Collaboration with Pr. Sarah Schaaf
Let us pray, Gracious God, there is no shortage of fear in this world. Ground us in our purpose and remind us who you have created us to be as your beloved children. When life feels isolating, connect us with those who make us be courageous. When options seem limited, bless us with creativity to seek new solutions. Help us to glimpse your hand at work creating a future of hope and new life. This we pray in the name of Jesus, crucified and risen for the world. Amen.
When you think of the Book of Exodus, what biblical character quickly comes to mind? The obvious answer is Moses. The Book of Exodus tells the story of God and God’s deliverance of the Israelites through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. So, imagine trying to tell the Exodus story without God or without Moses. We tend to forget God’s promise to God’s people. You are mine, and I will never leave or forsake you.
Just as we tend to forget that Moses’ presence in the story wasn’t guaranteed. Moses grew to lead God’s people because his life was protected by God, primarily through the initiative of women. There was Jochebed, Moses’ mother, who refused to let her child be slaughtered. There was Miriam, Moses’ sister, who watched his floating basket from a distance and presented Moses’ own mother to Pharaoh’s daughter to be his wet nurse. There is Pharaoh’s daughter, the Egyptian princess, who takes this child, who she knows to be a Hebrew boy; yet raises him under the roof of her father, the man who demanded that all the Hebrew boys be killed. But these women are not where the story of Moses begins. The story of Moses begins with 2 midwives. 2 midwives named, Shiphrah and Puah.
Now, I do not believe that Shiphrah and Puah knew that they were delivering Moses, who in turn, will be sent by God to deliver God’s people. I simply believe that Shiphrah and Puah knew… they knew that they were midwives. Midwives nurture life. They protect hope and help it to be born into the world. They do this even when it is dangerous, and when the days are desperate and dark. They are in the business of new life. And they do it because it is who they are. It is their purpose and it is their calling by God.
When I don’t know what to do, but I know I need to do something, I find company. I find a story from scripture that I can dwell in. I keep fellowship with its characters and let them remind me of my own God given purpose.
Shiphrah and Puah are great company for a time such as this. There are 2 of them, so you can nestle yourself right in the middle. Let these 2 courageous women flank you on both sides. They will remind you that it is easier to be courageous together. Shiphrah is never mentioned without Puah. Puah is never mentioned without Shiphrah. They are a team. They work together to bring life into the world, and they work together to protect it from Pharaoh. I suspect they were frightened. I am sure they knew how powerful and dangerous Pharaoh was. Their knees may well have been knocking under their cloaks when he commanded them to kill all the baby boys. But there they stood. 2 of them. Together. Shiphrah and Puah remind us that we don’t have to be courageous alone.
So, who is your Shiphrah? And who is your Puah?
Who makes you brave? And who can you help to be courageous?
What might you be able to do when you face challenges together?
The other gift of company is that it gives us someone to conspire with. I mean conspire in the best sense of the word. “Con” means “with” or “together” and “spire” mean breath. Shiphrah and Puah breathed together. And they are well practiced in the art of taking deep breaths. After all, they helped women give birth. Inhale…exhale…breathe… inhale…exhale…breathe! It was Shiphrah and Puah’s job to help others see past their pain, to embrace the new hope and the new life that is striving to be. Inhale… exhale… breathe… inhale… exhale… breathe!
So, what is your purpose?
What hope is worth struggling for?
How do you practice breathing when doing the right thing is so frightening?
Together, Shiphrah and Puah conspired to protect the Hebrew baby boys. And as you may well imagine, Pharaoh is not pleased. He summons the 2 midwives and demands to know, “Why have you allowed these boys to live?” Shiphrah and Puah tell Pharaoh “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. The Hebrew women are vigorous and strong. They give birth before the midwives comes to them.”
Pharaoh departs to plot other ways to destroy the children of God. Shiphrah and Puah do not bend to fear, but they are also savvy enough to negotiate with the powers of the day and survive. Because they still have work to do. New life depends on them. The Bible tells us, “God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families”.
How might we fulfill our purpose in creative ways?
What are the powers that seek to destroy and need to be opposed?
What is there for us to do in what may very well be our finest hour?
After this reference in Exodus, Shiphrah and Puah are never heard from again. They didn’t witness Moses grow from a baby, to a boy, to a man. They didn’t wander with him through the wilderness. They never got to see the Promised Land. They could not have imagined what the Holy Spirit would accomplish through their actions. Just as we cannot imagine what the Holy Spirit might do through our actions.
What we can do, is place ourselves in the company of Shiphrah and Puah and let them encourage us be courageous. Let them remind us of our purpose, bind us to each other, and call us to conspire to bring new life into the world knowing, as all faithful midwives do, that God is at work beyond what we can ever imagine.
So may the hearts and the hands of the midwives strengthen your hearts and your hands, knowing now and forever that you are held in the precious hands of Jesus. The Crucified and Risen One. Jesus, the deliverer of hope and the bearer of all that is new. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.