Esther’s emergent moment mirrors our own, says Zina Jacque


The Rev. Zina Jacque, lead pastor of the the Community Church of Barrington, Illinois, delivers her sermon “In an Emergent Moment” Sunday, July 4, 2021 on the Amphitheater stage. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“We are in an emergent moment. It is unbidden, unexpected, uncontrolled. It can’t be controlled. But it is not just a metaphysical occurrence — this moment occupies time and space,” said the Rev. Zina Jacque. 

Jacque preached at the 9 a.m. Friday, July 9 worship service in the Amphitheater. Her sermon title was “Choice in an Emergent Moment.” The sermon text was Esther 4:14. 

Like the parabola, she said, the emergent moment touches the plane of physical existence before it floats out into space again. 

Esther became queen because her predecessor, Vashti, had an emergent moment. 

“As far as I am concerned, Vashti does not get enough air time,” Jacque said. “Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, the king, had a six-month-long party. He and his friends were well into their cups when Vashti had her moment.”

Jacque continued, “Scholars debate whether Xerxes said she should show up in her crown or only her crown. Vashti had her moment and said, ‘No.’ Xerxes put her out because his buddies said there would be no peace in their middle-class homes if he did not.”

Vashti did not know what would happen after she was put out. Jacque told the congregation, “It is not about you, but what happens after you. Don’t worry about your own acclaim. Still, Vashti does not get enough air time.”

Esther was an orphan raised by her uncle Mordecai. She was young enough not to remember the fall of Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity. Mordecai thought Esther should apply for the job as queen but warned her not to tell anyone of her Jewish heritage. Xerxes fell in love with her, and offered her half his kingdom. Mordecai heard about Haman’s plot to have all the Jews in the kingdom annihilated. Mordecai sent a message to Esther that she would be fine if she kept silent about the plot, but that her family would die.

“What do we do in these emergent moments?” Jacque asked. “There is a lot of white space between verse 14 where Mordecai speaks and verse 15 where Esther responds. I believe you have to stop and think in an emergent moment. I think there are four movements to form an answer.”

There is always an if, Jacque said. 

“ ‘If you remain silent,’ Mordecai said to Esther. We always have a choice. For some reason, God gave us free will. God loves us so much, God says, ‘I will follow your lead.’ This is a divine if, the power of choice.”

The second movement is that there is always an end. “The Jews will be alright because humans don’t have the power to upend the will of God,” Jacque told the congregation. “Even if your answer is no, God has another way.”

There are always consequences. Moredecai told Esther if you say no, God’s end will be intact but your family, your people, will perish.

“When we say no to the divine will, parts of us diminish,” Jacque said. “The consequence of saying no is the death of faith, courage, trust and belief.”

There are many in the biblical text who said no to God but eventually came around and did God’s will.

Jacque said, “If God lets me get to glory, the first person I want to meet is Judas. He said the ultimate ‘no’ but then repented. He had a turning, and I think when we turn we get another chance — but there are still consequences.”

In the white space between verses 14 and 15, there is always God.

“God does not show up in the Book of Esther,” Jacque said. “There is no ritual to perform. Esther says she will gather her women to pray but does not indicate to whom. It is a good thing there is no formulaic prayer, no ritual, that God is behind a cloud. If there was a ritual we would do it but every emergent moment is different.”

Esther had a choice to emerge. “She was designed, destined. And with a little help from her friends, she went to the king and said, ‘If I perish, I perish,’ ” Jacque said.

She continued, “If we hear a word from God, we have to open our hearts, our homes and our community. We have to see what God is about, speak peace, speak to our leaders, let go of being right and do what is right, speak truth to power.”

“What is the ‘if’ for you and me?” Jacque asked the congregation. There is always a choice, always an invitation to take a risk, and there are always consequences.

She said, “Who do I serve? Whose ‘well done’ am I seeking? Whose smile? In our emergent moment, God is with us.”

Jacque admitted she never wanted to be a pastor. She never intended to go to seminary and promised God she would work in the nonprofit sector. But on a trip to Sacramento, she heard a voice repeat John 15:16: “You did not choose me, I chose you, and you will bear fruit that will remain.”

Esther did not choose God either. “Know that you are chosen,” Jacque told the congregation. “The God who formed you chose to come alongside you. ‘If’ is not so scary if you know that God will never forsake you. Nothing will separate you from the love of God.”

Jacque concluded, “God holds us in a divine plan. Say to yourself, ‘I am chosen, I am set apart, and God will be with me as I emerge.’ ”

The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot presided. The Rev. Debbie Grohman read the scripture. Joshua Stafford, who holds the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and is director of sacred music, played “Mist,” by Harvey Gaul, as the prelude. Members of the Motet Choir sang “The Heart Worships,” with music by Gustave Holtz and words by Alice Buckton. The postlude was “Toccata” from Organ Symphony No. 5, op. 42, by Charles-Marie Widor. This week’s services and chaplain were supported by the Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund.

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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.