Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

For Such a Time as This

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

As you all know the denomination use to have a program entitled “For Such a Time As This”. Your pastor Catherine was a part of that program. I, too, was involved in the program for several years as a pastor mentor. The program worked to match seminary graduates into their first call in small, usually hard to fill, pulpits. The idea is that these graduates have been purposed by God for this time to provide a pastor for these particular pulpits - the graduates and the churches are matched by God specifically ‘for such a time as this’. Several years ago, at the Presbyterian Triennium, which is an every three year gathering of Presbyterian Youth at Purdue University - usually about 5000 Presbyterian Youth are there from all over the world - the theme was “For Such a Time As This” and the whole week was designed to help the youth understand that God was gifting them and God was training them for a specific purpose in the life of the church - whether it be now or sometime in their future. Those youth went away really understanding that God was grooming them ‘For Such a Time As This’ - they each had a purpose serving God and when that time came, they would realize what God had prepared them to do. “For Such a Time as This” is a widely used theme in all manner of church venues - and for good reason - because we all need to realize that God is grooming us and grooming the church for his purpose in his time.
“For Such a Time As This” comes from the story of Esther in the Old Testament and has become a catch phrase to help God’s people - us - understand that each of us has a purpose in the work and worship of God. And when we find ourselves in situations, when we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, when we find ourselves in times and places where we are called to stand up to the plate, whether we are comfortable with that or not, we come to understand that God has prepared us ‘for such a time as this’ and we are there to do work for God.
To understand the story of Esther lets get her into historical perspective. Let’s go all the way back to God’s people in the wilderness because that is where we are most familiar. God’s people spent 40 years wondering around the wilderness and God brought them into the promised land. Back then it was known as Cananaan, during Jesus’ time it was known as Palestine - today we would call it Israel. God’s people lived there a little over a thousand years - sometimes following the ways of God and more often straying away from God and worshipping the local idols. Eventually God got so frustrated trying to lead his people into what was best for them and best for God that God allowed Assyria to capture 10 of the tribes of Israel and scatter them all over the area around the Mediterranean Sea. Then God concentrated his efforts on the remaining 2 tribes, trying his best to help them and guide them but they also abandoned God and so God allows the Babylonians to come into Jerusalem and capture his remaining people and carry them off into Babylon where they lived in slavery. The story of Esther takes place after this Babylonian exile when most of God’s people were allowed to travel back to Jerusalem. There`was a small contingent of Jews who elected to stay in Babylon after the majority had returned home.
We open up with the king of Babylon, Xerxes, (although his name is recorded various different ways in different versions of the Bible) who has just hosted a party that has lasted months! The party consists of many of the powerful leaders of the nations around Babylon and the King needs to make sure that at all times he appears powerful. Any glimpse of weakness will alert these other powerful kings that perhaps they could come in and defeat Babylon. Remember that even though these guys are partying together, they are also sizing each other up and looking for that ‘edge’ in case the nations go to war with one another. So after many days of eating and drinking Xerxes wants to show off his queen who was a very beautiful woman. Her name was Vashti and Xerxes summoned her to come and parade in
front of all these drunk men in her scantily clad outfit. And she refused. Now, in our day and age of strong, independent women, we think “Good for her! Way to go!” but in the day and age of ancient Babylon, this was unheard of. No one in their right mind would refuse the king anything, but for a woman to refuse a man, especially the king, especially in public, was unthinkable. Xerxes has been embarrassed in front of all of these powerful leaders and Xerxes’ advisors quickly pointed out that this was unforgivable and he had better show his strength. Now Xerxes is conflicted because he does love Vashti - but he really doesn’t have a choice. Normally he would have her publicly executed to show people what happens when you defy the king, but because he cares for her he sends her away - which leaves the position of Queen of Babylon open…..
The solution to this problem of the empty Queen throne is to have a nationwide beauty contest. Almost like the story of Cinderella and her glass slipper when all the women wanted their foot to fit, all the women of Babylon wanted to be the Queen and began to apply for the contest. There was a man named Mordecai, who was a Jew, who worked in the palace of the king and he heard about the beauty contest. Mordecai had raised his niece, a girl named Hadessah (who we know by her Babylonian name of Esther) and she was very beautiful. So Mordecai encourages her to enter the contest, but Mordecai cautions her not to let anyone know of her Jewish heritage. The Jews, were 2nd class citizens and as a Jew Esther would have never been allowed to enter the contest.
After a year long elimination process, Esther won and she is now the Queen of Babylon and Xerxes is very pleased with her! Meanwhile, Xerxes has appointed Haman as the Prime Minister and while no one in Babylon likes the Jews, Haman had an unnatural hatred for the Jews. Haman, who feels he is quite important, declares himself such an important leader that everyone must bow to him as a god. Mordecai, being a good Jew and knows the first commandment, There shall be no gods before me, is not willing to bow before Haman which makes Haman crazy. So instead of just punishing Mordecai, Haman figures this is his opportunity to get rid of all the Jews. So Haman goes to Xerxes and asks Xerxes if he can kill all the jews and Xerxes says ‘sure’ and Haman begins his plan. Mordecai, who works in the palace, gets wind of the plan and knows he has to do something.
So he goes to Esther and tells her that she is in a position to do something about this. Well, Esther, is a little reluctant to do anything. She may be the Queen but this is a pretty ornamental office - her job is to do what the King asks her to do and to be available for him and she is only allowed to speak to the king when she is summoned. So Esther argues with Mordecai that there is nothing she can do. And Mordecai reminds her of two things - one is that she is a Jew and if Haman kills all the Jews then why does she think she is going to escape. She will get killed with all the other Jews. And he reminds her of the power and purpose of God. “Don’t you think, Esther, that God was behind all of this? Do you really think that you are here on your own? You think that maybe God has put you in this place so that you can do something about the extermination of all of your people? - maybe you are here ‘for such a time as this’.”
And Mordecai speaks to all of us. If we truly trust in God; if we truly understand our life as the people of God - then we need to remember that God is guiding and directing us in the way we should go so that we can be in places and in times to do what God needs done. When we find ourselves in a new place, in a new situation, a place or an event or a situation that we would have never chose for ourselves - maybe, just maybe, it is God saying, “I need you for such a time as this to do what I need done.” And we realize that God has given us the tools and the gifts and whatever else we may need to do whatever God lays before us.
Our world is a little strange right now. Our world is someplace new and different and confusing. Our world is restless and maybe that is part of God’s plan - to throw us off kilter a little bit, to make us think; to make us re-connect with him since let’s face it, God is about the only constant in our lives right now. Maybe God is preparing us as the church to be present as a witness ‘for such a time as this’…..
To make a long story short, Esther risks her life by approaching the King unsummoned and convinces Xerxes to cancel Haman’s genocide of the Jews - and she is able to save her people.
That is the point of this story - be willing to open yourself - as individuals and as a church - to the places you find yourself in and remember we are people of God, and we are here to do what He needs us to do - For Such a Time as we may find ourselves in.
Maybe God is grooming the church to be present in a whole new way in such a time as this.
Amen!