Today I stand before you deeply conflicted by what the scriptures are challenging me to preach and the deep sensitive nature of the prevailing scenario. The overwhelming question is I believe “How can we be church to a country or a world in crisis? Or, how can fragile imperfect vessels become agents of healing?” The Wounded healer is a term created by psychologist, Carl Jung, and made popular by Henri J. M. Nouwen who speaks of the conscious effort of those who desire to heal others, but who must first acknowledge their own shortcomings and lack of abilities.
In the reading from Esther, we encounter a woman struggling to tell her story to men who prefer not to hear her. It is a story about slavery and of a woman forced to surrender her personhood for the pleasure of men. It a story, which in the telling, calls for reparation for the oppressed during the time of the political maneuvering of power-hungry men and the governing of a narcissistic leader. It is even greater than the individuals involved in the story, and is really about inherently unjust power structures (men over women, citizens over foreigners, powerful over the powerless, insiders over outsiders), and the list can be quite extensive. This is a story of these structures being challenged, and the incredible risks that such challenge entails. Esther becomes a foreshadow of one who is to come in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel, when Jesus challenges persons to take a deep look at the things they valued most, the challenge is less about physical amputation but a forensic approach to their value system. What are the things we value the most in life? This seems to be the true question Jesus is asking. Esther and Jesus understood challenging injustice begins with individual courage.
Ester struggled three times before finding the courage to overcome her inner fears. She first had to break the myth created for her which suggested she was just a beauty queen; a vessel to please men. When you gain courage, you become the voice of God. This was Esther’s destiny.
In these times we are busy creating and buying into our own myths our own brand. We spend so much time on Instagram and Facebook creating our myth and not enough time looking into the mirror Jesus gives us. We continue to be trapped and live out the many myths we create for ourselves or are created for us by others in our lives; the pretty, sweet girl, the smart, athletic young man. These myths are what we may want to be, strong, courageous, wise or beautiful, and brilliant. It is always easier to sustain the myth, and to believe in the myth of either self-importance or lack thereof so that we remain one dimensional, unchallenged by our peers, or we remain quiet and inactive.
St. James, in his letter, challenges the myth in which we are all sinless and pure, and he builds his response by stating healing comes through acknowledgment and confession of one’s shortcomings, one’s truth. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” James 5:16. In other words, to restore the world, the role of the church is to help persons who are seeking to break their myths and recognize our communal need for God in Christ Jesus. 1 John 1 :8&9 shares “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We are called to be the community that is actively participating in tearing down unjust power structures. We are called to stand on the side of the oppressed and be the voice to the voiceless. We do that even as we confess our own participation in these unjust structures each Sunday. Then we rise each day to participate in the rebuilding of God’s world through the economy of Jesus’ love. The love of Jesus transcends all things and all people thus transforming human lives to become agents of healing and wholesomeness. That is the cauldron in which courage is forged. Unless our church becomes a cauldron for forging courage to accept our true call then the salt has lost its savor.
My friends anyone can follow the crowd and be willing to tiptoe around issues, but it takes courage to change the world. This is the courage which gave Esther the ability to push beyond her deepest fears and to understand her truest calling was beyond that which the world had assigned her. In other words, Esther had to break her own myth. It is what we call her “come to Jesus moment” It is the courage to believe so deeply in the greatness and power of God that transforms fear to action. Courage here is more than bravery or even bravado, but at its very heart is the ability to believe in something greater than oneself. For Christians it is called faith. This is the courage that James proclaimed challenges us to see beyond our sinful limitations and allows God’s love to set us free.
It is the same courage which sustained the early Christians to keep faith during horrible persecution. It is the same courage that sustained Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when many of his followers lost faith in the movement and were willing to surrender the goals of freedom and equality to Jim Crow oppression. It is the courage which sustained Nelson Mandela for 27 years on Robben Island where he remained unbroken by the oppressive nature of apartheid. It is the courage that is presently sustaining children and their parents separated at our borders and living in prisons.
It is the same courage which Jesus proclaimed when he challenged the disciples to see life beyond having hands and feet, but to seek for something far greater. It is that courage which the Holy Spirit inspires within us to go not just beyond our comfort zones but to delve into the arena of self-sacrificial love. This is the love that proclaims God’s redemption to a broken world. This is a love that pushes us to challenge unjust systems and hold ourselves and others accountable to God. Courage says I am willing to do anything to sustain the love of God, for my life belongs to Him and Him alone. To do that in a world where selfies and self-love easily create myths demands courage. Yet, Jesus declares I will be with you through it all even to the very end of the ages.
My friends it takes courage to be a Christian.