Monday, September 20, 2010

Use what your mamma (or heavenly father) gave you

Today it is back to the daily lectionary, which can be found here:
But there will be a bonus reference to yesterday's sermon (yippee!) as I think they go together pretty well.  But lets begin with the lectionary passage, specifically the Old Testament passage from Esther, which we pick up in chapter 4.  
There is a lot that has already gone on in the story so I will try to briefly summarize.  Basically, Esther, a Jew, has been made Queen of the Persian king.  This happens as she essentially wins a beauty contest after the king's first wife is more than a little insolent with the king and is replaced - different times, lets not judge.  
Esther was raised by her cousin Mordecai, who also worked for the king.  This is where it gets complicated,  Haman, one of the kings advisors didn't like that Mordecai didn't observe and certain traditions - like bowing to Haman when he passed by.  Mordecai, because of his faith would bow to no one but God.  Haman concocts and launches an elaborate plan to get revenge, not just on Mordecai, but on the entire Jewish race.  
Haman gives half of a story to the king and explains that 'these people' must be dealt with.  The King, then gives the order for Haman to deal with them.  Haman arranges for letters to go out to all of the provinces of the kingdom calling for all of the Jews to be killed at a certain time on a certain day (the coordination was so that word of the massacre would not reach other Jews and allow them to escape)  
Mordecai sends word to Esther (who the king does not know is Jewish) and implores here to plead for mercy and a change of heart/mind.  Which is the first part of our reading today.
She explains to him that she can't go to the king unless summoned - the penalty for doing so is death.  
Mordecai, first asserts that if she isn't willing to help God will find another way to save Israel (what faith! - seriously, how many of us could use faith like that when dealing with the problems and difficulties in our lives?)  but then suggests that maybe it was for exactly this situation that she was placed where she is in relation to the king.
Esther sees the point, asks for Mordecai to fast for three days while she does the same and . . . well, you will have to read ahead to see what happens next.  
The point I want to focus on is that God really wants, plans for and expects us to use ALL of what he has given us.  Esther was, indeed, placed where she was so that she could intercede for her people.  But how did she get where she was??? She won a beauty contest!!  
In our thoughts and discussions, in the reading of the Bible and and in any serious discussion or literature very few things are given less weight or importance than physical beauty.  It is only skin deep,  it is fleeting, its what's on the inside that matters, right?  But the bottom line truth of this story is that if Esther wasn't beautiful she would not have been in a place where she could approach the king at all.  She would not have had access to him or influence over him.  
Her beauty is what allowed her to be in the position to intercede for her people.  
I truly believe that we are given what we have: talents, gifts, abilities, interests - even physical attributes - for a reason and God fully expects us to use them for his glory and to help others.  This is the 'moral' of the story of Esther and it was the point of my message yesterday.  
The text for yesterday's sermon was Luke 16:1-13, the parable of the 'shrewd or dishonest manager'.  It is a confusing parable that most people ignore because Jesus seems to lift up and congratulate someone that is dishonest.  But that is missing the point.  Jesus lifts the manager up not because he was dishonest, but because he used everything at his disposal to his benefit. 
The manager was quick-thinking, creative and shrewd in looking after himself - using everything at his disposal to put himself in the best possible position.  God asks, calls and expects us to be quick-thinking, creative and shrewd in using ALL of the gifts God has given us and put at our disposal to share him with others, to minister to those around us and to demonstrate God's love in the best ways possible.  
There is no gift too superficial or so inconsequential that it can't be used to glorify God and point others towards him.
The lesson for today is this: if you have something, you have it for a reason and God expects you to use it for his glory and to help others.

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