One of my favorite stories in all of Scripture is the story of the birth of Moses, as recorded in Exodus 1:8-2:10.
I love this story, not because of the baby of the bulrushes, but because of all who labored to let him live, and because of the surprising and mysterious providence of God, moving within and among and behind them all, to make a new beginning.
First, there are the two mid-wives, Shiprah and Puah, who defied the order of Pharaoh to kill Hebrew babies and made up a tall-tale about the vigor of Hebrew women who give birth before they, the mid-wives, could get there.
Then, there’s Miriam, Moses’ big sister, who’s sent to the river with her baby brother in a basket. Watching after him from a distance, Miriam thinks on her feet when Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby, and runs to fetch Moses’ own mother, to whom the child is returned, until he is ready to be weaned.
As for Pharaoh’s daughter….somehow she sees beyond her own prejudices and audaciously acts outside her father’s wishes to scoop up a Hebrew child, child of an enemy people, and make him her own.
Most astounding of all, to me, is Moses’ mother. After laboring to birth him, after desperately hiding him during the first few tender months of his life, after bonding with him, loving him, watching his first smile, after delighting in his wiggles and coos, after hearing his strengthening cries, Moses’ mother makes a courageous and anguishing move: She takes a papyrus basket, covers it with bitumen and pitch, tucks her cherished child in the basket, and gives him up. She relinquishes this precious child to the waters of the Nile, not knowing.
Not knowing that he would be returned to her.
Not knowing that he would be taken into Pharaoh’s household.
Not knowing that he would grow up to be the leader through whom God would deliver the Hebrews out of the house of slavery, into freedom and a land of promise.
Not knowing that her child would have a new beginning.
The God whose hand guided the actions of this remarkable cast of characters, shapes a future story, not only for Moses, but also for the Hebrew people. I love this story because of what it shows us and tells us about the God we know and worship in Jesus Christ, the God of new beginnings.
This favorite Scripture story came to mind as I was pondering a New Beginning for the churches of Elizabeth Presbytery. This fall, our congregations will have the opportunity to connect to the legacy of those who labor for LIFE, so God’s future story may be revealed. New Beginnings is a congregational assessment and discernment process designed to help congregations discover the future story that God is shaping, for them.
Congregations that choose to enter this process will look at the life they have labored to birth: the people and their gifts, the stories that have shaped who they are and what they love, the experiences that have defined their relationships with God and one another. And, they will look at the community around them: the context in which their ministry is held, the culture in which they swim, like the waters of the Nile.
And all they see, speak, and discover will be written down….like the papyrus basket, carefully prepare to provide safety and shelter for a vulnerable life. For each congregation, a report will be crafted to hold the stories that show and tell about those who labor, about those who watch and wait from a distance, about those whose lives are threatened and those who must look beyond their own prejudices to see the life they are meant to preserve. And then, like Moses’ mother, our bold and courageous congregations will relinquish this life for which they have labored, not knowing.
In a spirit of prayer, gathered with one another in conversation around the basket that holds their life…..they will look and listen for their future story …not knowing. Within, among, behind and beyond will be the Spirit of the living Christ, who has promised to be with us always.
- What will this New Beginnings process look like?
- What will it mean for your congregation to participate?
- How can you be a part of this initiative, whether or not your church needs a new beginning?
Follow the events link on this web-site to access an informational flyer and timeline of critical dates. Then, watch for the Come and See invitation that will be emailed and snail mailed to each of our congregations later this month. Meanwhile, you can learn more about the PCUSA’s New Beginnings process at http://whatisourfuturestory.com/
Blessings in every new beginning,