Mission Statement: The Lutheran Church of Our Saviour desires to be a community of Christians whose faith is active in love.

Courageous Compassion

Esther 4:1-17
Advent 2
December 4, 2022
About this time twenty years ago, I was walking a picket line.

It was the middle of a four-month lockout by the newspaper and … if you never spent a few hours walking a picket line in the middle of the night in minus-40 temperatures … just know that I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you have a good reason.

If you have never been involved in a lockout or a strike, know that it is a time of uncertainty, doubt and fear.

The unions and the newspaper were at a stalemate over wage hikes … the need for a pension plan … and a first contract for one of the paper’s departments.

During one union meeting to discuss a company offer that would have met the needs of one department at the expense of another at the paper, one of my union brothers questioned the rationale of staying on the streets for the members of the other department.

The department was composed mostly of women who were the lowest paid in the building … earning barely above minimum wage. They had no benefits … little job protection and work conditions were less than ideal.

The question was met by uncomfortable silence … the women sat there … wondering if they were going to be left on their own … or if someone would speak for them.

Then, one of the bargaining team members cleared her throat … “this is a time we stand together” she told the crowd. 

Esther is an orphan and lives among the Jews who were descended from the ones who had been taken into exile by the Babylonians … who … in turn … were conquered by the Persians.

Esther lives with her cousin Mordecai in the Persian city of Susa. 

Before today’s reading, the king banished his wife for refusing to appear at one of his drunken parties and then does what every king of the time would do … he decides it’s time to restock the harem.

Esther catches the eye of the Persian king’s advisers and is taken away with hundreds of others for the king’s harem. 

After ten months of being prepared for life in the harem, she is paraded before the king, who falls in love with Esther and makes her his queen. Only Mordecai knows that Esther is Jewish.

When Mordecai refuses to bow to one of the king’s advisers, Haman, the adviser becomes angry and … out of revenge … manipulates the king to order the murder of all Jewish people in a region of the kingdom.

And that is how we get to the start of today’s passage, where Mordecai rips off his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes. 

He walks through the city … up to the king’s gate … wailing as he mourns. Jews across the region join in the mourning … the sound of broken-hearted wailing fills the uncertain air.

 Mordecai calls on Esther to talk to her husband to save the people. 

But Esther knows that she cannot speak to the king unless he calls for her and she knows that, if she does speak to the king, there is a good chance that he will find out that she is Jewish and she will be killed as well. After all, why should a queen care what happens to the foreigners living in their land.

Mordecai tells her that to remain silent would condemn the people and that even silence may not protect her from death. He says that this could be the reason that she became queen.

Today’s passage ends with Esther’s promise to act “at such a time as this.”

Esther … like other prophets in the Old Testament … is hesitant to give voice to her faith. Maybe she believes that the task is too great … or that her actions would be pointless. 

Perhaps Esther believes that her words are not good enough … her words would not important enough to save the people. Maybe she wonders “who am I to speak?” or that the risk to her own life is too great to bear.

Unlike other prophets, God doesn’t come to Esther with any instructions … in fact, God is never mentioned in the entire Book of Esther. 

Mordecai is the one who makes the request of her … after his own laments and public protests fail to get any traction.

Some hear this story and say that God acted through Esther.

But maybe another way to look at Esther is that … despite the self-doubt and worrying … this decision to act is ingrained in her being … it is who she is. Esther is living into the promise of the priestly kingdom … that she demonstrates that commitment to others is expected of the people living into the covenant.

Esther has a number of identities in this story. 

She’s a woman, a Jew, a daughter, an orphan, a foster child, a cousin, a wife, a queen. When she decides not to be silent … she claims her identity as a member of the priestly kingdom and demonstrates the courageous compassion that marks life in that kingdom.

Esther’s actions … despite her doubt and hesitancy … offers hope to the people …showing that … despite being displaced and vulnerable to the whims of the world … they remain treasured and blessed…

At a time such as this … 

Advent is a time when we prepare our hearts for the coming light. 

It is a time when we gather in the darkness of the season … and when … we are called to gather people into the safety and security of community and join in the anticipation of Jesus’ entrance into the life of the world and the promise of a new life.

At a time such as this … we can live into our identities … to give form and substance to what lies at the foundation of our faith … it is a time when we have an opportunity to realize that one voice … a single act of advocacy or kindness… can make a difference whether it is in the life of the community or in the life of one person. 

That a single act can spark a fire of compassion and love.

It is a time when we can consider what risks we are willing to take to give voice to vulnerable and to those who are threatened. What risks can we bear to lift people up during times of uncertainty?

For a time such as this … we can speak the word of life to the world… we can invite … and welcome those seeking their way out of the darkness. 

Advent is such a time to share the gift of grace with those who … like the Jewish people in today’s story … are facing an uncertain future … people for whom a word or an action can bring them  a measure of safety and security.

It is a time to share the knowledge that the darkness will not last … that there is hope in God’s unconditional love.

That in our brokenness and the brokenness of the world … the promise of new life remains there for all … 



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