Sermon Pentecost 19 September 30, 2018

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22               Psalm 124                   James 5:13-20            Mark 9:38-50

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As you recall the Jews were taken away into Exile in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar about six hundred years before the Birth of Christ, and for the most part remained nameless until their return to Jerusalem by the decree of King Cyrus.  While in exile some prospered, one who did was a man named Mordecai.  He had done very well and was granted royal favour because he had uncovered a plot to kill King Artaxerxes.  Now there was a Jew hater called Haman one of the eunuchs in the harem.  He had got Artaxerxes to start a pogrom against the Jews, all of them, another  ‘Final Solution’  and Mordecai and Esther were his main targets.  All Jews were to be executed on the fourteenth of the month Adar, depending on the year that’s in March or April.

It’s an old tale but is as modern as today.  Artaxerxes had held a party, a drinking party for his court and certain foreign dignitaries, it lasted for two weeks !  They were stoned out of their minds and Haman used the king’s inebriation to get the persecution of the Jews authorised.  The king being totally wasted, in debauchery ordered his Queen Vashti to show herself at the party:  that is do a striptease for his guests:  she refused.  Now she was no vestal virgin she had been at a women’s drinking party for two days already.  But she still had enough sense to refuse to be naked in a room with a bunch of inebriated men.  For this disobedience she was deposed as queen.  Today we are conscious that  “No”  means  “No”  and of a woman’s right to refuse, especially when she is not completely in control of her faculties.  Whatever she did Vashti was going to be a victim of either a  ‘yes’  to lust or a  ‘no’  to revenge – sounds familiar ?

Frustrated by this the king Artaxerxes sent out a decree that all women were to obey their husbands  (there is no record of how that turned out !).  And then the king set out on a plan to find a suitable and beautiful replacement for Queen Vashti and came up with Mordecai’s niece Esther.  That got Haman hot under the collar because she was a Jew and that’s when he got the king to start the pogrom against the Jews on the fourteenth.  Not to be defeated Esther used her womanly wiles.  She went to a drinking party with the king and played the  ‘cold shoulder’  routine with him.  On the second day of this he was fed up and he wanted to know why.  Esther told him that Haman planned to kill her and Mordecai her uncle pursuant to the king’s proclamation.  This got the king angry, he rescinded his Executive Order, and embarrassed he had Haman executed on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.  It’s all in the Book, read it.

The king was obviously an out-of-control fool.  He acted on the last thing he heard no matter if it contradicted something that he had said or done just minutes before.  Who does that remind you of ?  There is no prize for getting the right answer, because the question is too easy,

But it does highlight several things about Lust, Brutishness, Immodesty. Power, Predation and Deviousness for they can all be used to get one’s way, sometimes they work, other times they don’t, but they are seemingly all available to the morally destitute.  It’s very sad that those vices still exist today and are used in a far different setting, but nonetheless they do and are, and they compromise people’s integrity on a daily basis.

It seems that we must, absolutely must, teach people about Christianity because those immoral traits are against God’s Word.  Although Christians often fail to live up to their calling the ideals of Christianity are sure worth following and proclaiming.  But what is the right brand of Christianity ?  There are so many denominations that none can be right all the time.  Well of course Jesus has the answer.

When His disciples were concerned that another disciple was muscling in on what they thought was their exclusive territory of having Jesus, Jesus straightened them out.  He said  “Do not stop him;  for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  Whoever is not against us is for us”.  All denominations have a fair chunk of the Truth and differ only on a few points.  If we all live by the two great Commandments, love God, love your neighbour, even if we interpret them differently we have met Jesus’ expectations.  He knows what perverse creatures we are, and that we feel we are right in our beliefs and therefore others wrong  (I’m talking within Christianity not other religions, those almost totally miss the point, because they deny Christ)  but the Truth is Christians are not right all the time about what Christ commands.  We are human and we have foibles.  Those will get straightened out in the next life, right now we have to do our best to live loving God and our neighbour.

Today Jesus gives us Hope, He says that after death we will all be salted with fire, which means that we will be preserved and cured by Holy Fire, the bad taken away and the good remaining.  Jesus tells us to have salt in ourselves, that is, have fire in ourselves for Him and the Gospel.  If we have that internal fire, which is the sign of the Holy Spirit, we will cleanse our spirits of all that distracts us from our true life’s calling, and we will be at peace with God, ourselves and one another – our neighbours.  Cast off those things that are not right, don’t live with resentments like Haman, who got hung up by his own prejudices, or morally bankrupt like Artaxerxes but be like Mordecai treating all others, regardless of position in life, with love, dignity and respect.  Amen.

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