And we can help if you want.
The prayer group in Alva parish could pray for you.
It can be as simple as ‘Hi, my name is Jim, and I am struggling just now, please pray for me.’
And I will send that over to our prayer team who will pray for you and your situation.
If nothing else, it reminds us that not all hope is lost, God cares.
Let’s now hear our reading and prayer for today
Reading: Esther 5: 1-8
Let us pray
we come before you today in hope and anticipation.
You have promised that you will come into our lives, be part of our life, and n doing so will make all things new.
You have promised that you will never give up on us, that you will seek us out in love and grace,
hoping that we will enter into a relationship with you.
So in adoration and praise we come to worship you.
We give thanks that you come to the ordinary and the weak.
Into an ordinary town in an ordinary place, you sent you Son, our saviour Jesus Christ,
to be born.
Into ordinary lives he came, to ordinary people he called, and with ordinary followers he brought the glory and love of God to the world.
Help us today to, in our lives, both ordinary and extraordinary,
to appreciate this wondrous news;
to see that not only in the glorious and the exciting, but in the everyday, the humdrum and mundane,
that the God who created all still seeks to be with us.
Help us learn from the old stories, like the story of Esther,
who came from ordinary beginnings to become a queen who used her position, with great courage and faith, to do something positive and good.
we have heard your word,
have been guided by your Spirit,
and have felt your presence,
we know what you ask of us,
we know the path we must travel
and yet we sometimes fail to do what you ask,
forgive us we pray, in Jesus’ name,
and help us to do better in the future
to learn from our mistakes and to seek new ways of living as you have called us to.
We each go through times of great joy and great sadness, great excitement and tremendous boredom
but through it all you are with us,
help us today and all days to know Your presence in our lives, to see this, to accept this.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
If you have ever had the joy of bringing up more than one child then you know the reality that all children are different and that you need to treat them differently.
When I first got married I inherited two boys, an eighteen year old and a ten year old.
About a month into the marriage my wife must have noticed the strain I had trying to work out how to be an instant father to these two boys.
So she asked me how I was getting on.
As someone always trying to see the positive in things I said, ‘Well the good thing is that when our children are ten and eighteen at least I will know how to handle them by then.’
Roseanna just looked at me as if I had said the most stupidest thing in the world.
My only excuse is that I had only been a father for a month.
Every child is different and needs to be handled differently.
One child may respond to a challenging tone, another might completely crumble to the same tone.
One child might respond to an encouraging, ‘everything will be all right,’ tone, another might take that to mean that it doesn’t matter what they do and stop trying to do anything.
This is what Esther was facing.
She was facing an emperor who wasn’t used to being told he was wrong;
an emperor who didn’t take lightly to hearing the word NO.
Remember last week Queen Vashti refused to go on display when he was drunk and he wanted to show her off to his male party guests?
He was furious at the time, but he didn’t calm down once he was sober.
He issued a proclamation effectively writing her out of history.
She was no longer queen, she was never to see the king again.
We don’t know if she was effectively locked away in a room for the rest of her life, whether she was imprisoned, whether she was in solitary confinement for the rest of her life, or whether she just disappeared.
This was a man who could do what he wanted with no consequences to himself.
He had never had to stretch his imagination to work out what was going on,
it didn’t matter what was going on, the whole empire was there to make sure it never affected him.
He had never had to deal with anything that was a struggle.
His court officials would never give him a question in which he had to strain.
If there was a real problem they would set the question in such a way as to give him the answer.
Imagine a foreign power was trying to invade on the southern part of the Empire.
If they came in and said, ‘What should we do? Should we retreat and defend, or should we attack?’
That would make the King make a decision, a decision that might be proved wrong?
You couldn’t put the king in that position?
So they would frame the question as
‘Is it the wish of the king want the commanders of the army to come up with a strategy to thwart the invaders?’
Not only has the king made the decision, if it goes wrong then the commanders are to blame and they will be executed for such negligence.
Haman has used the king’s vanity and pride to get his way.
He felt slighted by the Jews and wanted them as a race obliterated.
He has told the king that the Jews as a whole are strange people, different, not like us. They don’t obey the laws of the land, they are untrustworthy. Not only that Haman appreciated that there are costs, administrative costs to getting rid of them, so he promises to pay those costs and a lot more, giving 340,000 kilogrammes of silver to the royal treasury.
Because that’s the thing about human nature, we never have enough.
My daughter was talking to one of her friends a few weeks back who was saying that he felt his life was missing something.
He had a great job, he had a wonderful wife and two great children, lived in a good house and wasn’t short of food or clothing...in the context of the world he was one of the richest men on the planet, and yet he felt it wasn’t enough.
What do you give the man who has everything?
And King Xerxes is a man who has everything, yet he is bribed with just a bit more.
Esther has to deal with this.
She has to explain that he has made a mistake, that he was wrong, that he has to change the situation, he is the only person that can change the situation.
And yet the last person who told him he was wrong no longer exists.
So she appeals to the only thing that he responds to...his own satisfaction.
Or rather she doesn’t.
It looks like all she is doing is pampering to his needs, but what she is really doing is showing the king that she is human.
Last week before the live service the congregation was shown a protest song called, ‘I am Loved’ (https://commonhymnal.com/songs/i-am-loved).
Within the YouTube video the base guitarist tells of an incident when his van breaks down in a white area.
And as he sorts out the problem he looks up and a white couple are pointing a shotgun at him and asking him why he is in the area.
He has done absolutely nothing wrong, and yet this couple are threatened by him enough that they might fire at him thinking that it keeps them safe.
He is terrified and just wants away from the area.
The problem is that that couple don’t see an ordinary man just fixing his van, somehow they see a monster that could threaten them and they feel the need to protect themselves from this monster.
The problem is that they don’t see a brother or a father or a husband or a son,
they don’t see someone just trying to get by the way they are,
they don’t see someone who could be a friend or someone in need of help,
they don’t see someone who is loved, or someone who would be deeply missed.
They see a black man who is threatening them.
In the same way King Xerxes didn’t see the Jews as like him, they were different, evil, threatening.
What Esther is trying to do is get Xerxes to see, ‘We are human like you, we need help.’
I think the point to all of this is that we are living in a world of great conflict just now.
We are living in a world that seems very threatening just now.
And when we are surrounded by that all we see is danger and threats.
We stop trusting others because we don’t know if we can trust others.
It is easy to see others as unloved, or even worse, unlovable, expendable, disposable.
It might even be easy to see ourselves as unlovable, expendable, disposable.
Like Esther understands, it takes time and effort to build relationships, for others to see us as we are.
We need to do that.
One of the wonderful things that I often here about, are the wee informal groups of people, particularly women, who meet for coffee.
I’ll go to visit them and they are out with Agnes and Betty to the Coffee Bothy or the Little Owls.
It just reminds me that they are saying to each other, ‘We are loved.’
And if people see that, then they are more likely to believe that others are loved as well.
So here is my homework, find a friend and have coffee with them, just chill out with them for an hour or two, trust me, it will be good for your soul.
Let us pray
God of love.
We thank you for Esther’s story,
for the complexities and barbarities that still have the power to shock us,
for the wisdom Esther showed, not lashing out in righteous indignation or anger,
but finding a way to change the future for her people.
Working within the system she had rather than fighting to change the system.
That with time maybe the system should change, would change,
but being wise enough to see that that was a battle for another day,.
that this day was about practical help that would make a difference.
We pray today for our world,
for all those events, all those happenings that do not make the news,
for all the joys and the loses, for all the everyday occurrences that go into making up the lives of all our sisters and brothers.
Help us to see your glory shining through the kindness of people, even in the greyest of days.
We pray for your church,
for small congregations and large ones,
for new styles and traditional ones,
for all those who make up the body of Christ and seek ways to authentically and faithfully draw close to you in worship and praise.
Let your church continue to be filled with you spirit.
Let each member be open to seeing practical ways in which they can walk in the lives of those near the and see them as brothers and sisters on a similar path of discovery.
We pray for ourselves,
each sitting here, with our own worries and concerns, our hopes and our dreams.
Help us, we pray, to live lives filled with meaning, love and care,
and show us today and all days
how to use all your gifts to help change this world for the better.