Homily for Day Two of Provincial Synod 2019

Thursday 26 September

Provincial Synod

Day 2, Homily 2

Esther 7:1-10

  1. There seemed to be renewed hope for Esther and her people after she acted. When have you been called upon to act and did you? What hindered you from acting?
  2. How is your worshipping community exploring renewed ways of inclusion for those who feel excluded?
  3. What kind of power dynamics are at play in the spaces in which you find yourselves? Think especially of the recent events in our country.

Renew

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Yesterday I concluded the homily with the words: “Everyday life for us should include reflection and review of how we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to live an abundant life? We read in chapter 7 that Esther pleads for her life and that of her people. She says that if they had been sold into slavery it would not have been as bad; but they are going to be eliminated as a people. What is really happening in the palace? Let’s review..

Esther, although she is queen has no real authority without her identity in her husband the king. She is a foreigner, she is not safe in her own home, her title doesn’t mean anything as she pleads for her life. Haman doesn’t observe the protocol of keeping his distance from Esther and as soon as the word molest leaves the king’s lips; the blood drains from Haman’s face. If Esther had screamed the words; would it have had the same effect on Haman?

Is Esther enjoying an abundant life? Are we enjoying abundant lives? As we listen to the experiences and the horror of gender-based violence in our homes, at work and in our churches; we hear that they do not enjoy abundant lives.

Why is there a need to establish a safe church commission if all God’s people are offered abundant lives in Jesus Christ? Do you feel safe in your home, in your church; when sharing the peace?

The Jews living in Persia as exiles and foreigners do not enjoy an abundant life. They have had to integrate their cultural practices; their worship and dietary rules are compromised, and they are heavily taxed. The Jewish women and girls are also taken into the palace to become concubines of the king; they too must plead for their lives. Those who have been violated and killed because of the genocide taking place against our women and children right now; also pleaded for their lives. Uyenena pleaded for her life while she was raped and killed in the Post Office, metres away from the Police Station.

The king promises Esther anything up to half of his kingdom. That would seem to be very generous, but there are conditions that come with such promises. Esther will always just be the king’s wife; she is not affirmed in her own right.

In his charge the Metropolitan called on the church to create a new culture, a culture of inclusion and acceptance. We are fearful of what this could mean. Change creates uncertainty and upsets the power struggles that are at play in the spaces in which we find ourselves. Fear of the unknown creates suspicion and mistrust amongst us while the most vulnerable members of our communities are affected by our fear of what change could bring.

We claim that we celebrate our diversity because it makes us stronger, but we struggle to accept diversity in all levels of our lives. We are God’s people and we are gifted differently but finding expression in that difference hinders us to live abundant lives because we are afraid.

What are we afraid of? Why do we limit the women’s ministries in the church to raise funds, but they don’t get consulted on how the money is used? Why do we say that children need to learn to behave in church and then we send them out as soon as the worship has finished to go to children’s church? Why is it that whenever our 2 female bishops are in the same space; do they have to share that space? How is that affirming?

Jesus promises that he will be with us until the end of the age; so, what are we afraid of?

The church is facing a Kairos moment, what is moving us, where is the Spirit of God blowing the Anglican Church of Southern Africa? What is before us that needs to be renewed so that we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ?

Haman is hung on his own gallows and Esther is given a renewed opportunity to live an abundant life. BUT not really.

She is not the liberator of her people as we have come to read and accept. Esther cannot undo the decree that was sent out to the Jews in the kingdom of their annihilation. The king is going to have to write a new law.

Esther is not going to be able to release the women who have been taken against their will to be concubines in the palace. Only the king can make that decision. Esther is going to be given Haman’s property, but she will not be able to own it and Mordecai is going to have to oversee it on her behalf.

God is not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, but we know that no person would be able to come up against the kind of misuse of power that Esther had to without the Spirit of God hovering over her.

Let me put it another way..

Behind every successful man is a woman and we know that behind every woman is a powerful God and She is at work in a mighty way!

Amen.

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