This week, we leave behind the matriarchs and patriarchs of Genesis and have one week in the Exodus story.
The passage is Exodus 1:8-14 [15-2:10]; 3:1-15. Commentary at Working Preacher is here.
As I read through the text, I was heartbroken to recognize the strategy of Pharaoh in my own governmental leaders as they speak of refugees and immigrants at the US border. The Hebrew people are described as less than human, as vermin that are multiplying rapidly, as a scourge that needs to be contained. It is all rhetoric President Trump uses to speak of refugees, immigrants, people who are homeless. In this story, I’m an Egyptian citizen, living my best life while Pharaoh tries to kill babies.
Will you try to cover the whole sweep of the text? From generations of slavery, to the story of the boy who lived, the part where he was a murderer who fled Egypt, the bush that was on fire but not consumed?
Or will you focus on one part?
I’m drawn to the story of Moses as a baby. In truth, it is the women in the story who intrigue me. Shiprah and Puah, the midwives, who defy Pharaoh as best they can. God’s command had been to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. These women aren’t going to let Pharaoh get in the way of that command.
Moses’ mother, Jochebed, (unnamed in this passage–her name is mentioned first in Exodus 6), puts her baby into a reed basket and watches him float down the Nile, his one chance of life that is surrounded by many chances of death (and crocodiles).
I am a birth mother, who placed a son for adoption 30 years ago, and in this story of a woman, helpless on the riverbank while her son’s safety is out of her hands, I resonate strongly. To give him a chance at life, she had to relinquish her control.
I once wrote a liturgy for a healing service for women after they had returned to their faith communities after placing their children for adoption. In this liturgy, the woman stands in front of a baptismal font, names her child, and lights a floating candle, which she sets into the water.
Baptism is another place where we get a promise of life when we relinquish control.
Moses’ mother comes to know that as she watches her baby float away, and even the relief that he was pulled out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t return her illusion of control to her.
Moses at the end of this passage also has to relinquish some control, when God speaks to him from the bush that won’t be consumed. Moses is hiding with some flocks, having fled after he murdered a guard. God wants to send him back, to speak on God’s behalf to Pharaoh.
Like Jochebed, we can try to pretend that we are in control. We can pretend we can always keep our kids safe.
Like Moses, we can find 47 reasons that God’s call on our lives must be a mistake.
We don’t hear the “LET MY PEOPLE GO” phrase in this passage, but maybe one of the things we need to LET GO is the illusion of control, or the illusion that God must be mistaken and surely means to send someone else.
And if we ignore God’s command to let God’s people go, the consequences will be brutal.
Marci Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the boards of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood, Covenant Network, and the Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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