We have been immersing ourselves in the story of Esther, the young Jewish woman who becomes queen of Persia. It is a story of surprising twists and reversals, a story of deep providence. It is our hope that you are sitting with the text, taking in the details, musing on the meanings. As with any really good story, danger now appears. Are there any meaningful stories without risk or threat? Whatever sense of normalcy there is at the beginning of the Esther story now shatters. The Jewish population of the Persian empire find themselves the object of Haman’s murderous plot. The dice have been thrown to select the day (3:7), and now the clock and calendar have begun their respective countdowns. A great evil is about to be unleashed.
It is at this moment that Esther comes to realize the meaning of her life, a meaning found in a moment. While she has been “positioned” to do something about the threat that looms, the key is that she will actually do something. Her position is only her opportunity, no more. Yes, there is danger; yes, there is risk. But now she must act.
These are the famous words of Mordecai which anchors our story: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” [Esther 4:14, NLT]
In his wonderful exposition of this week’s text (Esther 4-5, get the podcast), Chris posed some penetrating questions: how do we define what it is we are looking for in life? Are we in search of safety, or meaning? And if we are in search of meaning, can we really avoid risk? Is there any real living without risk?
As we watch Esther choose her actions in the critical moment we realize that time is more than a way of counting the hours and days. Time itself is a way to mark meaning. To live wisely requires that we understand the meaning of our moments.
“What time is it in the world?” That haunting question was threaded through U2’s recent concert shows, voiced by Bono, graphically represented on the giant screens above the stage. “What time is it in the world?” I have been thinking about that question for months now.
What time is it indeed? Is it a dangerous time? A time of decision? A time of great opportunity? How would you interpret our historical moment? I listen to social commentators and political pundits. I wonder who really knows what time it is in the world. Who can tell us whether or not this is a dangerous time, a time of decision, a time of great opportunity? Maybe it is all three at once.
And then I make that question more personal: what time is it in my life? How would I describe the meaning of my age and place? What is the meaning of my present moment?
You may have heard that the Chinese character for crisis is actually composed of two characters: "danger" and "opportunity." A crisis moment brings us to a point in time where two possible ways appear before us, two possible outcomes. A crisis presents both the danger and the opportunity, and the difference is found in the choice made.
Perhaps we need to re-imagine our relationship with time. In koine Greek (the language of the New Testament), there are two words for time. Chronos suggests chronological time, this relentless march of moments. Chronos is the idea that our experience is broken up into fragments which we simply quantify as “then-now-later”. But kairos helps us where kronos is deficient. Kairos is more of a meaning-loaded word, pointing towards value and significance. Kairos reminds us that there is a purpose in this moment or season of time, and it is that purpose that I must be conscious of.
What time is it in the world? What is the purpose for this time in your life?
See you Sunday for Esther part four.
I have only two basic questions for this week’s reflection:
- what time is it in the world? how would you describe the essence of this present historical moment? what are the big issues? what are the dangers? what are the opportunities?
- what time is it for you in your personal life? what distinctive meanings could this particular season of your life hold?