My favorite running back of all time is Barry Sanders formerly of the Detroit Lions. He played in the 90’s and for a football player he was tiny – 5’8 200 pounds. But he was fast, quick and because of his size he could easily hide behind his big offensive linemen. But one of the reasons I admired him so much was that he was relentless. I say this because as the game wore on into the 4th quarter when most athletes naturally become tired and slow down – Sanders seemed to somehow gain strength, speed, and became more elusive as the game wore on. For those of you who don’t remember him or never heard of him or don’t particular like football – I invite you to please check out YouTube for his highlights because they are worth it.
However of all the attributes that I admired most about Barry Sanders on field success that will speak into our sermon focus this morning was that unlike his peers then and contemporaries today – was how Sanders celebrated a touchdown which is the ultimate achievement in football. You see Sanders unlike most players who enter the endzone for a TouchDown where the tendency is to pre-plan and take the celebrations to an art form involving dancing, mimic a short story, take a selfie, jump into the stands – which has it place in sports I suppose. But what I loved about Sanders who after he retired in ‘98 had over 100 TD’s – he preferred a more how shall I say “understated” approach upon entering the endzone after a touchdown. It was to simply hand the ball over to the referee and quietly return to the sidelines. And whenever he was interviewed about his understated celebratory approach he consistently noted that:
- Since he had been blessed to be in in the endzone before (110 times to be exact) he knew and was very confident that he would be coming back again and again.
- In other words because of his history in the past he had come to understand – that he was made for such a time as this.
As we peer into 2017, many of us need to have this settle into the depth of our souls this morning. And it is this – our difficult times, our dark season, the anxiety directly associated with an unknown political future that we are entering into 2017 is real and is now upon us. But as followers of Jesus Christ, as members of the Mennonite church but even more so we are part of that “great crowd of witness” cheering us on called the “the Church” in Hebrews 12:1 we therefore can/must rest in the knowledge that as a people whatever comes our way in 2017:
“We have been here before
because we have been here before let us/the church remember with confidence that we were made/purposed by God for such a time as this. Friends we cannot, dare not, must not, lose sight of this truth as we embark in a new year – we were made for such a time as this!”
This is the assurance of God’s truth that we find in our text this morning from the Book of Esther Chapter 4 in the words of Mordecai whose major claim to fame is that he is the older cousin of Queen Esther, a Jewish Queen on the downlow of a Persian King. Mordecai is an official within the Persian government who refuses similar to the 3 Hebrew Boys and Daniel to bow to any other God or human. This angered Haman who was second in command to the King of Persia. In fact Haman conjures up a plot to not only address Mordecai’s insubordination – but tragically to attempt to bring about genocide on to the entire Jewish population because of their refusal to uniformally worship Persian gods. Mordicai initially sends word to Esther for her to use her unique position to help her people. How many know that it is hard to do the right thing when the world is watching? Esther’s initial response to Mordecai’s reflects this difficulty. She basically says that:
“it isn’t the right time, it isn’t the right place and I’m NOT the right person”
But Mordecai’s response – his follow up words of truth was what she would need to hear at this critical time, during a dark season, literlly a matter of life and death for the Jewish people. Mordecai sent her this message in response to her words of inaction:
“Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”
In many ways Mordecai’s words of assurance to his younger cousin Queen Esther echoes the words used by Dr. King at his time own time of both personal and national crisis where it was also a matter of life and death.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Dr. King like Mordecai rested on the LONG view of our faith and history. That the Beloved Community King desperately desired to see, would not be realized in his lifetime but the “true light” found only in Jesus Christ was emerging albeit slowly into the abyss of darkness of segregation and Jim Crow. So he prophetic declared in faith that:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
And I know Mordecai believed this as well! That we serve and worship a God that is on the side of Justice. So for Mordecai the question wasn’t if God will be just, rather when and how will God begin His activity/reign here on earth as it is in heaven? Mordecai’s response to Esther “inaction” is that ignoring the troubling news of the annihilation of her own Jewish people is inadequate!
Friends – inaction (sitting on the sidelines) is always inadequate in times of crisis then or today… amen?
So Mordecia says something rather amazing but is often overlooked because we allow ourselves to get caught up with the good news at end of the story. But this morning, I want to redirect us back to vs. 14 of Esther 4 where Mordecai says to Esther these words of faith:
“14 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 your royal position for such a time as this?”
My Paraphrase version:
“Don’t think that you can just ignore blight of your people because it doesn’t directly affect you. Yes, it’s been tough for you to be put in this position against your will, And we know that going to the King without an invite is a big deal and even death. But Esther, by God’s grace – this is YOUR TIME and it will be for God’s glory with or without you! But it’s no accident that you are a Jewish girl and now the queen of Persia.”
And I want you to know my friends – these words of truth are meant to speak to each of us today as well – prayerfully moving some of us out of the fog of discontent and into boldly walking in the Light of Christ. Because like Esther I m here to share with you this morning 2017:
“You are in the right place for the right reason at the right time and that time is now.”
Esther who initially could only think of her well being, her safety, her hurt/pain, her fears is transformed by God’s grace into understanding that she was in the right place for the right reason at the right time to use her influence! Esther says to her maid servant:
4:15, “Go, gather together all the Jews … and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days … 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” (NIV).
Esther knows confronting the king is likely to mean certain death. But Esther also has come to realize that:
“She is in the right place She is the right reason at the right time and that time is now.”
Esther would have Mordecai and all the Jewish people pray for her recognizing that being faithful to God always comes at a costs – in her case potentially her life… but she had a commitment to God, and to God’s people and to her faith community for such a time as this. But this morning an important question arises for me from the text that I want us to attend to and it is actually:
“How did Mordecai know that relief and deliverance” would arise from Esther or another place? How?”
Let us remember that we have the privilege of knowing how the story ends – but at the time for Esther, Mordecai and the Jewish people things were NOT going well for a very long time:
- As a people the generation before they had been defeated and lost their land/Temple and been displaced into the Babylonian Empire
- And now within their generation the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians and took over allowing some people to return home to broken down cities, while many like Esther and Mordecai remained within the Persian Empire as exiles.
- And now they were now on the verge of genocide…
- By most measurements of human dignity today as a people all seemed to be a complete loss for Mordecai, Esther and the Jewish people as a whole. But author Ger Koopman is helpful here writing:
“Often people (communities) think they are lost. They think that nothing in the world can help them. And then God looks and says, “It is time.” And all at once everything looks different. Everything comes into a different light, and all at once you see that all is not lost, but won. Remember this, all is not lost in his eyes. “The lowly shall be lifted up, the first shall be last.”
Mordecai saw this – ‘that the lowly shall be lifted up, the first shall be last”. And Mordecai saw in Esther what she could not initially see or even comprehend in herself – that they as a people, but she in particular in her role as Queen was made for such a time as this! All because ….
“Esther was in the right place for the right reason at the right time and that time is now.”
And how did Mordecai know this (like Barry Sanders)? Mordecai knew that as a people – the children of Israel had been in situations like this before and God had a history of showing up!
- Mordecai remembered the Exodus that after 400 years of enslavement that there was the miraculous exodus of his people led yes by Moses unleashing the plagues, dividing the Red Sea – but don’t get it twisted JeHOVAH God was the actor!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Duet. 31:6
- Mordecai remembered that their was a wall surrounding Jericho that was unmovable but when the worship team of Jerusalem carrying the ark of the Covenant before them and daily walked around it and on the 7th day they shouted those wall came down
- Mordecai remembered that when Ruth’s mother in Law Naomi lost everything – her husband, her sons, almost lost her mind and faith, all that remained was Ruth… But God did not forget them and provided a way out of no way… ultimately Ruth (a foreigner) would be in the line of Jesus.
- Mordecai remembered that when David was a boy stood before his giant and overcame it
- Mordecai remembered the words of David’s Son Solomon when he became king at the opening of the Temple of the hope in that:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
- Mordecai remembered that both the 3 Hebrew boys and Daniel against all odds faced sure death yet God met them in the fiery furnace, met Daniel in the Lion’s Den
- Mordecai remembered…. That God had acted faithfully in the past therefore God HAD to act today that the prophet Jeremiah was right that as people:
5 “Before God formed you and I in the womb God knew us, before we were born God set us apart;
Mordecai remembered all of this and more and because of this he speaks words of assurance, truth, faith and hope to his younger Cousin that:
“relief and deliverance for the US is coming! If not you God will arise from another place… ”
“She was in the right place for the right reason at the right time and that time is Now. Wow.”
But ultimately the question is do you, do we remember that we too we are also made for such a time as this in 2017? Just as in our recent history the church, this church, we have seen God work amongst us in the difficult/dark seasons:
- Y2K (1999) was a season of fear – but it forced us to ask why are we here? Not only for ourselves but our neighbors!
- 9-11 was a season of revenge – but it forced us to ask do we still have to love our enemies? Yes!
- 2008 recession was a season of loss – but it forced us to ask Can God still provide? Yes – more than we ask or imagine!
- Beginning 2012 season began our ongoing season of death/violence for A.A. and never seen before displacements occuring around the world – forcing us to ask Whose lives really matter? All!
- And now 2017 we face a season of polarization and doubt – forcing us to ask whose report(s) will we believe this year? Let us trust the report from the Lord/Scripture!
It is no accident or happenstance that you find yourself here at OCMC this moment. Join us as we like Esther recognize together that Right now in this place God is calling you by name for such a time as this… – remember for Esther it began by:
- Listening to Godly people
- spiritual discipline of prayer & fasting
- leading to clarity of purpose/calling into action/service (by going to the King – speaking God’s truth to power)
Esther came to understand that in this life there will be God orchestrated opportunities, places of trust. Esther was the right person in the right place at the right time – Esther was given the ability to influence the power of a King. Some would categorize Esther as “great” and I can understand why… but I would rather say ultimately she was courageous in her trust in the the Lord. For the Christian it isn’t about seeking greatness my friends. It is being called and obedient to that call. Dr. King is right on when he said:
“I believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God come what way.”
King like Esther understood this like few people, they understood this to the very depth of their souls. Yet both said yes – here I am Lord use me. And like our Lord Jesus himself who entering into his passion week prayed
42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43
- Esther submitted her will to God’s will and saved a nation from genocide
- Dr. King submitted his will to God’s will all the while seeking to save our nation soul
- And our Lord Jesus submitted his will to God’s will and saved us all from sin providing us salvation in this life and the next …
Esther, King, our Lord Jesus were all in the right place for the right reason at the right time and that time was now.
So if you were waiting for a sign, a word, as to what should your next steps be, or if you are in the right church, right city, etc as we enter further into 2017 … I want you to know without a shadow of doubt that you are
in the right place for the right reason at exactly the right time and that time is now.
Now is the time my friends. By God’s grace, recieve this assurance of God’s truth – we have been here before and our God will not leave us nor forsake us in 2017. Amen?