Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
The king asks Esther what he can do for her, and she asks him to deliver her people from Haman’s plot. The king orders that Haman be impaled upon the stake he had made for Mordecai. Then Mordecai writes to all the Jewish people instructing them to always remember the days of their deliverance.
Psalm 124
A celebration of God’s help for God’s people, remembering how, when their enemies sought to destroy them, God helped his people to escape.
James 5:13-20
Those who suffer should pray, and those who are sick should call on the elders of the church to pray for them and anoint them with oil, because the prayers of righteous people are effective. Also, we should turn one another back whenever we stray from the truth.
Mark 9:38-50
Jesus tells his disciples not to stop a person who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and Jesus tells them to let him be, adding that whoever is not against him is for him. Then he teaches that anyone who gives one of Jesus’ disciples water will be rewarded, but those who cause little ones to stumble will be cursed. Anything that causes us to sin must be thrown away, and we must “maintain our salt” and keep peace with each other.
(Bible Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness,
how can you season it?
Have salt in yourselves,
and be at peace with one another. Mark 9.49-50

My bland will, afraid to commit,
my ill-preserved will, self-seasoned,
O God, salt with the fire of your mercy.
For only deep self-giving
is true peace.

Bring out my true divine flavor,
my savory holiness,
with the salt of your grace.
For only love is real food.

My lukewarm will,
my hope and courage
still unkindled, still unspent,
salt with the flame of you.

Preserve my fruit; save my soul;
protect me from rot:
salt my life away for your pleasure.

Prepare me for your use:
cook me through with mercy,
saturate my flesh with the salt
that changes all that is not love;
your flame consume all that is not you.

For only in you
do I burn with light.
Only in you
do I taste of heaven. (c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes

(based on Esther)
We pray for women who through the ages have had recourse only through their wiles, through the stomachs of men, the pleasure of men, in order to be heard.
We pray for peoples oppressed and persecuted, life in constant threat from empire builders, dehumanised, victimised, yearning for a saviour.
We pray for leaders inebriated to blindness by their own power, by position; deceived, undermined, undone, and their people with them.
We pray for women who find a way to break the silence; for the disempowered who find the strength to endure, to survive, to live; for our leaders to find their way back into integrity, and their people waiting, waiting. (Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story 2021)
(based on James 5:13-20)
God of grace and patience, we all have our share of times when things go wrong, times when relationships fail us or we fail them, times when grief cries out for healing; times when our bodies are filled with pain and our minds are filled with worry.
Jesus, gentle teacher, teach us the power of prayer.
There are times when we can’t make sense of what is going in this world, times when we even might doubt your presence and care for us. Yet through it all, you remain steadfast, and are always with us.
Jesus, gentle teacher, teach us the power of prayer.
When life seems out of control and injustices seem too many to bear, give us the strength to challenge them – firmly and assuredly, knowing that you are always at our side. Jesus, gentle teacher, let us come to you with hope and with trust. In your presence we shall be loved and restored in strength. (Seasons of the Spirit)

Prayer (based on Esther)
Demanding and forgiving God, for such a time as this –
   Me too,
Black lives matter,
Truth and reconciliation,
Climate change,
Newcomers welcome
for such a time as this, you offer us Esther’s story –
   a bold reversal of fortune,
a triumph over wickedness,
a cunning overcoming of power for the good,
but also a story which includes the horrors of
manipulation and cruelty,
capital punishment and genocide,
sexism and licentious freedoms.
The story tackles real life and the necessity to
wrestle with appropriate actions,
address moral ambiguity,
deal with the dynamics of power differentials.
May our lives reflect
the courage in the story,
the willingness to risk for others,
the bravery to speak truth to principalities,
the determination to embrace faithful vision and mission.
Holy One, Sacred Presence, Blessed God, we too, like Esther, are immersed
in exile and patriarchy and imbalance of resources.
The culture around us marinates us in values and assumptions
that do not reflect your longing for justice –
superficial distractions,
commercial diversions,
celebrity obsession,
economic inequality,
a planet in peril.
Help us to summon up the nerve to challenge –
shallow self-concern,
entrenched privilege,
governing oppression.
For such a time as this, our request is for
transformation of sorrow into gladness.
For such a time as this, our petition is for
mourning turned into holiday.
For such a time as this, our prayer is for
moments of relief and sharing of gifts,
care for others and occasions of celebration and joy.
May our hopes be fulfilled.
(Source: Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, United Church of Canada, 2021)

God, We See in Sacred Story
BEACH SPRING  (“God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending”)

God, we see in sacred story women suffering silent pain,
Living at the whim and mercy of the ones who troubled them.
What does history know of Dinah? Was she bold and smart and strong?
We just know her as the victim of a most horrendous wrong.

What of all the countless women used as slave or gift or prize?
Some were barely more than children when they learned what power buys.
What of women who were summoned?  What of women cast aside?
What of those who faced oppression – their humanity denied?

We’ve heard stories from the women who have blessed us on our way
Ones who managed to keep going when abusers won the day.
Some were told to just say nothing; some were told they were at fault
When – at work or home or meeting – they faced trouble and assault.

As in days of old it happened, so we know this still is true:
Women daily face oppression; many still proclaim, “Me too!”
God, we pray for hurting women, and, by grace, O God, may we
Build a world where every person lives in peace and dignity.

Biblical Reference: Genesis 34, 12, 20, 19 Esther 2, 1
Tune: The Sacred Harp, 1844; attributed to Benjamin Franklin White
Text: Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Hymn note:  Remember the stories of Dinah (in Genesis 34, she was raped), Sarah (twice, in Genesis 12 and Genesis 20, Abraham said she was his sister, not his wife, putting Sarah at risk), Esther (in Esther 2, she was summoned to the king), Vashti (in Esther 1, she was sent away for boldly saying “No” to the same king’s attempts to humiliate her), Lot’s daughters (in Genesis 19, Lot offered them to some violent townspeople to be raped, though the angels of the Lord saved them) and countless women in the Bible who were seen as the property of men.  Remember people you know who have been raped, assaulted and harassed.  Remember women today who are told, based on misinterpretations of the Bible, that they must submit to men— including to violence and assault.  Remember women who are not believed when they dare to tell their stories.  Remember all who say, “Me, too!”  The good news is that none of these women are defined solely by the violence and oppression they face; every one has an identity as a child of God, loved by God, made in God’s image.  May this hymn be a prayer that we will commit to building a better world for our mothers, sisters and daughters, in all cultures and places.

TIME “Person of the Year:  The Silence Breakers:  The Voices That Launched” 

“18 ways churches can fight sexual assault in 2018” by Ruth Everhart, Christian Century, December 4, 2017  

PCUSA Co-Moderators’ Letter with links to helpful online resources 

Hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette Celebrating Women in the Bible and Today

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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