31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
July 12, 2020
Esther 2:5-11, 15-18, 4:1-17
Rev. Kristen Kleiman
In the classic Disney movies from the 1940’s and 50’s, the heroine was always a beautiful, meek, young woman who showed her loving heart by singing to animals and being kind to all, winning the prince with her inward and outward beauty.
That’s not what a Disney heroine looks like anymore though. She’s still a beautiful young woman however with her intelligence and physical toughness, she battles all enemies. Sometimes, she still gets the prince, and other times, she chooses independence instead. I wonder which Disney heroine is your favorite? One of the originals or a new one like Mulan or Merida from Brave. Write me in the comments.
Esther has a lot in common with those early Disney movie heroines. Like too many Disney characters, Esther is an orphan, being raised by her uncle Mordecai. She is also “fair and beautiful”. If we read the book of Esther from the beginning, we also discover she is obedient to her uncle and meek – not necessarily because she was inclined to be meek. Meek because Esther and the other women of Persia had seen what had happened to the king’s first queen when Queen Vashti dared to defy the king.
Boldness led to Vashti’s exile whereas Esther’s meekness is what led her to living in the king’s palace, blessed with plenty of food and seven maids to wait on her. Her beauty and meekness led to Esther being named queen of Persia, a place of privilege that most Persians could only dream of, and never her fellow Jews who had been brought as captives to the city of Susa and the land of Persia.
It was a good life. It was a grand life, until her uncle, her adopted father, Mordecai asked her to risk it all.
Esther knew what had happened to Vashti. Esther knew what happened to someone who went to the king without being called. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know…. there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. (Esther 4:11)
That was a huge “if” though. Even though Esther was queen, even though she was favored by the king and by many in the palace, she also knew she had not been called by the king in over a month. To do as Mordecai asked would be a huge risk, requiring Esther to risk life as she knew it, to risk her very life.
Mordecai’s response to Esther’s fear are some of my favorite words in scripture, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)
And with those words, Esther committed to being the leader, the advocate, the change agent her people needed, regardless of the risk.
But was she ready? Was she capable? From what we know, what brought Esther to royal dignity was her youth, her beauty, her meekness, and those are not usually qualities we associate with great leaders.
However God knew what Esther was capable of. God knew what qualities and experiences she would need so she could be in the right place to lead, for just such a time as this.
Esther’s story is worthy of a movie. (What would you call it?) It’s a story with a beautiful young heroine who bravely risks her life to safe her people, and even better, it has a happy ending. Esther’s story is the stuff of movies; it is also the stuff of faith.
Esther’s story, like many others in the Bible, reminds us we are not the first people to live through hardship. Esther was one of many Jews who had been captured and forced to leave her home for a foreign land, living in exile. Esther was also one of many people of faith throughout all time, who was called by God to risk her own privilege, risk her own life, for the sake of others.
We, too, are living in a time when all people are being asked to endure hardship, to make sacrifices. As people of faith, what do we need? For such a time as this, what do we need?
For just such a time as this, we need to trust God. Not only trust God to take care of us. Not only have faith that God is with us. We also need to trust God when God calls us to be the change agent, the leader others need.
That’s the part of trusting God that is a bit more challenging. Leaders throughout the Bible, from Moses to Elijah to Isaiah, initially responded to God’s call, not with trust, but by saying “who me? No, God, that can’t be right.”
We do it, too. A challenge arises in front of us – responding to COVID 19, reimagining Christian discipleship and community in a time when we are forced online, responding to the injustices lifted up by environmental advocates, the Me Too movement, Black Lives matter, and gun sense advocates, responding to the health care, housing, and food access disparities in our country and world.
There are plenty of challenges God is calling us to address, and it is tempting when God calls to say, “no, Lord, you have it wrong. I am not the leader, the advocate, the change agent for this particular challenge. It must be someone else.”
Esther likely believed that, too. Up to that point in her life, she had only been valued for her beauty, youth, and meekness. Her worth was based on being obedient and pretty, an object to be shown off and admired. There was nothing about Esther’s life that would have led her or anyone else to the conclusion that God would use her to be a leader, an advocate, a change agent.
And yet, everything about her life was clearly God’s plan. All of her gifts had led to her being a part of the king’s harem, led to her being queen, led to this time of royal dignity, all so she could save her people. Her whole life had led to this moment.
Our whole lives have led to this moment. God is calling us just as we are. God wants to use the experiences we have lived through, the hobbies, and activities we enjoy doing and sharing, even the assets we possess. God doesn’t want us to be anyone other than who we are. God is calling us, unique, special, amazing you and me – just as we are to leadership for just such a time as this.
So while it is tempting to downplay our gifts, while it would be easier to be a hermit until there is a COVID 19 vaccine, while we might want to say “who me? No, you must mean someone else, someone with ‘better’ gifts, someone who is more leadership material, someone who is good with change, someone over there.”
Yes, we would be in good company if we were to keep on saying and believing that, and yet, here God is. Here God is saying, “I am calling you. I have created you for just such a time as this; I have given you particular experiences for just such a time as this; I have brought you to this place for just such a time as this; to face a challenge just such as this.”
What do we need in such a time as this? We need to trust God. We need to trust God that we are the right leader, the right advocate, the right change agent. We need to trust God and act.