Friday, September 28, 2012

For how can I bear to see the calamity

Reassured by a comment I just saw on my last post (close to a year ago!) that Sabbath is important in any area of life, and inspired by my own desire to become more dedicated in prayer and devotionals, I figured I would try once again to keep the musings coming. Looking back on past posts, it is interesting to reflect on how much has changed. I have in fact, become a pastor, though not in the particularly traditional sense. I run a program in a county jail, where I stay so busy I often lack time for reflection - which I know to be key in any ministry. I think I will be more dedicated to 1) reading the lectionary every day and 2) incorporating writing into my life if I commit to reflecting upon my daily readings in a semi-public way, if even in just a few lines. So here goes.

ESTHER 8:1-8, 15-17
1On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2Then the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. So Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
3Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet, weeping and pleading with him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4The king held out the golden scepter to Esther, 5and Esther rose and stood before the king. She said, "If it pleases the king, and if I have won his favor, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I have his approval, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote giving orders to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming on my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?" 7Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai, "See, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews. 8You may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked."
15Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king, wearing royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple, while the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor. 17In every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday. Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

Esther took great personal risk in sticking out her neck for the Jews, her people. As she cries, "how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming on my people?," I wonder how often I have struggled with the same question. How we all hate to see those we love in pain or danger! Yet, I live a privileged life where my inner circles are not frequently at great risk. The question ultimately becomes, who are our people? Our family? Our friends? Neighbors? Those who share our culture/faith/country/shopping habits? As Christians, aren't we told that we are grafted into the family of God? By adoption, we are all brothers and sisters. Yes, all. So what do we do when we see calamity coming on our family, our people? Those of different economic situations, of different lifestyles, in different countries, of different beliefs? I think the problem is that we often we don't see. We live far too segregated lives. Working at the jail I have the honor of being welcomed into the lives of those who are separated from society by design. I hear people's stories-- difficult ones. Stories that often invite me into holy ground. And yet it makes me realize how much calamity I am missing. Who is seeing the calamity of the victims? When do I truly see the plight of the oppressed? If we all saw and felt the pain and destruction of all our brothers and sisters, we also would not be able to bear the calamity. How could we bear it? We would have to fight. Take risks. Many do: whether in small ways or large. But it is so much easier to fall into a place of distance, and forget. Because it takes effort to seek out those so unlike us. It is painful to open ourselves to the pain. And yet that is what Jesus invites us into-- an incarnational faith. One that calls us to walk alongside our brothers and sisters...not just those nearest and most like us, but the cast out, the marginalized. And I think when we do, we can remember that we are not alone. God will be with us. The one who will ultimately restore...the one who provides "light and gladness, joy and honor."

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