Delivered at Ames UCC on December 2, 2018
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are the result of pastoral preparation, congregational presence, and Holy Spirit participation. Please join me in that mysterious but always delightful process at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, except in July and August when times vary. Check the calendar for details.
What is hope? Did you experience it today as we sang for it to rise up in our lives? When we welcomed a new member through baptism into this family of faith? When we laughed during the play? How would you define hope?
I’ve spoken of hope many times in worship, on these first Sundays in Advent when it is our theme, and on many more occasions, but I don’t know that I have ever defined it or ever could.
Hope, like faith and love, defies the rules of language, existing instead somewhere between language and heart and the holy.
In my experience, hope is unpredictable, never arriving on demand. It is unstable in the sense that it is not locked in form, but takes the form needed in a given moment.
Like in the story of Esther.
Esther is nobody.
She’s a young Jewish woman, making her a member of a minority culture and religion. She is being raised by an uncle, Mordecai. Esther has no parents, nor siblings that are mentioned.
As with so many other women in the Bible, and our world today, Esther is vulnerable to the whims and laws of men. When the king demands she come to court as part of his beauty pageant of a bridal search, which is pretty clearly includes a night of sex in the Biblical account, she has no choice.
The Bible does make the scene a little more palatable through many elements of farce and hyperbole: Esther and all of the other contestants spend a year grooming in preparation, for example. Thank you to Amanda for picking up on those comedic elements so well in today’s version.
Esther is chosen to be the new queen, replacing Vashti, who had refused to dance naked for her husband and his buddies. The king does not know that Esther is Jewish because her uncle told her not to reveal it to anyone. Mordecai’s care of Esther extends well beyond food and shelter. As a result, Esther is able to protect her people when an evil man, Haman, gains permission to commit genocide against them for being, in his words, “intolerable.” Esther leverages the king’s affection, and Haman’s ego, to depose Haman and lift up Mordecai in his stead. In doing so, the orders to kill all Jewish people can be reversed.