sermon for Epiphany 6 based on Esther 8:1-17
There’s something that kids like about setting up dominoes. You probably did it at least once when you were young. Took every domino that you could find in the house and starting setting them up. One next to the other in a row. Spaced just the right distance apart. Turning corners. Creating patterns. Rising up and going down if you could manage it. Careful that you didn’t knock one over accidentally, but likely having that happen too. Then when it was all done going to the beginning of the line, taking a breath, and hitting the first one. If done right, every domino in the line would fall over in sequence.
In dominoes the only thing connecting one to the next is the space needed to knock the next one over. When they’re in line, dominoes don’t care about the number of spots on each one. Their relationship is, the next one will always fall if its in line. That’s just what happens. Nothing special about it. What makes it cool is that once dominoes start falling, there’s nothing to stop a row of them from going over.
Throughout the book of Esther we’ve noticed odd things. Kind of like dominoes standing next to each other, one event in Esther seems to trigger another event. They happen naturally, occurring because the first one took place. Taken apart they appear random. Like there’s nothing that connects them, other than it was the next thing in line to happen. Remember how Esther was chosen to be queen? That happened because she was beautiful and living in that country. When the king decided to hold a beauty contest the next domino to fall was Esther getting swept up in that. Think back to how King Xerxes wrote an edict for the whole country that all Jews were to be killed on one day. That happened because Haman, who the king had promoted, got angry when Mordecai wouldn’t stand and salute him walking by. Mordecai drew Haman’s rage, but it ended up extending to all Jews in the country. Finally, last week we heard how Haman got killed on the gallows he had built to kill Mordecai. The domino right before that event was Haman getting invited to a banquet thrown by Esther for the king. During that banquet she begged the king to do something to save her and her people from this awful edict. That domino falling sealed Haman’s fate.
We can see little connections between each of those events. One fell into place because something prompted it. Like dominoes falling into each other. But did you notice something else? In not one place was God mentioned. His name is nowhere in the book. There’s nothing spiritual even talked about in the book of Esther. No prayer, nothing divine, nothing. Even in the first lesson today, Mordecai is honored and glorified. “That day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Mordecai came and appeared before the king, because Esther had told him what Mordecai’s relationship to her was.” That’s a domino that fell only after the book starts with King Xerxes showing off his glory. There’s the first edict the king gave, which was for death. That domino fell into a second edict, one for life. “The king gave the Jews in every city the right to gather together to defend their own lives and to destroy, kill, and annihilate any military force of any people or province that might attack them, along with their children and their wives, and to plunder their goods.” And still no mention of God. Just a string of circumstances falling like dominoes.
Our lives look just like that same stream of circumstances. Our lives contain no outward mention of God. Nothing pointing to God from life. We drink coffee in the mornings or eat our cereal, without a divine command to do so. The domino just falls and knocks over the next one in our lives. If we check our computer for the news and stock report of yesterday, when the news is good another domino falls and we feel good. If the news is bad, a different domino falls and our day seems ruined. God gets no byline in the reporting. When noon comes and we realize we just played an hour of games the next domino to fall is a feeling of laziness. There was no thunder from God to stop us. Traffic might be bad, which leads to being late for an appointment, which leads to frustration, which leads to speaking harshly to our spouse, which leads to having to get flowers. One domino falling into another. When stress and anxiety fall like a domino, undoubtedly loss of calm and focus will be the next to fall. No mention of God throughout our day. God doesn’t seem to be anywhere.
That matches what the world will certainly try and tell us. God doesn’t interact with life. Things just happen. That’s the way it’s presented and that’s the way we’re tempted to believe its happening. Every day is either a good day or bad day. It’s either a really difficult day or a normal one. The sun rises and hours later it sets. We go about our business. Travel, make money, enjoy our time. But nothing mentions God. It’s more like dominoes falling. Like coincidence.
Could all those things that happened to Esther and Mordecai and Haman just be coincidences? Random events with no connections? Everything happening like dominoes falling. One would have led to the next no matter what. You and I know differently. When you see everything happening bad towards God’s people getting reversed and all wrongs turning out to have purpose, it can’t be coincidence. Even with no mention of God specifically, wrongs getting made right in the end, isn’t just the next domino to fall. You and I supply God’s intervention. When the king says, “You can write concerning the Jews whatever seems good to you and seal it with the king’s signet ring, because a document written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring cannot be changed” that’s not just coincidence. Coincidences aren’t coincidences. They just aren’t. Not for God’s people. God is acting. God is moving in life. It’s God’s providence.
God moves and there’s good news. In the case of Esther, she took action, the king took action, and God was behind it all. That’s why good news needed to get out. A new edict had been given. One to save her people. “The couriers riding their swift horses went out quickly, spurred on by the word of the king.” The Jews received good news. Heard it all over the kingdom. And they believed. Didn’t matter what type of day they were having. Good or bad, they heard and believed. Whatever was going on in their lives, whether the good news found them with a life put together or a total mess, they believed. And they could believe because the circumstances of their lives didn’t matter. The edict wasn’t based on them. It was good news because Esther had done something. And by not mentioning God in the book, God was everywhere. By not naming God with anything specific, God was part of everything.
When God isn’t mentioned in your life, when he’s not named, he’s still there. Every up and down is because of his grace. He stands behind every twist and turn. Every moment when you didn’t know what was happening, God did. He already took steps to make it work out for your eternal good. That’s tough to believe. Because you live in good and bad days. You see and experience life put together and life that’s a mess. Coincidences seem like coincidences.
Until you hear Jesus’ story. His story is your story. Jesus gives you a second edict. Good news that comes from the king. Your guilt over sin should have knocked over the next domino and brought death. But because of Christ you get an edict of life. Not based on your feelings. Not based on being able to say with confidence one day I’m saved and not based on days when you wonder if you could ever be saved. It’s not your goodness or not, good things or bad. It’s not based on you at all. You are in Christ. On your worst day, when you don’t feel saved at all, you are in Christ. The edict, the good news, has gone out. Believe it, because its good news from the king.
Your life isn’t a series of dominoes that got set up and now you’re just living out the string as it falls over. Coincidences don’t rule your life. God is everywhere. Even if he’s not mentioned, that just makes you think of him more. Because in your toughest days, aren’t you going back to his Word to search him out? To search for some promise that will get you through? Difficulty is what prompts the return to the Lord. Struggle makes you rely on God even more. The promise of what Jesus has done becomes more solid in strife. You move forward knowing God is behind everything. There’s no such thing as coincidence for you. Not with God and his promises in your life. Every so called coincidence adds up to God, moving in every place in everything for you.