A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
There was a new king, and he was evil.
There was an oppressed minority, and their very existence was in jeopardy.
And there was one woman determined and desperate to save her son.
It’s a story that has all the hallmarks of disaster.
From its beginning, there is no way- no way at all- that the story should reach a happy conclusion.
But something happens, and though we might choose to use the world ‘miracle,” there is indeed NO miracle.
No spectacular intervention by God.
No rabbit emerges from the hat.
Instead, there is a procession of ordinary people doing courageous things
Or simply different things
Or, perhaps, simply ordinary things.
And in the end, a people are saved from genocide.
Listen to the names- or, in some cases not a name, but a description:
Pharaoh- and at his hand, ruthless taskmasters
Two Hebrew midwives- Shiphrah and Puah
One unnamed Levite woman, pregnant
One young girl, daughter of the pregnant woman.
One infant Jewish boy.
One princess, out for a walk.
What did they have?
Pharaoh had anything he wanted or needed.
He had armies,
He had magicians and priests
He had power over life and death
The two Hebrew midwives?
They had courage.
It was the courage of prophets, to cross wills with the Pharaoh.
They had the fear of God, and they would not conform themselves to Pharaoh’s world.
They were also clever, and willing to tell a lie.
The pregnant woman?
She had whatever it is that pregnant women and new mothers have.
She had a terrible fear, and it was a fear that was fully aware of what was going on in the world.
She was, in fat, not so very different than millions of mothers giving birth to boys in places where they will be tormented and oppressed and accused and subjected to violence and prejudice and hatred and a never-ending dearth of opportunity.
But she also had a willingness to hope that something OTHER than the expected might happen, if she could postpone the horrible long enough.
She knew how to weave.
That’s all she had, but she wasn’t alone.
She had a daughter.
Later- much later, we’ll learn the daughter’s name.
Perhaps it was the same daughter, perhaps not.
But the daughter named later is Miriam, and she is labeled a prophet.
There, she exhorts the people and leads them in celebration with her gifts of music.
But here, she is still a child.
She can’t even defend her little brother.
All she can do is stand on the bank of the river, and watch to see if anybody comes.
If they come, she can watch to see what happens.
If they ask her questions, well, she’ll think of something to say.
But she has something.
What she has is imagination.
She imagines a world in which her brother lives.
She imagines a world in which her brother is nursed by her mother.
She imagines the princess saying yes.
So, not knowing how foolish her imagination is- after all, she’s only a child,
She speaks up.
And then there is the princess.
She is missing so many things.
She is most likely completely unaware of the fear and terror that the Hebrew people live in.
She seems not to be able to piece together the true story about this baby floating in a basket.
That’s the way it seems.
That may be the way it was.
But we know for sure, that in addition to whatever influence she might have had in her father’s house-
However many servants she had at her disposal
Whatever other gifts she might have
She has compassion, and nothing can hold that compassion back.
And history changes.
It’s a great story. But right now I’m more interested in the characters because it’s pretty hard to say that each one of them was a hero. They all were, but in different degrees. And for different reasons. Only two- Shiphrah and Puah- were described as ‘fearing God.’
So it’s funny- or it’s thought provoking- that in this story- this story that is essential to the origins of our faith- every single character is essential to the story. Without anyone of them, Moses might not have been saved.
Our testimony is that God is always at work in the world, and that God invites each one of us into that work.
But our further testimony is this: No matter how strong our faith, no matter how many our talents, no matter how astute, or how challenged we are, we are an essential part of the story that tells what God is doing in our world at this very moment.
Our part in the story will change. Miriam’s changed, for sure- and so did her little brother’s! But being part of God’s story- that’s always our purpose, no matter what the specific nature of that part in the story.
All of this says something pretty significant:
Each one of us is important to God, because God has given each one of us a purpose that points to God’s great purposes of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.
Perhaps you’re looking at your current circumstances- or your current predicament- or your current challenges- and thinking, “well there is certainly nothing I can do now. Maybe a few years ago- or maybe a few months from now.”
But not now.
But you ARE important now, even if you think you haven’t got too much to offer.
A single atom, missing one electron, will have its entire character changed.
A molecule, missing one single atom of hydrogen, will be something different than a molecule of water.
A drop of water needs every molecule to complete the drop- and without millions of drops, an ocean fails to become an ocean.
Without you, the Kingdom of God falters. It may stumble. It may slacken. Because it needs you, not because it depends on you but because that’s the way God has designed it. It makes no difference if your name is Shiphrah or Puah or Miriam or Moses or Bob or Alice. You’re a part of what God is doing, and your part matters.
Now, that might not be inspiring. Instead, it might be frightening.
But let me tell you- the pages of the bible- And the pages of Christian history-
All tell the same story: Time and time again, God chooses unlikely heroes.
God chooses them to be part of the story, and despite the odds- the story somehow arrives at the conclusion God wants it to have.
How can that be?
It happens because there is another character in every story, and that story is God.
So we are essential to the story, but even more essential are God’s mercy. God’s grace, and God’s wisdom.
The thing that makes us essential in the story is God working IN us.
So it doesn’t matter how insignificant we think we might be, God is all sufficient, and God will prevail.
But it DOES matter if we’re willing to trust. Because without trust, we’re a burnt offering.
But with trust we are being transformed.
With trust, we are living testimony
Proclaiming in our weakness
That God is good,
That day by day we are being drawn out of the water
And onto dry land.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.