The book of Esther brims with dangerous intrigue. Haman, a courtier consumed by greed, schemes to annihilate the Jewish people who live within the vast Persian realm. He persuades King Ahasuerus to issue an edict against “a certain hostile people,” seeking their destruction. Mordecai and Esther, both Jews, attempt to save their people. Queen Esther prays fervently to the God of Israel, asking for guidance. Her inspired exposure of Haman’s plot leads to his death.
Mordecai and Esther—outsiders in this kingdom yet trusted by Ahasuerus—become instruments of justice. Ahasuerus rescinds the edict; the Jewish people are protected.
The first time I heard the name “Haman” was in my friend Jill’s kitchen. Jill is Jewish, and I spent much of my adolescence in her home. Jill’s mom, Esther, always prepared culinary delights for the various feasts of the Jewish liturgical year. One day Esther was baking for Purim, the festival that commemorates the events recounted in the book of Esther. She handed me a cookie and told me that it was a hamantaschen. In rabbinic fashion, Esther said, “We might ask why we would commemorate such an evil man. The answer lies in God’s goodness, for we were delivered from Haman’s scheme. We remember the sweetness of that deliverance.”
Central to our way of faith is the practice of remembering. As I savored the sweet goodness of the hamantaschen in Esther’s kitchen, Esther stretched my memory back to the time of Queen Esther and Mordecai. She led me to see that life is full of those dire times when violence threatens. Esther remembered with me that God transforms despair to hope and death to life.

Gracious God, you meet us in distressing circumstances. Help us trust that you are with us; lead us in the path of life. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-50

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Lectionary Week
September 24–30, 2018
Scripture Overview

The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. What traditions extend your memory?
• Read Psalm 124. God created heaven and earth. How do you choose to be on God’s side, the side of creation?
• Read James 5:13-20. When has God’s abiding presence allowed you to experience some sense of cheer despite your suffering?
• Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?

Respond by posting a prayer.