The reading for Sunday, June 19, 2016:
Esther 3 and 4
This week, we return to the story of Esther. Last week, I pointed out that Esther lives a perilous existence: she's a female, she's an orphan, she's a Jew, and she's an exile, the ultimate outsider. Any one of these categories would make her life less secure, but all of them?
Esther has youth and beauty on her side, and she makes the most of those advantages. But even youth and beauty can take her so far. In the reading for this Sunday, we see that the king hasn't summoned Esther in 30 days--has she lost favor with the king?
It's interesting to read Esther in light of the events in our nation and our state in the last month. In the news coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando, I was struck by stories of families who had no idea that their young family member was gay until they had to claim the body. I understand the pressure to stay closeted, to not reveal our deepest identity.
The story of Esther is one of many stories that reminds us that we likely cannot stay hidden forever. Our safety will be limited.
But it's a confusing message--after all, Esther would not be in place to help her people had she been open about her identity from the beginning. Would the king have chosen an openly Jewish woman and promoted her the way he did Esther? In the ancient world of Esther, it's extremely unlikely.
But what about those of us who feel that we have no advantages? Like Esther, we have more resources than we think we do. We should remember her story when we feel too disadvantaged to be effectual. We all have advantages of one sort or another. God calls on us to use these advantages to bend the arc of history towards justice.
Recent events have reminded me of a duality. We see such a pouring out of sorrow and outrage in the wake of the massacre in Orlando. Not too long ago, we wouldn't have seen this anguish expressed so publicly. In a story on NPR this morning, a reporter (who wrote this story on Slate) reminds us about a 1973 fire in New Orleans, a crime left unsolved, with 30 deaths, which inspired ugly comments about "fruits" on right wing radio. The fact that so many have responded with dignity, compassion, and grief in the face of this horror--I'm finding that a hopeful sign that our society is changing for the better.
And yet, we live in a society where yet again, an angry man chooses a violent path towards those whom he hates. We live in a society that tends towards violence to control others, a society where we tolerate family violence and all sorts of behaviors that undercut our sense of security. We accept guns that quickly kill large numbers of humans in the hands of those who hate. We accept the oppression of the disadvantaged, the minorities, the weaker, and the outcast.
The words of Mordecai still seem prophetic in our day: “'Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?'”
No one is truly safe until we are all safe. And God calls us to do the work that must be done to transform our society to one where the weakest members are as protected as the strongest.