Sunday, 10 April 2016
My Story in God's Story ~ Esther Puts Her Life on the Line
What does it take to get access to life, real life? Esther shows us what she is willing to risk for her people as a foreshadowing of what Jesus will risk for us.

4.10.16 MSGS ~ Esther 4:1-17

I have one of those friends, his name happens to be Adam as well, who can just seem to find his way to get close to celebrities.  I remember going to a concert with him, we had seats way up and he wasn’t having that.  He just said, “follow me” and down to the floor we went.  We were going to be close to the musicians!  But, somehow, really, I don’t know how, we got to the floor by walking through the VIP section.  And by VIP I mean we walked right past other famous musicians, politicians, and actors.  I saw P Diddy, and I couldn’t even believe it, but he nodded at me.  I know a lot of you don’t know who that is, but he is pretty famous.  I saw lots of famous people all because my friend Adam just walked right on in.

The next concert I went with him to he actually acquired for us VIP all access passes that got us into the food tent ahead of time and then right down on the floor with all the cool people during the concert.  I still have that pass hanging in my office, and I look at it and smile.  It was an amazing day.

And it is a day I would never have had if I was by myself.  I am NOT the kind of person who goes wandering in places I am not supposed to be.  I am NOT the kind of person who regularly gets VIP passes.  I know that is surprising to you because of how cool I am, but I am NOT that cool.  I only get these experiences when I am with my friend Adam.

Now maybe you too have had the opportunity to be in some pretty fun places, hanging out with some celebrity types, or maybe not.  Let me tell you, it doesn’t really matter.  I will grant you that it was fun to be in those places with my friend Adam, but here’s the truth.  God doesn’t care.  God is glad when we have fun, but God doesn’t care that I met George Clooney once.   I mean who is George Clooney to God?  Instead, what God cares about, really and truly, is who are you welcoming into your life, and who is welcoming you into theirs.  That is what God really and truly cares about.

Today we are continuing our journey through the stories of scripture.  This whole year we are asking the question:  how is my story in God’s story?  That is, how do these ancient stories, these fascinating characters and their experiences of life and God teach me today how to live, think, and have faith?  Today we are exploring the story of Esther and her need to get one of the most exclusive, VIP, access passes you could get in her day.  Because Esther needs to be welcomed into an audience with the king.  And to get this audience, this access, Esther will risk her life.

Let’s see how this all plays out!

Let’s pray.

Show us your glory, show us your glory, show us your glory oh lamb, lamb of God.  Amen.

All the hottest places in a city have long lines to get in and bouncers.  Big guys and tough looking girls, who no one wants to mess with, stand at the door with their arms crossed in front of them.  They are the very image and symbol of “no access.”  To get inside to the party and the fun you have to go through them.  And if they don’t want to let you in, you are out of luck.

To let someone in, the bouncers have to uncross their arms, reach down to the velvet rope, unhook it, and let someone pass. Now, once you are in, hopefully it meets all your expectations!  This is a place where amazing people hang out.  This is a place where you want to be seen.

To be let into an exclusive club means that you are someone special.  You now have intimate knowledge of something that most people in the world do not.  Such an experience can either go to your head filling you with arrogance or it can humble you while you receive it as a wonderful gift.

It all begins when the bouncer opens his/her arms, moves the velvet rope, and lets you in.

In the story of Esther for today, the King was the hottest ticket in town.  So hot that if you showed up uninvited to his throne room, the King’s guards, the bouncers for the day, just might kill you.  You wouldn’t just get turned away, you would be dead.  There were only two ways to get in and see the King.  1.  You are invited.  That might be obvious, if the King invites you then, of course, you can show up.  And Esther was invited to see the King every once in a while, but it has now been a month or so since she has seen him.  2.  You can show up in the King’s court uninvited, and if, when he sees, you he raises his Golden Scepter, like a bouncer opening the velvet rope, then you are welcome to come in.  If not, then off with your head.

Like I said, this is the hottest place in town and the most dangerous.  Esther is asking for THE VIP pass here.  And if this doesn’t work, then she is dead.

So, we need to back up a bit.  Why is Esther risking her life?  What is going on that she needs to go see the King?  I’m going to give you the short, short version, you can read the rest of Esther if you’d like.  But the people of Israel are under the control of the Persian empire, led by King Xerxes.  King Xerxes had a queen named Vashti, who refused to join him for dinner one day and so as punishment, she could never enter the King’s presence again.  Instead an empire wide beauty pageant was held to find Queen Vashti’s replacement.  Esther was chosen as the most beautiful of the land and crowned queen!  But, there was one tiny thing:  she didn’t tell anyone that she was a Hebrew.  In the mean-time a high ranking official named Haman got mad at the Hebrews and got King Xerxes to sign a death warrant for all of them.  This is when we pick up the story for today.  Esther’s older cousin Mordecai is distraught because Haman is out for Hebrew blood.  And Mordecai asks Esther to use her position as queen to go and see the king on behalf of all the Hebrew people.  This means Esther has to put her life on the line to get into see the King and she is doing it because all of her people’s lives are on the line.

Now let’s stop right here and see Esther for who she really is, because she is amazing.  Esther does NOT have to do what her cousin Mordecai is asking her to do.  She does not have to risk her life.  Think about this, she is the queen.  Not only that, but she is the most beautiful woman in the land.  This puts her in a position of power and privilege that is hard to give up.  More than any other woman, she has access to all the nicest things, the best foods, the most fun parties.  She has servants, and they probably have servants.  Her husband is King Xerxes, who, if you know your history, was no slouch of a man, but rather the ruler of an empire!  With all of this power and privilege she could very easily just ignore Mordecai.  She could turn a blind eye to the plight of her people.  Because she, after all has so much to lose and not much to gain.  We have all ignored people and problems for much less, you know you have.  She could stay hidden, she could continue to keep her heritage a secret and live the life of a queen for the rest of her life.

And yet, she chooses to risk it all.  Why?  What kind of person does that?  Who risks leaving behind all the glory of being royalty to align herself with the nobodies?  I will tell you who.  Well first, obviously, Esther does that, but Esther is simply foreshadowing another royal person who leaves behind everything to be with the people, and that person is Jesus.

You see human history records Jesus as a carpenter, a person killed on a cross, a good teacher, and wise man.  But we Christians know that he was even more than that.  He was the Son of God.  He is the Prince of Peace, son of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And yet even though he was all those things, and yet…turn with me if you want in your Bibles to Philippians 2, because here we find an answer to the question of what kind of person would give up everything for nobodies?  Here in Philippians 2 we are going find that Esther is merely showing us hundreds of years before Jesus, what the love of God really looks like.

Are you there at Philippians 2?  Here is what it says about Jesus beginning in verse 6.

6 [Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.



What?!?!?  Who gives up heaven, willingly?  Who gives up all the power and privilege and wealth and beauty and goodness and love of heaven to be on this earth?  Jesus is the answer to that question.  And he did it for you and for me and the whole world.  He gave up being with God for you and for me and every single person who has ever taken a breath.  He gave up all of his advantages, and became a servant, and then died for you and for me and every single person who ever had a mom and dad.  Why?  So that we could be welcomed into the throne room of the most High King of Kings.  So that we could have the greatest access to the best VIP lounge in the universe.  Jesus did this, gave it all up, so that we, you and me and anyone with a DNA strand stamping them as human, could be welcomed into the presence of God.

I want to give you a feel for what this would mean and look like in your life.  How about you think about what you would give for someone else.  Now, if it is someone you love, your kids, your best friends, your pastor, what wouldn’t you give if they asked and you had it?  Would you give your life for them?  Would you take a bullet for them?  Probably.   But what about all those other people, what you would give for the people who are not close to you, the people who have said that you are their enemy, the people you disagree with, the people won’t give you anything in return, what would you give up for the people who would take from you without any gratitude, but instead give you attitude?  What about those people?

Oh, that is different isn’t it?  Those people I might give to begrudgingly, but I very quickly become tight fisted and give very little to those who I have deemed unworthy of my help.

Not so with Jesus.  Jesus gives up everything, not just for the ones who love him in return and give their lives back to him, but also for the people out there who don’t believe (he loves them and gave his life for them), who work against him (he loves them and gave his life for them), the people who are doing immoral and unjust things, those who do evil, who commit wrongs (he loves them and gave his life for them),.  Jesus left heaven, gave up everything for them too.  So that everyone, and I mean, everyone, the whole world and all who are in it might be welcomed into the presence of God because Jesus is the all access VIP pass to the Father in heaven.

Now Esther does the same thing just on a smaller scale, instead of for the whole world like Jesus does, she does it for all of the Jewish people, some of whom loved her and others I’m sure thought of her like we think about the Kardashians today, but she did it anyway, risked her life so that others might live.  She risked losing her power, her position, her privilege so that others might survive.

And now what about you?  We work on an even smaller scale than God, Jesus and Esther, but who comes to mind as someone who needs you to risk something so they might live, so they might have a better life, so that they might pursue the full and abundant life that comes from Christ?  Who in your life is in need of access to help, love, care, resources, that they can’t get on their own, but you can get, and you can give.  Who is God showing you and saying to you, “Do you need to stay all up in your comfortable place, with all the things that you have, do you need to keep them all for yourself?”  Or will you, like Esther, and like Jesus, consider giving up some of your power and privilege and wealth for those that God keeps putting in your life?

Esther is a foretaste of Jesus.  She shows what a willingness to risk it all for the sake of someone else looks like.  Jesus reveals to us that he is willing to do it for you and for me and for everyone with blood pumping through their veins, and then today, that same Jesus is calling us, us who have already received the great welcome and access to the throne room of God, Jesus is calling us to offer that same gift to others.  We too can show the world the kind of love that Jesus had as we love, care, welcome, and even risk so that others might live.

And when you do.  Remember that God loves you, and I love you too.  Amen.