Esther 9:20-28, Luke 12:35-40
Today is the 65th anniversary of Korea’s independence. We celebrate this day through a family worship. At some point in our church’s history, we started separating our the generations. Leaders of Korean American churches worry that the young people leave the church. I don’t think people have nailed down the issue. I think the issue is that we keep on making the worship format comfortable for ourselves, and at some point in adulthood, worship is not what it used to be. Of course, as an immigrant community, it’s hard to have an intergenerational service because of the language barrier. Often young people call the church and ask if there’s a worship service for young people. They are Korean language speakers. But we don’t have a worship service for young people. I wonder, where did we start wrong?
We must recognize however that church is not somewhere we come to be comfortable. It is actually somewhere where we stay uncomfortable, to worship God. When we greet relatives, it’s uncomfortable because we need to adjust to them. When we worship God, we can’t set the place for ourselves. Our Lord’s words make us uncomfortable. We just want to live by ourselves, but God command us to live with our neighbors. We want to win, but God wants us to lose. We want to rise above others, but God commands us to humble ourselves. We want to have it all, but God commands us to share with others. We want to brag about what we own, but God commands us to give them all away. Isn’t this a place of discomfort? Real faith is about suffering this discomfort, and to enjoy a comfort from God at the end of it. Admitting the discomfort of the world is the first step towards salvation. If the world was comfortable, who would bother to seek salvation?
Discomfort: in other words, God wants us to be prepared. To be always prepared as people of faith. Today, God tells to stay awake and prepared, because the Master may come back at any moment. The Master does not come until very late at night. It is the role of servants to await the Master. But to stay awake is no simple task. The Master tells servants who awaited him that they are to be blessed. Here, the Master signifies the Lord. We must always be awake in front of our Lord. That is the source of blessings.
Why would people not prepare despite this? Most people thought their lives would last forever, and did not prepare. Since we are little children, we are used to not preparing for anything, and just playing. Our parents give us food, and give us new toys. Children think this state of affairs will continue forever. Children do not realize what it is to become an adult. But as they grow, they realize what it is, and start planning ahead.
Yes. In order to become truly children of God, we must prepare ahead.
When Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, people didn’t prepare for independence. That’s why Mr Ham, a Christian ideologue of Korea, said that independence had come like a thief. He was quoting the Gospel of Luke. People had to be awake, but weren’t able to. People though Japan’s colonial rule would continue forever. So the learned classes became officials of the colonial administration. In practical terms, we need officials for the administration, it’s not fair for them to call them traitors to their nation. But it appears that these officials never wondered how their skills would come to use under an independent Korea. They simply assumed colonial rule would continue forever. They were not prepared to face independence, so misused their skills for themselves alone. That’s why they oppressed others for the sake of their own survival. This was all a bad start. At the same time, there were people actively working for independence, who were working hard but did not think a whole lot about how to build upon a new independent Korea. This is where the tragedy of Korea’s modern history gets started.
People of faith ought not to be embroiled in tragedies like these. For this purpose, we must always prepare and stay awake. There are people we admire who were well prepared.
Gandhi, an unsuccessful lawyer, adapted the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the writings of Tolstoy and became the key to bringing independence to India, because he was ready.
Rosa Parks, in refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, sparked the beginning of the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. She was a rather inauspicious person to take such a critical action, but she was ready.
Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. He was released to bring a shift in the politics of South Africa at a critical juncture when many thought either that change would never come or if it did, it would be accompanied by a vast bloodbath. The transition to a more just society came relatively peacefully under his leadership after he was unexpectedly released from prison. Prison had prepared him, made him ready.
Mother Teresa, a rather unpretentious nun, is being considered for sainthood for her simple act of trying to rescue people from the streets who might otherwise die. She was ready!
Today in the bible we find someone who was well prepared. This is Esther.
Esther, meaning star, an orphaned Jewish child raised in Persia by Mordecai her cousin was chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace the vacillating and adamant queen Vashti. Esther originally named Hadassah, meaning, the myrtle, is the heroine of the Biblical book that bears her name. Hadassah received her name of Esther when she entered the royal harem.
King Ahasuerus gave authority to Haman to kill all Jews in the Persian Empire. Haman was King Ahasuerus’ prime minister. Haman called for this ruling to be given because Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. Haman felt ridiculed and stripped of his authority by Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him and so he went to the king to claim that all Jews were the same and should be killed.
In this day in age it was not wise for anyone to go before the king without permission, not even the Queen, but Esther having heard of what was being planned risked her life and position as Queen to go before Ahasuerus in behalf of her self and her people. Esther went before the King and asked him if he knew that his order to kill all the Jews would also extend to her since she was a Jew! Upon King Ahasuerus hearing this he over turned the order and Haman and his sons were hanged on the very same gallows that he had planned on using for Mordecai and the rest of the Jews.
An annual feast, the feast of Purim was set up in memory of the deliverance of the Jews around B. C. 479.
Esther was a person of faith, goodness, devotion and courage. She built upon these characteristics combining with them a sense of watchfulness. Esther was devoted to her cousin, Mordecai, and obedient to his teachings. Her grace and her beauty gave her favor amongst all that she came in contact with.
Esther lifted up in the eyes of God became an instrument for God. Because of her devotion and willingness to listen to the voice of God she was able to prevent the devastation and destruction of her people. Queen Esther an instrument of God used by God because of her willingness to obey the voice of God.
Esther was in the position of a queen, but she did not live for her safety alone. She sought to save her people in exchange for her life, and continuously sought God’s will.
What is our preparation today? It is not to wear glamorous clothes and adorn ourselves with jewelry. Esther knew what God wanted of her, in a position of power like hers.
The most important preparation we can do in our lives is to always keep the faith, no matter the circumstances. That may make life hard for us. But this preparedness lead us into blessings.
Let’s say there’s an expensive diamond we own. In order to make it into a ring, we carve it out. But the carving itself is not sufficient for it to be a ring. You can’t put it in your finger without the metallic part. Blessings are like the metallic part. You can’t have a weak part. You can’t hold a diamond with leaves, like you would a flower ring. Or you can’t have something too hard, as that would break the diamond. If we own things that are too strong, and too good, it can break our faith, which is the most important part.
As we live our lives, God gives us many challenges. It gives us challenges as individuals, as well as a nation, and we had many challenges: the Japanese colonial rule, the Korean war, and so forth. But God seeks people who are awake, people who are armed in faith and await the Lord, in the midst of those challenges.
What kind of era are we living today? It’s an era where very few things are uncomfortable, so people are less awake. When the nation is facing a challenge, at least a few people are awake, but now everything is overflowing, and we forget what’s really important. Everyone is rushing for materials well-being. Faith also becomes corrupted as a faith for psychological comfort alone.
Isn’t salvation a very expensive gift? It was given for free to us. When something is given to us for free, we can’t just enjoy it without any awareness about it. It is those who ask themselves whether they really deserve it, and stay awake in the midst of discomfort, who become blessed by the Lord.
Let us all be awake in front of the Lord, and prepare ourselves and receive blessings from him.