Next Sunday, many churches will reflect on some or all of these passages. Is there a common theme? I think there is. I’ll not reveal what I think it is, I usually do that annoying teacher thing and ask, “What do you think it is?”
Esther uses her influence in Emperor Xerxes’ court to save her people from a dastardly political plot that trumps any contemporary trickery to be found in Washington or Canberra today. Her story is celebrated annually at Purim, a Jewish celebratory festival. It is gripping reading, and the entire book never mentions God!
“What a close call was that?” seems to be the prompt for this Psalm. People look back at a narrow escape from a dire consequence and remark “Someone up there was looking after us!” The Psalmist (David?) knows Who, declaring “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
How do we engage with each other when suffering? Here we have a cameo of how early church life might have been experienced if James’ exhortation was heeded. Mutual accountability, tapping into the practice of prayer and practical support are core and emulated in local church communities throughout the world today.
The urgency of Mark’s gospel extends to an inclusive rather than exclusive stance for Jesus’ followers. So serious is Jesus about breaking down barriers that separate us from each other that he proffers exaggerated measures to ensure that the faith he is passing on is kept undiluted. Love is unqualified and “salted with fire.”