Bread — Opportunity and Fear

September 23, 2008


Readings for Monday and Tuesday, September 22-23

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Esther 4-5; Acts 18:1-28; Luke 3:1-22

            Psalms 77, 78, 79, 80

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In our readings today we see opportunity refused because of fear and then opportunity seized because of fear overcome by the strength of the Lord.

 

In Esther, Haman has convinced the king Xerxes to issue an edict to destroy the Jews and seize their things on a date certain.  Mordecai goes into mourning.  Esther (a Jew), who is the king’s wife (the queen), discovers what is going on and is faced with a terrible dilemma – try to undo what Haman and Xerxes have done (and face almost certain death) or refuse to do anything.

 

Esther and Mordecai have this exchange:

 

“[Esther]…All the king’s officials … know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned by the king has but one law: that he be put to death…thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.

 

[Mordecai] … Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  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 royal position for such a time as this?

 

[Esther]  … Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me…I and my maids will fast as you do.  When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.”  Esther 4:11-16

 

Esther has learned the need of her people and yet shrinks from taking the opportunity to save them from certain death because she is afraid of dying herself.  And who would not think the same way as Esther did in the same circumstances.

 

To realize that Esther reacted in fear, but normally, we only have to consider our own situation.  We know that a person at work needs to know the Lord in order to be saved from certain death, but we shrink from telling him or her about Jesus because we are afraid of the kind of death which comes from being criticized by our boss or our fellow workers or perhaps by the very person we are trying to speak to.  We know that we ourselves, perhaps, need to be saved but we refuse to take the opportunity to come to Jesus because we are afraid of dying to the familiar, of dying to the safety of sin, of dying to those who are not saved and who do not, can not, and will not understand.

 

I do not care to count the opportunities which have been lost to me because of fear, and I daresay that I can count on each person who reads this message to join me.

 

So Esther is reality.  We are called upon by God to seize the opportunity He has placed in front of us to be useful to Him and to His people, and we refuse because we are afraid.

 

But Esther overcomes her fear and takes the opportunity.  How?  I would suggest that she overcomes her fear and takes the opportunity because of three things that happen.

 

The first thing that happens is that she is reminded by Mordecai of who she is and whose she is.  Mordecai reminds her that (a) she is one of people she could be helping, (b) she is one of the people who themselves are standing on shaky ground, and (c) she is the person placed by God in a unique position to take the opportunity and run with it.  In similar fashion, we all need to be reminded daily through our prayer life with God and our fellowship with fellow Christians about who we are, where we have come from, and our uniqueness of position and responsibility.

 

The second thing that happens is that Esther gets ready, but not just alone, but with the community.  The successful Christian life does not take place in a vacuum or on an island – it takes place in community — A community which will pray with you, cry with you, laugh with you, study with you, and, in Esther’s case, fast with you.  The second aspect of getting ready is that Esther uses a tool which is given to us by God to prepare for times of difficulty – fasting.  Fasting is unusual for Christians today, but it has always been used in the Church as preparation for doing the Lord’s work.  It has two components, both of which Esther needed.  The first component is repentance, and Esther needed to be reminded that, even in her status as Queen, she had nothing except that which God had given her.  The second component is to honor God, using the fast as a reminder that all life comes from God and Him alone.  And Esther needed to be reminded that God was in control.

 

The third thing that happens is that Esther recognizes that the result is in God’s hand and it doesn’t matter if she dies.

 

Opportunity and fear.  The two go hand in hand.  But when you, Christian, are faced with opportunity and the spectre of fear haunts you, remember Esther … (a) remember who you are, (b) prepare (with your Christian community), and (c) remember that death does not matter.

 

Paul tells us that God is not the author of timidity and fear [2 Tim. 1:7].  So who is?  Three guesses and the first two don’t count.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that your are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to so conform our lives to your revealed plans that there is identity of our actions with your will.   It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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