“Love, For Such a Time”
Esther 4:1-17 (4:14) – December 4, 2022
Do you remember some fairy tales? The scary ones? The ones where the good guys run away from the bad witch, or the evil fairy, or the wicked king? And, then the good guys turn around and stand up to those evil people? Those fairy tales are so much like the story of Esther we heard a little of today in our Scripture reading.
What happened just before this chapter in Esther? The evil, wicked counselor Haman convinced the King of Persia to have all of the minority resident aliens, or foreigners, killed on a certain date. These foreigners are the Jews. At this point, about 600 years before the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, the Jewish people have been conquered.
Many of the Jews have been forcibly taken hundreds of miles away to a foreign land, to Babylon (or Persia). There they are: a foreign minority in a country not their own. What a situation to be in! Yet, the Jew Mordecai has worked hard, and is now an official in the King of Babylon’s palace. What’s more, his younger cousin Esther won a nationwide beauty contest held by the King to choose his next bride.
Except – remember what I said a few minutes ago? How the good guys in the fairy tales so often keep getting stepped on and beaten up by the evil, bad guys? That is the way it was with the Jewish people, in Babylon. Many of them were forcibly corralled and taken far, far away to a land not their own, to Persia. To work for the Babylonians, like the Jewish official Mordecai did, in the King’s palace. Plus, his young cousin Esther was now queen of the whole country! Except again, Esther is “an outsider in Persian [or Babylonian] culture — especially in the royal city of Susa. Esther is a resident alien, a foreigner, and a member of this peculiar tribe that Persians tolerate unevenly.” 
I can see some clear parallels with the story of the Virgin Mary. She was also a Jew, living under a conquering army, in the occupied country of Palestine. Similar to the situation of Mordecai, Esther and their Jewish friends, living in exile far away from their home. Both women had troubles to face, although Esther’s trouble was magnified because of the autocratic King.
We focus on Esther and her story today partly because Esther and her bravery are linked closely with Mary and her courage, found in the Gospel of Luke. Preachers have preached sermons on Mary for many years, centuries, even. See Mary and her bravery and willingness to step out into the unknown with God at her side. But, sermons on Esther? Not as often, to be sure. Yet, Queen Esther of Persia did something very similar, in terms of courage, bravery and love.
In this chapter from the book of Esther we have grief and dismay from Esther’s cousin Mordecai, certainly! Yet, there is also a time for discernment, an expression of hopes and fears, and a final resolve from Queen Esther as she decides to go and have an audience with her husband, the autocratic, distant King of Persia. For such a time as this she was appointed queen.
Here’s a big question for us, today. We can see Esther instructing her cousin to gather the expatriate Jews together, those who live in the capital city of Susa. Her countryfolk are to fast and pray for her, just as Esther and her maids fast and pray, as she prepares to see the King. Are we that serious about large challenges, today? Do we fast and pray before significant events in our lives today? And if not, why not? We can certainly see this precedent set for us repeatedly in Scripture, in both the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the New Testament.
I know certain acquaintances of mine would probably run back and forth when faced with a huge challenge like this one, wringing their hands, maybe even giving up. “It’s no use! I’m too puny, too weak; no one would listen to me, anyway!” Perhaps even hoping that someone else would do something to save my people! Your group! Our bunch of expatriate friends!
Remember, young Mary was a teenager when she was approached by Gabriel. She had no idea what was happening until the angel explained. She could have been scared out of her wits, or fainted dead away at the sudden, fearful appearance of the angel. And, telling her that she would become pregnant, without the protection of a marriage, of a husband? Mary must have known other young women who that had happened to, and seen how ostracized and shunned they were in her tight-knit community. It took a great deal of bravery and courage for Mary to accept what the angel told her. Yes, there are real similarities between Mary and Esther.
“Esther and Mordecai do what they can with what they have and that is enough to save the day. That makes this a good story with which to encourage worshipers of all ages to look for what they can do about problems they confront rather than what they cannot do. It is easy for children (and the rest of us) to assume there is nothing they can do about many problems they see around them. [Young people] see themselves as too young, too small, not smart or knowing or wise enough.”  But, isn’t that what so many of us grown ups do, too? We can’t do anything about any of these big, grown-up sized problems because we are too puny, or not smart enough, or wise enough, or knowing enough.
But, isn’t God with us today when we face down problems? Just as God was with Esther and Mordecai! And just as God was with Mary all the days of her pregnancy, and beyond! We can praise God for the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” We can praise Jesus for claiming that name, and remaining right by our sides. Through scary and anxious times, as well as fearful and intimidating experiences. Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us will be right next to each of us. And for that, we can praise God! For such a time as this.