Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 177: Esther 7-9; Psalm 144; II Corinthians 3

To Be Remembered...
The Book of Esther is a great read, yes? There are really only four main players, with a few secondary characters, and yet the interplay between these people extends with the politics of an empire to impact the fate of an entire people: Ahasuerus the King, Esther the Queen, Haman the villain, Mordecai the "back room hero." God does not seem to be an active player at all, with the Covenant and the Law being simply references, touchpoints for the agents in the story. Still, this story speaks profoundly to the way we as individual people struggle to live out our short time here on Earth in relationship with each other and with God...and to how we, and our struggles, will be remembered when we are gone.

At its core, this story is about how three people risk their "now," their lives in order to attain the goal of getting the king to act, to use his power to their advantage. Haman sets up a plot against Mordecai and the Jews out of spite, envy and hatred. The pogrom he gets the king to underwrite will wipe out the Jewish people who are in exile. It's an epic, wretched thing. Mordecai gets wind of it and uses his one contact with the king, his kinswoman Esther, to attempt to undo the madness. Esther, the lynchpin of the story, risks everything in order to act on behalf of her people, to stop the madness. The good news? There is a happy ending, of sorts...Haman is undone. Mordecai is elevated. Esther is not only successful-she emerges esteemed for all time. The Jews are saved, and get to kill and loot the households of their enemies. A "happy" ending to be sure. What lingers with me? That Esther's real reward is not just her part in delivering the Jews, but that bit at the end of the book setting up the Feast of Purim. Esther will now be remembered for as long as any Jew celebrates the 14th of Adar.

That is our hope, as mortals...that we will be remembered. God willing, truly, we will be remembered for the good we are able to accomplish. Some few, like Esther, will have their memory persist in a very particular way. For most of us, we hope that some small portion of ourselves will linger in the collective memory of our families and communities. Esther's testimony, though, is that she not so much acted to secure a legacy but that she was willing to abandon safety and assurance in order to protect and save her people in her unique and particular "now."

We can too easily lose ourselves in working toward securing a legacy in some remote future. Esther's witness calls us back to the present. If we are to be remembered, to God or by anyone, then it is to be accomplished through our willing abandonment of our self to the present opportunity...to act for the welfare and preservation of our neighbors, to live so that others will be freed to new life.

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