John Bell, the worship guru for the Church of Scotland, tells of being part of a worship weekend at prestigious church in Great Britain. In the morning the scripture reading was from Exodus 1: 7- 14 – basically telling of the death of Joseph and his brothers, but the rise of their descendants and the harsh treatment they received at the hands of the new Pharaoh who didn’t know or care about Joseph, the hero of old. That evening, the scripture reading continued with Exodus chapter 2: 11 “One day, when Moses had grown up… (and you’ll hear that story a little later this morning). Anyway, John was scheduled to preach at the evening service and he began by saying something like: I’m sorry to have to tell you that somewhere between this morning’s service and this evening’s service, five middle- eastern women have gone missing in this sanctuary.
Well, people where quite disturbed to say the least – they were checking under pews, and behind curtains, and looking around anxiously… Who were these women? Were they spies? Were they refugees? Were they a danger? Were they in danger? Then John let them in on the verses from the Exodus story that were missing from the pre-set scripture readings. Verses that talked about Shiphrah, and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, who defied Pharaoh and let the infant boys live, the mother of Moses who hide him and fashioned a floating cradle for him, his sister Miriam who hide in the reeds, and devised a clever plan to `find a woman to nurse the baby’ when Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on him, and the daughter of Pharaoh herself who, not only chose to let the child live, but raised him as her own son – five middle-eastern women. Let’s meet these women now and see where they fit in the story… ( I shared the Exodus story, chapters 1&2 in a Godly play format, including a baby Moses floating in a pool of real water) Audacious Women: (part 2) John Bell, whom I mentioned in my introduction, thought about these audacious women whose actions had saved Moses life. He thought of other women in the Biblical narrative, and wrote a song about them. It goes in part: There is a line of women extending back to Eve whose role in shaping history God only could conceive. And though, through endless ages, their witness was repressed, God valued and encouraged them through whom the world was blessed… There is a line of women who took on powerful men Defying laws and scruples to let life live again. And though, despite their triumph, their stores stayed untold God kept their number growing, creative, strong and bold. So sing a song of Shiphrah with Puah close at hand, Engaged to kill male children, they foiled the king’s command. And sing a song of Rahab who sheltered spies and lied: And sing a song of Esther preventing genocide… Words by John L Bell (born 1949) copyright 2002 WGRG, Iona Community, 4th floor, Savoy House, 140 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3DH Scotland. I want to acknowledge that there are audacious men in scripture and as models for our lives too, but usually their stories get told. I believe it’s important to hear these lesser known stories, these women who model strength, daring, courage, defiance when needed, and give us a sense of hope about the world. Geoffrey Wilfong- Pritchard of St. Andrews U.C. Edmonton writes in the current Gathering magazine: Pharaoh knows nothing about his subjects, even though he is the most powerful figure in the story. The midwives, on the other hand, have little in the way of power and status but have a knowledge that enables them to preserve and protect their community against great odds. The wisdom of those on the margins may save us. “The wisdom of those on the margins may save us.” I feel a flicker of hope when I read such a statement. The wisdom of many of our elected, or self-proclaimed leaders in the world today, leaves me certainly less than hopeful. We don’t have to go beyond our national boundaries to see that even elected power does not necessarily make one wise, aware, fair, or compassionate. I’m talking about cuts to environmental protection, an incomprehensible denying of the impact of human activity on global climate change, and a glaring double standard when it comes to condemning other countries for human rights abuses and violations. So where is the hope? In our own country it may be the First Nations in Canada who insist on environmental standards even when the Federal Government tries to avoid proper assessments, or minimizes the health risks. It may come from the Women in Black, who stand together every Friday noon in Jerusalem, both Israeli and Palestinian, grieving together the death of their children. It may come from the simple and persistent act of writing letters for Amnesty International, leading to the release of prisoners of Conscience. It may and can come from people like you and me, taking part in the `unsettling goods’ campaign to protest what Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in his open letter in a national Israeli newspaper calls, “… the illegal occupation of Palestine. He says, “We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.” Tutu finishes his letter with these words, “Nelson Mandela famously said that South Africans would not feel free until Palestinians were free. He might have added that the liberation of Palestine will liberate Israel, too. A link to the full letter in on our church Facebook page and I commend it to you. When I look back on the story of Moses and the audacious women who kept him alive, I am struck at the small but very significant part they each played. Each one of them needed to rely on her courage, and strength and take a risk, for the sake of justice and righteousness. And each one’s small act enabled the next one to offer her audacious gifts. Where might God be calling you to stand up and take action? I want to share a song that I wrote for an audacious women, when she was only one month old. It’s called Miriam. J (written for my beautiful daughter) Miriam Long ago in the desert a people wandered there, Led by two brothers, a sister, – God placed them in their care. Miriam, Miriam, like your name-sake long ago sweet Miriam, Sing the Lord’s song, in a strange land, Take the hand of the captive in your own. So many wander in deserts, their lives so empty and bare, May you be an oasis, as your love you share. Miriam, Miriam, an oasis in the desert Miriam, Sing the Lord’s song, in a strange land, May your love and your laughter guide us home. Words & music by Juanita Austin Written for Miriam Tamara Allen, June 20th 1984 @ 2:50 PM (Saskatchewan time)