Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sermon for August 10, 2014; Exodus 2:1-10 and 15:19-21

Rev. George Miller
Exodus 2:1-10 & 15:19-21
August 10, 2014

At this beautiful oasis of time and space I say “Good morning” to all of our Abrahams and Sarahs, Isaacs and Ishmaels, Hagars and other servants of the Lord.

Today we are going to leave behind the well of water in the wilderness to visit a river in Egypt and a Red Sea that leads to freedom.

But first, we need to recap about 420 years in 2 minutes time.

Last week we heard how God promised Abraham land, and a large family that would bless the entire world.

We witnessed the understandable impatience of Sarah, the birth of Isaac and the casting out of Hagar and her son.

Eventually Abraham and Sarah die, Isaac has two sons named Esau and Jacob.

Jacob tricks his brother, deceives his father, wrestles with God and is renamed Israel. He becomes the father to many daughters and sons, gives a Technicolor dream coat to his beloved child Joseph.

Joseph is sold into slavery, saves the Mid-eastern world from starvation and is reunited with his family in Egypt decades later.

Flash forward about 300 years. God’s promise of a large family comes true as Abraham’s descendents multiply rapidly in Egypt, but so much so that it scares the Pharaoh.

Fearful of these people with a different skin tone and beliefs, the Pharaoh enslaves them, increases their tasks and limits their supplies.

But this doesn’t stop them from giving birth to many children, so the Pharaoh demands the midwives to kill the 1st born sons, which they refuse to do, coming up with a comedic excuse to taunt the King.

So next, he announces another decry- every Hebrew boy is to be tossed into the river, but the girls can live.

The threat of death abounds, but hark!- into this story enters love and marriage and a baby carriage and the tale of how a group of women figuratively shake their fanny at the Pharaoh in delightful acts of defiance.

So in this air-conditioned oasis, let’s explore who’s who and the story that unfolds.

We already talked about Pharaoh and the midwives; now let’s talk about the mother. In the midst of oppression, in the midst of violence, in the midst of a world gone wrong, she dares to marry and start a family.

She has a daughter, who I believe is called Miriam. But then she gives birth to a baby boy. Although she does not name him, she must love him very much for she hides him for three months, knowing full well the peril she has placed herself and her family.

When she can no longer hide her first born son, she wickedly, wisely does just as the King says- she tosses her son in the river. But not until she makes a water-resistant floating basket for him to be placed inside.

This child floats along the Nile until he comes to the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter is having her bath. Knowing full well that this child is perceived by her father as different and dangerous, she adopts him

Then there is Miriam, the baby’s sister. How old is she? We don’t know. But she watched over her brother, following him into the Pharaoh’s territory.

Even though she’s on the bottom of the social ladder: she’s a female, she’s a child, she’s a slave, she still has the audacity to address the Princess and finds a way to reunite her family, even if only temporarily.

Then, decades later, as she assists her brothers in fleeing their captors and crossing the Red Sea, it is Miriam who sings a song of triumph, a song that scholars believe is the first song of the Israelite people to be written down.

But did you happen to notice something about Exodus 2:1-10?

Funny thing: the Pharaoh is so afraid of the boy babies becoming the threat but it’s the female folk: the midwives, the mother, the daughter, the sister, and the servants, that have outsmarted him every step of the way.

Did you notice something else? Where are the men in this narrative?

Pharaoh is a cold-blooded buffoon. The father disappears after the first verse. Moses is a passive participant in his own story, just a floating, crying child.

And where is God? Seriously: where is God?

Because in these 10 verses there’s a lot of action being accomplished by the women but there is absolutely no mention or allusion to God. None.

…and yet, God is there, present throughout the story, isn’t God?

In the defiant actions of the midwives who refuse to kill innocent children…God is there.

In the ability of two people to meet, marry and start a family even as so much chaos unfolds…God is there.

In the creation of new life in the face of so much death…God is there.

In the wily and wise trickery of the wife who does her best to keep her family intact and to protect and her son…God is there.

In the fearless young girl who refuses to abandon her baby brother and speak to the political power of her day…God is there.

In the compassionate, death defying actions of the Pharaoh’s daughter who sees, hears, takes pity and cares for the baby boy…God is there.

In the servants who pull Moses from the water and into the princess’ sheltering arms…God is there.

Decades later in the tambourine Miriam takes hold of as she and the women sing and dance , celebrating the Lord’s glorious triumphant…God is there.

Even- even amidst the wreckage of the oppressor’s horse and riders cast into the sea, we have to believe God is there to comfort their grieving families…

God does not have to always be mentioned because God is always there, always seeing, always hearing, always caring.

God does not have to always be mentioned because God is always there, like the act of love, like the bond between parent and child, like the protective care of an older sibling, like the rambling of a river, like the expanse of the sea.

Like the sound of music.

God is there.

So, following the theme of the next 2 months, which Biblical character are you?

Pharaoh: afraid, ego-centered, and brutal?

The father? There, but not there- absent?

Moses: A passive innocent caught in a life & death situation you have no control over, surviving simply by the grace of God and care of others?

The mother: foolish and brave enough to believe in life and love even when death is all around; able to use your wits to buck the system; willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of your child?

Pharaoh’s daughter- benefitting from the current power structure, yet still able to see, hear, and have pity on the cries of an innocent; who uses your position in life to provide compassionate care for another?

The servants- faithful, willing to help anyway you can; unnamed and not seeking glory for the good you do?

Miriam, the girl- scrappy, smart, unafraid to address those more powerful than you, doing whatever it takes for the sake of your family?

How about Miriam, the woman- a prophet who knows the acts of God when you see it; who helps lead God’s people to a better place; who cannot contain your joy over what God has done, believing that God is triumphant even over the most insurmountable aspects of life?

Or…perhaps you identify with the horse and riders, fighting on the side that is clearly in the wrong.

Or maybe someone here today can identify with God- working behind the scenes, able to do the impossible.

Last week, we spent time at an oasis. This week we encountered a river and crossed a sea.

Still there will be many rivers to cross, many mountains to climb, many deserts to survive, many crosses to bear.

But today, in this holy space, in this holy time, let us trust and proclaim that God is there, God is victorious, that God is the Lord of the rivers; God is the Lord of the empty tombs; God is the Lord of songs sung in victory.

If we are just willing to see, to hear, to take pity and to act: God is there.

Amen and amen.

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