August 24, 2014 Reflection by Beth Baskin
The secret of bringing life into the world
Theme: midwives, & parents in all their forms
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts reveal the truth of God for us in this place and time.
Full disclosure, this is not a carefully exegeted sermon, the form of which I was taught in theological school. This is not a sermon my homiletics professor would hold up as a model for systemic theology. This is a reflection on a passage that spoke to me and begged to have some truths told.
The opinions voiced in this are mine coming out of life experience, quiet time, prayer and reflection which I believe hold some truths that can guide those of us who call ourselves people of faith.
I grew up in the church we had the Golden Bible for Children at our house, lots of Arch books with Bible stories and particularly a few pop-up books that I remember well. I have clear visuals via 1970′s illustrations of a papyrus basket resting in the weeds and a big sister standing guard.
I am a big sister. That is a responsibility I took pretty seriously as a child and can certainly picture myself standing in wait to see what would happen to my brother and being the very helpful child to the Pharaoh’s daughter. The part I have trouble with is the secrecy beforehand.
I am the child who fainted in grade 1 when I lied about writing notes in school. Even now I have to put presents away if I purchase them early and work really hard to forget about them, so I do no share my excitement with there person it is for.
Today’s stories are about lies and secrecy. Shiprah and Puah, two women from the Bible whose names we actually know had to lie to the authorities to maintain their personal integrity as midwives. Midwives bring children into the world, they accompany women in the joy and agony of birth and yes, that sometimes sadly ends in death, but midwives do not cause death.
They took advantage of the Egyptians hands off approach to the Israelites and claimed these oppressed people were different, simply stronger and faster in the birthing process. Their lies provided the possibility for new life and hope.
The gospel, is a simple, short piece that deserves more context and unpacking than I am giving it today. Jesus is discussing how he is seen and understood by the people. He then asks who his disciples understand him to be. When they get it right he swears them secrecy.
Both in the gospel and in Exodus secrets are to be kept so that something else can take place later. We know the stories of Moses and Jesus and how their lives are still be talked about thousands of years later.
Let’s go back to the midwives, Miriam and her mother. Not only were the midwives motivated by personal integrity they probably did their work because their mothers before them had and they were raised with a love of life and commitment to their community. We know little about Miriam & Moses’ mother, but can surmise that she too was a deeply loving parent and community member. She wanted her son to live and through him her dreams and hopes for the future would flourish. At it’s heart both the Exodus and Matthew readings are about commitment to community beyond family, even beyond the circle of 12 disciples.
They are stories about how we are all called to be midwives and parents.
As an oldest child and now a parent I have a certain resonance with this story that is certainly not the same for others. I would suggest that regardless of our relationship to children through biology, marriage, chosen family, or extended community most adults see themselves as sharers of stories, as teachers of traditions, as molders of the next generation.
We might do this in hands off ways through writing blogs, or posting our views on the internet to be found by others. We might do this in incredibly close and intense ways by taking grandchildren on trips or extended visits in our homes. We might do it through interactions at church or in other communities. Sometimes our interactions are intentional like volunteering in a youth oriented program and sometimes they are accidental triggered by an incident on the street.
When are we like Miriam? When do we linger in the bullrushes watching to see what might happen and how what we know can be used to good?
When are we like Shiprah and Puah? When are we called into the midst of a situation, but unable to tell the truth about what is taking place?
When are we like Moses and Miriam’s mother? When do we bide our time, protect our resources and then take the risk of the next unknown step?
When are we like the disciples? When do we recognize the truth, but are forbidden to share it?
I leave these questions for us to ponder and seek answers.
As the mother of a candidate for mayor I have been asked the question “You must be so proud?” more times than I can count. [For those you who don't know our 19 year old daughter Morgan Baskin is running for Mayor of Toronto.]
My answer has invariably been yes, but I can not take all the credit. My answer is not about modesty, it is about reality. The reality of an extended family through biology and marriage, a chosen family that shares interests and passions but reflects a variety of approaches and opinions, a church community that lives diversity and justice in ways that a nuclear family never could and a Scouting community that fosters leadership and expects independence and responsibility. Morgan was expected to take in information, process it, make choices and then take action. She realized that if youth were not being taken seriously and included in the municipal conversations and that bothered her, then she better find a way to get her voice into the conversation. This is a concrete example of one young person who is part of this community and in whom many of you can take pride.
I have focused on the younger generation and the clear relationship between parents and midwives to that generation, however as I draw this reflection to conclusion I invite us to expand the definition of midwifery and the notion of parenting.
As a community of faith we hold at our core a belief in God beyond ourselves and responsibility to this world and this community that reflects some pretty clear values. We have at times been a bit like the disciples and hidden the truth or rather chosen the right time to reveal the truth by welcoming people or events that were outside the excepted societal norm. This includes American draft dodgers and war resisters, and gay tea dances to name a few. We been midwives to new ventures that weren’t always understood or welcomed like Metropolitan Community Church, Trinity home hospice, Mary Lambert Swale and John Frank Non-profit homes.
I wonder who we are as a community right now.
We support individuals doing incredible things like supporting class action suits against the government for ill treatment in institutions. We walk with those in greif and illness, we celebrate new life, we continue to be a community of faith with one another and with those on our doorstep.
However I feel like that as a community we are a bit like Miriam. We are waiting to see what might happen. We are not quite sure what the next steps will look like or where they are to be taken.
These stories call us to wonder. To seek the places where we might reveal the truth, and give life to something that we cannot even ask or imagine.
Thanks be to God!