For such a time as this: a sermon on Esther for Advent 2

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 7 December 2014: Narrative Lectionary, Advent 2
SERMON
Texts: Esther 4.1-17
Matthew 5.13-16
For such a time as this

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I mentioned last week that we were embarking on a bit of an adventure as far as our Sunday Bible readings are concerned. We are using a new system of readings for each Sunday. Such a table of readings is called a lectionary, and for the first time in many years I’ve decided to change the lectionary I use from week to week.

The Narrative Lectionary seeks to take us through the broad sweep of the biblical story, but as we get into Advent you may feel you are missing some of the familiar characters we tend to come across at this time of the year. Don’t worry- Mary and Joseph and the angels and shepherds are coming soon. But as we prepare for Christmas this year, we’re mostly in the world of the Old Testament. Last week, the prophet Habakkuk encouraged us to look around and have faith that God will come and save his people. This Sunday, we are in a different time, and again we hear a story of salvation.

This week, I was reading Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (not for the first time). It’s set in eighteen century Scotland, following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. There various settings which are colourfully described- Edinburgh, Queensferry, Mull, Appin and other parts of the Highlands. And at its heart is an actual event, the ‘Appin Murder’, of 1752. Many of the characters are real people, but although it is, essentially, a fictitious adventure story- an historical novel, a story weaved around historical events.

The Book of Esther tells a story which is set in the Persian Empire, at the time when the people of Israel, defeated in war, are mostly living in exile. It begins by mentioning that it all takes place in the reign of King Xerxes (486BC- 465 BC). Yet although it has an historical setting, the tale hangs on a number of improbable coincidences which have led many scholars to think of it as almost like an historical novel (eg DJA Clines, Harper’s Bible Commentary, p387; SAW Crawford, Women’s Bible Commentary p132).

Historical or not, is certainly a good tale. Continue reading