“Three days later Esther dressed in her royal robes and took up a position in the inner court of the palace in front of the king’s throne room. The king was on his throne facing the entrance. When he noticed Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased to see her; the king extended the gold scepter in his hand. Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. The king asked, 'And what’s your desire, Queen Esther? What do you want? Ask and it’s yours—even if it’s half my kingdom!'”
Esther 5:1-3, The Message
This past Saturday night I experienced a bit of serendipity. I expected to be scolded but instead was met with a smile.
Every month at our fellowship this year I have been holding a prayer event that essentially has three components: listening, discerning and then responding to what we believe God is saying or doing. I haven't figured out what to call it yet – since January it's been called “Look”, “Look and See”, “Watch and Wait” and this past Saturday night, “Wait and See” - but the purpose is simple: to learn how to wait upon the Lord corporately. For the first half hour or so I put on some worshipful music and encourage people to find a place in the sanctuary to wait quietly. Some, like myself, bring a journal. All of us bring our Bible. My only instruction is to not pray but “be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46). After about a half hour or so (practically speaking, it's about all we can handle as a young couple with their infant daughter are regulars to this event) I then welcome everyone to gather at the “couch corner” of the sanctuary and share the words, impressions and Scripture that have been impressed upon us. Together then we try and discern if there is a common theme or thread that emerges and frequently there is.
|Sometimes I feel this way|
Like everyone else I have a number of character flaws one of them being I have a hard time with boundaries. I'm involved in a lot of stuff and last week was no different. I subbed two days. It was the last week of track season and other than practice every afternoon we had two meets on Monday and Thursday nights. Tuesday night I had a city council meeting that went pretty long. Wednesday night I was in Cumberland for a fall coach's meeting. And then Friday night we drove up to Superior to spend that night and all day Saturday helping our son, Ed, move into his new place. So by the time I got to Refuge on Saturday night to open the doors and wait on God spiritually speaking I was running on fumes. I opened my journal and the last entry was from Sunday morning the week before – and it wasn't a long entry at that as I had overslept that morning.
My default setting is guilt. I don't know if it's growing up Lutheran because I know a lot of Lutherans who don't struggle with feeling guilty about missing prayer or Bible reading but this former member of the ALC does. If I've had a busy week like last week and totally neglected my regular devotions, I feel guilty. It could be just me. In any case, that was my mind set as I knelt at the altar at Refuge this past Saturday night, spiritually slamming the brakes on my car driving pell-mell down the road. I already was working my prayer of contrition up and then I saw in my mind's eye a picture.
|I read a lot of Seuss|
It was a banquet hall beautifully decked out and with the table full of a king's ransom worth of food. Like the end scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas the table wound and stretched throughout the hall. And then a thought from foggy bottom bubbled up, a phrase that I thought for sure was in the Psalms somewhere. With the help of my phone I googled phrases hoping to jar loose the Scripture that evaded me without success. But then it occurred to me what I was looking for – it wasn't a verse so much as a moment in time from the Esther story.
Whoever Xerxes was what little we learn of him within Esther's story is that he's something of demagogue seated on the throne of the world (or, at least his world) who spends a lot of time issuingsilly decrees like banishing his former First Wife for not doing the dance of the seven veils for his male guests at one of his parties or agreeing to allow one of his sycophants to kill thousands of individuals in his empire simply because one of them wouldn't bow down to him. Fast forward to that moment in time when on a Saturday night in May kneeling at the steps of the altar with a hang dog look about me expecting a scold from King Jesus for my neglect of him during the previous week, I'm met with a smile. Not a sarcastic or a condescending smile. No, his is genuine and full of affection and in that moment I hear his voice: “Welcome!” No scold. No guilt. No wagging finger. On the contrary. He extends his scepter toward me and says again, “Welcome. So good to see you.”
What happened next was totally natural: having been met with open arms and acceptance I immediately began to respond to my King with thanks and praise for his goodness, his grace and his loving-kindness. I felt fresh wind in my sails and a weight off my chest. The easiest thing in the world at that moment was just to kneel in his presence and enjoy his company.
I didn't receive some new revelation. It was just a bit of serendipitous remembering that our King God loves us as a father loves his children and welcomes us into his presence whenever we choose to enter it. If I'm wise I'll go there as often as I can for what awaits me is a banqueting table teeming with his goodness.