October 2018   
SMTWTFS
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
     
Upcoming Events
OCT

21

SUN
Holy Communion
8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
A quiet service of Holy Communion.
Holy Communion
10:00 AM to 11:15 AM
A service of Holy Communion with hymns and music.
OCT

24

WED
Evensong
6:00 PM to 6:30 PM
A service of sung Evening Prayer. After the service, worshipers frequently gather for dinner at a local restaurant.
OCT

25

THU
Prayers & Squares
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Bible Search
Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost - September 30 2018

Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
September 30, 2018
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

The Persian king Ahasuerus had dismissed the queen Vashti from favored status when she refused to appear before him and his pals, courtiers, attendants, and generals when commanded to do so – after Ahasuerus and they had all been banqueting, and drinking, for seven days.  He was afraid that word would leak out and no other wife would ever obey her husband if he let that stand.

Since he had set aside his wife, his advisors suggested that the king’s harem be populated with the most beautiful young women, and Esther, a Jewish woman, the cousin and adopted daughter of Mordecai, was chosen.  Esther kept quiet about being Jewish, as Mordecai ordered her.  All the chosen women were cosseted and taught and trained to please the king, but each would only go to him once, unless he summoned them again.  He was so taken with Esther, however, that he made her his new queen, in place of Vashti.

Mordecai kept an eye on her situation, and would frequently be near the palace, which led to one day overhearing a plot between two of Ahasuerus’ staff that they would kill the king.  Mordecai warned the king, and the plotters were captured and killed.

Then the king appointed Haman as his chief official, his vizier, and ordered everyone else to bow before Haman.  Only Mordecai refused, being Jewish and forbidden by his faith.  Haman then plotted to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews for this slight, and got the king to go along with his plan, because “they do not obey the king’s laws.”  And edicts went forward, and the homes of the Jews were pillaged and great mourning and fear spread through the land.

Mordecai then sent to Esther and told her she must act to save her people.  Esther hesitated, because there was a law that no one could approach the king without being called, and unless the king “held out his scepter” to that person, they would be killed.  Mordecai warned her that the edict against Jews would not spare her, either, even if she was in the court.  Then she asked him to pray for her and her maids and to fast, and she pledged to fast and pray as well, and said she would go to the king.

And she did, and he held out his scepter to her, and asked her what she desired, “even to the half of my kingdom.”  And she invited him to dine with her and also Haman.

And the king accepted.

Meanwhile, Haman proceeded to have a scaffold built on which to kill Mordecai, making it ridiculously high, and he swore to kill Mordecai before the banquet with the king and Esther.

In the morning, however, while the scribes were reviewing their records, they found the reference to the time Mordecai saved the king’s life, and the king determined to reward him for this.  He told Haman to lay out robes and a carriage for the man who would be honored (Mordecai), and Haman did so with great eagerness, because he thought he himself was the object of the king’s approval.

Then the king said, array Mordecai.  Haman went home disconsolate and furious.  But the king’s eunuchs came and took him to the banquet.

Then Esther told the king about Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai and all the Jews at the banquet. The king went out in a rage, and Haman stayed behind to beg her mercy.  When the king came back into the place, he saw Haman throwing himself on her couch, and had him seized and hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

“Then the anger of the king abated.”

And you thought we had problems.

Power is dangerous, because having power brings with it the temptation to abuse it.  And standing up to that abuse, calling it out, is dangerous as well, because those with power may well do whatever they can to maintain it, and punish those who oppose them.

As Vashti was punished.  She simply disappears from the story, but she lost favor, position, such power as women were allowed, influence, everything.  As Haman tried to punish Mordecai for insubordination.  As Esther risked when she went to the king without being summoned.  It is always the autocrat’s privilege to punish or have mercy based on mere whim.

The story of Esther is a good one; it has become the reason for the feast of Purim, a ritual celebration of survival and triumph and comedy, in which the powerless overcome the powerful, who are revealed as conniving, manipulating, and, ultimately, ironically, manipulate-able, all in the service of justice.

Sadly, however, cunning won’t always save the day.

The things we have to deal with – climate change, pollution, the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, drug abuse and addiction, despair and suicide, poverty, and political differences that are probably wider at any time in our country since the 1860s, including the vilification of immigrants, refugees, people of color, indigenous people, workers, the sick, even politicians, teachers, and scientists – these problems seem to be increasing, fueled by anger, hatred, fury, incivility, and hopelessness and defensiveness.  All this pain.

How did we get here?  How did things get so bad?

This is my theory:  It’s all my fault.

I bet you didn’t expect that!

No, I don’t think I send bad vibes into the universe, that infected everyone; I’m definitely not that powerful!

But I can think of tons of times I have not stood against the incipient evil and wickedness that infect the human species.  The times I have ignored the pain of others, the times I have ignored the environmental costs of my lifestyle and choices, the times I have taken “the way things are” for granted and enjoyed the benefits thereof, while ignoring and excusing the costs to those around me, to my soul, my species, and my planet.

Every. Single. Day.

Just by breathing with my mind, heart, and mouth shut.

For my own convenience, for my own comfort, for my own desires, for my own pleasure.

I stand convicted before the cross of Christ, for every hour of every day I have not worked for God’s justice in the name of God’s mercy.

And the sad thing is, I’m not likely to change my ways.  I might lose too much of the things I value, the friends I have, my job, my life in the future as I envision it.  Changing my ways, standing before the unjust kings of the way things are, I could lose everything.

And because I know or suspect or apprehend that if I did “go and sell all [I] have and give to the poor, then took up [my] cross to follow Jesus,” chances are very good that all those problems listed earlier … would still exist.

Because I’m just not that powerful.  I’m not the messiah.  It won’t change anything.  So I might as well go on as I have done up till now.

I’m no Esther.

I’ll just sit here and wait for the end, or for God to come and put things right, shall I?

Too many of us think this way.

But Mordecai is calling to us:  “Do not let injustice have the last word!  Do not submit to death!  Stand and accuse!  Stand and demand!  Stand and fight!”

The whole book of Esther does not mention God once, not once.  Yet right down to today, the Jews recount the story as one of God’s providential deliverance.  Not because God intervened as at the Red Sea, but because one man and one woman stood up for justice. 

And as we look back, we can see times and more times when a small number of people, acting in the faith that God was with them, have cast down the mighty from their seats and lifted up the lowly. 

No one expected thousands of indigenous people from around the world to come to Standing Rock; no one expected that a tired woman and three preachers would set off the Civil Rights Movement; no one expected that one woman’s small book of an escaping slave and child would fire the abolitionist movement to the point of war and the freeing of thousands of enslaved souls; no one would expect these things – but they all happened. 

Because someone stood up in a hearing room – or sat down on a bus – and said “Enough,” we are hearing and learning and waking up to the abuses of power all around us.

And the only question is, what are we going to do about it?

Are we going to sit in our pews and wait for God to save us?  Or are we going to act?

God has acted – don’t forget.  God has created us, sustained us, and redeemed us – and all Creation, and we are called to go forth and till and keep and reconcile and heal.

I know many of you are engaged in mission and ministry outside these doors.  You are already going forth to till and keep and reconcile and heal.  Thank you.  Please don’t stop! 

Yet I do encourage you to always keep this question in the forefront: What can we do, today, and from today, for each other, for those in need, for those on the margins, for those abused, for the earth itself, for the sake of our children and grandchildren and the future of all God’s good Creation?