Courage to Speak

Year B, Creation Time 3, Lectionary reading for September 26, 2021: Esther 7:1-6

Most Sunday school children know the story of Queen Esther. Her great beauty made her Queen, and her great courage saved the Jews in Persia. The Book of Esther explains why Jews celebrate Purim by chronicling Esther’s rise from ordinary Jewish exile to Queen—and to deliverer of her people.

As I reread the book to prepare for this post, I noticed something for the first time. In chapter 5, King Xerxes asks Esther twice for her request, promising to grant her whatever she desires. Both times, she asks him to attend a banquet. It isn’t until he asks her again, in chapter 7, that she has the courage to ask him for the deliverance of her people.

Why does she procrastinate? She knows that all the Jews in King Xerxes’ kingdom will be slaughtered soon, and her cousin and guardian Mordecai already convinced her to act, so why request banquets rather than peace?

She’s afraid.

Remember how Esther became queen? King Xerxes had a queen, but when she refused to parade herself (naked, according to sources in the Midrash) in front of Xerxes’ friends, her disobedience resulted in losing her position at court, and most likely she was also banished or executed. Esther knew the king had an unpredictable temper, and she was afraid of what he might do when she revealed her ethnicity and asked him to overturn his previous edict to slaughter the Jews.

It’s easy to imagine our heroes as unbreakable and beyond fear, but everyone has fears, doubts, and setbacks. What would Superman be without kryptonite? I think we look to heroes not just for inspiration, but also reassurance that we can overcome our struggles and succeed, even if just in ordinary ways. Bernard Waber’s lovely book features all kinds of courageous moments, from the awesome to the everyday.

This humble little book portrays the many different kinds of courage we experience. Few of us will end up in a royal court pleading for the lives of thousands, but we all have chances to show courage in other ways. The book showcases examples like riding a bike without training wheels, having two candy bars and saving one for tomorrow, and being the first to make up after an argument. The children in your ministry will recognize themselves in the pages of this book, and will understand that everyone has fears… and everyone has courage.

Questions to ask before reading:

  • Tell about a time you were afraid to do something.
  • Do heroes ever feel afraid?
  • What does it mean to have courage?

Questions to ask after reading:

  • What kinds of courage have you shown from this book?
  • Are there other kinds of courage?
  • How do you think Queen Esther felt before and after making her request?

Thanks for stopping by! I hope these posts make planning for your children’s ministry a little easier. The books I select are usually available at your library, and don’t forget to check with the elementary school teachers in your congregations if you are looking for a specific title. I’m not the only one with hundreds of books in the basement!

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