Sunday, 30 October 2011

texting esther

Tricky texts. 07729056452

Es1-2 Meekness is not weakness. .. Problematic passages this morning. What is the beauty of a woman for? You should ask this, why am I beautiful? For it is a form of power, it is a currency, it is a gift, it carries consequences. There is the question equally for men, perhaps given less mileage in Esther, to what end is their strength? .. We have a portrait here of a culture not unlike our own. With any culture we can absorb+assimilate, we can reject+escape, or we can engage+subvert. What do we do with a culture's gendered notions of sexiness and strength? Vs a chauvinist tyrant Xerxes, Mordecai the meek seeks to save the King's life anyways, confident that God will vindicate him. Vs Vashti's aggressive bid for feminism, Esther the meek seeks a culture's favour complying with the powers that be, confident that God will vindicate her. How should we then live? These are uncomfortably non-purist provocations. Meekness is not weakness.

Es3-4 Haman and Mordecai offer pictures of ourselves, our mixed motives, poles of what we could be, could we decide who our God is – ourselves, or the true God? Hamanian hubris begets pride, alienation from the other, isolation, violence. Vs Mordecai the brave, the secure, the humble. The king and Haman sitting down for a drink while the city was thrown into pain and confusion initially reminds of bankers in trendy bars so alienated from the consequences of their actions, the chaos around. But this will not do to blame bankers – it is my actions, my compliance, these consequences. Esther the brave makes a commitment, a covenant: speaking out her intent so that she can be held to account for that which has convicted her, that which she has promised. Let us speak our convictions to each other that we can hold each other to account, then let us fast and pray for each other. I cannot do this alone, I need my community.

Es5-6 For such a time as this, and with such an attention to timing as this. Wait, watch and pray, fast, wait. At one level patience and associated non-violence are true truths, but even this 'god'-less passage won't let us rest there, these are Jew truths 6v13, because of specific revelation we are free to be so bold. If only we would. There was a JP talk in which he advocated Life Course inviting motivated by a basic self-interest, that is evangelism for the sake of survival, because time will come, unless we act, when Christianity will be illegal in this country. Insofar as there is truth in this, Esther is a model of a Godly application of self-interest. Not so much that we-are-going-to-die-anyways, but rather that the good life calls us into such as drama as this. Oh dramatically to live and expect much of God today, this Tuesday.

Es7-8 Of 8 this seems like a strange victory in many ways, it is a victory constrained by the limits of bureaucracy, the well I've signed the forms now sorry, nothing I can do about it – only create a further, reactive legislation that begets war rather than peace. Maybe we should take from Esther's story that victories within the system, on the system's terms, can still be understood & celebrated as victories. But how much better a changed system, a transformed understanding, rules remade rather than elaborated ad infinitum. Jesus, teach us how to engage & subvert. Skipping back to outing oneself as identified with this God, this is powerful. With every new meeting we are coming out of the Christian closet. How we do it is powerful, it will change things. So today, so today's conversations.

Es9-10 If we are to apply this, who are the Jews, who the Hamen? For God is not a tribal deity (if he ever was?) Rm3v29 or even Jn2v4. Who then? Hamans as the world, the flesh, the devil? But yet his kingdom is not of the world Jn18v29 and our battle is not in the flesh Eph6v12. I am mixing my metaphors? Are we our own worst enemy? If in the cause of non-violence we spiritualise/allegorise/internalise Esther to such as extent that we relativise the universe out its very real theses and antitheses then we will lose the foundations for the drama of the good life. I have said nothing to answer who the Hamen and how? .. Legislation used excellently, obligatory feasting, gladness and social justice. There is a relationship between sabbathing's best and a community's submission to a coordinating synchronising authority.

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