Risen Savior Lutheran Church background

Hope that screams out

Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday at Risen Savior based on Esther 10:1-3

They so wanted it to be a hope filled day.  Of course to the three disciples it seemed like there were all the ingredients for just that.  They were with their master, Jesus.  Three years into this apprenticeship training and they were really starting to get the hang of it.  Basically just hang with Jesus, that was their plan.  He seemed to take care of everything.  He knew right where to go and to be.  And they were helping people.  Really helping people with miracles and message.  Now the three of them had seen Jesus transfigured.  They witnessed his real true glory.  Glory that made his clothes shine like the sun.  A voice from above that could only be the heavenly Father.  Moses and Elijah, two individuals who were long dead, reappearing with Jesus and talking with him.  Oh, things surrounding Jesus seemed great.  Hope kind of screaming out.

That kind of hope is screaming out too, finishing the book of Esther.  A last chapter with some last details.  Actually kind of overlooked and unneeded details.  Esther isn’t mentioned, mainly because everything is already complete.  She saved the day by convincing King Xerxes to take action.  Any kind of threat to the Jews is over, they were able to fight back against any attacks.  The enemy, Haman is dead.  Mordecai is installed as second in command to the king.  Everything as it should be.  “King Xerxes imposed taxes on the land and on the islands and coasts of the sea.  All his powerful and mighty acts and the accounts of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king promoted, are they not written in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?”  A king imposing taxes far and wide like that, acts of greatness being recorded, can only mean one thing.  Peace in all the land.  Things surrounding Esther and Mordecai seemed great.  Hope is screaming out.  It all seems really easy.

I find it difficult to relate to such a record of peace.  Around us is not the same description of a peaceful existence.  The world has evidence of war all over.  Our people, in some cases literally our members, are in those places where the battle is being fought.  Or they’re protecting an area facing the threat of battle.  It’s not even just around the world.  From one sea to the other in our country the battle is just beginning in this election year.  Division in cities and towns, even in families is already threatening to cause massive trouble.  We’re in conflicts with former friends.  Hatred hangs in the air, yes even in our hearts.  We look across the aisle or across the fence and we find people to direct that hatred onto.  As we face yet more suffering, life still moves.  We’re forced to keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Except we’re miserable or we’re making misery for someone else.  We complain, we question, we doubt. 

What about hope?  Sure, like just saying that we should have hope is easy.  Hope is hard to come by.  We could try and put hope in ourselves.  But we’ve shown too many times that kind of hope is circular.  We want to hope, so we hope in ourselves, we can’t maintain it, so we lose it, and we’re left looking for hope again.  We could hope in the government, the military.  More circular hope that fails ultimately.  Best we can come up with, hope in hope.  It’s not overly convincing, but in some cases because we’re so desperate for some kind of hope we’ll take it.

This is why the last chapter of Esther is important.  It’s not just hope in hope.  God describes what you will have.  Peace following the worst.  God’s people in the book of Esther went on quite the roller coaster ride.  First they were basically ignored in the kingdom.  Suddenly they were being attacked, facing extermination.  Then an edict of life directly from the king.  Finally they enjoyed peace.  Their hope was because they had a guy.  One of their own sat in the seat right next to the king.  Mordecai would always make sure the Jews were cared for.  He would protect them.  Things would work out for them.  In that hope there is promise for you too.

Esther, Mordecai, the Jews in the book of Esther, they are your picture of people who went through terrible stuff on levels you may not have reached.  Maybe you have.  But look what happened to them.  The Bible shows you their story to give you hope.  You can go through anything with proper hope.  Not a mantra, like “I think I can, I think I can”.  Godly hope is an image you hold in your mind with the label, this is your hope.  God gives you such an image in the peace of Esther.  “Mordecai the Jew sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all their descendants.”  It’s not a picture of Mordecai you hold.  Your hope is in one greater.  One who came in your place.  Who suffered completely and died for you.  An image of one who faced death with hope because he was looking beyond, to the other side of death.  Jesus looked forward to life in heaven.  To sitting at the right hand of God in glory.  He’s there now.  He’s got the glory.  After terrible stuff, look what happened to him.  Jesus is your image to hold on to.  Jesus is your hope.

Despair is something all too real for many people.  It’s the absence of hope.  A natural byproduct of suffering that attacks so harshly and so frequently it leaves someone destroyed.  Suffering piles on day after day.  After a while that leaves a feeling of nothing.  No hope.  I wish people weren’t facing that reality.  I really wish it wasn’t some of you, but I know it is.  Some of you face hidden pain.  Everyday you walk through life masking pain no one else knows.  Brave smiles and constant action can’t take it away though.  Since it was with you yesterday and its there again today, you have no question it’ll be there tomorrow.  No hope.  Your pain might be guilt that’s decades old.  Some sin you’ve never fully faced and never really got over.  It eats at your conscience, or not.  And if it doesn’t, that may be worse.  Your only hope then is to keep pushing it down.  Your health may be declining.  You might fixate on death.  Wonder about where this world is going.  Fear viruses you can’t control.  Each day brings a new host of news reports that drive you into panic.  Where’s hope found in such a mess?

Hope is tricky.  Hope can’t see what comes next.  So confident hope comes not from knowing or seeing the future, but what hope locks on to.  Like seeing things work out for God’s people.  Seeing your guy get the throne.  The disciples saw the transfiguration of Jesus, but didn’t see what would happen immediately.  They locked on to Jesus.  In seeing Jesus’ glory they saw what would be.  A king using his power and might for them.  Their guy on the throne.  Put laser like focus on your king too.  He uses all his power and might for you.

You’re about to travel with Jesus on a road that will result in his crucifixion.  Things will look bad.  There will be descriptions of suffering and humiliation.  Jesus will be tried and convicted of sins he didn’t commit.  Physical pain and worse, spiritual suffering will accompany the cross.  In those moments it looks like hope is lost.  Jesus makes sure you know going in that all of it was necessary.  It’s necessary for you and me to reread it, remind ourselves of it.  It was your sins that made all of it necessary.  It was Jesus’ love for you that made it his mission.  Your hope locks on to a Savior who completed all the work.  Who faced everything and didn’t flinch.  Who rose from the dead.  For confident hope that still can’t see directly what will happen next, lock on to what happened for Christ.  Your hope rests securely in Christ’s resurrection.  Before all the suffering comes a glimpse of the glory that will be.  Something for your hope to lock on to. 

You’ve seen it play out before.  In the lives of so many believers that have gone before you.  Grandparents who laid in hospital beds telling you not to cry, that they would see you again in heaven.  Parents who lived their faith till their last day, always talking to nurses or therapists about how they weren’t afraid to die, because they knew of their Savior who lived, died, and rose again for them.  These believers faced the suffering and got the glory, just like Jesus did.  Just like Jesus set it up for them.  They had confident hope, though they couldn’t see, in the Christ and his story.  In these too you have reason to keep your eyes up, focused on the future, with full confidence God will do what he’s promised.

The book of Esther provides hope that screams out.  It’s there, ready to be heard and read again and again.  Because you can’t see.  Life is broken and hope seems lost.  But here is hope that screams.  From all over the Bible.  Right into your life.  Hope because of Christ.  The man placed into the highest position to bring you perfect peace.  He’s your guy.  Lock on to him.  Jesus Christ is who you can hope in.