And Esther enters the throneroom of the King. The white noise of politics grows suddenly quiet as the fawning courtiers realize the atrocity that the new queen has committed. Silence reigns, heavy, thick with anticipation of violence. Every eye is on the King, with the occasional stolen glance at the beauty and courage of the woman. Then, with an inexplicable look on his face, the King extends his scepter towards her; her presence is accepted.
The great drama of Queen Esther, drawn from the holy writings of the Jews, could never come to it’s climax without a decision made earlier by Esther: the decision to embrace death. To enter the throneroom into the presence of the King without a summons was death. That death could be commuted by the King, but, he had proven before that he was not necessarily inclined towards mercy, and that he did not suffer fools or foolishness. When Esther decided her course, she simply said, “If I perish, I perish.” That was the end, she embraced the surety of her death and was reborn a heroine of the people of God, a savior like the just Judges and Kings before her; a picture of the Savior who would come after.
I just watched the climactic final episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is my first journey through “Buffy” so my reactions have not yet been dulled over time and countless watchings of the show in syndication. I was struck throughout my perusal of the first season with the deep language that the Holy Spirit wrote into the show. The creator of the pop-culture, neo-gothic, fantasy-rich world of Buffy, Joss Whedon, is an atheist. Yet, time and again, his understanding of the natures of good and evil run true to course, and the final episode was no different, speaking volumes of truth.
In this case, Buffy was faced with an Esther-like choice: the prophecies foretold that if she faced the Master, a totally evil, demonic vampire dude, she would die. Easy enough, let’s avoid the confrontation. However, the complication is, Buffy has a calling: Into every generation, a Slayer is born. Either she faces down the Master and his minions from Hell, or a new dawn of evil will engulf the world as we know it. Buffy decides.
She chooses to face her almost sure death. She embraces her calling, though it cost her everything, and comes through to the other side of the prophecy, and is victorious. And herein lies the Truth.
The call of the gospel is the call to come and die. The Truth is, only by dying to ourselves, embracing the end of our lives as we know them, do we find true life. God is found by those who seek Him, but the blessings of God are only found by those who do not seek them. We must give up our lives, our desires, our goals, our very existence in order to follow. There is no easy believism here. Many of us will make it to the presence of our Father and never find our way into the true blessings of following Him because we cannot let go of what we want and who we think we are. The Jesus states in Luke 17:33, ” Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” And in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.”
Selfishness is the opposite of selflessness. Selflessness is one of the primary goals of Christian discipline. But it is impossible for the believer who still has not given up their life and embraced their calling, the death of their past desires. Esther’s statement, “If I perish, I perish,” will remain as the the standard for the disciples decision making process. The Christian Martyr’s from ancient Rome to present Sudan; The men of the Alamo who crossed over Travis’ line in the sand; the students in Tianemen Square all understand this truth of faith.
Now the question remains. I am called, what will I do?
2 thoughts on “The Last Embrace”
I love that you’re watching Buffy because I know there are so many truths woven into the story lines, but you put it into words better than I do. I think more along the lines of, “Fire bad. Tree pretty.” (You won’t fully get that until Season 3.) I never thought about the Esther/Buffy similarities, but I know the reasons I’m so drawn to Buffy are her selflessness, loyalty and love for others. Of course, you’ve still got to love her daily butt-kicking of evil and her keen fashion sense. Whatever Joss Whedon’s actual intent, be it a cry out to all humankind or simply being the creative genius he is, I think Buffy’s calling, the slaying of vampires and all things evil, is a way of asking, “Okay. What is your calling and do you take it as seriously as Buffy does?”
The thing about the episode that gets me is how pervasive the calling is. It permeates her life, as does our calling. She took a moment to express her doubts, fears, the injustice of it all…but at the end of the day, there is no running away from the call. Our call is just as epic and more important (maybe not as entertaining) as Buffy’s. We can run or hide for a moment, but when we recall what is at stake (no pun – really) we either anwser and live into our call or part of us dies anyway, despite our attempt to save our own life(and that is not pretty).