“Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther 4. 12 - 14
Esther is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is one of only two which do not mentions God...Song of Songs/Soloman is the other one. But they are both deeply spiritual and full of the presence of God in the language and the behavior of the characters and the voices.
But what really strikes me about is Esther is the way Mordecai, her uncle, empowers her and anoints her with God's call to save their people.
When I was 12, I was invited to go with a friend to a Baptist youth camp weekend. Born and reared in the Episcopal church, I was confirmed in England at Truro Cathedral and had gone to church nearly every Sunday of my life. And yet at this camp I was told that in order to "be saved" I had to go up on stage and dedicate my life to Jesus and accept him as my Lord and Savior. I had never heard of such a thing, I knew I had always been saved, and I surely did not want to go up on that stage. And so began my journey of trying desperately to understand who I was in the eyes of God and what in the world was going on in the institutional church. Unknowingly I had a long journey ahead of me!
Fast forward to the mid 90's when I had been working with youth in the church for 15 years, and two friends and I were leading a confirmation retreat on a beautiful Saturday in April. With a room full of youth and their adult sponsors, we read the Daily Office morning, noon and evening with inclusive language and applicable music all of which had been approved by the priest in charge at the time. For the noon Daily Office we played the attached piece by Bobby McFerrin, a beautiful interpretation of the 23rd psalm which he dedicated to his mother. Before you read any further, pause and listen and watch this beautiful piece.
While the other leaders and I listened peacefully and encouraged the youth to do the same, a restless agitation filled the adult sponsors and by the time this beautiful piece was finished, a group of very angry adults was gathered in the kitchen plotting my virtual dismissal and execution!
Accusations like "God is a man!" and "How dare you use Mother to talk about God!" were hurled for weeks after this, to the point that the priests at the church had to call people in to calm them down and explain the masculine and feminine face of God.
Fast forward to this past Friday, when 17 youth from St. Johns Cathedral participated in a retreat on the banks of the St. Johns river in my back yard, gathering for prayer and silence and conversation about...yes! The Gender of God, the feminine and masculine face of God. And some of the youth said "I don't think of male or female when I think of God...just God." BINGO!
My journey from the confirmation retreat to Friday's retreat has been a long hard one including rejection, betrayal and condemnation. But I believe God has been by my side through it all and She whispered in my ear Friday..."perhaps you were raised up for just such a time as this, Owene."