Summary: Installation of Assistant Pastor. How may a young woman make an impact? By acknowledging that it was God who brought her to this time and place, and by laying down her very life for the task.
A young woman in a very difficult situation. A crisis moment, for which no training could have fully prepared her. A dangerous moment, one in which the future of a whole people lay in the balance. She had little power, in the usual sense. She wielded no authority, commanded no troops, had access to no funds. What could she do? How could she possibly make a difference, particularly when it seemed that the forces of change were blustering over the landscape and that the tides of history were turning rapidly? How does a young woman, given the constraints of her age and her gender, the limitations on her resources, and the obstacle of time- encrusted tradition in her path - how does she make a difference? Most especially, how does she make a saving difference when the future of many others is at stake?
The answer is that she puts her very life on the line, prepared to give it if necessary, because she has faith in the God who has guided her every step of the way until now. She puts her very life on the line, prepared to spend and be spent, because she trusts that the God who has brought her to this time and this place has done so for a purpose, and will not fail her now.
Her cousin Mordecai brought disturbing news to the young queen. The people called Israel were in jeopardy. Evil men had conspired to destroy them. The night of the long knives was about to overtake them. And Mordecai thought that untested, inexperienced Esther could do something to save them. Esther, you must go to King Ahasuerus; you must tell him that these are your people, and that there is infamy afoot. Esther, this is your moment, this is your hour.
Esther had not been the king’s favorite long, but she knew the rules of the court. She knew that if she approached the royal presence without an invitation, she could be cut off and destroyed. She knew there was no guarantee. Her heart stopped and pondered for a moment. But it was the encouragement of her cousin that touched something deep in Esther’s soul.
First, Mordecai just raised a question. "Who knows?" Who knows? Sometimes it is best to start with the questions. For life is mystery. It always has been, it always will be. And as you approach the future, you have to begin with "Who knows?" We stand before mystery whenever we undertake anything of any significance.
We live on the very threshold of mystery today. In a few months we will begin the third Christian millennium. Nearly everything about this future is mystery. Who can imagine, even remotely imagine, what life will be like in the year 3000? Will human body parts be replaceable? Will we be living in colonies on other planets? What will our world look like? Which nations will rise and which will fall? Will we even survive as weapons of mass destruction proliferate and chemical pollutants attack our air and our water? Who knows?
Who knows if we’ll even get into the third millennium? If some of the Y2K computer bug people are right, the power grids will brown out and everything will just shut down next January 1 anyway. If they are right, then it’ll just be the alarmists alive -- Jerry Falwell, out there with his food and his water and his shotgun to protect his stuff in the name of Jesus! Then, again, maybe nothing will happen and life will hum right straight on through with never a hitch. Who knows? We don’t know. It’s a mystery.
In fact, we’d better not pretend that we do know. We need to learn from the example of the hapless fellow who was the director of the U. S. Patent Office in 1905, just after the turn of this present century. Wrote he, with monumental blindness, "Everything that can be invented has now been invented. The work of the Patent Office is finished." How wrong can you get? What life will be like a thousand years from now, a hundred years from now, is largely a mystery.
It is right to approach the future as a mystery. It is good to confess that there are things we do not know. Mordecai’s question rings true. It’s a good place to start thinking about ministry in the millennium. It’s healthy to admit that we don’t have all the answers. There is a little couplet that haunts me sometimes; it says, "Our fathers have been churchmen for a hundred years or so, and to every new proposal they have always answered, ’NO"’. That haunts me, because it reminds me that sometimes we get very arrogant about our way of doing things.
But we are facing a new era. It is mystery. What is coming we do not see. Esther began her mission with Mordecai’s simple question ringing in her ears, "Who knows?" "Who knows?"