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Monday, May 27, 2024

Messy Glory

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“He had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the young woman was fair and beautiful, and when her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter. When the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther was taken into the king’s palace and put into the custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. The young woman pleased him and won his favor as he quickly provided her with cosmetic treatments and her portion of food and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and he advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell.” Esther 2:7-10

In her 1982 interview with Bill Moyers, Dr. Maya Angelou shared, “When I reached for the pen, I had to scrape it across scars to sharpen the point.” Her memoirs are read in the most privileged of classrooms. Often, they are purchased from bookstores serving up decadent café lattes and blueberry scones that cost more than the federal minimum wage in America. Such cozy surroundings can lead one to consume Angelou’s stories without fully grasping the severity of social harm she endured. When not careful, we compress revelation; we cut short its bloom.

In a celebrity culture with its fingerprints on the Church, we revere people based on surface discoveries–perceptions. Authority is hastily attributed to influence. God’s glory in the human experience is rarely a pristine manifestation. We give microphones to spotless, thorn-free glory, but there is no glory like that which has defeated the grip of hell on earth—a messy glory!

Our text is from a larger, disturbing story about people, more specifically girls and women, who live on the margin and are terrorized by the whims of a supremacist culture. Movies, sermons, and bible studies have marketed the Book of Esther as a fairytale, but I cannot name one woman in all the Bible who lived a fairytale or anything remotely close to it. Hear me. A “wash and set,” expensive perfume, concealer, and marriage to an arrogant husband are not the glory in this story. No teenage girl has the desire to be abducted, held indefinitely, and voted most likely to suffer sexual violation by a king.

Esther kept living and listening to her village (Mordecai) long enough to later keep others in her community from death. This powerful fact was God’s glory in the story, and it was messy. For Esther’s glory was saddled with bondage, toxic competition, the appetite of an insecure man, and a secret identity. Her glory involved centering her community inside the citadel of her circumstance. The palace only valued her beauty, but thanks be to God, her village valued her life. This kind of insight is a defibrillator for somebody who needs one desperately. A fairytale exploits hope, but God-glorious truth sets the captive free.


Contact Reverend Monique Crain Spells, Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation of Disciples Home Missions, at mcrainspells@dhm.disciples.org. For more pieces like ‘Messy Glory’ from Reverend Monique Crain Spells courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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