Proverbs 31.8-9 (NIV)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
The story of Esther lays the foundation for the Festival of Purim – a incredibly joyful Jewish celebration.
Esther takes place when many Israelites lived in exile. These Israelites were under intense pressure. The way of life God had called them to, and even their existence was threatened. Faithful living was difficult. There was a lot to be afraid of. It would have been tempting to give up and blend in. Esther’s story introduces us to Israelites who are figuring out how to live faithfully when the whole world seems set on crushing them.
When families and communities celebrate Purim, often they will tell the story of Esther in funny and overdramatic ways called “Purim Shpiels.” Often when the bad guys say something the audience will shake rattles, boo and hiss and when good guys say or do something people holler and cheer. Today, in the spirit of Purim, our scripture reading is a little different than usual – I am going to tell the story of Esther using a Purim Shpiel in the style of Dr. Seuss that was written by Dana Baruch and Robbi Sherwin.
(I have edited it a little bit to work better for our purposes.)
For now is the story of Purim to tell.
It took place in Shushan so long, long ago.
Now off to Persia we all will go.
In this beautiful kingdom ruled a king
A king with no brain, who’d think such a thing?
He spent all his days and his nights having fun
Parading his wealth in the warm Persian sun.
A queen named Vashti was his loyal wife
She promised to love him all of her life.
She promised, that is, until he did ask
For her to perform an unthinkable task.
At his grandest of parties the king did command
Queen Vashti dance for royal men of the land.
“I am Not your servant, and dance I will Not!”
Vashti refused the king’s sexist plot … (Baruch and Sherwin)
King Xerxes was known for hosting drinking parties and for losing his temper. When Vashti refused to be paraded in front of the party, Xerxes flipped out. Seeking advice from trusted officials (who seem to make more decisions than Xerxes), Xerxes banished Vashti.
When Xerxes’ temper settled down, he remembered Vashti and he decided he wanted another queen. One of Xerxes officials suggested they put together something like a season of “The Bachelor” to find Xerxes a spouse.
The king, being the brainless, fun-loving guy he was, liked the idea and rounded up all of the young, beautiful, eligible, women he could find for the contest.
This is where we meet Esther:
Meanwhile back at the palace grand
An announcement went out [through] the land
A new queen to be chosen in an unusual way
In a beauty contest held the very next day.
All the maidens of the land were forced to appear
From near and from far, from far and from near
One such maiden had brains and had grace
Esther was her name … [the king noticed her face] …
… The contest was held – They came one and came all
And Esther of course was the Queen of the ball.
… [Xerxes] chose her and she was now queen …
But, here was one rotten rule she had not foreseen. (Baruch and Sherwin)
Xerxes had an advisor named Haman. Haman was a self-centered, arrogant, opportunistic dude. The King made Haman, his second in command … the position went straight to Haman’s head.
… “Bow down to me now”, cruel Haman did say
“For I am the important man of the day.”
“I’m the King’s right-hand man – I rule all that I see
If you don’t bow down now, you will cease to be!!!” (Baruch and Sherwin)
All the people at the gate bowed – except for one, a guy named Mordecai (who it just happens was Esther’s relative).
… Haman, that cruel crusty fellow
At the top of his lungs he continued to bellow:
“Bow down, bow down NOW I command!
Or great harm will come to you in this land.”
Mordecai, of course, refused to obey
“I bow only to [GOD] to my last dying day!”
Haman’s face turned red with anger and hate
“I’ll get you my pretty If it’s the last breath I take!!”
Mordecai turned his back, and others did follow
As for Haman, well, his pride he had to swallow
“That Jew, Mordecai has ruined my heinous plot
Because of this affront I will have to draw lots
The straw that I pick, the one that comes nigh
Is the day that the Jews of Persia shall die!”
Into his three-cornered hat – he did cast
All of the dates – the future, the past
The lot he picked was the 13th of Adar
“Make ready the gallows! Adar is not far.” (Baruch and Sherwin)
Haman hated Mordecai.
He couldn’t stand Mordecai.
In an intense overreaction Haman decided he wouldn’t just kill Mordecai, he would kill all of Mordecai’s people … including Esther, the winner of “The Bachelor, Persia” and now King Xerxes’ wife.
You can see the crisis in this story.
Lives were in danger.
Mordecai had to ask Esther for help.
Seizing the moment, the opportunity here,
Modechai to Esther did appear
Using his wits and [his] oh, so clever brain …
“You must risk your life and go to the king
And tell him about this heinous thing
That Haman is planning the Jews will all die
You must go brave Esther…this you MUST try.
“But …” she said – trembling with fear
“Without his permission, I cannot go near
It could be my life – I am so afraid.”
But Morty replied: “You can do this, BABE.”
“Use your brains and your charm
[who knows, maybe you came to this royal position,
to stick out your neck,
in such a time, could this be your mission].”
So, Esther swallowed her fear,
And she calmed [all] her nerves
She went after [the] task
With Vim and with Verve
At a party given that very same night
She walked into the banquet, trembling with fright.
Although shocked to see her, the King did beckon
“I’ll see her, I’ll see her … It’s fine, I reckon.”
“Dear husband.” she said, “I’ve gotten some news
So horribly horrible that I did choose
To come un-summoned to be by your side
You must listen to me – After all, I’m your bride!!”
Risking her life Esther told him the story
Of Haman’s dastardly plan—wicked and [gory]
Esther, still trembling explained to her mate:
“My lord, at the risk of sealing my fate
I must tell you something that to you may be news…
Someone is planning to kill all the Jews!”
“This includes Mordecai, And all of his kin
And in this category, you must put ME in.
For you see, I am Jewish, but so loyal to you
Please don’t hurt my people … Please don’t hurt the Jews.
I fear my dear husband, unless you act with your heart
I, too, will die on the 13th of Adar.”
[Haman’s plan was reeking of stink]
Thinking the thoughts a king would sure think
He called for his henchman …
To question again—what should he do
In order to save his wife and her kin
Haman of course, slunk right in.
“Esther, dear Esther, tell Haman your fear
Don’t be afraid—Tell him my dear.”
“Okay, here goes nothing,” said Esther inside.
She looked straight at Haman, and summoned her pride
“You wicked wicked man…How dare you pretend
That you are loyal to my king to the end?
You who did plot to destroy all the Jews
Also will kill ME Whom the king did choose!
For I too am Jewish, you hateful old coot!”
“Turn around,” said the king … “I give you the boot!
The moral of the story … you now know
Is to honor [God] and all people wherever you go.
To stand up and speak out for all that is right
Like Esther and Mordecai, on that fateful night. (Baruch and Sherwin)
Esther and Mordecai show us faithful living matters.
Faithful living makes a difference.
Faithful living can lead us to take risks … Esther and Mordecai risked everything to stand up to Haman and his wicked plan.
Years later, there was a guy who approached Jesus, and asked, of all the commandments there are in scripture, which one is the most important. Jesus answered, “The most important one is this: Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12.18-33).
Jesus’ commandment guides us in faithful living.
Sometimes to love our neighbor, we need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Sometimes to love our neighbor, we need to take a risk.