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2015-10-04 Antioch Nazarene

This web page contains worship notes for Antioch Nazarene (Antioch, California) for October 4, 2015.

Prayer-time Teaching Moment

Paul’s prayers in the epistles are not on escaping or dealing with the massive problems the people in Ephesus and other churches experienced. In Eph 1.15-23, Paul prays for God to enlighten the hearts of his readers so that will know God better. (Other similar scripture possibilities to make this same point are Phil 1.9-11 where Paul prays for Christ to make his home in the readers’ hearts, empowering them with inner strength, and Phil 1.9-11 where Paul prays for the readers to grow in knowledge and understanding of what is really important so they can live holy lives and bear the fruit of righteous character.) We must have these perspectives if we are to face life in any circumstance. (concept from Timothy Keller's book: Prayer, pgs. 19-22)

For more prayer tips like this one, check out Prayer-Time Teachable Moments.

The sermon: Learning from Mordecai (click link for sermon notes)

I am a lectionary preacher, so when I'm invited to preach in a church I first check the lectionary date for guidance. October 4, 2015 is Year B Proper 22, which is near the center of what lectionary preachers call Ordinary Time. For more about the Revised Common Lectionary, check out Lectionary Basics

For this Sunday in Antioch, I skimmed the sermons I previously preached on or around the lectionary date and decided on "Lessons from Mordecai," from the book of Esther. This book only shows up once in the 3-year lectionary, it's seldom preached, I love Old Testament stories, and the message "feels" for this Antioch Sunday. At the end of the sermon notes, you will also find the link to the Google Presentation Slides that go with it. There you can also find the link to the Worship Quiz that I used as a handout.

Much of this sermon is telling the Esther story and making a few points about Mordecai along the way. The points are valuable, and giving a congregation a feel for a great biblical story encourages them to read the Bible for themselves. For more advice on encouraging people to read the Bible check out my Bible Reading Strategies and George Larsen's Discover the Bible.

The rest of the story

Today's sermon covered the first seven chapters of the book of Esther. Beyond the points I made, there are several more lessons in those chapters. So I hope you'll read the whole book. Ten chapters only takes 15-20 minutes.

Chapters 8-10 of Esther are full of troubling things, especially relating to the retaliation of the Jews on their enemies among the people of the Kingdom. Read chapters 8-11 very carefully, especially keep in mind:
  • In Esther 3.10 the King sealed Haman's evil decree with his signet ring. That meant that nobody, not even the king himself, could cancel it. It was timed to occur on March 7, about 11 months later.
  • Mordecai understood this, so when the King gave his signet ring to Mordecai to make a second decree, see Esther 8.11, it does not cancel Haman's earlier decree. So Mordecai has to strategically design his decree to block the path of Haman's decree. This second decree occurs about eight months before March 7. So there's a great expectation building for several months prior to March 7. 
  • The one-day revenge event scheduled for March 7 got extended to 2 days.
  • Esther 9.16 describes the death toll as 75,000. That's a lot of dead people in just two days.

In King Xerxes kingdom were various factions that hated the Jews, which has been true down through history. Indeed, it's still true! And the two decrees gave these factions and the Jews a time to "settle" some old grudges. But there was a much larger kingdom population that stood back from the chaos and lived. 

While we may be uncomfortable with these kinds Old Testament stories, there they are. These are part of God's progressive revelation of himself. Fortunately, we live on the other side of the cross. And we have the New Testament, with its more robust understanding of grace and forgiveness. God's full nature and heart finally become evident in the person of the incarnated Christ. Nobody knows God's whole story until they embrace both testaments, where we grasp the concept that God chooses relationship over truth - enough to die for it.

Great to be with you!

Pastor Tim

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