Sue and Jon walked into the high school meeting room together. This was their first year in the high school group, and they paused a moment to take it all in. The church had been able to remodel a couple of years before and added the youth wing which had a large room with theatrical lights, a huge sound system and room for a band to set up and play on the stage. There were also eighteen round tables with chairs around them on the main floor. Several dozen students and staff were either sitting at the tables or standing around in small groups.
Some of the latest Christian songs played from the sound system. A series of pictures displayed on the back wall changing periodically.
Jon pointed to the coffee bar. He and Sue walked over to it. Jon ordered their coffee. Andrea jammed in between them, bouncing with the music.
“Isn’t this great?” she said looking back and forth between them.
Sue turned to her. “Yeah, it is. Where are you sitting?”
Andrea pointed, “Over there to the left of the stage. I have my stuff on the chairs.”
“Jon and I will be over as soon as we get our coffees, ok?”
Sue watched Andrea bounce as she walked back to the table.
“Here they are,” said Jon. Yours is the Peppermint Mocha, extra hot and mine is…”
“An Americano with chocolate and cinnamon, right?”
“Uh, yeah…predictable, huh?”
“Yeah, but I like that.” Sue smiled. “Let’s go sit down, Andrea’s holding seats for us.”
“Pastor Rene look’s like he’s ready to start, too.”
They hurried to their seats, and a young man with dark hair and a huge bright smile stepped up to the microphone.
“If you guys will all take your seats, I’d like to get started. I hope you’ve enjoyed the special mix of tunes this morning by Jimmy Barski. I especially liked how he matched up his own photography with the music. Let’s give Jimmy a hand.”
In his seat, behind the control console, Jimmy flushed a bright red color but smiled broadly.
“Ok, this morning we’re going to begin a series in the OT. That’s Old Testament for you new guys.”
A few groans and Oh, moans came from the crowd.
“I know, I think most people think the OT only shows an angry God bent on vengeance against His enemies and unruly children. Oh, and long lists of begats. Booorrriing! Right? There is so much more to it than that. The Old Testament is over 75 percent of our Bible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that God is going to waste over three-quarters of His message to us with stuff people won’t even read. This morning I want to introduce to you the only book in the Bible that doesn’t even mention God.”
“What?” they said, murmuring to themselves like a flock of restless birds.
Sue looked at Jon, and both of them began turning to the book of Esther in their Bibles.
“I thought that might get your attention. I hear a few pages turning. That’s good. This book does not mention God by name, but the work of His hand is obvious in His provision for His people. Our story happens about midway during the seventy-year period when many Jewish people are held captive by Babylon.
Before we get into the story, I want to tell you now that some people find it hard to apply any lessons from this book to their modern lives. As we go through the story over the next several weeks, I am going to challenge you to come up with ways to apply the lessons from this story in your lives. My weekly lessons will be brief but followed by discussion periods at your tables led by staff leaders.
Please open up your Bibles to the book of…Esther!”
“Ok, what did you guys think of what Pastor Rene had to say? Do you think God was at work in the life of Esther and the Hebrews in Babylon?”, asked Jenny Smith, the 32-year-old mom of three who was their group’s staff leader.
“Oh, come on guys. How about if we go around the table? Andrea?”
“Um, I’m not so sure. I didn’t hear or see any reference to God in the book. I know Pastor Rene said it was clear to him, but — it’s just not that clear to me.” Andrea glanced at Sue. “What if we were talking about today? How would we know God was at work in a situation?”
Jenny smiled, “That is an excellent question and one we hope to answer by the end of our study of Esther. Jon?”
“Oopth, I jutht took a bite of cookie. Jutht a thec,” Jon said holding a finger in the air while he took a big swig of his coffee, swallowed and then grinned. “Ok, whew! Thanks! I think it’s hard to tell sometimes. We get caught up in only what we can see and hear and taste and feel. It’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture to see Him working.”
“Excellent thoughts, cookie boy,” Jenny winked and smiled at Jon who was known for his love of cookies. “Sue? You always have interesting insights.”
Sue smiled and set her coffee down next to her Bible. “I want to agree with both Andrea and Jon. Sometimes we just don’t know. Listening to Pastor Rene, I can see it in the story of Esther. We don’t live our daily lives in retrospect though. Things are happening every minute that can affect us and those around us and looking at the bigger picture can sure help, but it’s hard to do that in real life sometimes. For me, I just have to trust God and lean on him because He does have the bigger picture and our best interests and happiness at heart.”
Jimmy had excused himself from the table and was starting up the closing music.
Jenny spoke a bit louder to be heard over the music, “It seems that our discussion will be cut short because Pastor Rene went a bit long. I hope to see all of you back here next week for the conclusion of Esther. Take some time to read or re-read the book of Esther. Take a look at how God might be at work in your life. Let’s pray. Thank you, God, for loving us and coming to die for us. Help us to see you at work in the world around us. Help us to be your eyes and ears and hands in a world that knows you not. Amen”
The music revved up as Jimmy continued the musical/photographic collage he was running before the class. People began gathering their things, talking and laughing.
Andrea joined Sue and Jon, who were talking to Jenny. They opened up their grouping to include her. Sue turned to her and said, “Are you ready to head into service? We need to get moving if we want our usual seats.”
Andrea, up on her toes, looked anxiously around the room. Frowning, she lowered herself to her normal height and saw Sue looking at her. Smiling, she said, “Huh, oh yeah! I’m ready. Save me a spot. I need to stop at the ladies on the way.” With that, she spun on her heel and headed away.
Sue watched her friend walk away.
Jenny turned to leave and said, “I need to go get my kids from their classes. See you guys later?”
Jon and Sue both looked at her and smiled. Sue said, “You bet, Jenny. See ya. Say hi to Noah and Grace for me.”
Jon leaned into Sue so he could be heard without shouting. “What’s with Andrea? She seems to be bugged by something.”
Sue spoke to Jon’s ear, “I have an idea, but — I’m not sure. Could you go get our seats? I’m going to find her and check. We’ll join you before the music is over. Okay?”
“Sure, see ya soon.”