8What makes the celebration of Purim so important? What makes the memory of Esther so powerful? What does this old story have to do with what is happening in the world today? And what does the celebration have to do with us today and how we live our lives from day to day.
First of all, I think it reminds us that God puts us in specific places at specific times for specific reasons. When we remember what happened with Esther, we remember that none of life is an accident.
God ordained Mordecai as Esther’s foster parent and adoptive parent. He raised this girl that was not his own. And he raised her in such a way that she was able to do the right thing at the right time to save a nation.
God put Esther in this very difficult situation she was in as a member of a royal harem so that he could make her Queen, and then work to save the Jews through this very unlikely woman who went from a prisoner of war and a foreigner to a queen and a conqueror.
And God puts you in your schools, among your friends, at your job, and in your clubs in order to do something only you can do for his glory in each of those situations. God calls you to be courageous in sharing the good news of what Jesus has done for you with your friends, even though it takes tremendous courage. God calls you to make the stand for him that only you can. To do the good for him that only you are blessed and gifted to do. Because God put you in the place you are in, with the friends and family you have, for a time such as this. Seize the moments you have.
But don’t miss, in the process of claiming your place in God’s plan, to remember that what God is doing is bigger than you. Purim in Judaism is a time for community. And the story we read from Hitler was about the fear of a community. A fear of what God is doing with and through his people.
God is always at work saving his people. He was when he was saving the Jews in the time of Esther. He is now in his church.
The church is always one generation from extinction. And it is always full of a ragtag bunch of sinners, who are made into God’s saints simply because he wills to save us. We are always on the cusp of barely surviving, and yet always being led forward by God’s grace into new times of hope and refreshing.
The festival of Purim celebrates the survival of God’s people by God’s grace. The world may try to buy out authentic Christianity with commercialism and materialism. God’s people resist. The enemies of God may try to persecute Christians into non-existence, and the church, whether in 20th century China or the first century Roman Empire survives and grows. The world’s power cannot defeat God’s people.
So, look around, and know that you were chosen by God to be a part of this church body. We may be older than some churches, and smaller than some churches, but we are who we are and we have been brought here by God’s grace to do the part of God’s work that God has set before us. You have a role to play here. You have gifts to offer to this body. You may try and run from that truth, you may avoid that truth, but that doesn’t keep it from being the church. There are several of you that this church needs to have the courage to step up, to commit to this church, and to serve this church in the name of Jesus. God brought you here because he wants you here, and he has a way he wants to use you to build up this church and the kingdom of God throughout the world. So look around.
And look around again. And realize that despite the fact that some of us rub you the wrong way, and others of us you don’t even really know yet, we have been brought together as God’s people here. This church is God’s gift. We are God’s gift to one another. We have been brought together as God’s imperfect people so that we can teach each other how amazing God’s grace is. Because even though we are an imperfect family, we are God’s family nonetheless. We may even argue, but as Kenny Fair says, this too is a gift, “Because every church is a family, and every family has a few arguments, but half the fun in being in a family is that after the arguing is the making up part. So it is all a good thing.”
This church has been given as God’s gift to you, and you need to accept it and celebrate it. Because God has brought each of us here, this day. And each Sunday is a reminder that God continues to call out to people and save them, and create a people to bear his name. Even here in this humble place called Fowler, in this modest church that bears the name First Baptist Church of Fowler.