Having just celebrated the Queen's platinum Jubilee it seems appropriate to spend a few weeks looking at the story of another queen, one who experienced a very different kind of reign, in a vastly different time and place.
It's often said that we all like a good story, but what makes a story good and what makes some people good and others not?
The story of Esther is shocking in many respects, we are confronted with treatment of women that is far from what we might consider fair or decent and a very long way from being equal. There is also violence in this story and threats of danger, as well as bravery and courage and almost certainly faith, even though God is never mentioned.
It is a story that will hopefully make us think about our own situation, our own identity, our response to injustice and our part in a bigger story. What would we have done if we lived at the time of Esther and how might we have responded if put in her shoes? What lessons can we learn from this extraordinary story in relation to the world that we live in today?
Through this unusual book we also get an insight into the way of life of a King who is powerful but not all-powerful and what it was like to live under his rule in a time when rules and laws couldn't be changed to suit changing circumstances. The main characters in this story are faced with making decisions that have serious consequences, not only for themselves but also for the people around them. We will see the importance of character, the influence of close relationships and the impact of emotion in a variety of forms.
In the end, this story has a somewhat strange conclusion but goes some way to explain things that still happen today, not only in places of power but in everyday life. Often, we can feel that our courage is lacking, as we face challenges in the world around us. We can hear the words, "Do not fear", and realise that there are a great many things to be fearful about. So, let's see this as an opportunity to have our courage encouraged as the story of Esther unfolds for us over the coming weeks and let's talk about where this resonates with our experience of life. Even if Esther's situation is as different from ours as we could possibly imagine, our choices and decisions have an impact on those around us, just as hers did, in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. And let's not forget that God's apparent absence from a story doesn't mean that He has no interest in what happens.
The small details of a story can reveal just how much God is involved, whether that's the story of our lives or the story of Kings and Queens, past and present.
By Gez Perry