SCRIPTURE: LUKE 24:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

  • But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb taking the spices that they had prepared.
  • They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
  • But when they went in, they did not find the body.
  • While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
  • The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
  • Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
  • That the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
  • Then they remembered his words,
  • And returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
  • Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
  • But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
  • But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Besides the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday (“Good Friday”), Resurrection Sunday is the holiest day in the history of Christianity.  Society, especially in western civilization, has commercialized this Resurrection Day as a day to celebrate self in the manifestation of new clothes, new hair or hair-style; to have children paint/color eggs; and to attend Easter egg hunt parties.  But, there is hardly any celebration by the larger community of the holiest day in Christianity, Resurrection Day!

The egg in non-Christian traditions is a symbol of birth, a symbol of fertility, the symbol in festivals of spring, and other pagan traditions.  The Easter egg is the blending of folklore and Christian beliefs.

However, capitalism has infiltrated our minds to believe that Easter represents the ability to procure things to enhance our appearance – whether we can afford it or not.  Capitalism has warped our thinking to use consumerism as an opiate to compensate for either our los self-esteem or our superiority complex.

Even though we are getting better in what and how we celebrate our Christian Holy Days, we still need to deconstruct our old habits and reconstruct new disciplines that represent who we are as followers of Christ.  Appearance was the issue and the façade of self-image.

But, the Grace of God is moving Christians to be mature in age and wisdom particularly, to understand and see new life or new birth in life experiences.  If you look closely, God reveals not just spiritually or theologically new beginnings or even new beginnings by the plants and small creatures of the earth; but, realistically, new birth in humanity that can manifest itself anew when you keep your focus and share with others what God will and can do.  Believers utter, “What he’s done for others, he’ll do it for you.”

The Christian faith tradition (the Way of Christ) is – even today – a radical walk because it goes against the will and way of belief systems and structures that are self-absorbing and self-serving.  This passage in this chapter of the Gospel of Luke is not only about the resurrection of Jesus but, about sharing.

It was on the “first day of the week, at early dawn” or it was “early one Sunday morning” (the third day after Jesus was crucified buried and after the Sabbath day was traditionally observed), that it was women who were prominent in the event.  Perhaps, Luke, the physician, lifts up women, generally, because women are considered as nurturers; considered the caregivers; are sensitive to the holistic needs of a person or maybe, because women share whatever they have.  Nevertheless, Luke indicates that it was the women of Galilee who had come with Jesus from Galilee who stood at a distance watching the crucifixion of Jesus.  It was the women of Galilee who had followed and saw the tomb and how the body of Jesus was laid.  And, the women of Galilee who went back and prepared the spices and ointments for the appropriate burial of Jesus.  It was on the “first day of the week, at early, they came to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared.”

Over the years, perhaps you can say the same things about your journey.

  • Your witnessing friends and family members struggling, dying or succumbing to the oppressive, repressive bondages placed upon them socially, economically, politically, and educational.
  • Your witnessing the death of dreams, the death of relationships, the death of personalities, the death of motivation, the death of innovation;
  • Your witnessing friend, family, acquaintances, and even strangers succumb to the tombs of life provoked by others who are dead-set on destroying them so that they can “get over” and “take over.”

The United States of America is purported to be the riches and the most liberated country in the world.  However, the quest for superiority, power, riches, and fame has transformed the notion of freedom and equality in this nation to a country seeking imperialistic power over not only this country but all nations by “any means necessary.”  That means that people of color from whom this country was stolen; those people of color who built this nation and its infrastructure, and people of color from other nations who possess precious and valuable minerals and lands are being systematically driven to a state of destruction without concern for their inalienable rights as God’s people.  In fact, the people are being not only denied justice but even mercy.

Where is the justice and mercy when a decision of a judge imprisons a teenage black boy for life because he violated his probation by smoking a “bud” – a Cannabis sativa, hemp, “mary jane,” marijuana joint?  Yet, a white man in Texas, April 1007, killed another man and was arrested several times for the possession of cocaine never went to jail!  With many letters of outcry to the Texas governor and after seventeen years in prison, the man’s sentence was commuted.  That is, his sentence was reduced to a less severe one which should have been a non-violent felony (if this Texas law was a felonious offense).  The mother and other female relatives showered him with affection and gifts as they greeted him when he exited the door of the prison.  Afterwards, they cooked his favorite foods; and, the man, while enjoying the feast, felt as if it were Thanksgiving.[1]  It is with situations like this, that the women, particularly, take the “spices they prepared,” to the tomb, to the jail, to the detention homes, to the shelter – wherever their love-ones are – to properly give them what they require or need.

The pericope goes on to state that when the women got to the tomb, guess what?  They found the stone rolled away and they did not find the body of Jesus when they went into the tomb!  For the person we love, no matter what adverse experience they have gone through or are going through, relatives and friends still with compassion want to show up with valued tidbits of advice and other tangible gifts to show love, respect and concern for their situation.

This act is true, especially for those who claim to be followers of Christ.  They show up at hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, homes, prisons, and mental institutions.  Many times when they show up, their present or gift is just their presence.  Jesus in Matthew 25:34-36, 45) said,

Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Christians are called to serve and be present for the “least of these” (v. 45).

However, many have confused the “gift of presence” with the material commodities that are called presents or gifts.  Not only do people indulge others with external, yet, finite commodities, but, indulge themselves.  They perpetuate the notice that if you look good based on the things you buy, you are somebody.  That internalized behavior gets those who indulge into a lot of trouble by developing idols (cars, money, clothes, jewelry), creating dependencies (gas, alcohol, fashion, “bling-bling”); building debt (credit cards, promissory notes, gambling); and stratifying community and family (classism, sexism, ageism, racism, genderism).  Intentions are good; but, people have been socialized to follow the desires of those who market and advertise how you should look, feel, have or be!  That is a philosophy to which many subscribe.  But, thank God for God’s grace and mercy to allow people to discern what and where their treasures are.  Where are your treasures?  Be careful and allow the “stone to be rolled away!”

In verses 3-5, the women were astonished, perplexed, and terrified.  They did not know what to think or even what to say.  Instead of finding the remains of Jesus, they were confronted by “two men in dazzling clothes.”  Luke does not disclose if they were angels.  The women only noticed their appearance was strikingly bright.

Has it been your experience when you were being tossed and turned by people and situations that rejected you, your gifts, and determination or commitment?  Yet, God always had persons to walk, sit or stand with and to assure you that everything would be all right?  Be assured that the Lord is not in the mess, the confusion of others’ mind, the dead heat of unnecessary debate.  The Lord was not at the tomb!  The writer, Luke, shared the revelation that the “two men in dazzling clothes” who were seen by the women asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”   The Lord does not live among the dead.  The Lord has power over life and death.  The Lord is “risen” – He lives!  Have you experienced angels watching over you, interceding on your behalf or assuring you that everything was going to be all right?  Then, share the revelation!

As Luke continued with the revelation that happened on the third day, he allowed the reader to focus on the women from Galilee to help understand and learn from their behavior.  When you are in a situation and you have no utterances or words that can or will describe your thoughts or feeling, you begin to remember.  The women remembered,

The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again.  (24:7)

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priest, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (9:22)

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.  (9:4)

For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon.  After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again. (18:32-33).

Therefore, you too, remember that Jesus predicted his walk, the walk to accomplish his mission for the salvation of God’s people.  God provides promises through his messengers.  In the Letter of James, Chapter 1:2-4, the writer states:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you maybe mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 33, Jesus promises:  “In this world you will have trouble.  But, take heart!  I have overcome the world.”   As you remember, share the revelation, witness to others what the Lord said he would do, and what the Lord did do!  Share the revelation!

The second behavior that Luke identified is that the women returned.   As you look at verses 9-11, women were identified as those who returned from the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  In these verses, Luke was more inclusive with other unnamed women who followed Jesus, and who witnessed this miraculous event.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James were part of the inner circle; but , you and others are also witnesses of the miraculous events of a resurrection such as –

  • The women returned to the church,
  • The women returned to the preachers, teachers, evangelists, apostles, priests;
  • The women returned to where they were grounded in faith, hope, love, and truth;
  • The women returned to their faith community;
  • The women returned to the fellowship;
  • The women return.

The women returned to be obedient to what Jesus required of them – to do as believers.  The women returned to report!

The women returned to witness the work of the Lord.  It does not matter whether you are believed by others or not.  What matters is that you tell the truth; witness to others about what Jesus had done; and, witness to those who believe and those who do not believe.  What is required as followers of Christ is to speak truth with love and profess the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Be a witness that –

  • You know a man who was a drunkard and now is raised to be a deacon.
  • You know a woman who was dead and gone as a prostitute who was raised and now a preacher.
  • You saw a boy who was ebbed out on drugs and has risen to evangelize.
  • You saw a girl who was dead in her own self-esteem, and now she rose to be the educated doctor helping and healing others to see what they can be.
  • You saw a women who was dead in grief, but is alive and doing well

You return to tell about witnessing the death of a notion that a man born as an African American cannot lead a country; but, now was raised with a new understanding and the audacity that he did seek and was elected to be the President of the United States of America.  So, according to the Bible in Philippines 4:35, that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.  So, share the revelation, return and report to others.

Finally, Luke wants believers to receive.  Verse 12 allows you to acknowledge your own doubts about what you hear from others.  It convicts you to find out for yourself.  The gospel states:

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

This was an interesting phenomenon:

  • It was Peter, the rock, the one who discerned that Jesus is the Son of the Living.
  • It was Peter who would defend Jesus with his sword.
  • It was Peter who prayed with him and witnessed the conversation among Jesus, Elijah and Moses on the Mount of configuration.
  • It was Peter who denied that he knew Jesus three times when Jesus was arrested.
  • It was Peter who got up and ran to the tomb.
  • It was Peter who was the first to be curious and rushed to find out for himself.
  • It was Peter who believed in Jesus; yet, who did not really understand what Jesus predicted.

Many Christians’ faith resembles Peters when his curiosity became enhanced when others, who were not as close to Jesus, came witnessing to him that Jesus had risen.  Like Peter, when Christian’s faith is renewed and confirmed, they anxiously look back to the place where they experienced a dead relationship (i.e., missed opportunities; denied access; abuse; disenfranchised; ridiculed, hated).  The dead became alive when racism, sexism, and classism are rolled back; when the representation of dehumanization is uncovered; and when it is revealed that just because Jesus lives, we live.

  • Through Jesus, you are given the gift of salvation – receive it.
  • Through Jesus, the Christ, you are redeemed – receive it
  • Through Jesus, the Christ, you are restored – receive it.
  • Through Jesus the Christ, you are reclaimed – receive it.

As amazing as the resurrection of Jesus is, the extraordinary revelation is that Jesus calls us out of darkness into the marvelous light.  Go back home, to your family, church, community and share the revelation.  Go home to be a witness and tell the story of how you got over.  Go and tell all who need to hear, “He lives” – Christ Jesus lives today.  How do you know He lives?  Because He lives within my heart!  Share the revelation!

Rev. Alletta R. Jumper (copywrite April 2007)

[1] http://stopthedrugwar.org/print/2159 as Reported by ABC 20-20 IN 2007.


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Graceful for Grace,

Rev. Alletta

Reflections during LENT



Book IV, “Our Decisions Matter – Part I!” – Excerpt – Sermonic Text:  Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Read Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

Luke, the physician is also an evangelist – sharing the teachings of Jesus’ mission and methods of ministry.  In the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, He brings us to a place in the ministry where Jesus causes us to reflect on what we think, what we say, and what we do.  Luke begins by putting us in a setting where conversation takes place among agents of the government, their cohorts, patrons, groupies, “want-a-bee’s,” “scrounges,” and friends.

Apparently, the religious leaders and persons representing the law were not too far away or, perhaps, were grumbling.  That is, complaining in what we call “under their breaths” and judging Jesus’ righteousness and integrity because he was eating with the people that they were excluded as sinners. Probably these were religious folk who whispered loud enough so that Jesus would be embarrassed because, of course, Jesus heard every word that came out of their mouths.  Jesus, the Son of God, was one whose words and actions, whose style and steps, whose talk and walk made significant changes or transformation in lives.  So, he began to tell three parables regarding “lost:”  The parable about the lost sheep; the parable about the lost coin; and the parable about the prodigal son.

You will also note that in the parable about the lost sheep, you, your friends and neighbors are included in the story.  In the parable about the lost coin, the woman, her friends and neighbors are also included in the story.  However, in the parable about the prodigal son, we only hear the conversations of men.  Your experience could include women.  Each one of these parables makes excellent sermons and Bible study topics.  It is easy to have a sermon about the prodigal son.  It is a sermon very much-needed in our community, society, families, and the world.  However, in this sermon, our attention is directed to the subject, “Our Decisions Matter!”

What are your thoughts?

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For the month of November, the focus is on the concept of “change.”  Under the tab entitled WORD – Pastor’s Homily, BOOK VI, TRANSFORMATION, a sermonic excerpt on the “Book of Esther” of the Holy Bible is presented to address the concept of “fear.”  This holiday season provides opportunities to reflect on giving thanks, remembering why, and moving forward. Therefore, below is the sermon based on Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:21-22.  The entire book should be studied.

* * * * * * *

“RISK YOUR LIFE TO LIVE OR DIE!  Such a Time as This”

Alletta R. Jumper, BS, MPM, MDiv

Many members of families have lived or will live in a very precarious world.  As one reflects on the history of this world, the history of this nation, the history of the American people, and the divisiveness among ethnic groups, cultures, nationalities, families, and particularly the history and treatment of African people – both on the Continent (the Sudan, Dakar, Uganda, Darfur, South Africa) and in the Diasporas (Brazil, Benin, Haiti, Panama, Korea, Belize, the U.S.A), many have lived, are living, and will live in a precarious world.

What is meant by living precariously is experiencing the effect on an individual, on a people, on a nation that depends on the will or pleasure of others, on chance circumstances, on uncertain conditions and on uncertain developments.  The precarious effect is manifested when living is in an atmosphere, environment or predicament that is not safe or that is not stable; and when children are being monitored for controlled discipline in schools and not educated for abundant life.  The precarious effect exists when a person has to decide to neglect healthcare to pay the rent; when a worker can’t afford the price of gas in order to drive to work; when families pray for children who are sent to fight a war that was created to control oil; and when citizens are afraid to walk the streets or keep windows and doors closed and monitored to avoid burglaries and/or sexual assaults.

Many live in a precarious world that is dangerous when placed in conditions, circumstances or situations that put them at risk; when there is no quality education that catapults children to a healthy and holistic future; when no jobs are satisfying or appropriate for the skill sets and, consequently, are unemployed or under-employed; when no affordable or safe housing are available; when nutritious and healthy food are not affordable; no healthcare is accessible, affordable or trustworthy; and when there is no hope in the governmental structure or system.  However, living conditions may be, and oftentimes is a situation that was decided by others.

After the September 11, 2001 morning event in which two of three passenger airlines were purposely flown into two towers in New York by terrorists that killed the passengers and crews of the airplanes, thousands of occupants within the towers, hundreds of first responders, and many going to work, the nation changed.  The nation was affected physically, emotionally/psychologically, and economically.  The personal relationships within and among families of different ethnic groups and nationalities were devastated or shattered.  From that event, another ethnic group, persons of Arab descent, were generally and suspiciously viewed and stereo- typically considered as dangerous because of the ethnicity of the terrorists.  Because of that incident, racial and religious profiling of all persons of Arab descent and of the Islamic belief were targeted as terrorists and/or suicide bombers.  The system for travel changed to be inconvenient with less traveling freedom to assure safety.  Racial profiling expanded to perceive blacks and Arabs as suspicious and dangerous.

Not only are minority people or races castrated through “ethnic cleansing” in many nations, now, threats of life are posited between religions (Jews vs. Christians; Christians vs. Muslins; Muslims against Jews; Catholics vs. Protestants; denomination vs. denomination).  There is also divisiveness, tension and discrimination between genders.  In the 1970’s, a renowned lyricist, rhythm and blues singer, Marvin Gaye, in his song asked, “What’s Going On!”[1]

The question is still valid for the following reasons:

  • We are living in a country where the government decides to spend more money on a preemptive war than money for educating our children.
  • We are living in a country where our government is providing tax cuts for the rich and wealthy while ignoring the plight of the middle-income and poor.
  • We are living in a country where conservative politicians are more concerned about increased corporate profits from oil producing products rather than about global warming that cause extreme seasonal weather conditions and health-related maladies.
  • We are living in a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer (the “1% vs. 99%” ) which is essentially a financial disparity (some claiming “class warfare”) emanating from the unfairness of the tax system, corporate employment practices, and inequitable resource provisions for the public school system.
  • We are living at a time which conservatives want to financially benefit through the stock market and propose that legislatively workers invest their social security (a portion of their hard-earned savings that comes from payroll deductions) in the volatile stock market to gamble with their retirement savings.
  • We are living in a society where the owners of large “big box” retail companies do not want to pay employees a “living wage” or provide “adequate and affordable healthcare” or other benefits.
  • We are living in a country where rich developers are allowed by local governments to buy up properties in communities where families have lived for generations and where absentee-owners let their property become slums so that they can profit by rehabbing or building expensive condominiums or apartments that raises the property tax formula in the communities and literally push families out of the community.  The neighborhood becomes gentrified.

What is wrong?  This is a precariously time for living and the question remains, “What’s going on?”  With all that is going on, our Lord and our God provided a way to discern what can happen, and more importantly, what must happen.

From revisiting Esther with a new discernment – Jesus gives us the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20) with all authority in heaven and on earth given to him “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….”  What is discerned as the dominant revelation for me and for you is that “I/you have to risk my/your life to live or die trying – at a time like this.”

Now, let us look at the text with a spiritual and discerning eye.  Most early biblical scholars did not want this book to be in the canonized scripture, and the debates continue, because the name of God does not appear in it, while a heathen king is referred to over one hundred and fifty times.  Also there is no allusion to prayer or spiritual service of any kind, with the possible exception of “fasting.” [2]  However, when studying about the narrative of Esther, the Thompson-chain Reference Bible indicates that there are many hidden teachings of “an over-shadowing providence in connection With God’s people and the certainty of retribution overtaking their enemies.”  Esther is a book for public discourse.  So – let us go deep into this text which will energize us to look at the risky business encountered.  The word of God says that – “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20- New International Version).

When the first part of the Book of Esther is read, the personalities of the characters against the context of the times promote a deeper undertaking of who, what, how, and why decisions were made.  The narrative first tells about the king, King Ahasuerus[3] who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia (countries whose citizens are people of color) from Asia to Africa.  The name, Ahasuerus, means king; therefore, his title and the name were the same. As the events in the story emerges, the value disparity of the title and name become evident.   Ahasuerus sat on his throne in a city (a citadel – meaning strong fortress) called Susa (Shushan).

Also, at the beginning of the Book of Esther, the queen was Vhasti whose name means “the most beautiful.”  What did the king do about Queen Vhasti?  He put her out!  Why did the king with the name king put her out?  Ahasuerus did it because she said, no!  Why did Vhasti say no?  She said no because she refused to parade herself in front of the king.  She refused to parade her beauty only “wearing a crown” in front of the king’s nobles and people!  In that era, that refusal was revolutionary, an act of treason (especially for a woman to refuse to do what her husband asked; and, specifically refusing to be obedience to the request of a king).  In fact, the people and the king’s noble persuaded the king to put her out because they asserted that Vhasti would influence other women to do the same; thus, rebel against their spouses.  Because the king did not want to lose favor among the nobles and the people, King Ahasuerus put her out to set an example for women who took a stand.

After the first chapter in Esther, there is no mention of Vhasti.  The fact remains, however, that the beautiful queen said, no!  Do delve into the underlying reason for the negative response; perhaps, the refusal was against exploitation, belittlement, abuse, intimidation, humiliation, and degradation.  Vhasti said, no – even to the king!  Hence, she took a risk.  She took a risk with repercussions.  Vhasti had a death experience – the loss of her crown and status.  She lost her crown; however, she did not lose her dignity, her pride, her self-respect, and her self-esteem.

Yet, Vhasti does not appear again in the narrative.  She experienced the death of her throne, the death of her station in life to another beauty – a Jewish girl whose name was Hadassah (myrtle means shrub, an evergreen bush with beautiful white flowers[4]).  Even though Vhasti was out of the king’s palace, she was not out of the King Ahasuerus’ head because the king looked for and found another beauty (both in strength and character) just similar to Vhasti.  Meanwhile, in the harem of the king’s palace, Hadassah assumed the name of Esther so as not to reveal her true identity as a Jew.  Later, not only did she function as the queen and enjoy the many benefits of a queen, she was on the edge of forgetting who she was – her real identity.

The important note at this point of the discussion is that there is the need to be careful when one gets some kind of status, recognition, degrees, certification or title.  The tendency may lean toward forgetting the background, birthright, struggles and victories that motivated or built character and/or prominence.  For example, one might forget the price paid by other in the struggles for freedom; right to vote, fair wages, access to quality education and housing.  One might forget the historical advocates, heroes and heroines (e.g., Denmark Vesey, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Ida B. Wells, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), as well as the grandpas, grandmas, uncles and aunts that were the sacrificial lambs that ushered improved liberties and standards of living.  It is very important, that one needs to be careful when blessed with better living standards, because unintentionally, one might end up becoming part of the oppressive or suppressive force – sleeping with the enemy.

In chapter 2, Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, revealed a plot against King Ahasuerus to Esther who subsequently passed the information to the king.  Ahasuerus was very grateful to Mordecai and celebrated.  In chapter 3, the king appointed one of his men, Haman (means, “the disposed one”) to a position higher than all of his nobles.  Haman was “puffed up” with that recognition and wanted everyone to bow before him.  Of course, Mordecai, being a Jew, did not bow down to Haman.  Haman was furious and instead of persecuting Mordecai alone, his disdain for Hebrews motivated him to persuade King Ahasuerus to order an edict for the destruction of all the Jews in the Diasporas through all of the king’s territory (India to Ethiopia).

In chapter 4, Mordecai persuaded Esther to render help in the situation.  At first, forgetting that she was a Jew, she did not think it had any relevance to her.  However, Mordecai reminded her that her life, her relatives, and her people were also affected.  Mordecai reveals to her in verse 16. “Who knows but that you have come for such a time as this?”  Hence, she instructs him to gather with the Jews and fast for 3 days and she will go to the king – even though it is against the law.  (Remember Vashti – and the decree for her being disobedient.)  What did Esther say?  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”

With just that reading, my spiritual eye caught the presence and handiwork of God.  The baton (her civil disobedience) was passed from Vhasti on to Esther.  Vhasti was the forerunner.  Vhasti took a risk to live when she said, “no.”  She may have lost the “bling bling,” but she kept her life, and her integrity in tacked. She may have been evicted out of the palace, but her spirit transcended to touch Esther.  Esther became Vhasti – Vhasti became Esther – strong and courageous to do what they had to do to make things right.

In Chapter 5, I believe King Ahasuerus remembered that he had lost one beautiful queen by listening to his nobles who used him for their agenda; but, the king did not want to lose this queen.  He asked, “What is it, Queen Esther?  What is your request?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you” (5:4).   That promise was a tremendous gift!  Queen Esther petitioned the king to grant her request, but first, to invite Haman to a banquet she would prepare and, then she would answer the king’s question.

In Chapter 6, Haman was, again, very upset.  The king remembered that he had not honored Mordecai for saving his life, so he asked Haman’s advice as to how he should honor someone.  Haman, thinking it to be himself, suggested giving the honoree the robe and the horse; and to have him led throughout the city streets proclaiming honor upon him!  As you read further, the king did exactly that – not for Haman, but for Mordecai. Haman was very grieved and angry.  He told his wife, Zeresh, about it.  She warned him about Mordecai’s heritage and that it would be Haman’s downfall if he went up against Mordecai.  Zeresh was a woman attuned to the historical events of the faith tradition of Mordecai.  Again, sounds like God’s manifested handiwork!

Now, here we are in chapter 7, verse 3, Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your eyes, O king, and if it pleases the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives.”  At the point in the narrative, Esther teaches us to stand up for what is right – to stand up for what is just – to speak truth to power.  Queen Esther took a risk to live or die trying! The unwritten thought process that Queen Esther possessed was that she knew she had the trump card; she discerned that because she was of a chosen people, she had favor; she felt the power within her to challenge the king because the king remembered Vhasti, his beautiful queen that he wanted to parade in front of his noblemen and people but his beautiful queen who said, “no.”  Yet, because Ahasuerus listened to his court that did not care about the king’s personal desire, but only cared about their own interests, the king lost the beautiful, strong queen he really loved.  However, at this time in the king’s relationship with Queen Esther, he had a second chance and the king was not going to let that happen, again – lose another dynamic, beautiful woman.

Queen Esther pressed the issue further in verses 4 and 5 by asking him to rescind his edit to kill all the Jews.  She took a risk!  Yet, she said to the king:  “If I have found favor in your eyes, O king…”  She knew she had the king wrapped around her little finger because he promised her whatever she wanted.   “…and if it pleases the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives.”  Queen Esther was intuitive and smart because she knew that the king would not want to lose her.  She asked for her own life first, and then, she claimed the life of her people – a strategic move.  In other words, her life was more important to the king, then the people!  Hence, she attached the lives of her people to her life.

Queen Esther took a risk to live or to die trying!  Also, she took additional risk!  She not only asked for her life, the added risk is that she revealed and claimed her identity – Jewish – the identity of a condemned people by the edit of her husband, the king.

“We’ve been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed – sold to be massacred, eliminated.  If we had just been sold off into slavery, I wouldn’t even have brought it up; our troubles wouldn’t have been worth bothering the king over.”   (7:4, The Message[5])

Queen Esther took advantage and tapped on the king’s emotion and authority when she took a risk to live or die trying.  She brought up some historical facts about herself and her people.  Her people were condemned not just to slavery (which was a condition they were already in while exiled; but, that they felt they could endure slavery because the culture then was that slaves were part of the community and blended with the families to which they were sold.  Queen Esther had no issue with that and she would not have brought it up.  If fact, she became queen from being part of the king’s harem.  However, she took a risk to live or die trying when she requested that the king spare her life and the life of her people.

Reading the remaining narrative in the Book Esther will provide knowledge and insight as to the demise of Haman, his family and people, the triumph of the Jews in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Xerxes, the establishment of the Feast of Purim (two days of Jewish celebration), the elevation of Mordecai’s status to have authority – second only to the king; and Esther granted his requests with full authority to write the degrees.  However, the focus of the author’s writing is to glean and grab hold from this story what God has charged the faithful community.  It reveals that God wants the followers of Jesus Christ to take a risk to live or die trying.  As contemporary disciples, proclaim and set strategies to do the following:

  • take back the communities from the drug dealers and the gangs so that families can live
  • take back children from an ineffective and inefficient school system by mentoring and teaching their history of noble, innovative, God-fearing leaders, and faithful ancestors;
  • take back the community by challenging the socio-economic, and educational structures and systems that affect the establishment of laws that perpetuate the incarceration of young and vulnerable boys, girls, men and women and their families;
  • speak out in communities, churches, and gatherings against racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ablism, ageism, denominationalism, and civil liberties;
  • Identify oppression in every manifestation; and
  • Preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus for the “least of these,” God’s people.

Yes, we live in a precarious world; but God is present when you take on the baton and take a risk to live or die trying.  Serve the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God and reflect on God’s promises which are clear and true, such as:

  • Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, and knock, and the door will be open to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
  • If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray.  And seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)”
  • “…that the good shepherd will prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” (Psalm 23:5a)
  • No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation:  whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life:  of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
  • Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:  wait, I say on the LORD.”  (Psalm 27:14)
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.”(Deuteronomy. 31:6, 8: Joshua 1:5)
  • Weeping may endure for a while, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
  • I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strengthen.”  (Philippians 4:12-13)

Take a risk to live or die trying and don’t sweat the small stuff; but boldly proclaim the Gospel and reclaim all oppressed people.  Be faithful because God is faithful and great is God’s faithfulness.[6]

[1] Alfred W. Cleveland.; Renaldo Benson; Marvin P Gaye., “What’s Going On” (EMI Music: January 17, 1971).  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27s_Going_On_(Marvin_Gaye_song)#Inspiration_and_writing.

[2] Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 1990, p. 1654.

[3] In the New International Version of the Holy Bible, the name Xerxes’ is used which means king.

[4] Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York:  Gramercy Books, 1989),”myrtle.”

[5] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, The Bible In Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, NAVPRESS), 2002

[6] Great is thy faithfulness phrase comes from the hymn written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960) in 1923.


The reflection for the Month of November continues to be on the perspective of “change.” For each main book topic listed under the tab, WORD – Pastor’s Homily, there is a preview of a sermon on change (e.g., V, TRANSFORMATION, “A Change is Coming!”).  November is the month that individuals and families reach out to each other recalling the changes in their living experiences.  Also communities have discourses and actions to make positive changes that affect day-to-day living.  Read the excerpts and share your comments.  Your witnessing can positively change someone’s way of life.

October and November – “CHANGE.”

  • Book I   FAITH, “Provoking The Way!”
  • Book II  LOVE & GRACE, “Desperate Love!”
  • Book III PRAYER, PRAISE, PROMISE, “Abundant Life!”
  • Book IV RE-MEMBERING & GIFTSBe Gifted!”
  • Book V TRUST & POWER,  “Young and Restless:  Age Matters!’
  • Book VI TRANSFORMATION, “A Change is Coming!”
  • Book VII DISCIPLESHIP, “Back-Up!”