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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 21, Year A
Baptism of Ben Rylan Philps
South Sydney Uniting Church
August 21, 2011

Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

‘A story about us’

In our Gospel, Jesus blesses Simon Peter and gives him “the keys to the reign of heaven” … Peter, by faith, has seen that Jesus is a leader/ruler (Christ) who is also in a special/close relationship with God (Firstborn of the Living God). Giving Peter the “keys” means that Peter is able to unlock the mysteries of the Scriptures. So let’s imagine that Peter is telling us the story of the baby Moses ... It’s a story about us, and the invitation for us to help make the world a place where everyone can live in freedom and peace …

The story takes place in Egypt …

A new king of Egypt (called a Pharaoh) was worried that the people of Israel/Jacob had grown too numerous and might take over his kingdom, so the Pharaoh ordered that the Israelites were to work as slaves, building whole new cities for him. The Egyptians were cruel towards these slaves but despite the cruelty, the number of Israelite people continued to grow.

The Pharaoh was angry. He called in a couple of the Israelite women who helped other Israelite women when they were having babies (they were called midwives). Their names were SHIPHRAH and PUAH [good names for Heidi and Mark to remember]. The Pharoah ordered SHIPHRAH and PUAH to kill all the boy babies and only let the girl babies live. When the two women were alone they talked together.

SHIPHRAH: There’s no way that I am going to do what the Pharaoh wants.

PUAH: Nor me! God teaches us that all life is precious. No, we’ll keep quiet about this and let the boys live.

Well, the Pharaoh was not too happy about this and he asked the midwives why they let the baby boys live. They told the Pharaoh that the Israelite women had their babies before they were able to get there to help. And so, the Israelite population kept growing.

Then the Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians to do something really dreadful – they were to throw every Israelite baby boy into the river Nile so that they would be drowned.

One of the Israelite women gave birth to a fine baby boy and so that he would not be drowned in the river, she hid him until he was three months old. When she could hide him no longer, she got a basket and she plastered all the outside with bitumen and pitch to make it waterproof.

MOTHER [calls out to her daughter]: Miriam! Miriam, it breaks my heart to do this to your baby brother – watch over him and make sure that the basket floats and no harm comes to him in the river.

Miriam watched the basket containing her baby brother floating in the river. While she watched, she saw the Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants approach – the princess had come to the river to bathe in it, right where the basket and the baby were. She saw the basket and opened it.

PRINCESS: This must be one of the Israelite babies. He’s so beautiful. Oh, we can’t let him die. If I could only have him …

MIRIAM [steps forward]: I could go get a nurse for you from among the Israelite women –

PRINCESS: Yes, what a good idea. Go quickly!

So Miriam rushed home and called her own mother, telling her breathlessly what had happened. She pulled her mother along with her back to the river where the Pharaoh’s daughter waited with the baby.

PRINCESS [to the MOTHER]: I’ll pay you to take this child and nurse him for me.

The baby’s mother could not believe it – she was going to be paid for looking after her own baby! When the child was a little older she brought him to the Pharaoh’s daughter who took him as her own son. She called him Moses because she drew him out of the water.

God surely worked through all these women to save Moses. With which of the women do you most closely identify? …

… And remember, Moses’ sister, Miriam, was only a child. Sometimes when we are young, we might think that we are not important enough for God to use us in any way. But everyone – no matter how young or how old, or whether one is a girl or a boy, a woman or a man – every single person is important in God’s eyes. We don’t even have to know what God’s plans are. We just have to believe that God can use us in ways that might seem small at the time, but may be part of God’s plan to make the world a place where everyone can live in freedom and peace. Moses went on to become a very great leader of his people, and with God’s help, led his people to freedom from the cruelty of the Egyptians.

The Apostle Paul writes, that just as Jesus offers himself in faith and love (the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the baptism that is his death and resurrection), we are to offer our selves and our lives to each other for God’s sake.

Simon Peter, with the keys to the reign of heaven, would have us say: “I am important to God and willing to be used by God.”

ALL: I am important to God and willing to be used by God. Amen.

[Dramatic script by Moira Laidlaw.]