What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. (W H Davies, Leisure)
Wild living; a pop star royal; feminist icons; intrigue and spin doctors by the bucketful; ethnic cleansing; a beauty parade for political expediency.
No, it’s not a satirical comment on Dominic Cummins (nor on any Government figure I know, alive or nearly dead). Nor is it a commercial for life beyond Covid 19.
It’s not even related to a Soap Opera, though I must say that, taken as a whole (which is what usually happens), it would make a great plot line for a particularly colourful episode.
Into this chaos came a young woman who would change the course of history forever. Whether you use the name her own people gave her or the one she was forced to adopt after her marriage, there is no doubt that the girl who became Miss Persia 478 BC, at a still point of the turning world, came for such a time as this.
The Old Testament records how, even in the 5th Century BC, an unassuming girl could have a significant – and saving - impact on the life not just of a family but of a nation. Alone amongst all the books of the bible the book of Esther surprisingly has no explicit reference to God. Yet, this strange and seemingly bizarre omission simply serves to heighten the fact that throughout this everyday story of palace people, like in all of life, it is the hand of God that directs and controls all the insignificant coincidences.
For such a time as this. The thread of God’s providence and provision runs through the life of Esther and of her people. Their past, their future, their present is inextricably knotted with the will, Sovereignty and Grace of God in ways reminiscent of T S Eliot’s words which begin Burnt Norton
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
Time we are told by the hymn writer flows like an ever flowing stream. We can measure it; manage it, watch it pass, look forward to it but not control it. Faith and history alike prove to us that in every period and in every circumstance, God inspires the right people to take the correct course of action, sometimes without their personal knowledge.
On a personal level we can all look back and with the 20:20 vision of hindsight, see the turning points where we have been the right person in the right place for such a time as this. Like Esther we have been prepared for a task that we are expected to complete, even if – like now – we feel wholly inadequate for the task. When we look beyond ourselves, seeing our work for the greater good of others and not for ourselves, we see time spent wisely. From a Christian perspective this is essentially the practical outworking of the gift of Grace.
Time can so easily run away from us. In the continuing witness of our lives there is no time to waste, none to lose if we are to avoid the trap that my old school band, Pink Floyd, once wrote about:
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
Time can so easily pass us by. But don’t be deceived: time can be spent wisely in leisure, in rest, in observation and in being still. We see and hear more when the busyness and movement is hushed and stilled. It is then that we are prepared for our re-entry into and re-engagement with the wider world.
There is always a right time and always a right person: you and I have often been that. It’s fitting then to conclude with one last thought. We have been considering our position, our influence and our action. We’ve looked at how one girl’s readiness to stand up and be counted made a difference to her world and to her people.
Taking her as a type or as a picture and looking into the New Testament where we again find an account of right time: right person: right action: right result. In Romans 5 verse 6 we read these words:
You see, just at the right time when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly.
Unlike ours, God’s timing, like His providence is spot on. No small errors like the Quartz watch on your wrist with its 3 second +/- variations in 1000 years: God is totally precise in intention and in delivery.
Just at the right time God sent a Saviour – not this time a girl – but His Son. Just at the right time, Jesus died and rose again. Just at the right time, always at the right time for needy humanity. His example will always be the right one for us and his attitude in self-giving love, without counting the cost in the face of darkness and hatred, injustice and pain, will always remain the challenge for us to follow and more importantly the life for us to embrace - for such a time as this.