Pastor’s Pen April 2016
Dear Holy Trinity Family,
Question 1: What’s the only book of the Bible that doesn’t directly mention God, even once? (I‘ll give you a moment to think about that.)
Question 2: What are Hamentaschen?
Question 3: What is the Persian word for star?
Hint: Questions 1, 2 & 3 are related!
1) The only book of the Bible that doesn’t directly mention God is the Book of Esther.
2) Hamentaschen are delicious, triangle-shaped jam-filled cookies that represent the hat or ears of Haman, the villain in the Book of Esther.
3) Esther is the Persian word for star. (Queen Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadasah.)
Purim is the name of the Jewish festival celebrating Queen Esther’s saving the Jews of Persia in the mid-5th century B.C. The whole story is only 10 chapters long. Look it up in your Bible; it comes right after Nehemiah and right before the Book of Job. (Remember: it’s not cheating to refer to the table of contents!) This year Purim began the Wednesday evening of Holy Week (March 23) and ended the following evening, as we began Maundy Thursday worship.
I have always thought the miracle of the Esther story is the fact that the Jewish people avoided the annihilation that jealous Haman, the king’s prime minister, had orchestrated for them. Peter Seggel recently shared an article with me, “The Miracle of Esther,” that states, “The real miracle in the story is Esther herself.”1
The author points out that Esther received no clear directives from on high, no precise marching orders, no holy map to follow. She did pray and fast, certainly hoping to align her goals with God’s and to tap into divine resources of inspiration and strength. Esther employed her considerable intelligence, mustered up courage, acted gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent as she approached the king whose reaction would determine her own and her people’s fate. (Though queen, she was but one member of the king’s harem; see, doesn’t the story sound more and more interesting?? The former queen, Vashti, got the bounce for refusing to parade unveiled before the king’s guests.)
God acts through us as God acted through Queen Esther, whose plan worked in the face of almost insurmountable odds against it. I am writing this Pastor’s Pen on the first day of our series on the Lord’s Prayer, in which we’ll be discussing the petition, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God isn’t waiting for us to get out of the way. God is waiting for us to get busy helping the kingdom come, making sure God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Another great woman of faith, this time from the Christian tradition, is Teresa of Ávila. She wrote:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.
Another way to say that? “For heaven’s sake, be of some earthly good!”
Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, is the one who challenged her to put her life on the line to save her people.
“Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Who are we to “save” on our watch? How are we to serve, we who have been blessed so abundantly? What are we willing to risk so that God’s kingdom may come and God’s will be done, in this place, at this time? How are we to live the risen life in such a way that we are “in the neighborhood for good”?
Two years ago we took a semi-scary leap of faith and began to assist another church’s Family Promise outreach up in Ocean. Then our Manasquan Area Ministerium agreed to host right here in town. This ecumenical joint effort has strengthened the bonds among our churches and blessed us as well as the guests.
Hands-on service opportunities (like Family Promise) appeared on the wish list when we envisioned new ministries a couple years ago. Another outreach possibility we are exploring as part of our “20/20 Vision for 2022” is involvement in some aspect of refugee resettlement. Mary Lavits from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is driving up from Washington, D.C. on April 16 to educate us about refugee sponsorship and/or assistance. She will be the featured speaker at Wraps & Rap following 5 p.m. worship on 4/16. Please join us to learn more! (Sign-up is on the traveling bulletin board.)
In Christ, who makes us “shine like stars in the world,”2
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham
1Yoram Hazony, “The Miracle of Esther,” First Things, March 2016, p. 26.