By Rev. Dr. Tammy Wiens, Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation, National Council of Churches
The book of Esther gives us a snapshot of life in Persia under King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I). Haman, the king’s chief advisor, devises a plot for the annihilation of Jews living within the bounds of his empire because of his anger against Mordecai who has refused to bow down to him. In ordinary circumstances it seems an odd story for the Uniform Lessons to include in the first week of Eastertide, but is there something in Esther’s story that can spark our religious imagination in a time of global pandemic?
More often than not, the men and women of Scripture will demonstrate their love and loyalty to God in their refusal to bow down or do obeisance to earthly authorities who oppose God’s justice and righteousness. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have issued edicts closing down all public gatherings, from restaurants and shopping malls to sports venues and places of worship. Some faith leaders have refused to follow the government orders and unapologetically spoken out in favor of regular church gatherings. The majority of our spiritual leaders, however, have sided with health experts and government officials and have locked the church’s doors — even on Easter Sunday — in order to protect the public good.
How do people of faith best discern when to side with the government and when to take a stand against the principalities and powers of this world?
God of life, we give thanks that you are with us in our grief and in our laughter. By your Spirit, may we come close to you, especially now, as love necessitates that we keep our distance from one another. Give us strength to weather the storms of social distancing. Give us courage to advocate for the most vulnerable among us. Give us wisdom to set a course for safely re-opening our places of worship when the time is right. We commit ourselves to your care and ask these things in Christ’s name through whom we pray, Amen.
Also: hear a message from our friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Kenneth Q. James, who recorded this message on the CUS lesson for Sunday, March 22, just days before his own transition to Glory. How blessed we are to hear again his powerful witness. He proclaims confidence in God’s plans for the future not knowing his own time is soon upon him.