John Bell, the worship guru for the Church of Scotland, tells of being part of a worship weekend at a prestigious church in England. In the morning the scripture reading was from Exodus 1: 7- 14 – basically telling of the death of Joseph and his brothers, the rise of their descendants and the harsh treatment they received at the hands of the new Pharaoh who neither knew nor cared about Joseph, the hero of old.
That evening, the scripture reading continued with Exodus chapter 2: 11 “One day, when Moses had grown up… Wow, where did Moses come from and how did he grow up?
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, Jochebed, 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.
Audacious Women and other heroes: (part 2)
“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 stories 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
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. The song mentions Rahab? Anyone know her story? (It’s found in the book of Joshua. She was a prostitute in Jericho and sheltered Hebrew spies – hiding them and helping them escape.)
And Esther? Look up the whole book of Esther if you haven’t read it yet.
Geoffrey Wilfong- Pritchard of St. Andrews U.C. Edmonton wrote in a previous 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. I was on a houseboat last week and had four Trump-free days, and I felt much more relaxed until I got home and resumed my waking up to the international news and the latest bit of saber rattling between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Last weekend at Roots and Blues we heard wonderful women composers. Music from the margins has great power to inspire and inform. One woman named Irish Mythen told a story and sang for us. Her voice could blow the doors of the church!
She told a story of meeting the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and, against all protocol, asked him why a tiny town in Ireland had welcomed more Syrian refugees than all of Australia. When it was time to sing, she scrapped the carefully vetted prepared politically polite song and sang instead a powerful song about welcoming refugees called, “Let Them In.”
Where else do we find hope in the margins? 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.
The mayors of American cities who declare their cities as sanctuaries. The Black American pastors who are asking for a `Black out’ of American football, until a black football player is no longer snubbed for silently protesting the state of the American society by not removing his hat/standing for the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick | #BlackOutNFL
The women and men who show up at Alt Right gatherings and say, `We will not let you divide us’, those who gather together even in post Isis attacked cities to say you will not turn us against our Muslim neighbours and drive them in to your arms. Our hope 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, continuing to purchase Fair trade Palestinian olive products, and working together on the Celebrating Shuswap Diversity Community Harvest supper and Cultural connections on Sept. 30th.
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.
What audacious thing might God be asking you to do?