PHOOEY ON PHARAOH
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 1:8-22; Luke 15:11-24
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
Kermit the frog from Sesame Street sings the song. “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” One off verses reads:
It’s not easy being green,
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things,
And people tend to pass you over,
‘Cause you’re not standing out,
Like flashy sparkles in the water,
Or stars in the sky.
It’s not easy being a mom either. Often moms feel like they blend in until no one sees them and pass them over. Moms get frustrated, and in their frustrations they may say unusual things sometimes, things they don’t really mean like, “Look at the dirt on the back of your neck!” Now how can we do that? Then there are times they say things they don’t really mean like, “Stop acting like your father!”
It not easy being a mother. But they try their best to love us, protect us and give us life. Jesus recognized this when he said of the people of Jerusalem, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Matthew 23:37). This is a great image of the protecting, life-giving love of a mother.
Our Bible story today is about two women who helped mothers give life. They were called “midwives,” which in the original Hebrew language means “to help bear.” Their job and joy was to help new moms give life to their babies. These two women were named Shiphrah, whose name means “beautiful,” and Puah, whose name means “a fragrant blossom.”
The story is that there was a new king in Egypt when the Hebrew people were still there as slaves. This new king didn’t know the history of the Hebrews. He was afraid of them, so he made their life hard. Finally he ordered the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all the baby Hebrew boys.
Do you see what happens in people’s thinking when they act out of ignorance? Ignorance leads to fear, which leads to depression, which leads to violence. We see this same kind of progression many times in history and in our country and world today, especially between ethnic groups and religious traditions.
Please notice one more thing in this story. The king has no name in the story. He is not called King Henry or King George, or King David. He is referred to only by his title. The two women are named, Shiphrah and Puah. This is one way the writer of the story is telling us who he thinks is most important. It is the king who takes life away from others. It is Shiphrah and Puah who give life to others.
The king tells Shiphrah and Puah to kill the Hebrew baby boys. They believe they are to help give life and not take it away, so Shiphrah and Puah say, “Phooey on Pharaoh.” They refuse to do as the king commands.
I’m sure this was not an easy decision for them to make. They could easily have been killed for disobeying the king for not following a law of the nation. People from our own history, our own country believed certain laws took away people’s freedom instead of helping them to be free.
Shiphrah and Puah and others believed when there was a conflict between following God’s law and human law’s, following God’s law was more important. This kind of action is called civil disobedience, but it is really divine obedience. Shiphrah and Puah believed God gives life, and mothers give life, and that they too were to help give life.
On Friday it was reported that there was another school shooting where students were killed. We believe in schools, at all levels, and are places where we help each other give life, not take it away. Marion Wright Edelman was the President of the Children’s Defense Fund, points out that on an average eight children and teenagers are killed by gun violence every day in our country.
On this Mother’s Day, when we celebrate those wo give us life and help protect our lives, and we remember Shiphrah and Puah who had the courage to protect life, let us give life to others as well. Adults give life as teachers, doctors, nurses, police and firefighters. Yet children give life to others when they help around the house, are kind to a neighbor, smile at someone, encourage another person, pray for someone they know who is in need. No act is too small!
Right after the story of Shiphrah and Puah comes the story of the birth of Moses. The baby Moses was saved by the daughter of Pharaoh, one other woman who did not do want her own father (the Pharaoh) said, but gave life to a baby by protecting it. Shiphrah and Puah had a tremendous impact, on at least one other person, but a very important person in our life of faith.
In our New Testament Bible story today, Jesus tells a story of a father who has two sons. The younger son, probably a teenager or young adult, wants to feel his freedom and really live. He asks for his inheritance and then goes off to some place like Las Vegas and wastes it all. He’s a loser in several ways. But he decides to return home. His father doesn’t condemn him.
When children separate from parents in hurtful ways the temptation of the parent is to become reciprocal, to respond in the same way. However this father welcomes his lost son home. The son has gone to the far country looking for life, but in the end the father gives him life. The rest of the story is that the older brother is very angry that dad is so easy on the younger brother. The older brother is separating himself from the rest of the family. The dad invites him to new life, too.
Here we have two stories, one of two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, and one of a father and his two sons. Both stories help us to see the value of offering live to others. In both stories there were hard decisions. We have to make hard decisions all the time. If we have to make hard decisions about who to follow, follow the person who gives life.
Listen to the words of Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriela Mistral:
Many things can wait, the child cannot.
Right now is the time when his bones are being formed.
His blood is being formed.
His senses being developed.
To him we cannot answer tomorrow.
His name is today.
Today is the day for us adults to give life to our children, the children of the church, the children of the world.
Kermit the Frog ends his song with an attitude much more positive than at the beginning:
It’s not easy being green…
But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river
Or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I am green, and it’ll do fine
It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.
It’s not easy being a mom, but I hope each of you who is a mom will say phooey to everything that takes life away from anyone, and please know I think you are beautiful just the way you are.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH