Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finding Hope

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, a time of preparation and anticipation as we approach Christmas. Pastor Shannon welcomed us warmly saying, "I'm delighted that you're here today..." After commenting that he has eaten nothing but Thanksgiving food since Thursday, he reminded us that Advent means "coming" and that we are celebrating God breaking into human history to comfort and save us. It is God saying, "I am coming to you to show you how much I love you."

Several announcements were made including an invitation from Pastor Shannon and his family to visit with them after church next Sunday. This traditional Open House is one way in which Brad and Brooke say "Thanks" to each of us for our support and kindnesses throughout the year. The Shannons live at 5637 Bergstrom Junction Road, about a mile north of Twig off Highway 53.

Darlene stood and invited us to the church next Saturday at 6:30 to "Get Mugged." Bring an appetizer to share and a wrapped mug filled with goodies to exchange as well as a favorite game.

Instead of normal Sunday School, the weeks leading up to Christmas will be ADVENTure Sunday School with hymn singing and other adventures. Join us at 9:00 a.m.

The annual Christmas program will be in two weeks, on Sunday the 14th with a pot luck meal.

Pam Johnson is seeking helpers to deliver the gifts for the children of two families we are providing gifts for as part of the Angel Tree program. The program helps provide Christmas gifts for children with a parent in prison. This year we are giving giving presents to a one year old boy and a five year old girl. Call Pam for any additional details. Her number is in the directory.

Two youth from our church lit the first Advent candle and Darlene proceeded to usher us into a time of worship.

Being the first Sunday of Advent, it was appropriate for Pearl and Ruth Anne to share a skit about the true meaning of Christmas. Two youth brought a Christmas wish list of presents they would like this year, which turned out to be a scroll the length of the sanctuary. Citing passages from Matthew and Luke, Pearl and Ruth Anne showed how God was thinking of us when He gave Himself to the world. Christmas is about giving, not getting. It's also what being a follower of Christ is about, actually.

After the offering, Pastor read passages from Isaiah 40:1-2 and Matthew 13:24-37. This was followed by a powerful, uplifting rendition of the great hymn In Christ Alone. Before singing, she recited the wonderful passage from Jeremiah that includes these words: "Blessed is the man whose confidence is in the Lord." All that was sung and shared made an uplifting intro to today's message.

Finding Hope

Today is the gateway into the Advent season. Brad began by reminding us that the first Advent was a remarkable event in history in which the supernatural invaded the natural order. God became man, revealing His glory in and through the unique Son of God.

As we celebrate Advent we see a world with great suffering all around us. Despite blood in the streets of Mumbai, economic collapse and tremendous pain around the world, God gives hope. And He will surely come again to bring us a future home with no more tears.

Brad's heart was bursting with a desire to convey to us the authentic thrill of this Advent season. "Words are inadequate," he said. But there is music that can help, and he introduced the first of his themes by noting that after the message we would be singing that great Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

The opening words to this memorable hymn are a plea of longing. "O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear." What powerful words.

The passage in Isaiah which forms the foundation of today's message initially conveys a sense of urgency. "Comfort My people, says your God." But beneath the urgency is a deeper undertone of consolation. This is our God, who provides us with a peace that passes understanding.

Pastor Brad told of an old pastor who confided in him once that if he had it all to do over again, he would have struck the note of "comfort" more often.

God's comfort is not sentimental mush. Jesus said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." Many similar passages can be, and were, cited. The true comfort of Jesus is a bracing event. He promised His disciples that when He was gone, the Holy Spirit would remain as Comforter. This was a promise to all of us, a promise that God will stand by us in our hour of need.

Here in Isaiah Jesus speaks tenderly to Jerusalem. Israel needed comfort because of her past. Her leaders had failed and betrayed her. Her people were taken captive and sent into exile. Her history was one of shame. Her lament was well captured by these words from Psalm 137.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion... for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." How can we sing the Lord's songs while in a foreign land?

The message of comfort, Brad said, is needed today more than ever. Wars and the pathetic wreckage of broken lives has left us groping for hope.

And like the compassion a father has for his children's pain, so God has compassion on us.

When we speak of God comforting a wayward, blundering, unhappy world, it might feel a bit remote. This message of comfort is, however, for individuals... what Advent is to me.

Cynics see a world of drab mediocrity and compromise. But in truth, they are blind to the fortitude and gallantry exhibited everywhere, every day. This world is populated by troubled spirits burdened by many cares, yet not complaining. We see anxious parents, young people struggling with temptation, workers being threatened by layoffs, individual struggling with conflicts no one can understand except the one going through it, loneliness, disabilities, memories that bring shame and regret... and yet, behold the courage, and the graciousness with which so many comport themselves.

Have you ever wished you could comfort one person in need rather than have all the knowledge in the world?

Jesus Himself saw much anguish... lepers, blind, confused, lost... and He had compassion on them all. And here is the greatest thing: when you see this compassionate Jesus, you are seeing God.

You mustn't carry you burden alone any longer. God is with you, and in you.

Most significantly, there is one comfort we need more than any other, even more than the calming of our fears and soothing of sorrows. He alone can bring forgiveness for sins, our greatest need. As the passage in Isaiah proclaims, "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, ...that her iniquity is forgiven."

THIS is the authentic thrill of advent. To hear the God of all creation say the past is done, finished, and you are welcome here.

It is on this level that God's greatest work is done. O come, Emmanuel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Crown Him King Once Again

"Good morning," he said. "I'm delighted you're here to worship with us." We were then reminded that today is Christ the King Sunday, a day in which we acknowledge and celebrate the kingship of Christ, His future return and eternal glorious reign.

Add ImageAnnouncements today included the following:
1. Everyone is invited to come to the church next Saturday to decorate the sanctuary and Christmas tree, 1:30 p.m.
2. Saturday evening from 6:00 - 6:30 p.m. we gather to "get mugged." Bring a wrapped mug filled with the goodies of your choice, and a favorite game.
3. Next week we pick up our Pasties for the CHIC Fundraiser. Free will offerings throughout the year will also be welcome at any time.
4. The call is out for a donation of cookies and Christmas cards for the annual Inmate Christmas Program for the St. Louis County Jail. There are approximately 250 inmates and 35 volunteers at this Christmas event. Please bring your cookies (wrapped in a container that does not need to be returned) by December 9. Contact Ruth Anne Schelinder for additional details.
5. Pam shared that it's time to think about our annual Angel Tree program, also, in which we provide gifts for children who have a parent in prison. New Life Covenant will share by giving to a one year old boy and an five year old girl. Gifts need to be here by December 14. Call Pam Johnson for any additional details.

The worship service opened with Ken, Dale, Chuck and Darlene singing Holy, Holy, Holy. It was a very special time as we all joined in and continued with many wonderful classic hymns.

After the offertory, Cheryl and Darlene did a short drama about gratefulness.

The Scripture readings today were Psalm 100 and Ephesians 1:15-23. After a time of thanksgiving and prayer, Pastor Shannon preached today's message.

Crown Him King Once Again

33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34"Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35"Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38"What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. 39But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
40They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

~ John 18:33-40 (NIV)

How surprising the ways Jesus puts His hooks in us. Pastor Brad began by telling a story about Frederick Buechner who, while listening to a minister make some off the cuff remarks, had his faith re-ignited. For Buechner it was "deep calling unto deep."

Pastor Shannon used this incident to springboard toward his theme, dealing with the many ironies of Scripture. He cited how Jesus refused Satan's effort to crown Him in the wilderness (offering Jesus the kingdoms of this world), yet how Jesus is crowned daily in the hearts of those who follow Him.

Amplifying the theme of irony, Brad spoke about laughter and how it is integrally related to truth, the centerpiece of Pilate's interrogation of Jesus on that dark Friday.

In reality, laughter is what we experience when we have been liberated from the illusions we once had that shackled us, when what we thought mattered is revealed to be tawdry and small in the light of the Truth of Christ, that He is king.

Indeed, Jesus declares, "For this I was born, to bear witness to truth."

When Jesus fed the five thousand, they responded by wanting to crown Him king. But when it came time to demonstrate his kingship, He rides into Jersualem on a donkey. What a different kind of image for one who is to be a king.

When Pilate failed to follow his conscience, succombing to pressure from Jewish leaders and the High Priest, Jesus was stripped, beaten and - in an ironic twist - crowned with thorns, robed, with mock obeisance from Roman soldiers. Even in joking about Him, they confessed the truth. "This is the king of the Jews." It's classic, comic irony. In trying to do one thing (mock Him) they were actually doing the opposite, proclaiming Him king.

The laughter is in knowing there will be a Third Day, resurrection coming.

Brad then shared with us Desmond Tutu, who was filled with love, identifying with Moses who declared, "Let my people go." Tutu, an opponent of South Africa's apartheid, was persuaded that love would win. He said love was his single weapon. To the ruling powers he stated, "All your weapons of oppression will fail."

We can laugh not because of present circumstances, but because there is a future hope. When Christ is king in our hearts, we can even laugh at ourselves. Our pretensions are seen for what they are, and we cease to take ourselves so seriously.

Pilate could have said "no" to the pressures put on him by the Jewish leaders, but instead he caved.

Lutheran pastor and author Walter Wangerin tells the story of an old black woman from his congregation in Chicago who used to comment on his sermon each week in the following manner. She was a smallish woman and spoke softly so that he had to bend down to hear her as she shook his hand after the service. Occasionaly she referred to his message as teaching and other times called it preaching. He finally decided to ask her what she meant, what the difference was between the two. She said, "When you teach, I learn for the day. And when you preach, God is here and holding us."

An incident occured in which Pastor Wangerin learned how astute this woman really was. The church was not in the best neighborhood. A prostitute nearby had had her water shut off and she and her johns (customers) would come to the church to use their water. Pastor Wangerin stepped in and stopped this. The following Sunday after church, the old woman, when she shook his hand, commented on the sermon. "God was holding you and not smiling. But He will."

In other words, Walter Wangerin was going to change, and the woman was confident of this. God was changing Pastor Wangerin's heart.

A similar story was shared to illustrate the point that God uses us in spite of ourselves.

In closing Pastor Brad asked, "Who or what rules your heart? What is it that thrills you dawn to dusk? Has Christ been crowned king in the midst of your tears and laughter... in your hearts?"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We're All Part of a Team

In spite of the chilly November morn, we were welcomed warmly by Pastor Brad Shannon as we gathered to worship and honor our Lord Jesus Christ. The service seemed quite special as even the announcements dovetailed with the message delivered by today's guest speaker, the Rev. Jim Fretheim, Conference Superintendent. Brad reminded us that we are not an isolated church, but part of something much larger. As it turns out, these comments pointed to the heart of today's message.

Announcements today included...

1. Joanne W. reminded us that there will be a break after Dec. 7 for Sunday school.
2. Women's Bible Study will begin in January.
3. Next Sunday evening there will be a special Thanksgiving Sunday evening service in Brookston.
4. We were reminded to continue filling our soup cans for Covenant World Relief.
5. The Pastie Sale to raise money for CHIC is taking place now. Order yours from Eric Borndal... They will be delivered to the church.

Jim Fretheim was then introduced, and presented with a framed drawing and a mug, both portraying themes pertaining to hunting, of which he is fond. Pastor Brad thanked him for being with us today. Early in his ministry, Brad served as youth minister in Jim's church, an experience in which they developed a mutual respect.

Darlene played a creative Shine Jesus Shine as introduction to worship, which was led by Brad, Elle and Pearl. After the offering was taken Ed Newman sang "I Need Thee Every Hour" with Darlene as accompaniment. The hymn, which has been comforting to Christians for more than 150 years, served nicely as a lead in to the message.

We're All Part of a Team

Rev. Fretheim began by drawing attention to a passage in Ecclesiastes. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Eccles. 4:12)

Using this text as a springboard, he noted that a hockey team has six player, basketball teams have five and it takes eleven to make a football team. How many does it take to make a church? According to Matthew 18:20, it only takes two, for as Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them."

In Christianity, spiritual maturity is based on interdependence, not independence. This interdependence is important.

New Life Covenant is linked to the Northwest Conference of the Covenant Church is part of a global church family. Our denomination itself is part of the large family of God that spans the globe. As Superintendent of the Northwest Conference, their small staff meets daily for prayer, seeking to help those that are hurting. Every day they ask, "How can we help?"

We're all part of a team. There are others who care about us even when we don't know it. When life gets hard, we especially need to be on a team.

This was not a theory Jim learned from text books. At age 22 he lost his wife to cancer while in Seminary. Drawing from this experience he stated, "Unless we're part of a team we won't get through the hard times."

Hard times are inevitable. Hence the relevance of Harvey Mackey's book titled, "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty."

In Chicago, Jim said there's a saying on the street: "Who's got your back?" We don't go it alone.

He also thanks us for the generosity of our church. A portion of the money in our offerings goes to feed the hungry, bring the gospel to prisoners, band aids to Third World hospitals and more. All this is a team effort. "You are part of a larger family. There are Covenant churches everywhere."

He also talked briefly about the key to healthy churches and shared a story about John Wesley. Wesley and his brother were evangelists who planted churches throughout 18th century England. Wherever there had been a revival, Wesley would write letters a few years later as a follow up to determine what had become of the experience. In his letters he asked three questions.

1. Where's the faith?
2. Where's the fire?
3. Where's the fruit?

In the opening passage from Ecclesiastes, it was noted that two are better than one. In addition, three strands are stronger than two. The Good News of the Gospel is that we don't have to do it on our own. We're part of a team.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How Do You Read It?

Despite a chill north wind, the pews were packed again for worship this Sunday. Pastor Brad welcomed us with comments about how we are created for God’s pleasure, and that worship is not just something that happens on Sunday morning. Rather, all we do can be an act of worship.

He also noted that when we are here for worship, it is not as an observer, but as a participant in an act of worship. In the midst of all, here with us, is the God who created the universe.

The story of the good Samaritan is today’s theme, and many portions of the service dovetailed with this theme, especially the blessing of our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes which were prepared last Wednesday evening.

A whole raft of announcements should be cited as the Advent season approaches and many activities are taking place. Here are a few that were noted.

1. CHIC Fundraising Pastie Sale… Contact Eric Borndal for details.
2. Jim Fretheim, Superintendent of the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church will be a guest preacher next Sunday. He can be counted on for an insightful, wise message. Lunch will be served afterwards.
3. A special Thanksgiving Service will be held 7:00 p.m., November 23rd at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Brookston.
4. A special ADVENTure Sunday School will be held Dec. 7, 14 and 21 leading into Christmas, 9 a.m. downstairs for all ages.
5. The Shannons will share their home in an Open House, Sunday December 7 during the coffee hour. (5637 Bergstrom Jct. Road)
6. The Christmas Program and Dinner will be on December 14 at 4:00 p.m. Kids’ practice is scheduled for the 13th, 10 a.m. till noon.

The quartet ushered us into worship with Fanny Crosby’s “I Love to Tell the Story.” After leading us in song and praise, the children carried the Operation Christmas Child boxes to the front where they were dedicated. Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, intended to bring joy and hope to children in desperate situations around the world. Since 1993 more than 61 million shoe boxes have been packed and given.

The Scripture reading was from Psalm 78:1-7. After a time of prayer, Pastor Brad presented the message.

How Do You Read It?

It’s a familiar passage, the story of the Good Samaritan. We’ve all heard it many times throughout our Christian lives. The passage is found in Luke 10:25-37.

Does gaining eternal life really boil down to being a good neighbor? Or bringing a dinner to a hungry person? Is Jesus right to say this? Is it really this simple?

Pastor Brad was striving to engage our minds because all too often we hear passages like this and it’s the same old same old. We tune it out because we already know that. The challenge is to see something fresh, and the pastor succeeded in achieving this aim.

Brad noted that doctors do not give the same prescription to all patients. Each has different ailments which must be first diagnosed, and the remedy prescribed accordingly. There is not one answer for all. For this reason, the Lord spoke with Nicodemus about the need to be born again. To the woman at the well He offered living water, and said, “Go call your husband,” knowing her real circumstances. To the rich young ruler He said, “Sell all, give it to the poor and follow Me.”

In this story, Jesus happens to be talking with a lawyer. This lawyer knew all the right answers. The lawyer had asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered with a question. “What is written in the Law?” In other words, what does God’s Word say on the matter.

But Jesus went further. He also asked, “How do you read it?”

This lawyer knew all the right answers and answered correctly here. He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Jesus affirmed his correct answer, but added, “Do this and you will live.” In other words, like the great physician he is, the prescription for this lawyer was to put the knowledge you have into practice. Do this and you will have life. Act on what you have heard and profess, not as a way of gaining eternal life, but as a sign that eternal life has already begun in your heart.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. And for this reason, the lawyer asked another question, for the purpose of clarification. “Who is my neighbor?”

This is the context for the story of the good Samaritan. It is a brilliant setup in answer to the wrong question. The question implies that some people are neighbors and some are not.

The lawyer, who knew Jewish law, knew that there were some who were acceptable and some not. Gentiles were considered dogs. Samaritans were also among the excluded.

What happens when a neighbor is not my kind? How about illegal aliens? Or gays? We set up boundaries. But love transcends human barriers such as race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, gender, circumstances, etc. All people who need help are my neighbors.

Love costs us. There is risk involved in helping the man in the ditch. Love doesn’t stop at convenience. To practice love stretches our capacity to love to its outermost limits.

In point of fact, you can’t do this in your own strength. Human love will fall short. The power of positive thinking is not enough. It is only the enabling Word that commands us which also empowers us to love like this. The enabling Word is Christ Himself. That kind of love has no limits.

Pastor Brad shared how he worked at an orphanage in Mexico once. He saw how the experience broke down barriers, sharing a story that setup a concept presented by Juan Carlos Ortiz called “Mashed Potato Love.” A sack of potatoes is a bunch of isolated individual spuds, but when we’re peeled and sliced and mashed the boundaries and barriers which ordinarily separate us disappear.

We can know God’s “plan of salvation” and the Four Spiritual Laws, but knowing these things is not liberating until we are changed. Christ can change us from our old ways of thinking, helping us to see with His eyes until we learn to live with His love. This is the Good News. Christ can break down the walls that separate us and make us new people where His Spirit becomes our spirit, His vision becomes our vision and His compassion becomes our compassion… and His life becomes our eternal life. This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Saints In The Making

Despite the somewhat grey November weather, there was nary a spare seat in the pews and a warmth throughout the sanctuary. In his welcoming remarks Pastor Brad Shannon noted that there’s a lot going on, that it’s something akin to Sweeps Week on television. The key announcements were as follows.

1. After church today there was a meal prepared by the Armstrongs to be served at the Swamp Sisters a mile or so from here. Donations for the meal were contributed to the building fund. It was reported that there was plenty of food.

2. Soup can labels are again available for Covenant World Relief. Pastor Brad outlined the manner in which contributions are distributed: 40% to meet immediate needs in crisis situations, 30% for ongoing needs afterwards, and 40% for development costs to sustain the ministry and pave the way to meet needs as they arise.

3. New Life Covenant is also participating in Operation Christmas Child again this year. The ministry donates gifts and supplies to children around the world. On Wednesday evening, November 5, 6:00 p.m. we’ll gather at the church to decorate and prepare shoe boxes for this purpose.

4. Paula Saxin shared that everyone is invited to the church on November 15 at 1:00 p.m. to learn how to do etched glass ornaments.

The opening music was performed by Ellie on the violin, accompanied by Darlene on keyboards, in a beautiful rendition of Rock of Ages.

Today was All Saints Sunday, and for the occasion Pastor Brad had us take a few minutes to remember the saints who had gone before us. He noted that the unseen world is more real than the seen, and we can call this to mind to give us encouragement as we strive to follow after God. Citing Hebrews 12:1-2 we were encouraged to remember those who are awaiting us in heaven.

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

At this we entered into a time of worship.

Today’s Scripture readings:
Romans 8:9-11
Colossians 3:1-4

After a time of prayer Pastor Brad began his message.

Disclaimer: The notes you read here are only a faint reflection of the content, style and enjoyment one receives from the pastor’s messages. His passion is unflagging, but what is especially difficult to convey is the humorous element, the witty turn of phrase that frequently seasons his preaching. Today was such a day where the trusted scribe is aware of his inadequacy, and will simply do the best he can under the circumstances.

Saints In The Making

“We’re all saints in the making. Your greatest value is not in what you can do but in what you are. And in Christ, you are a saint.”

Thus began today’s message as Pastor Brad introduced his overview of the story of Esther as recorded in the Book of Esther in the Old Testament.

The first character in this story that Brad introduced was a Jewish man named Mordecai. The time frame for this story was at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, approximately 500 B.C. Many of the Jewish peoples had returned to Israel. But some remained in Persia, among them Mordecai, a man of courage and integrity.

A second character in this story was Esther, whose original name meant “dazzling beauty.” Her parents had died and rather than leave her an orphan she had been adopted by Mordecai.

The third main character in this drama was King Xerxes. Xerxes was not just a king, but was a ruler at a time when kings were considered gods.

Xerxes, perhaps in an effort to impress his peers, decided to demonstrate how great he was by hosting a six month party. When you’re a king who rules the mightiest empire on earth, putting on the dog takes on new meaning. After this six month celebration of his greatness, he went on to throw an encore party for seven days. In this latter party he requested that his wife, the queen, strut her stuff. But she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

As a consequence of this lack of subservience, Queen Vashti was removed from her throne. In addition, Xerxes took the advice of his lead council, who advised that dispatches be sent throughout the kingdom that “a man should be ruler over his own household.”

Afterwards a search went out to find a suitable (as in beautiful) young virgin to become replacement queen. A beauty contest was conducted and lo, Esther’s natural beauty.

In scene three of this drama, Mordecai overhears a plot to overthrow the king. He finds a way to report it to the authorities and when the bad guys have been dealt with, his good deed is recorded for posterity in the presence of the king.

The next character introduced is Haman, the true villain in this tale, as will soon be seen.

Haman, whose stature had been enhanced by an appointment from King Xerxes to a high command, conducts himself like a big shot and expects everyone else to treat him that way as well. The king even made a decree as such. But Mordecai, a man of convictions, will not bow down to a mere man, especially the kind of man Haman is. Haman is incensed, and inwardly vows revenge on Mordecai. The idea he conceives is to encourage the king to make a decree to wipe out all Jews.

Pastor Brad interjected here that crisis reveals the character that is within us. Character is caught, not taught, he said. This is especially so in the home. Brad shared what he “caught” from his day… an attitude of treating everyone with respect and dignity. “What are your kids catching from you?” he asked.

From Mordecai Esther caught courage.

It is a perilous time, with a potentially dark outcome for all the Jews. Mordecai encourages Esther to step up and not let the moment pass. “You might have been born for a time as this,” he said.

In chapter 5 Esther put on her finest robes with the aim of catching the king’s eye, which she succeeded in doing. Xerxes offers her anything, up to half his kingdom, and she says she’d like the king and Haman to come to a party she has prepared. At the party she says she’d like the king and Haman to come to another party the next day.

Haman is atop the world with joy as he leaves the first banquet, knowing he is an insider now, partying with the king and queen. He is a “somebody” and is eating it up.

But then, when he gets outside to take his limo back home, he notes that Mordecai is out there, still showing no respect, not even afraid of him. Haman is furious, and orders 75 foot gallows to be built.

As it turns out, in another plot twist the king has indigestion and can’t sleep that night after the first banquet. So he stays up and reads some of the record books. It just so happens he reads about how Mordecai saved his life on that earlier occasion, and he is curious what was done to honor the man.

Chapter 6 continues thus…

3 "What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?" the king asked.
"Nothing has been done for him," his attendants answered.
4 The king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him.
5 His attendants answered, "Haman is standing in the court."
"Bring him in," the king ordered.
6 When Haman entered, the king asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?"
Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" 7 So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, 8 have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!' "
10 "Go at once," the king commanded Haman. "Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended."
11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!"
12 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!" 14 While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

As the reader can guess, the gallows prepared by Haman for Mordecai end up being Haman’s own gallows when Esther reveals to the king Haman’s plot to wipe out Esther and her people.

Pastor Brad’s closing points quickly followed.

1. Don’t underestimate the Providence of God.
You may have a Haman in your life, or circumstances that seem impossible. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. The story is not over. The story can change.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of good parents.
Your love can make a difference. Your values, wisdom and things you say will go into their hearts and help them later.

3. Never underestimate the power of a simple believer.
Esther was an obscure Jewish girl in a foreign land, yet God orchestrated circumstances and she saved her people.

In closing Pastor Brad picked up the earlier theme he began with. Your greatest worth is not based on what you have done or can do, but who you are in Christ.

You don’t know what God is up to, but He is at work. Your task is to be consistent. Just keep showing up and being there.

With these thoughts, we celebrated the Sacrament of Communion.

If there is someone you know who needs to hear this message or with whom you would like
to share the good things happening at New Life Covenant, please forward.