December 9, 2014 by Pastor Ben McIntire
A man stumbles up to the only other patron in a tavern and asks if he could buy him a drink. “Vy sure,” comes the reply. The first man then asks: “Ver ya from?”
“Norvay,” replies the second man.
The first man responds, “Ya don’t say, I’m from Norvay too! Let’s have anudder round to Old Norvay.”
Curious, the first man then asks: “Vere in Norvay are ya from?”
“Bergen,” comes the reply.
“Vhat a coincidence!” says the first man. “I’m from Bergen too! Let’s have anudder drink to old Bergen.”
Curiosity again strikes and the first man asks: “So, vere did you live?”
“On a boat, at da fishin docks,” replies the second man.
“Anudder coincidence!,” the first man says. “I lived on a boat at da fishin docks, too!” About that time in comes one of the regulars and takes a seat.
“What’s up?,” he asks the bartender.
“Nothing much,” replies the bartender. “Ole and his brother Sven are getting drunk again.”
Ok, so maybe that joke is not the best example of real coincidence… But history is full of amazing examples, from two teenagers meeting at a church garden party, both John and Paul interested in music… And after talking for awhile about music and Paul showing John how to tune a guitar, John Lennon invited Paul McCartney to join his band, The Quarrymen. Or Dr. Alexander Fleming, who left his cultures of staphylococci bacteria uncovered during a vacation break, only to find some of them destroyed by a fungus we know commonly refer to as Penicillin.
We have all experienced those things that seem truly unlikely or against the odds, and yet they happen. Sometimes they are small events, but other times, they are life-changing. For me, cooking in the kitchen of my apartment in Ames, coincidence struck when my roommate’s girlfriend Bonnie came to visit. She and Brian had been together since high school. But this visit was different, she had invited another friend who lived in Ames to stop by while she was in town. That friend had been a classmate in elementary school and junior high, but then moved away. So when Bonnie’s friend, Monica (now my wife), walked into my apartment, it was an amazing and welcome coincidence.
The story of Queen Esther is a story of coincidences too. It’s an amazing tale of a young heroine doing what she could, with what she had, where she was. Coincidence provided the opportunity for Esther to replace Vashti as the Queen of Persia. Coincidence placed Mordecai in the right place at the right time, sitting by the city gates to overhear an assassination plot against King Xerxes. When things looked bleak for Mordecai and his Jewish kin as Haman plotted their extermination–coincidence found King Xerxes unable to sleep on the eve of Mordecai’s execution. So the court records where brought out to read to the King–to bore him to sleep–and again by coincidence, the account of Mordecai’s report of the assassins led Xerxes to try to think of a way to show his gratitude to Mordecai. Coincidently, Haman comes along and helps Xerxes draft a plan to honor a man that Haman thinks is actually himself. But instead it’s his nemesis, Mordecai who is honored.
And of course, when the decree is announced to round up the Jews, confiscate their property, and kill them all–Mordecai points out the most important coincidence of all to his cousin Esther: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
For an excellent summary of Esther’s story, check out this short video from WorshipHouseMedia.org!
It may seem strange that I keep talking about Coincidence, especially during a sermon. But here is one of most intriguing things about the Book of Esther… There is no mention of God in the entire book. God is not in the cast of characters of this Old Testament story! But we know that God is behind the scenes. To quote Albert Einstein, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” What I love about Esther’s story, and the “behind the scenes” way that God is at work, is that this is exactly what we experience still today. Most of us never get to talk to a burning bush, or eat bread that falls from the sky, or drink water that pours out of desert rocks, or sit down to dinner with angels.
What we do experience is the grace of God showing up in unexpected ways. Like the poor orphaned Jewish girl, Haddassah, growing up as an exile in a foreign land being raised up to the status of Queen of Persia. Like an unmarried teenager, growing up in the Roman Empire backwater of Palestine being visited by an angel and told that she will become the Mother of God. Like the carpenter’s son who was born in a barn, laid in a manger and held court with fishermen, tax collectors, lepers and prostitutes becoming the King of Heaven and the Savior of the World.
These are the ways that God acts in our world, this is the grace of God at work in human being like us, placing ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances and allowing us to participation in the Kingdom of God here and now. How might God be at work in your life right now? You don’t have to be a King or Queen, President or CEO to make a difference in the world. We have been marked with the cross of Christ, we have been forgiven and redeemed, and we are called to share the Good News of this Savior, to do what we can, with what we have, where we are right now.
For an amazing Purim song (the Jewish festival commemorating Eshter’s bravery and the saving of the Jewish people) check out this YouTube video called “Vashti Was Right” and enjoy a laugh!