Last week, I wrote of the wisdom of Sophia; this week, I turn to the courage of Esther. Open your Bible and read The Book of Esther – an intriguing story, with all the twists and turns of an O’Henry classic – short, readable, well told. No mention of God, by the way! But plenty of implication of divine providence and purpose. Probably made it into the Bible to justify the Jewish Feast of Purim. Quite a party!
During one of my pastorates, I played in a band called “Revelation.” Three years running, we got the Purim gig at the local synagogue. It was like Halloween in March – a costume party with singing, dancing, and feasting, celebrating the deliverance of their ancestors centuries before, thanks to Queen Esther, a Jewess, disguised in the robes of Persian royalty. Her predecessor had been banished for disobeying the King, a despot who had just decreed the annihilation of Esther’s people. Quite risky for her. She had followed her Uncle Mordecai’s advice to keep her Jewish thing a secret when auditioning for her royal role. Now she could lose her crown, good chance her life, if her real identity were to be revealed.
Thus, her call to be courageous, from her uncle again, this time in these words, (“Word of the Lord,” we might say): “Who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” [Esther 4:14b RSV]. Would she risk going before the King, (itself an act that could be punished by death if not invited)? Would she risk exposing herself as one of “those people,” already doomed to die, to plead for a reversal of that decree? You might guess that she did and was successful. Let Purim begin!
The question for us is: “Who knows?” Who knows but that you have been placed where you happen to be on a given occasion that calls on you to do something? It can be a courageous act, like that of Esther, maybe becoming a whistle blower at work or in politics. Would that our elected officials might risk such a moral stand! I heard a candidate for office recently say that if he were defeated for taking a compassionate stand, he could live with that. He lost. For you, it may simply be a situation where somebody just has to do something, and that somebody is you, and you begin to hear it as a call from the unmentioned God of Esther! Or you may even look back on your life – hindsight is often better than foresight – and realize that something you have done was the result of you being there in the right place and at the right time, bringing a blessing to others.
Remember “Cheers – the place where everybody knows your name?” Diane, the pompous well-educated waitress, was questioning what she was doing it such a menial job, when the two guys at the end of the bar piped up with words of encouragement. Said Cliff, the mailman, “Delivering a birthday card to a person living alone and seeing the tears well up in her eyes makes it all worthwhile.” Norm, the accountant, not to be outdone, says, “Showing old granny how she can save 200 bucks on her income tax – the Guy upstairs put me here for moments just like that.” Who knows but … ?
College Game Day had a story several years ago about Tyler Trent, a student at Purdue who struggled with cancer for four years. The football team adopted him as their inspiration and was set to honor him at that year’s Ohio State game. He predicted, against all odds, Purdue would win. Three weeks before the game, he tweeted: “I’m sad to say I won’t be making it back to Purdue. My health has taken a turn for the worse and the level of care I now need is too great. While I may not know how many days I have left, I’m trusting the One who does.” Miraculously, his symptoms diminished enough that he could attend that game. He was carried on and off the field by the team to the cheers of the crowd. In a few months, however, his cancer would win out, but not before, miraculously, again, Purdue had defeated Ohio State, 49-20, a victory attributed by the team to Tyler! Who knows but that he had been there for such a moment as that!
Or what about tomorrow? Take heart; take courage. What a great concept for a young person starting out, a middle-aged person switching careers or re-entering the work force, an older person retiring to all kinds of new and exciting opportunities. Who knows but that out there there’s already a special place for such a one as you? Who knows?
Might we say, “God does?” God knows. For people of faith — that may be enough. Who knows?
Jim Graham is a retired Presbyterian minister.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.