The Fourth Sunday in Lent
14 March 2021
Exodus 2: 1-10
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,* ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out* of the water.’
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
Luke 2: 33-35
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
God of love,
passionate and strong,
tender and careful:
watch over us and hold us
all the days of our life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Trying to celebrate Mothering Sunday still in lockdown is a challenge. I guess for many of us, our overwhelming emotion is one of sadness as we yearn to be with family, whether that is our church family or our own. We can take encouragement from Paul’s words describing “the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console” others. Maybe we can reach out to those who may be feeling this sadness even more acutely than ourselves.
Perhaps we can allow our imagination to help us enter more fully into our reading from the book of Exodus.
Pharaoh had realised that the number of Hebrew people who worked as slaves for him was growing. He was afraid that they would become so strong that they would become a danger to him. He commanded that all the baby boys who were born to the Hebrew women should be killed. We can imagine so many women desperately planning how their own babies could be saved.
We are told how Moses’ mother worked out how she could give her baby a chance. For three whole months she had been able to keep him secret but that time soon came to an end. We can imagine how her growing son was beginning to make quite a bit of noise. Secondly, he was getting too big to hide. She carefully covered a basket with tar to make it watertight so that it would provide a safe place for the baby by the riverside.
Moses’ parents already had a daughter, Miriam. Miriam had a dream that her mother would have another baby and that he would grow up to be someone who would work for God. Miriam was thrilled when her mother gave birth to a baby boy and vowed to take care of him always.
While her mother tucked Moses up into the basket, Miriam hid behind some trees so see what would happen. She was suddenly disturbed as she noticed a rather grand procession advancing towards the river. ‘It must be the princess; this was not part of the plan,’ she thought to herself. ‘If the princess discovers the baby, he will surely die. After all, it was her father, Pharaoh, who commanded that all the baby boys should be killed.’
Pharaoh’s daughter often came down to the river to bathe and that day came earlier than usual because the weather was so unbearably hot.
Miriam stood there, trembling in the bushes. She was amazed at what she saw. Sure enough the basket was soon discovered because baby Moses was crying so much. And when the basket was brought to the princess, the expression on her face changed.
The princess had been married for a long time and had no children. When she saw the baby in the basket and discovered it was a baby boy, she was thrilled. She could see how it might just be possible for her to adopt the baby.
But how could she do this? Just then Miriam emerged from the bushes and asked if she could help. She suggested she could call one of the Hebrew women to nurse him. The princess was delighted at this.
Meanwhile, Miriam rushed home, running as fast as she could. She shouted to her mother, ‘Mother, mother, come quickly, the princess has found the baby. Come and see if you can become his nurse.’
So along came Jochaved, gathering herself together, and Miriam duly presented her to the princess.
And so it happened that the baby was allowed to go home with his real mother, whom the princess had engaged as a nurse.
Later, as we heard, the princess adopted him and gave him a name. She gave him the name, Moses, which means, I pulled him out of the water’.
Each character had a part to play. First, there was Moses’ mother, Jochabed. She loved her baby so much, she had to do the very best she could for him, so she tucked him up in the basket and asked God to make sure he would be cared for.
Secondly, there was Moses’ sister, Miriam. She had a major part to play for she stayed with her baby brother. She had the courage to go forward to talk to Pharaoh’s daughter. She had an idea that she could fetch her mother to be the nurse for her brother.
And thirdly, there was the princess. She had pity on the baby. She wanted him to live. She wanted to love him and adopt him. She chose him as her own little boy.
Together, those three women enabled that child to live. I wonder if we can identify with them. We might have someone in our life who loves us so much and asks God to look after us. Maybe this is someone who prays for us.
There might be another who keeps an eye on us and who tries to make sure that we will be safe.
And finally, there might be one who has noticed us and wants the best for us and wants to protect us so much that we are adopted into their family.
Maybe you, yourself, are taking on one of those roles on someone else’s behalf.
Today, we thank God for our mothers and for all who are like mothers to us. We thank God for loving us so much that He has adopted us and called us His children so that we are part of His family too. Amen