As a community in Christ, we must have the courage to face all sorts of adversities or challenges in our world together. Our communities have faced persecution of one sort or another for thousands of years. The early Christian followers of the ancient world faced hate, persecution, death and torture and as a whole they stayed true to their faith. Later as the Reformation came into being and the Separatists and the Puritans, who became our forefathers and mothers, faced adversity. They were killed, tortured and expelled for their faiths.
Yet they stayed true to God’s path. They had the courage to stand up for what was right and they traveled across the ocean facing peril in the storms of the Atlantic and starvation on the shores of the American continent for religious freedom, to live Christ’s message as their hearts lead them. It was their conviction, faith and communities that gave them the strength to face their life questions and to continue to move forward.
In our world, we too come across dangerous faith situations. We come across times when we need to make a choice to stand firm in our faiths or to just crumble under the pressures of life. We live in a world where Christians are living in dangerous situations in Syria, where gunmen are killing young college students and asking about their faith backgrounds. We live in a world where increasing numbers of people are looking down upon one another because one group of Christians believe that the Bible needs to followed literally while another group of people believe in interpretations of the Bible. We live in a world where people are judged based upon if they are Christian or not and not whether they are a good person, a hard worker, or a dedicated family person.
Community is what helps us have the strength we need to move forward in life. It gives us the support we need, the compassion we need, and the love we desire to help build us up for tomorrow. Church community was one of the most important influences in my life. It was in church where I was first encouraged to perhaps try singing despite my intense fears for public speaking. It was in church where I got my first babysitting jobs. It was in church where I developed a love of God and people. I remember fondly doing the Christmas pageants with peppy songs that still stick in my mind to this day. I remember being adopted by many of the elderly ladies in our church as a granddaughter. One woman, Sarah, always had special gifts for me every Sunday and would remind me that I was someone special and was loved. I will never forget her kindness.
There is strength in community relationships, strength and support that is Holy. God intended us to feel the power of his love and compassion together and through one another. This is the same strength felt by those earliest Christians in the ancient world and by all those who are still facing persecution for their faith. They remain faithful together and together as one united whole they can make it through their struggles because God gave us each other.
Our scriptures are encouraging us to be strong. They are encouraging us to have the courage to stand up as the community of Christ. We need to stand up for the Christian faith in this world, in our nation, and in our communities. We need to stand up for what we believe and for a faith that God has placed upon our hearts. We need to live our faiths as Jesus has encouraged us by being true to his teachings and leading good lives.
We need to have the courage of Queen Esther who put her very life in danger to save the Jewish community, to save her community of faith because they all stood together as one united family and they reached out to one another in compassion and care. We need to place aside how we fear others might view us in this world to do something great, to live the faith we are called to live. Living the teachings of Christ is not an easy task. It is not always a fun task but it is one that we need to do to support one another and to embrace the blessings of a life connected to others.
In Esther’s time, the Jewish people were still living in Diaspora in a foreign land. They lived in a land that resented the presence of the Jewish people. They lived in a dangerous time. A time in which to be a practicing Jew meant that one could face death by hanging. Esther was secretly Jewish and also feared being found out by the King she married. Yet she very carefully took the necessary chances to come before the King to exert her faith and her heritage because her community needed her. She feared what the King would think of her faith. Yet she faced that fear and made a decision to reveal herself and her cultural background and to ask for mercy on her people, on her community and she received that mercy.
Esther was a courageous woman. She held firmly to her faith and heritage and refused to let others dictate to her how she lived her life. She lived her faith as God needed her to. We too are being called to live our lives as God needs us to. He calls us to remain faithful to Christ. Christ speaks in our scriptures today about salt. Salt is about having true faith and true dedication to Christ. He said, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”.
We need to allow for our faiths to flavor our lives. We need to let our faith and the teachings of Christ bring out the best in who we are as faithful individuals in this world. We need to let our faiths be the tie that binds us together as a church and as a community. We are called to live by the commands of God. We are called to live as faithful followers for God’s community of people.
We do this by making the tough decisions to remain openly faithful when life gets tough; we do this by reaching out to those who are in need. We do this by making the decision to put others first in our lives. We do this by caring for the world as a community, then for our neighbors and families, and finally for ourselves. We are called to know people before we pass judgment and to see the possibilities of God in all individuals no matter their backgrounds. We are called to live with the love of Christ alive in all that we do.
This is our challenge today as Christians, as we go forth into the world. We need to live for the community of the Spirit, the community God intended for humanity. We need to build each other up and to help others see God’s possibilities and love for all, in a world that is increasingly divided by politics, religion, and hate.
 Mark 9: 50, NRSV.
(based on Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10; 9: 20-22 and Mark 9: 38-50)