One of the great stories in the Bible is that of Queen Esther, which is recorded in the book bearing her name. Following the Babylonian Exile, some Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, and others opted to remain in what was then Persia. Esther’s family stayed. She was known for her beauty and became part of the king’s harem. Throughout the Bible, God’s people faced difficulties, and there is no exception in this story. The “prime minister” of Persia, named Haman, decides that all Jews in Persia must be eliminated. In the seclusion of the royal harem, Esther is unaware of this evil decree. Her uncle comes to her and tells her about Haman’s murderous plot, and he asks her to use her position to gain an audience with the king and make supplication on behalf of her people. These are her uncle’s words:
Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.
God has a way of putting “the right people in the right place at the right time,” as the saying goes. Esther successfully undermines Haman’s plot, and she helps to save her people from destruction. It is a story of triumph in the face of adversity.
Perhaps, like Esther, you have found yourself in a challenging situation. Perhaps you even wondered, “Why me? Why now? Couldn’t someone else take care of this?” What did you do in those situations? Did you rise to the occasion or turn the other way? It is always tempting to take the easy way out, but sometimes God places us in situations precisely where we are most needed. People often share with me stories of these “God moments” from their lives – when they catch a glimpse of their role in the bigger picture of reality.
As 2019 quickly comes to an end, we have the opportunity to look back and then look ahead. In the life of the church, we are wrapping up another stewardship campaign and we have elected new elders for the class of 2022. We are blessed to have people in our faith community who are willing to step up and serve faithfully. 2020 will doubtless be a year of exciting opportunities and challenges. May God bless us all with clarity and courage to be who we are called to be “for such a time as this.”
A few years ago, I was listening to a talk given by the writer Anne Lamott. She attends a Presbyterian church, and many of her writings include reflections on her personal faith and her life in this church community. In this talk, she said that she had not been looking forward to attending church lately. It was stewardship month. She said, “I hate the shakedown sermons.” I chuckled to myself, thinking, “Yes, don’t we all!” It seems like we are constantly bombarded with requests for money. Every time we turn around, someone is seeking a donation for one cause or another. Most of us try to do our part, because there are many worthy causes. But there is only so much that one person can do.
While fundraising is usually essential for all non-profit organizations, the church has a wider focus than just the dollars and cents of budgetary considerations. We think in terms of stewardship, and our hope is that our practices are shaped by deeper theological convictions. In the talk I mentioned above, Lamott shared that, despite her reservations, she did attend the worship service, and she was moved by her pastor’s sermon. The sermon focused on gratitude, and that is not a bad place to start when we think about stewardship. Are we grateful for our life, for our church and its mission?
The Apostle Paul reminds us in his second letter to the church in Corinth about the proper spiritual disposition of our giving: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7). It reminds me of the funny line: “The Bible says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver,’ but the church will take a grumpy one!” Well, let’s hope we are not too grumpy! Giving is not something to do because it is an obligation that is imposed on you. We pray that any gift is given joyfully and in thanksgiving for the blessings God has bestowed upon you through worship, community, and service in this gathering of committed followers of Jesus Christ.
Please take a moment to think about the ways you steward what has been entrusted to you. We are all recipients of God’s grace, and out of a grateful heart, we are able to share with others. With all of the places we have to share our blessings, let us remember God’s work at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church and give with a smile. After all, God loves a cheerful giver!
Rev. Barrett Ingram