Yesterday (Sunday July 13th), I was all set to preach about Esther and Haman from chapter five. As usual, I arrived at the church at 7:15am. I was greeted by a burst of warm air in the sanctuary. The thermostat read 78 degrees. It should have said 72. I knew we were in trouble.
When we purchased the building in November, we knew we were getting the problems associated with something built in 1920. The previous owners had made some incredible updates, and we did our due diligence to make sure everything was in working order. Some of it wasn’t (the elevator will take $100,000 to fix). Much of it was. But then – like anything – we had to wait through the first hard freeze, the first hard snow, the first hard rain, the first spring to drop a million elderberries on the ramp. And the first super hot days.
We’ve had HVAC workers out there at least a dozen times. It works. It doesn’t work. The capacity is short. It wasn’t built for the load of a church. It needs more power, captain! Now fans are buzzing to get some air flow. It was humid last week since we had several rainy days. And we had a wedding which warmed the building on Friday and Saturday nights. But it’s still not supposed to be in the 80s for church.
During the introductions, I used a line I’d used before. I apologized for the warmth but not for Christ. I said I felt like people would or might be disappointed in me, but not in Jesus. I meant it.
In my sermon I talked about how Haman could not get past Mordecai (you should go back and read Esther 5). In the grand scheme of how well things were going for Haman, this one man stuck out. Wrath and hatred filled his heart. Instead of letting it go, or dealing with it, or even forgiving him – he was egged on to build a 75-foot gallows to impale Haman (and had a plan in tact to destroy all of the Jews for good measure).
In my sermon I talked about how there is a Haman inside of all of us. We hate. We get bitter. We let things ruin us. We feed the rage. It would be far too easy for us to move quickly past Haman because we’re not like him. So we let ourselves off the hook to consider our place in the Esther story. We want to be the hero, not the villain. So we forget – we are like Haman. We hate.
In my sermon I talked about how God redeems. He pays the penalty for people like you and me, even the Haman parts. Esther isn’t that great of a hero. She doesn’t do many heroic things. Jesus is so much better of a mediator of God’s people. His saving wasn’t secretive or accidental. It was purposeful and he didn’t just risk dying – he paid it all.
It was a good, sweaty Sunday. We needed to hear that God saves sinners. Our church has been dealing with quite a few tough conversations between husbands and wives – not exactly like Esther and Xerxes but it can feel like it. We needed to be reminded that grace is for each of us and that God is at work through his acts of saving providence.
Except – after everything was put away and I had locked the doors to go home, I got in the car with Julie and I cussed like a sailor. I was so mad. I HATE that when I left it was 81 degrees in there. I was exhausted and worn out. I’m sure I was dehydrated. I was sweaty. I was discouraged. And I was angry.
I guess I was angry that we couldn’t figure this out. I was angry because I’d like visitors to come back. I was angry because I felt like people thought we didn’t know what we were doing – and maybe we don’t.
So much had gone so well. We sang songs of gladness, truth, honesty and hope. We prayed the prayers of the church. We heard a sermon about grace (perhaps everyone but me heard it). We confessed our sins and heard forgiveness. We took the Lord’s body and blood to ourselves by faith. We received God’s blessing as we went out, waiting to gather another day soon.
I however, erected a 75-foot Hamanic tower of hate. I think I impaled myself on that tower. I think I was obsessed over the one thing – the HVAC – so that I missed the true thing. I couldn’t believe that God works even in the heat, possibly because of the heat. That his providence and love isn’t just for them. It’s for me too.
I needed some air conditioning. I needed to eat lunch. I needed water. I needed a nap. But most of all I need the God of grace who put himself on that tower so I don’t have to die on it. He is enough. For you and for me and for the church and for me and for me and for me.