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Esther’s story speaks to today’s strife

 

Author, teacher dubs Queen Esther an ‘instrument of God’s liberation’

By Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Edwin Long, “Queen Esther,” 1878, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

LOUISVILLE — The biblical account of a Jew living in exile whom God placed in a Persian palace, her cousin Mordecai and the murderous Haman, who sought to exterminate Jews, has echoes today, author and scholar Dr. Sherron K. George told a gathering at the Presbyterian Center Wednesday.

Sherron George

George, a retired professor of mission and a former Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker, lives in Brazil and continues to write books. “You may laugh at my English,” said the woman fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. She spoke during a noon brown-bag lunch session.

“The question everyone is asking today,” George said, a question that dates back further than Esther’s time, “is what do you do with a stranger?” The answer, found in Deuteronomy, is simple, she said: “God’s people must love, embrace and accept the stranger.”

Esther’s people had been conquered and deported. Her cousin, Mordecai, adopts her, and they live in exile. “She adapted to the point that people didn’t suspect she was Jewish,” George said.

Likewise, Brazilians don’t necessarily realize that George was born in the United States. “They say, ‘You have a little bit of an accent,’ ” she said with a smile.

Blessed with what George imagines as “a kind of elegance,” Esther “won grace, favor and admiration just by the way she treated people. There was something different about this exile, who came to the center of power.”

When he declined to bow down to Haman, Mordecai faced the risk of ethnic cleansing, George said. And much like the man charged with killings 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27, Haman had “that same desire to exterminate.” Instead, at Esther’s urging, Haman is hung on the same gallows he built to kill others.

Esther teaches us “there comes a time to act politically in favor of life,” George said. “Esther claimed her roots” by first praying and then standing in solidarity with her people. While unmasking Haman’s plan, Esther “reveals her secret ancestry.” The king acts with justice, she said, putting Haman to death, promoting Mordecai and enacting a new law assuring Jews the right of self-defense.

“In the Southern Hemisphere, people know a lot about solidarity,” George said. “Esther risked her life for the freedom of her people, and she made a strategic plan to save the Jews. She spoke out at just the right time,” and people of faith should follow Esther’s model, she suggested, by, for example, speaking out on behalf of Honduran people currently heading north in a caravan.

During a question and answer session that followed, George acknowledged that the church has lost some of its former power and influence, especially among political decision-makers, “and I see that as a good thing. We do mission out of weakness. We may have lost our opportunity, but now we do mission from the margins. That’s how Jesus did it.”

“We think we have to teach people, but we have to learn from people on the margins, from immigrants.” The job of U.S. Christians, she said, is “listen and learn.”


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