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Lectionary 26 Pr 21B  
Grace Lutheran Church      
Lakeland, FL  
September 26, 2021                                                      

Esther – selected verses                                                                                      
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Would you please pray with me – May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.  

One Sunday every three years, a reading from the Book of Esther is listed as an option for the Old Testament lesson. And today is that Sunday. So guess what. We’re going to look at Esther.  

Esther is a fabulous story set in Persia where the heroine, Esther, and her uncle, Mordecai, were aliens because they were Jewish.  The story goes like this – the King orders that the beautiful maidens in Persia be brought to him so that he can select a queen. Esther is among them, though her Jewishness is not revealed to the King or to his Court. She finds favor with the king and is made queen. Uncle Mordecai overhears some men plotting against the king and he tells this to Esther who tells the King and credits Uncle Mordecai with bringing this news to the King’s attention. The king is grateful to Mordecai and begins to seek out his counsel on any number of things.  

Enter the villain – his name is Haman. He has very high rank with the king – he’s the righthand man so to speak.  The King orders that everyone in the kingdom bow down to Haman. Of course, this is impossible for devout followers of God, all the Jews in the empire. So Uncle Mordecai refused. Haman, who by now had gotten a little full of himself, was angered and decided to punish Uncle Mordecai and all of the Jewish people in the land. He ordered that they all be killed, tens of thousands of them.  

Uncle Mordecai tells this to Queen Esther and begs her to intercede on behalf of her people. Esther considers this and is very reluctant because to go into the King without having been summoned could lead to quick execution. And she had not been summoned for many days. Uncle Mordecai, in trying to convince her to intercede, says, “Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”  Esther is persuaded. She takes the risk, goes into the King who is very alarmed at the news that she delivers. He orders that Haman be arrested and executed. The evil plot is thwarted. The queen’s people are saved. And Uncle Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews throughout the empire commanding them to hold a festival to celebrate this good news, a festival complete with feasting and gladness and the giving of gifts to one another. This festival was to take place every year, and it continues to this day. One writer has said that this festival is a bit like a Mardi Gras, Easter and Halloween all rolled into one.  

At the center of this story are those words spoken by Uncle Mordecai to his niece, Queen Esther,    “Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” Indeed, who knows? For such a time as this...  

These are words of call and vocation and purpose. And they apply to each of us as we live our daily lives – however ordinary or extraordinary they may be.  Vocation may be seen in one’s profession but that is too narrow an understanding. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin for call, as in vocal. One’s call has to do with the way in which one lives out one’s baptismal covenant, baptismal promises, in this time and in this place.  

One theologian, Frederick Buechner, has said that one’s vocation is the intersection of one’s greatest joy with the world’s greatest need. Now, that is very grand sounding, isn’t it; but if we think of “world” as that in which we each live, it can get down to a more realistic level. I think about our brother Michael, who entered the church triumphant last month. Michael lived at Wedgewood Health Care – that was his world. And as we know, one of the needs in health care centers such as this is encouragement and cheer and relationship. Michael’s joy was found in being that source of encouragement and cheer and relationship with others.  Michael was living into his vocation. And we give God thanks for that. “Who knows? For such a time as this…”  

Maybe you were a teacher – just for this student this year who needs you so. And whose life you impact in a way that you may never know. Or, maybe you have been a car mechanic who catches an engine problem that was otherwise undetected and a major accident is avoided. Or maybe a receptionist in a doctor’s office who manages to squeeze that patient in for an appointment and an urgent health matter is seen more quickly than it otherwise would have been. For such a time as this...  

Now, my sisters and brothers, I want you to know this –You are Esther. Even today. You might not know it. You might not recognize it. You might shake your head at these words. Yet, they are true. As a bearer of the Kingdom into our world, as a follower of Jesus, as one of his disciples, you are Esther. You touch lives in quiet ways, sometimes very ordinary – like, actually talking to the cashier at the grocery store or bringing your neighbor’s recycling bin up to the garage door for them after the recycling truck comes by. Perhaps leaving a generous tip when you see that your waiter is swamped and breathless. Or saying thank you to the people who cart our trash away.  

Sometimes you touch lives in dramatic and striking ways – the telephone call with one who has just received difficult news, taking a child into your home because they have no place else to go, giving airfare to someone whose young child is getting serious medical treatment in a distant place so that they can travel to be with their child.  

For such a time as this...  

We’ve been talking about discipleship over these past several weeks. And we have recognized that as disciples --
we are baptized children of God, drawn into relationship with the Triune God and with each other.
we are active participants in God’s mission for the sake of the world.
we are people who have needed healing and who help heal.
we are servants of all without regard for our own status in the Kingdom. we are courageous like Esther.
we are beckoned by God, to participate in God’s mission.
As disciples, we each are called.  

When you read the story of Esther, you will see that it starts with the King throwing a big party – one that went on for 180 days! One full of all the finest of everything. And the story ends with the direction to have a festival for two days each year remembering this amazing time when, through the actions and decisions of a simple Jewish girl, God’s people were saved.  

So it is that we too gather around a table for a feast that is a foretaste of the heavenly party into which we are joined even now. A feast in which we are nourished, for such a time as this....    

Thanks be to God