Sunday, August 29, 2010

For A Time Such as This: Sermon for August 29

Read Esther 4

Last month I was reading through my books I have been given to review for a Christian website. One of the books I have been given to review was on Esther, and was a fictionalized story of her life. A lot of things intrigued me about the book as I read. One of the things that drew me in the most was some of the introductory historical materials talking about the legacy of Queen Esther into the mid 20th century.
Listen to this:
In September 1939, Hitler launches an unprecedented attack in Poland and begins his reign of terror. His first public proclamation closes all synagogues, effective the first day of the festival of Purim. Purim is the holiday that celebrates the heroism of one woman, Esther, and her triumph against the evil of Jewish genocide. Hitler was crafting a horrific annihilation for his Jewish captives, and Purim would give them the shining hope that the courage of even one woman might still be enough to stop him.
Hitler’s men raced against time to destroy the synagogues and wipe the festival of Purim from the mind of every Jew. (Purim is around February so they had 6 months) “Unless Germany is victorious,” Hitler shrieked to his men, “Jews could then celebrate a second triumphant Purim festival!” Hitler may have hated the entire race, but he feared one woman. Even her dusty memory could threaten his bloody regime. Who was this woman who gave a madman pause? Could she even now call out to her people across the centuries?”
So the story of Esther is pretty important. And the story of Esther is something that many of us remember vaguely, but don’t remember well. So I thought we would take a break from the book of Acts for this Sunday and look at the life of young Esther and her Uncle Mordecai.
Actually Esther’s given name was Hadassah. She, her uncle and their family were drug from Jerusalem to Susa, which is in modern Day Iran, on the border of Iraq after the nation of Israel. Somewhat like the trail of tears for the Eastern Band of the Cheyenne tribe, they were drug on a treacherous journey to one of the three capitals of the Assyrian empire. It appears that Hadassah’s immediate family had died while in exile, because Mordecai had taken his cousin under his care.
It is interesting to note here that Mordecai and his family were among those who taken to Israel with the political elite and craftsman of Israel. Mordecai was most likely a political operator while he was in Israel. He knew how political power worked, and he knew how his people thought.
Hadassah at some point changed her name to Esther. Or at least that is what she was known by. Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also changed their names as they came to prominence in the country of their exile. It was something people did to make it easier to do business, make friends, and be successful in a strange land.
Esther changing her name from Esther from Hadassah was like what happens with phone operators I encounter when I need a little customer service with my credit card, my Amazon book shipment, or with some problem on my computer. I call for some help. The guy says his name is Jim. The guy has a deep East Indian accent. Sometimes I let it go. But sometimes I have to ask the guy what Jim is short for. He says his given name is Radheyshyam. I then say, “Well, Jim, here is my problem…” and we go from there. His given name is hard for me to pronounce and remember. So in order for him to do business and have people remember his name and make a buck, he goes by “Jim” with some people. Hadassah changing her name to Esther was like that.
So King Xerxes decided to party with a number of his friends. At some point he asked his wife to come out and entertain his men, dressed in a less than modest manner. The Queen Vashti refuses because she believes it would be undignified to appear before the king in such a way. The king gets angry. He asks his advisors what to do. They tell him to strip her of her crown, and put her away from him never to be seen or heard of by him again. After all, they argue, if the king can’t keep his wife under control, all of our wives are going to make our lives miserable. So Vashti is deposed.
After a while, the King decides he wants another queen. So he puts together a beauty contest….kind of.

1 comment:

lailani said...

I enjoyed this sermon very much.