It seems to me that I am hearing the word "time" used more and more these days. I’m not referring to phrases such as “time flies” or “time’s a-wastin.'”
No, the word "time" is being used in a different way. More and more, I’m hearing the word used to indicate we are in a time like no other.
Whether it refers to politics, the environment, the economy, or even the church, I’m often being told that we are in a unique time. Uniqueness here is not being used in a positive way; rather, it is used with a sense of foreboding.
I certainly understand where many folks are coming from. There does seem to be great concern within our society on a whole host of issues and numerous problems that deserve our attention and action.
Yet, while I appreciate the zeal, concern and commitment many hold, I am troubled when I see this approach lived out in the church, where concern for any specific issue leads to worry and despair for the future.
The story of Esther, found within the Bible’s Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), is helpful, for it is a story concerned with a “time such as this” (Esther 4:14). The situation Esther found herself in was as an exile in a foreign king’s court.
Esther, a young woman, was chosen to be queen based on her beauty. She was chosen because the former queen, Vashti, also renown for her beauty, had stood up to the king and refused to be paraded in front of the king’s court. Esther becomes queen, while a plot (unbeknownst to the king) is launched within the palace to wipe out all the Jews living in the land.
Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, informs her of the plot and pleads with her to go the king. Esther is unsure what to do, since to approach the king without being summoned invites death, unless the king extends mercy, which up to this point in the story is no sure bet.
Mordecai tells Esther that maybe she has come to the royal court for a time such as this and after much prayer and fasting, she goes to the king. In the end, Esther saves her people and their enemy is defeated.
As people of faith, I believe there is a potent lesson for us to remember in this story. God calls us into various arenas to work for God’s reign, justice, restoration and peace – in our larger world and within our own churches.
While that work may be varied and require many different talents and abilities, the one constant is that we are called to be a people who are not afraid of the time we are in, but a people like that young woman, who thousands of years ago stepped forward and was used by God in a mighty way.
As we look to the world around us, as we partner with people in our community, as we look to share the liberating news of the Gospel, I pray we can do so with the boldness and courage that flows from the Spirit.
Let us avoid the trap of being caught up in fear or dismay, believing that all is lost, or caught up in some type of nostalgic haze over the "good ol' days."
Let us follow the lead of Esther, who found herself in an uncertain time, and let us place our trust and dedicate our work to the one who is the author of time, the beginning and the end, our Lord, who promises to be with us in all the times we face.
“On Faith” is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.