Because You Care, We Are Family
A SERMON DRAMA
We are family. We are a church family. We are related to one another through Jesus Christ. Acknowledging God as our Creator, Jesus as our Saviour, we commit our lives to him and become part of his family, his church. Thereby, we are related. We are family. We share a common commitment, we share a common world view, we share a common allegiance to the ethical and moral values of the Bible.
We are family. We rejoice in one anotherís victories, support one another in failure, comfort one another in grief. We can expect to go to anyone else in the church and ask for help, and know they will do whatever they can, perhaps not always what we expect, not always according to our agenda, but we can expect to be treated in love and mercy. We can expect to be prayed for. We can expect loyalty of one another. And when the going gets rough, we can expect one another to even take risks.
Today on Victory Sunday, we share a unique opportunity to commit ourselves again to Jesus Christ, commit ourselves to do his work through the ministry of this church, and, to commit ourselves also to one another, to be for one another the church, the family of Christ. Let me tell you a story this morning about family loyalty and the risks one woman took on behalf of her family. This story is found in the Bible; itís a wonderful story. You might want to read it in its entirety when you go home. Itís the story of Esther.
Once upon a time in Persia in the days of King Ahasuerus whose name is so difficult to pronounce, I shall refer to him from now on as the king, the king advertised for a new queen. Queen Vashti had stood up for herself in the Persian manís world. She refused to dress and act as a playgirl for the King and his drunken friends at a stag party. The King was furious, and the men feared for the peace of their own homes, if the word got out to their wives that Vashti had stood up to the King. So they urged the king to issue an edict, declaring (Esther 1:22) "Every man should be master in his own house!" (They needed all the help they could get!)
The dilemma now was the king had to find a new wife. He advertised in the local news media for young virgins. Applicants were invited to join a harem where, for one year, they would receive beauty treatments, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and cosmetics.
Now there was a Jew named Mordecai who had reared his orphaned cousin, Esther. Mordecai urged Esther to apply because Esther was "fair and beautiful." And, to make a long story short, the King chose Esther to be his queen. But, Esther did not tell him she was a Jew.
In the meantime, Mordecai had made an enemy. The kingís prime minister, Haman, expected to be treated as somebody special. He expected everyone to bow. Mordecai would not humiliate himself by bowing to the likes of Haman. The tension was further accentuated because Haman was from a tribe which had a long standing feud with Jews. Haman was furious at Mordecai for not bowing to him, so he plotted against the Jews and talked the king into a pogrom, a systematic annihilation of the Jewish people. Haman said to the king, neither of which knew that Esther was a Jew, "O King, there is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the kingís laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them."
There you have the plot. The Jews are to be destroyed, including Mordecai, Estherís cousin and benefactor. (Enter Esther) And, Queen Esther is a closet Jew. But, family is all-important. Esther rose to the occasion. She became the Savior of her people. With indomitable courage, Esther remained loyal to her family, and even risked her life on their behalf. Esther exemplifies beautifully the qualities of loyalty and courage, characteristics of family, the family of God, the church family.
Doug: May we help you? Peggy: May I speak? D: Who are you? P: My name is Esther. D: Esther! We are honored. Why are you here?
Esther: Youíre telling my story, and Iím afraid Iím not quite the noble and courageous woman you are describing. When my cousin Mordecai brought me to the kingís palace and left me in the harem, all I was concerned with was doing whatever I needed to do to become the Queen. And it wasnít for the purpose of doing something great and wonderful for my people. In fact, the reason I didnít let anyone know that I was of Jewish descent is because Mordecai had forbidden me to do so, but I probably wouldnít have told anyone anyway. It was very exciting. I mean, all that attention, beauty treatments for twelve months, and the opportunity to adorn myself with any jewels which I chose from the harem when I went to the kingís chamber.
D: But the story says you took nothing.
E: Well, thatís true. I didnít choose anything. But, I did take what the kingís eunuch suggested. In fact, I made sure I had him on my side. And, indeed, most of the servants wanted me to be the one who was chosen.
D: Oh...you know, Iím fascinated with your courage to intercede with the king on behalf of your people, your family. In that day, anyone who approached the king without being invited was executed, unless the king lifted the gold scepter. You risked your life!
E: Well, youíve forgotten. I didnít want to go to the king. It was my cousin, Mordecai, who helped me understand that my position as Queen gave me the opportunity to be of service to my people, my family. You see, I just wanted to be chosen as the queen. Never did I imagine that I would have to risk anything. But, I love my people, and when Mordecai said to me, "Do not think that because you are in the kingís house you alone of the Jews will escape," I decided it was in everyoneís best interest for me to go before the king. So, you see, I wasnít as noble as you are making me out to be.
D: But, you did go. You went alone in there and presented yourself to the king.
E: I went in there alone, but I wasnít alone. My people, my family, were praying. In fact, all the Jewish people did not eat or drink for three days or nights. With that kind of support it was easy for me to say to Mordecai, "I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish!"
D: Tell me about that, tell me how you went to see the king.
E: On the third day, when I had finished praying, I took off the clothing of sack cloth and ashes which I had worn while I was fasting and praying, and dressed myself in splendid attire. After calling upon God as my savior, I invited my two maids to go with me. One went in front of me, and the other followed carrying my train. They tell me that I looked absolutely radiant as I walked down the hall into the kingís chamber that day. But, my heart was pounding with fear. When I passed through all the doors, I stood before the king. He was seated on his royal throne, arrayed in all his splendid attire, all covered with gold and precious stones--a most formidable sight! As I entered the room, he raised his face. It was flushed with color, and he appeared to be in a rage. I stumbled, felt faint, as though my very life had begun to drain out of me, and I collapsed on my maid who had gone in front of me. And then a strange thing happened. When the king looked up and saw me, his spirit changed from fierce anger to gentleness. He sprang from his throne in alarm, and took me in his arms until I revived. He comforted me with reassuring words, saying, "Esther, be brave. Youíre not going to die!" Then he raised his gold scepter, tapped me on my neck, and said, "Now, Esther, what is it?" "My Lord," I said, "I saw you like an angel of God, and I was upset by your awesome appearance. For you are wonderful, my lord, and your face is full of graciousness." As I spoke, I sagged with relief and said, "If it pleases the king, let the king, together with Haman come today to a lunch I have prepared for you."
D: Iíve often wondered why you didnít ask the king right then to rescind the decree to destroy the Jews? While you had him in a good mood? And, Iíve also wondered why you had two banquets.
E: I wanted Haman there! So I asked both of them to come to lunch. And then I couldnít seem to get up my nerve, so I asked them to come back to a banquet. The banquet lasted two days, mostly because I was having trouble saying what I knew I had to say. But, finally the king forced the question and asked me why I had invited them there. I was uncomfortable, and knew that what I was about to ask would reveal that I was a Jew, and therefore, it could cost me everything, could cost me my life. My heart was pounding as I said, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life; this is my petition. And spare my people; this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation."
D: On behalf of her people, her family, Esther risked, even her life. She gave all she had to God. She held nothing back. What are you willing to do for Jesus---and his people?
ã 1990 Douglas I. Norris