On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace. As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favour and he held out to her the golden sceptre that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the top of the sceptre. The king said to her, ‘What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.’ Then Esther said, ‘If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to a banquet that I have prepared for the king.’ Then the king said, ‘Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther desires.’ So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. While they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Esther said, ‘This is my petition and request: If I have won the king’s favour, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfil my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet that I will prepare for them, and then I will do as the king has said.’
A simple little book about a simple girl. So easy to overlook. Like Haman did, at his peril. Because this woman, like so many – especially perhaps the older women in our churches so often overlooked and underestimated – was a smart operator. First she trusted in God and took the problem to Him. Then she gathered wide support. And then she used what God had given her – her brains as well as her beauty – to corral fickle and frankly rather foolish King Xerxes and his puffed-up sidekick Haman, getting them exactly where she wanted them.
I remember being told when I was young that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach – and being a good cook used to be a great advantage in the days of gender-differentiated household tasks. Although Esther wouldn’t have cooked the dinner herself, like the paragon of Proverbs 31 she knew how to get the right results from the household staff. And clearly the banquet was good enough to bring both the king and Haman to her table a second time.
Such simple things. Just a powerless woman and a nice dinner. But isn’t that how God works, through the unconsidered things of the world? Has the pandemic shaken up our ideas of what – and who – really matters? And has that revelation dripped down into our sadly often hierarchical churches yet?
Remind us, Lord Jesus, that your Church is your body on earth and not a multinational corporation. Remind us that playing for power and promotion, imposing business management styles and systems, was never part of your plan for sharing your love with the world. Remind us that we need to imitate you in caring for the least, and not overlooking or underestimating anyone – whatever the management gurus tell us. Amen.
Dorothy Courtis, Lay Preacher, Wortwell URC, Waveney Valley Ecumenical Partnership