One of my young friends, Anna, had her "sweet sixteen" today, the 24th of May. I hope that her day became sweeter as it went along, as it began with some sad disappointments. But she is a sweet girl, in any case, and my family and I were pleased to be able to help her celebrate ahead of time this past Sunday.
Today also happens to be the commemoration of Queen Esther, and I told Anna that, if she ever felt extra-middle-name envy of my children (who tend to have two or three middle names, instead of only one), "Esther" would make a fine addition. It has been my custom at Emmaus to give each of my confirmands a particular saint, selected from the Holy Scriptures or church history, as an example of the Christian faith and life. I would have chosen Esther for Anna, I am sure, if I had been her pastor at that point in her life; not only because her birthday coincides with the commemoration of that noble queen, but because she possesses similar qualities of intelligence, courage and faithfulness.
Esther is a fine example of living by faith within one's vocation. Discussions of the service to which women may or may not be called, like discussions of Christian "stewardship" in general, tend to be in terms of some connection to the church. The church needs faithful servants, also, but the vast majority of Christians live their vocations within other stations in life, in the world (though not of it), outside the walls of the church. "Stewardship," for example, is not only more than money; it is also more than simply the time, treasures and talents that are given to the church; it is the way in which the Christian lives by grace through faith in Christ, in love toward his or her neighbor, wherever in the world God has placed that dear child of His.
The life of Esther, along with the inspired book that tells her story, is an important case in point, not only for Christian women who want to know where and how they may and ought to serve the Lord, but for any child of God living in the world. The Book of Esther is not a "churchy" book. It makes almost no mention of the life of the Church, nor does it even once invoke the name of God. It does tell a story of God's people, and of one faithful woman in particular who was given a rather unusual station in life. She was beautiful and savvy and courageous, and she served her vocation as the wife of a pagan king, as a queen of Persia.
The Lord worked through Esther a great deliverance of His people, Israel, through whom He ultimately gave the Savior of us all. Those events became the impetus for the Jewish feast of Purim, but there was nothing all that "liturgical" about the events as they unfolded. Like most of the stories in the Bible, it all happened in the bump and grind of everyday life. It was messy and unpredictable. Esther lived by faith, not by sight. She prayed and fasted, as did her Uncle Mordecai and the whole Church of God's faithful people. And having done so, she proceeded to live and to serve precisely where the Lord had placed her, for such a time as it was.
It is my hope and prayer, for Anna and for my own children, and for all of the young people entrusted to my pastoral care, that they would live by grace through faith in Christ wherever God may put them in the world. I anticipate that some of those young men will become pastors, and some of those young women may become deaconesses; and I'm confident that all of them will continue to serve the church in a variety of ways. But I expect that most of them will not become "professional church workers," and I'm not at all sorry for that. Who knows what the Lord has in store for them, and for their neighbors round about. Whatever it may be, He is and remains faithful, and He will accomplish His good and gracious will, both for them and through them.
Esther was guided in large part by the godly counsel of her Uncle Mordecai. Children and young people, in particular, know the will of God for themselves chiefly by hearing and heeding the counsel of their parents and the other authorities whom God has placed over them in life. If Anna (or any of her peers) wants to know where to go to school, what to do with her life, or what to be when she grows up, she ought to listen first and foremost to her father and her mother, "that it may be well with her, and she may live long on this earth." For God has crowned the offices of father and mother with the honor and authority of His Word. No parent or guardian on earth is perfect, but the Lord who has given us our parents and guardians is to be trusted. If we perish, we perish; but, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. No one shall ever snatch us out of His hand.
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