My heart for this ministry is not just that I would have ideas about then find scriptures to back up my ideas, but that mostly, we would let God speak through the scriptures how he wants to speak. I think one of the ways to do instead of having a “topic” to preach from, to instead his a section of the bible that we study and just see what God would speak to us through that text.
The Story of Esther
Chapters 1 & 2
This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia—127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa.
Now there was a Jew who lived in the palace complex in Susa. His name was Mordecai
His ancestors had been taken from Jerusalem with the exiles and carried off by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon into exile. Mordecai had reared his cousin Esther, since she had no father or mother. The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face. After her parents died, Mordecai had adopted her.
Our story takes place in ancient Persia – Modern day Iran
King Xerxes – 6 month display of the amazing wealth of the empire. So the treasure was set out for all to see.
7 day feast.
After this, King decided to have a party – invite all the men of the capital – 7 day feast.
Meanwhile – another part of the palace, Queen Vashti entertaining the women.
End of the 7 day feast – King Xerxes – after drinking too much wine – calls for the Queen to come in so that all the men can see what a beautiful Queen he has! A Trophy Wife.
Imagine a room full of hundreds of drunk guys, what an honor it would be to go in and be gawked at.
Well Queen Vashti says ‘Over my dead body.’
She had no interest in being treated as an object. She was like a feminist from 2500 years ago. The king is humiliated./Infuriated.
Created a problem.
People said “If this gets out, that even the queen doesn’t obey her husband, then wives everywhere will feel the freedom to stand up for themselves. That would be a disaster!”
So they had to do something
Queen Vashti was banished.
Formal decree – “Every man is the master of his own house!”
Now vacancy for the Queen.
Find a new queen:
The beautiful girls were rounded up.
Beautiful, young, virgins.
Among there girls was Esther. She was jewish.
Being raised by her older cousin (really acted as a step father) – Mordecai.
Mordecai – petty, low level official in the courts.
Bible specifically mentions that she’s very beautiful.
As she’s leaving to go with the rest of the pretty young virgins, Mordecai – her step father – gave her this bit of advice “I wouldn’t bring up the fact that I was jewish if I was you. You might just let that not come up.”
Go to a specific part of the palace – called the “harem” for a 12 month beauty program. 12 months of beauty treatments.
After 12 month program – each girls spends the night – one by one – with the King.
After that, they are transferred to ‘The Harem of the concubines.”
Now they are a concubine of the King. They won’t see him, ever, unless he by chance asks for them.”
Esther has her night with the King and the King falls in love with her.
So it’s Esther is chosen as the new Queen of Persia.
So now Persia has a Jewish Queen. But nobody knew that. Except for Esther and her step father – Mordecai.
5 years went by
During which there was an exciting incident.
Mordecai – remember working in the courts –
Overhears a plot – Plotted by 2 EUNUCH’s. Going to Assassinate King Xerxes, so he reports the plot. The Eunuch’s are arrested and executed, and the King was spared.
All of this was recorded in the “Royal Record Book”
Around this time, a Persian man named “Haman” – very proud, arrogant,
Began to be promoted by the King. King Xerxes promoted him to a very high position in the royal court. And was working very closely with King Xerxes as an advisor.
And as Haman would enter and exit the palace, people would bow down before him. – Almost in a type of worship. Everyone but Mordecai. – The Jew. Esther’s Step Father. Mordecai just stood there.
Everything is going great for Haman. He’s large and in charge. Except he’s haunted by the fact that Mordecai won’t bow to him.
He becomes obsessed with it.
Wants to murder Mordecai.
But he takes it a step further. And says “Instead of murdering the one jew, I’ll murder all the jews.”
Haman begins to plan. And scheme.
Haman goes to the King, and says “Oh King Xerxes! We have a huge problem! There is a people in our kingdom who can’t be trusted!” He begins throwing accusations.
Hassatan – The accuser. – The Satan.
Haman : Solution – “Decide – date – 13th of Adar”
On that day we’ll massacre all the jews – genocide. “Because I’m so devoted to you, I’ll finance the whole thing with my own money.”
Xerxes “Wow! Well if you really think we’re in that much trouble! I see no reason why not!”
The King signs the decree.
All the jews in Persia would be put to death.
So when Mordecai and the rest of the jews in the courts heard about this, they began to mourn, weep.
Esther has no idea.
Esther in the palace has no idea any of this is happening.
But she did get word that her step father – Mordecai – was in mourning and wearing sackcloth. She was concerned.
She sent a messenger and some royal clothes. You couldn’t go into the palace wearing sackcloth. With the message “Change into these clothes and come see me!”
Mordecai says “I will not! I’m in mourning. But send this message “Now is the time to reveal that you’re a jew. And use your influence to intercede for our people.”
Esther sends a message back “It’s not that simple. I can’t just go in to see the King anytime a want! If I go into the royal throne room uninvited – Prohibited by penalty of death! Unless he would extend the scented to me. And he hasn’t summoned me for 30 days. I haven’t seen him for 30 days.
Mordecai responds “Don’t think that because you’re in the palace that you’re safe. You and all jews will be killed. Who knows, perhaps it’s for this very time that you became Queen.”
Esther “Ask my people to fast for 3 days, and I’ll go. And if I perish, I perish.”
She goes – uninvited.
So after the 3 days – she goes, uninvited to the royal throne room.
But the King was merciful and extended his scepter to her.
And he said to her “Esther, what do you want, even half my kingdom’s not too much.”
Esther is smart. Understands timing. “I want to prepare a dinner for you. Oh, and I guess you could bring that one guy, Haman.”
ing says “Fine.”
King & Haman arrive – feast.
So the King and Haman arrive at the feast prepared by Esther.
After a little bit of wine.
King says to Esther “Now what do you really want? Half my kingdom is not too much”
Esther “Oh King, I desire that you and Haman would come again tomorrow and have dinner again”
King : “We can do that.”
Haman – pumped! Going great!
Haman – pumped! He can’t believe how great everything’s going. He’s having dinner with the king and the queen!
Can’t wait to go tell his friends and family “My star is on the rise!”
As he’s walking home, whistling and having a great time, he walking home and passes by Mordecai. And it just taints the whole evening.
So he gets home and he says “I’m having dinner with the King and Queen, but I can’t get this Mordecai out of my head! I know of the 13th of Adar we’re gonna kill them all, but I’m just concerned that tomorrow night I’m not even going to be able to enjoy my meal. That guy won’t bow!”
A family member: “Now Haman, here’s what we should do – tonight – let’s build a gallows – 75 feet tall! And in the morning, go to the King, and accuse Mordecai of something. You’ll think of something.”
You can hang Mordecai in the morning and enjoy your meal at night.
Haman “That’s a great idea!”
That night Haman slept like a baby. So at peace.
Meanwhile in the palace – King Xerxes CAN’T sleep.
So he calls in a scribe and says “Read something to me. Read from the royal record book.” – Maybe he thought they’d be so boring.
So the scribe flips open the record book and reads the time 5 years ago when Mordecai the jew uncovered an assassination plot and saved the King’s life.
The king says “Was anything ever done to honor this man?” – No.
“Well that’s not right, we’ll need to do something for this man.”
In the morning, Haman arrives at the palace and walks in on the King thinking about how he can honor Mordecai the jew.
So he walks up and the King says “What should be done for the man the King wishes to honor?”
Haman thinks “He’s talking about me!”
Haman : “Let one of the King’s robes be placed upon his back, & a crown on his head. Let one of your royal horses be brought from the stable and set this man on the horse. Then let one of your high ranking officials lead this man through the streets proclaiming ‘Thus let is be done for the man whom the King wishes to honor.'”
And the King says “Perfect! Do that for Mordecai the Jew!”
Disaster. So he does it. All day.
Barely has enough time to get home, change clothes and get to the dinner with the King and Queen.
Again enjoying their wine
The King “What do you want Esther? Half of my kingdoms not too much.”
Esther “I want…. the life of my people.” We’ve been sold. Not to slavery, if it were only slavery I wouldn’t bring it up, but we’ve been sold to death! “Because of a monstrous evil man has conspired against us to sell us to death!”
The King: “Who is this man?!”
Suddenly the King understands all that’s happening.
Storms out to the balcony to clear his head and compose his thoughts.
Meanwhile, Haman knows his life is in danger to he falls down at the feet of Esther and grabs on to her and begs for his life.
At that moment the King walks in “Oh, so now you’re gonna molest my wife!”
At that moment a guard that is in the room walks to the window and says ‘Oh look, gallows.’
And Haman was hung on his own gallows and the jews were saved.
Something missing: God.
Something missing: There’s a character oddly missing: God. Or anything remotely having to do with God or religion.
Only book in the bible that has no mention of God. Or prayer. Or the bible. Or prophecy. Or anything remotely having to do with God or religion.
Esther 4:1-2 CLEARLY what they’re doing is praying TO GOD. But it avoids that completely.
This is not an oversight. “Oh gosh! I forgot to put God in there!”
1. Divine Coincidence – : “Providence”
Divine Coincidence – Or as Christian tradition calls it: Providence
- If the King hadn’t got drunk and bragged about this wife Vashti would have stayed queen.
- Esther – pretty – Without that she never would have become queen.
- Mordecai – overheard – assassination plot – Haman plot would never have been ruined.
- If King Xerxes wouldn’t have had that sleepless night where they read from the royal record book? He never would have known of Mordecai’s great deed.
- If they hadn’t forgot to honor mordecai. If they had just done a little celebration when it happened, it wouldn’t have saved anybody. But since they spaced it and had to do it later, it ended up saving the jews.
- If the guard hadn’t happened to walk by the window and notice gallows.
These are small things.
These are small things. They’re not something someone would brag about.
God had promised to take care of the jewish people. – All the way from Genesis 12.
When you see this ‘Pillar of Fire’ and the red sea parting you know that’s God.
But when the king gets drunk and starts bragging, you don’t say ‘Wow! There’s God at work!’
The book of Esther is trying to tell you: “Don’t make that mistake!”
God is at work all the time in ordinary ways.
People: Obsessed : finding God’s will!
When people start taking the Christian life seriously, especially when they’re young, often times they become obsessed with finding God’s will! I don’t want to miss it.
Here’s how it worked for me.
Jordan & I believe – God’s will – pastors.
Jordan and I believe that it’s God’s will for us to be pastors here at this church – like we are.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Growing up, Jordan felt like she wanted to be a high school teacher.
I thought I was going to be a rock star. Naturally.
And even when we started dating, we had a fatalistic mindset because we thought ‘This is only going to last so long.’ Soon, we will have to break up, because our paths are so drastically different. – Kinda funny to say now.
And I think of all the different things that had to happen for me and Jordan to be where we are today. Here’s just a few off the top of my head:
Divine Coincidences :
I got a guitar when I was younger and my parents had me take guitar lessons.
Around that time, I started coming to youth group and a became friends with Jesse McDermott.
Well Jesse had a brother named, David Meyers, who I just thought was the coolest guy in the world. Well he was working to find some people to help him start a youth band. He asked me, how could I say no. My ministry career was born. Still no sense of being a pastor though.
Around 16, – Luke Brownell – CBC
Around 16, I had a friend named Luke Brownell and he and I just became obsessed with the bible! We had no idea what any of that meant, but we asked pastor Marshall what he thought we should do, and he said ‘Well, go to Bible College!’ and we said ‘Never heard of such a thing, but alright! Any recommendations? Yes, Colorado Bible College in Colorado Springs. It’s led by my friend Andrew Womack.’ We said ‘Never heard of him! Sounds good’.
So we went.
Finished – Back 2 Abq
When I finished bible college, I had no other plans, so I thought, oh, what the heck, I’ll go back to Abq.
I missed my family.
Hanging out / music – Jesse. – Christine. – Matchmaker.
- Started hanging out and playing music again with Jesse. At this point, Jesse was my best friend! Jesse had a girlfriend named Christine. And Christine had a best friend. A girl I didn’t much care for. And a girl that didn’t much care for me. Her name was Jordan Townsley. Because my best friend and her best friend were dating, we had no choice but to hang out. Teeny played the matchmaker, she even asked me out on Jordan’s behalf to be her date to a wedding.
Jordan ≠ desire ministry – Conference.
Jordan had no desire to follow in the footsteps of her parents and be in the ministry, but then when she was 20 she went to a conference in Tacoma.
Me: web / graphic design.
I had gotten a job doing web and graphic design.
Designer @ church – resigned – volunteering.
And the designer here at the church had resigned and I started volunteering. Plus I had continued to volunteer in the youth department for like 10 years.
Eventually hired – youth leader / designer.
So I was eventually hired on at the church as a youth leader and web and graphic designer.
I could go on and on and on, but I’m sure you get the point: None of that was accidental.
When you look at a book like Esther, you can see “Ok, that was important, and that was important.”
“Boy, good thing the King got drunk and started bragging.”
Well there are things that are happening in your life right now that are so ordinary, that you’re looking at them and you have no idea that God is working there, but he is.
2. The Gallows
In this story, we have a man, Haman, who conspired against mordecai. – He built a gallows to hang him with.
Fast forward to the end of the story, and it’s Haman, the man who conspired evil, that is the one who hangs.
As strange as this sounds, this is actually a biblical principle. You end up hanging on the gallows that you create for other people.
5th beatitude in the Sermon on the mount (the constitution of the Kingdom of God): “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Repeat this after me: Blessed are the merciful.
God is like Jesus. – Jesus is merciful.
That’s one of things the incarnation is about. So we can finally know what God is like.
Read matthew, mark, luke, John.
Mercy is almost overwhelming.
- Merciful to sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes,
- Merciful to Peter – betrayed Him.
- Merciful to Matthew – corrupt tax collector.
- Merciful to the Woman caught in adultery.
The only people that Jesus was not merciful toward was people who were unmerciful.
Thus the beatitude
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Jesus is consistently merciful towards even the most horrific of sinners. Provided that their sin is not being unmerciful.
Here’s my advice: If you’re going to be a sinner, pick a sin other than being unmerciful.
Certainly seems to be a sense that the severity you use with other people is the same severity that you receive.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14)
That sobers me up REAL quick.
Let me try to think of a practical example:
Especially in a time of change, which is what we’re in, how many people would admit that there’s things that are wrong in our nation?
MOST of us WANT the broken things here to be made right.
And that’s a Godly desire – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness and Justice”
In our WANTING to fix what’s broken, there will be disagreements on how that should be done.
We’re americans in here. Most of us.
How many people know there’s things in America that are broken?
How many people in here have an idea on how it can be made right?
How many of you know that not everybody agrees with your idea?
Don’t worry, I’m not commenting on it.
So there’s 2 sides here:
1. Responsibility – nations government – pay
1 thinks that it’s the responsibility of the nations government to pay for the health care of the people in that nation.
And they have compelling (in their opinion) reasons for why that’s the case. For them, that’s justice.
2. Government should ≠ pay – healthcare.
Then there’s the other side that has just as passionate and compelling (in their opinion) reasons why the government should NOT pay for healthcare for the people in the nation. Reasons why. For them, THAT’S justice.
So you have 2 people, sitting right next to each other in Outlet in 2016 and have drastically different ideas of what constitutes justice.
So what we do? – Offer each other MERCY.
“Passion for justice can become a vicious battleground where people get hurt. And even separate good friends.”
You can say the right thing in the wrong way, and be the wrongest person in the room.
I know wrongest isn’t a word, but it didn’t have the same PUNCH when it’s grammatically correct.
When the longing for justice banishes mercy, we have abandoned the Jesus way.
There’s a word for justice without mercy: Cruelty.
So we live in that tension – long for justice all the while being merciful.
2 poles that we live in between – Justice and Mercy
Sometimes it’s totally clear what you should do – at this moment I know I should strive for justice. At this moment it’s clear to me that I should be showing mercy.
But sometimes it’s not quite to clear.
When it doubt, show mercy.
You don’t have to have an opinion about everything
So here’s how that plays out in a practical sense: You don’t have to have an opinion about everything and everybody.
It’s totally fine to say: “Eh, I don’t know.”
Have you ever met someone who just has an opinion about everything? And they’re totally positive their opinion is right?
Can you remember how draining that can be?
Here’s a statement that we all need to remember: We live in a cruel world in desperate need of mercy.
Where is the world to find mercy is not from the followers of Jesus?
Jesus holds back no punches when it comes to the unmerciful Christian.
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ (Matthew 5:21)
But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22)
See how the noose you prepare for those people across the internet, you see how it’s your head that ends up hanging in it?
We live in a culture that celebrates people who have this ability to super sarcastic and nasty in putting other people down.
Not only is Jesus not impressed, he’s giving you specific warning how you judge other people is how you’ll be judged in the end.
If we want to live the Jesus way, we’re gonna have to cut way back on our name calling.
Here’s a few scriptures from James that I thought were pertinent
(Prepare for communion)
I just think we need to come to a place where we remember how merciful and good God has been to us all, and celebrate that.
Recommit our lives to imitating Jesus.
Just like a child learning a new language by copying their parents.
We see Jesus and we imitate his mercy.
And that starts just by receiving him.
So we’re going to do that tonight.
We agree with St Francis 13th – “Make me an instrument of your peace.”
As they pass – Spend a moment just you and God – receiving his mercy.