Chapter 5, “The Pastoral Work of Community-Building: Esther” (Loc. 1837-2296)
“All pastoral work takes place in the setting of the church, the community of faith. The pastor is never a private chaplain to individuals; the pastor is never an impersonal speaker to crowds; the pastor is set in community and given the task of building that community” (loc. 1841). Peterson says this is viewed as good until our community notices we are building a community of faith, not what they might desire. There are so many secular substitutes for a community of faith that it is easy to be misunderstood (Loc. 1853). Yet the community is central to a biblical idea of God’s people. “There are no Robinson Crusoe traditions in the biblical narratives” (Loc. 1875).
Peterson draws our attention to “Esther because it presents the issue of the nature and function of God’s people in stark and simple terms; survival versus annihilation” (Loc. 1914(. The people around Esther were largely hostile. At best they were indifferent. How do God’s people live in community? In Esther they do, celebrating the victory of their people over the enemy. Our concern is that we have this joyful celebration in its right context. “Joy, separated from its roots in God and pursued apart from the community of faith, becomes mere sensation” (Loc. 1940).
There is little known about the Jews in their captivity in Babylon. We know that the people in Susa tended toward syncretism (Loc. 1988). This was not Judaism at its best. Our congregations are not perfect Christianity. All remain due to God’s grace (Loc. 2000). The size of the congregation is not its security but the Lord is (Loc. 2052).
Peterson diagnoses the problem. We prefer the active leadership of King Saul to the quiet faith of Mordecai. “The importance of Mordecai for the pastor derives from his style of leadership, a style that exemplifies the way of the servant” (Loc. 2179). Though he is the leader who protects all the Jews from destruction and who has been faithful to the pagan king, he does not seek honor or prestige.