Good morning! Oh how I wish that the book of Esther had ended with chapter 8! However, after the turn of events yesterday that lead to Haman’s death and Mordecai’s ascension to the king’s closest advisor, we have a little more than a chapter of “epilogue” to this book. It shows the victorious Jews under Mordecai pressing their advantage against their neighbors, wreaking vengeance on anybody they feel threatened by. As a consequence, this lovely book about triumph over enemies leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.
Good morning! Much of the Esther narrative is told in the Hebrew festival of Purim, which celebrates deliverance from genocidal enemies like Haman. Purim parties often use child-friendly means to engage readers in acting the story out, inviting responses such as cheers (for Mordecai), hisses (Haman) and love-sighs (Esther). Today in Esther 5-8 we read the most familiar and dramatic part of this provocative book.
Good morning! Today in Esther (chapters 1-4) we discover a lovely book that acts as a hinge between the previous “history” books, and that of the “wisdom” genre coming up. There is a historical connection to Esther, since it is set in the time of the Persian king Ahasuerus, after his predecessor Darius let those Jews who wanted start returning to Judah. But there is wisdom here also about what “the good life” looks like. It celebrates the power of Jews, women and eunuchs to shape their circumstances even in a deeply patriarchal, non-Jewish culture. The book also offers wisdom on the importance of individual commitment, and reveals a temptation to over-react when seeking to right wrongs—more on that at the end of Esther.
Good morning! Today’s last three chapters of Nehemiah (11-13) describe the way of life in Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s governance. They give us an impression of who was in (priests and Levites) and who was out (non-Jews).
Good morning! When I was in college I once participated in a 24-hour reading of Homer’s Odysseus, designed to heighten awareness of the classic work and help more people come to appreciate it. Something like that (on a much grander scale) takes place in today’s passage, Nehemiah 8-10. Public recitation, interpretation and recommitment to the Torah are central themes here. Nehemiah parallels the renewals of covenant under Josiah and Hezekiah, but Nehemiah adds elements of purity and temple support that make this “revival” unique.
Good morning! Now that Nehemiah has repaired the walls and gates of Jerusalem, he discovers in chapters 5-7 that managing people has its own troubles. He advocates on behalf of the poor, declares the righteousness of his own conduct, and defends against those who would ensnare him or take him out.
This helps me remember that the Good News of God is always connected to bodies. It also responds to the concern I hear at church over people who don’t like to “pass the peace”. (I’ve read survey results suggesting that new guests identify this as one of the most uncomfortable things to experience in worship.) Yet when we touch one another–in worship or beyond–we feel God’s presence and are drawn to respond in kind to other creatures whom God has made. Continue reading “Touch in Church (Ann Weems)”