Great Summer Reads: Esther

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The series is Great Summer Reads. This Sunday was devoted to the Book of Esther. When I shared my blog assignment with my wife, I heard things like; “I love Esther, What a delightful story, What a strong woman.” Preacher Heather Mandala introduced her sermon with the same enthusiasm for this Great Read. My initial thought was “Why was a man given this assignment?” I was in trouble if my reflection didn’t do Esther justice.

Heather encouraged everyone to read all the chapters of Esther because the story was “too good” to do justice in one sermon. Upon my reading I came away with two words, courage and selflessness. Like the story of Joseph, Esther made it to the top of the mountain. It would have been human nature to stand pat and bask in her good fortune. Her position was good as long as she obeyed the rules. Come when commanded. Keep your counsel to yourself always. Yet Esther had to be true to her people, faith and convictions. She braved death by boldly asking the impossible; “Save my people.”

I asked myself, and now you, to identify a modern-day Esther. Women having persuasive power over men brought many examples. But add that the woman was willing to sacrifice everything to help others narrowed the list significantly. I succumbed to typical 21st century thinking at first, searching for huge personalities whether they be in the political, artistic or academic communities.

Then I turned on the news and saw young mothers from foreign countries who traveled huge distances under extreme conditions just to give their children a chance. I walk through stores and see young mothers with that tired, worn out look. You just know they gave up lots of personal pleasure and goals to bring their children up a proper way. I hear all too often of women pushing forward despite illness, divorce or job loss. Women carrying a burden with a smile as constant caregivers to handicapped children or infirm parents.

The business journals are filled with women entrepreneurs who had to play the man’s game until they got to the top and then turned the tables by changing the corporate culture or making it easier for the women who came after them.

The Esther of biblical fame is a single person, but I’m sure if you take away the requirement of riches or status, you know many, many Esthers. These women helped teach, feed, raise and support you.

Long before Dancing with the stars, there was a famous dance team Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. In a man’s world he got most of the praise for his dancing while she was recognized for her grace and beauty. Yet she had to do the same dance steps as Fred in heels and moving backwards. A man could never do that. Would a man have made the same choice as Esther? Power and riches have destroyed many good intentions.

Every human is a victim of the times in which they were born. Esther was no different. Certain things were expected of her for survival sake. She had to adhere to the norms of the day. Her internal, human struggles and desires gnawed at her. However, with faith she offered her life for the good of others. As Christians we are expected to become more like Jesus Christ for the sake of others. The command doesn’t say you have to become rich, powerful or famous. It does say you have to love God and your neighbor enough to work for others.

My Esthers are the grandmother who raised me, all working mother colleagues who pushed themselves to the limit, and my wife who has incredible faith, understanding of the bible and lives her faith.

Who is your Esther? I bet you don’t have to look far. After you read the Book of Esther ask yourself Who is your Mordecai? Who helps keep your moral compass pointing towards God? It is fitting that Heather Mandala, who is our church leader with small groups, pointed out the importance of Mordecai in this story. We can’t do life or faith on our own.

We were all made in the image of God with a purpose. We exist on this planet at a given time and place “for just such a time as this” so you can act when given the opportunity to do kingdom work.

How many opportunities have you been presented? How many have you accepted? How many have you missed because of your focus on a personal agenda? All activities done for Kingdom purposes are blockbuster efforts. You don’t need to be recognized. We all work for an audience of just One. He knows.

Jim Randazzo

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