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Who? Me?

• Brenda Salter-McNeil

Brenda talked about the nature of leadership and asked whether it is something we are born with or if it is something that we can cultivate. She then added a third possibility: timing. She told us about an African expression: “What called you forth?” In other words, “Why are you here, and why now?” God has an ideal plan for you, and you are here “for such a time as this.” She challenged us all to respond to the calling on our lives!

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Today we were blessed to hear the Word of God preached to us through the Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil. In Greg’s introduction of her he made several preliminary comments to set the stage.

First he listed several things that Christ’s life, death and resurrection accomplished. These included: the forgiveness of sin, the power to transform, reconciliation of human beings to God, and reconciliation of human beings to each other—that is, the reversal of what happened at the tower of Babel.

Then he discussed a bit of backlash that he received as a result of his promotion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week. Greg received an angry email that expressed frustration at WH pushing racial reconciliation.

Unfortunately, Greg responded out of his own frustration rather than out of love. Fortunately, through the wise counsel of other leaders in the church Greg wrote a follow up apology and received a much kinder note back as well. Several things to notice about all this are:

1. to acknowledge that doing the right thing sometimes means facing resistance.

2. to acknowledge that responding to resistance MUST be done out of love, even though that may be very difficult. MLK Jr. was an exemplar of this sort loving, non-violent resistance.

3. it is critical that we realize that the overt opposition of a few people who would discourage us from fighting racism is not the real problem we face. Rather, the apathy that the majority of us feel about this issue is the real problem. Racism is not primarily about the KKK or other hate groups. It is a serious structural component in our society and we are all involved in it in one way or another. It gives us a false sense of innocence when we identify “those racist types” and exclude ourselves when it comes to how this racialized society impacts us as individuals.

On to Dr. McNeil’s message:

The central question addressed in this message was, “Who? ME?” and the answer was, “YES! You.” To get us thinking Dr. McNeil talked briefly about the nature of leadership and asked whether it was something we are born with or if it is something that we can cultivate in ourselves and each other…She then added a third possibility that might not otherwise occur to us: timing. To get at the idea that timing can create leadership she told us about an African expression, “What called you forth?” By this it is meant, why are you here, why now? The idea behind this question is that God has a plan for you and you have been placed here “for such a time as this.” MLK Jr. is a good example of a leader made by timing. It could have been any number of people, but Martin was there and willing. God would have used someone else if Martin was unwilling, but Martin did not let his destiny pass him by, he responded and obeyed.

While preaching from Esther 4:4-14, Dr. McNeil made several important points for our time:

There are times when a woman needs to say “no” and walk away. King Xerxes put his wife in a position like this. He had thrown a party and then wanted to show her off to those in attendance. She refused and was banished. Dr. McNeil’s point was that when it comes to respecting yourself and retaining dignity as a child of God, walk out if someone wants to objectify you in some way.

So the king has lost his queen and seeks another. He holds a beauty contest of sorts and Esther wins. The problem is, Esther is Jewish but the king does not know this. The problem with being Jewish is that the highest of the king’s officials has put out an order to have the Jews destroyed. If it is completed, Haman will pay a handsome sum into the king’s treasuries. Mordicai, Esther’s father, becomes aware of Haman’s plans and tries to tell Esther so that she might persuade the King not to allow this destruction of the Jews. Mordicai gives Esther the ultimatum, do something to save your people or else you may pass by your destiny and your family will be destroyed (see vs. 4:14). God will still deliver the Jews through someone else, but you will have missed your chance to do your part in God’s plans.

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Topics: Leadership, Reconciliation

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Focus Scripture:

  • Esther 4:4-14

    4 When Esther's eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

    6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

    9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king."

    12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

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