Vicar’s Message |January 2021
Esther is an often over-looked heroine of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Even though she is the only woman to have an entire book dedicated to her, the Book of Esther never occurs in the lectionary, the three-year cycle of readings we follow on Sundays. If you have never read the Book of Esther, or even if you have, I implore you to do so. It is celebrated by our Jewish siblings at their festival of Purim, but often at best, it survives in Christianity as another chapter in the history of Israel, perhaps too complicated and violent for the caricatures lifted up in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. For these reasons, we Christians miss out on a remarkable story.
To give a summary, Esther hides her Jewish heritage to be appointed the Queen of Persia for her beauty. Seeing that the King and his main confidant are plotting to commit genocide against the Jews in Persia, Esther crafts an appeal over several nights to the King to foil this plan. Esther’s success comes not just in foiling this plan but punishing those who concocted it, thereby saving and even redeeming Jewish people for years to come. However, Esther is at first reluctant to intervene because of the risk it poses to her own life. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, tries to convince her otherwise. The most famous verse of this is Esther 4:14, which ends with, Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. Mordecai’s plea highlights the timing of Esther’s call. Esther was surely in a position she never expected, but as it turns out, the timing was what mattered.
As we move from one year to the next we are reminded of our sense of time and how it sometimes can be so different from God’s sense of time. We may find ourselves wishing away time, particularly in 2020. We may find ourselves savoring time, not wanting it to flee, perhaps on a trip or at a significant event. Yet, God’s time carries on. So can we see ourselves as Esther was asked to see herself – appointed just for such a time as this? Can we respond to God’s time, even when it does not fit our own? I am also reminded in the season of Epiphany how the magi showed no hesitation to travel to a foreign land to see Jesus, unsure of what they would find amidst the infanticide ordered by Herod. Yet, they hurried to see him. What might happen if we shifted our lives to respond to God’s time, rather than seeking God’s time to fit ours?
I have no definitive answer, but if scripture is any indication, we may just find ourselves encountering God in ways we have never experienced. We may come into a relationship with Jesus unlike anything we have ever known. We may live a life of discipleship that brings us joy, peace, and comfort. Amidst a bruised and pained world, we can be the guiding light to healing and redemption. But we will never know unless we do in fact respond to such a time as this. May this be our resolution in this New Year.