A turn of events

Lately I have been thinking up the title of my message before I write the message. I don’t always see the connection and it rather bothers me that the bulletin is done so far in advance of my message. This past week, my husband thought that I had hit the title pretty well. I didn’t see it until he explained it. Crazy how some things work out. The scripture used was Exodus 1:8–2: 10 and Romans 12:1-8. Title is above. We used the Matthew scripture as our responsive reading. If you would like a different twist to today’s lectionary you should check out the message presented by Emily Heath. I will try to leave the address here(http://emilycheath.com) , but I am not so good at this tech stuff, so hopefully. If you look through the bloggers that I follow she is in the first column near the bottom wearing a black robe and a green stole.

Anyway, here is what I had to say this week.

If any of you have taken the time to look at any of our bodies of water this year, you might notice lots of cat tails, and the long grass known as bull rushes that goes with it. Paulina and I were “killing time” for a bit on Thursday, we needed to check a house that was being upgraded with the fiber optics and the workers hadn’t left yet, so we drove out to the spillway, something we do to kill time. As of Thursday, the water was green and full of algae. It was slow, but was actually moving and going over the spillway making foam at the bottom, and there were large rushes and cat tails growing along the banks. It is an indication of a wetter year, even though we see the garden as powder dry a few days after each the rain.

For anyone who has taken time to read the stories of the frontier in South Dakota, you know that much of the eastern part of it was full of tall, tall grasses when white people first settled here. The stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder let you know that you could not let a toddler loose to wander at will in those areas because you would likely never find them again. It is a scary thought for those of us who tend to be “mother hens” when the youngsters are around. It would be really scary to think of putting a baby in a basket made of grasses and place that basket into the water at the edge of a river bank in the middle of tall grasses and things like rushes and cat tails and let a teenage or pre-teenage sister watch that basket.

Youngsters in the days of old were apparently quite a bit more reliable than those of today’s age. I know we still have “good” children, but what a responsibility to leave with a young child. What a responsibility for anyone of any age, to try to keep a baby safe in a basket out on the river bank. Now I can bet there were plenty of dangers in terms of insects or animals. Were there mosquitoes with West Nile, they were in Egypt after all? What about crocodiles or alligators? I didn’t look up which animals were around in that area at that time. There were certainly locusts later in the story, and the water turned color, so perhaps pollution of some type. No, the danger for this baby was mainly human. The Egyptians wanted to decrease the population of the Israelites, so they targeted the male babies. Again, there is a story here in the Old Testament that sound blatantly like something that happened in the days of Jesus.

I am not sure how you feel about population control, but if I were trying to downsize a species, say my sheep or cattle herd or chickens in the hen-house, I probably wouldn’t target the male offspring, but what do I know. Apparently the leaders of Egypt at the time around Moses’ birth were threatened by the strength of the Israelites, and they set out to do something about it.

From the ending of Genesis to the beginning of Exodus there is a period of 3.5 centuries about which nothing is written in the Bible. The relatives of Joseph that came to live in the land of Goshen and be protected from the famine by their brother totaled 70. At the time that Moses is a baby, they have grown to a small group of 3 million. No wonder the Egyptians are a bit concerned about their power.

If you know anything about the history and the geography of the area, you might know that Egypt as a land was not easy to protect. And it appears that the leaders at the time of Moses birth may not have been blood relatives to those in power when Joseph was alive. Some of the problem was because it was hard to keep invaders out of their midst, and some of the take-overs had been forming from right inside their, well, I am not so sure there are clear boarders, but you should begin to understand just how concerned the powers that be were about the security of their rule. All those Israelites were a threat, and when slavery and horrible working conditions didn’t keep their population in check, it was time to do what they could.

The rulers started by telling the midwives, the ones who delivered the babies to take care of matters. They were to wipe out an entire generation of boy children. Scripture tells us that the mid-wives didn’t listen. And I complained that there was too much security in the hospital when Victoria had Anastacia. This is a whole different kind of health care issue. But, I really don’t need to go one and explain this scripture step-by-step. We all know this story. All any of you had to do was look at the front cover of your bulletin, and you could have given an account of the scripture and an explanation. This is a story that we all learned in Sunday School or Bible School, or some place along the line. It is a parallel to some of the events of Jesus birth and it is just something we know, so what about it needs to be repeated or lifted up, or how on earth could it possibly be interesting or fresh or even a little new.

These old stories are comfortable. They are nice to hear inside the safety of the church sanctuary. They are wonderful, old stories that we know. It is nice to come to church and listen to them to take our minds off the horror outside those doors. How great to hear this hero story about a baby saved by the very daughter of the man who is all about killing the Israelites’ sons. And ironically, she ends up paying his own mother to “nurse” him until he is old enough for Pharaoh’s daughter to take him to her own home. Moses is a baby plucked out of the river where anything could happen to him, and eventually taken to a palace and given the best of everything, and down the road a few weeks, we will probably hear how he grew up to lead his people out of slavery into freedom and from this group God sends his son that saves even us.     Hurrah!

But what about when we go out those doors and have to face the real world that we live in? What does this story do for us tonight when we watch the 10:00 news? Or tomorrow morning or afternoon when we pick up a copy of the daily paper and read about the events in our country, our state, or elsewhere in the world? Or perhaps this up coming weekend where some of us may exit town for a last summer trip because it is Labor Day weekend and encounter some of the real world of 2014 and the events of our times? What good is that safe story then?

The story of Moses is a story of how God works to turn evil into good. It is a sort of happy ever after story, or is it? It is also a story of great hardship and great perseverance. It is a story of dodging God’s call, then some obedience and then some cajoling and what our daughter Victoria likes to call “Wah” moments, meaning that Moses tries to get out of things by crying around a little when God gives him some orders. I think all of us have been there a time or two. I was there majorly on Friday when I was working on the message for the funeral that I led on Saturday.

These stories let us know that God is able to take the evil of any situation and turn it into good. It also tells us how important it is that we follow where God leads. In the passage in Romans 12 that we also read today, Paul lays out for us exactly what it means to live a Christian life. He lets us know that no matter what the stories of the world are, we are to live our lives in a way that is acceptable to God. Paul tells us that we are not all made the same, that we each have our own part to fulfill, but as we do our parts, we do them to the glory of God, and in the way that Jesus would have us to live.

As we read to the end of that chapter, we see that it says we do this even to the point of returning good when we are given evil. Not easy, but expected. When we leave the safety of this place, we need to take God with us. It would be so much easier to leave it behind, and save it for next Sunday. But just as God demanded more of the mid wives than obedience to an evil Pharaoh, so God demands more of us. Perhaps our duty is like the sister who stood at the side of the river and watched the baby in the basket. Perhaps we are like the mother, who nursed that baby until it was claimed. Whatever our task, God asks us to perform it to the best of our ability, and with a Christian attitude towards those around us in our times. Amen!

(I also included the opening part of our prayer as it sort of finished the message for me.)

Dear Heavenly Father:

We come today knowing that the world around us is in chaos. We come today thankful for a sanctuary where we can come and listen to your words, though we know it is not all about the history or the past. There is much in today’s world that we would rather not discuss when we are here, but it still weighs heavy on our hearts. Help us Lord to reconcile those –what seems like two different parts of our lives. We know that you want more from us in terms of what we do to help this world be better. …Amen

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christinelaennec
    Aug 26, 2014 @ 14:08:24

    How true it is to say it’s difficult to reconcile the safe space and safe stories of church with the reality of the “outside” world. But so many of the stories in the Bible weren’t at all safe for those who lived through them. We may know the endings, but the people who first lived them didn’t. I try to drink up a deep peace in church that I can take out into my life in the world. (The peaceful feeling usually lasts about 20 minutes, but I’m working on that!)

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