Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labour. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.’
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.’
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Scripture Quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
By the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes, Vicar of St John's, Ranmoor.
One of the things that the lessons that I have taken from Black Lives Matter and the whole Windrush scandal is that it is important that we know our history. And not just the history of those in charge but the history of minorities. Those who peddle racism in this country often forget that many BAME people came to this country in response to a labour shortage in the post war era. In our first reading from Exodus, we have another example of the past being forgotten. A new pharaoh has come to the throne in Egypt and he knows nothing of the story of Joseph and of how the Israelites came to live in Egypt. And like many tyrants since then he decides to blame this minority for the ills of his nation and treats them as second class citizens.
But this story is not really about pharaoh. It’s about a group of remarkable, subversive women who find ways to fight the patriarchy. There are not that many stories about women in the Bible but this is one of the best. Too often, they are just given walk on parts and frequently they go unnamed. But in this story, we are told the names of some of the women involved and that that’s often a sign that people are doing something important.
The first two important women are Shiphrah and Puah. Like all midwives they have devoted themselves to bringing new life into the world. Pharaoh commanded them to kill every Hebrew boy that was born but they disobeyed him. Though pharaoh was thought of as a living deity and had absolute power, these women ignored his instructions and pretended that they never got to the births of the Israelite babies in time. The midwives feared God more than they feared pharaoh and God blessed them for their courage.
And then we have the story of Moses, one of those Hebrew boys. According to rabbinic literature, his mother’s name was Jochebed. And like any mother, she was tenacious in trying to preserve the life of her son. She hid him in that famous Moses basket in the reeds and set his older sister Miriam to keep an eye on him. And then pharaoh’s daughter came to the river to bathe. Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions give the princess many names. All three traditions bless her for preserving Moses’ life. She knew that he was a Hebrew baby. She knew that her father had ordered that such boys should be killed. But she used her limited power as a princess to save him. Moses’ sister Miriam was quick to make the most of the situation. She offered to go and find a wet nurse for the child. And so Moses’ mother ended up being paid to bring up her own child, something that many are still campaigning for today. Moses’ life was spared and he went on to lead the exodus, a defining event in Jewish history.
This story of seemingly powerless women subverting the system is an interesting contrast to our Gospel reading. Jesus asks the disciples who people say that he is. And they come up with a variety of responses. Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ And then Jesus asks the disciples who they say he is. And Peter comes straight back with the answer, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ He is right on the money. And Jesus praises him for his faith and insight. And he names Simon Peter, Peter, the rock on which he will build the church. And he gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
And part of us wants to say, hang on a minute, this is Peter. The one who keeps putting his foot in it. The one who will deny Jesus three times. He is the rock? Can that be right? A whole system of power and influence, money and buildings has been built on this rock. But I suspect that none of those things were in the minds of Jesus or of Peter when those words were first uttered. Jesus knew Peter’s shortcomings. He knew that Peter would let him down. But he also knew that Peter had moments of huge faith and would ultimately follow him to the cross, and it was on these things that the church was to be built. In many ways, Peter stands for all of us. We all have times of doubt, times when we let Jesus down. But like Peter we have moments too when the clouds seem to clear and faith suddenly comes alive and that’s enough for Jesus. He can work with that just as he worked with Peter.
Peter is a reminder that we are called, warts and all to follow Jesus. And use the gifts that we have been given in his service. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, exhorts us to present ourselves as living sacrifices. And warns us not to be conformed to this world. Not to live by its standards of racism or sexism or any other sort of ism. But to see ourselves as God sees us. With sober judgement. Paul warns us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. And too often those words have been used by the powerful to keep others in their places. Perhaps they should be addressed to some of the people who are currently in power who seem to have a sense of entitlement but perhaps lack the gifts they really need. That work of self-examination goes both ways. Some may need to develop a bit of humility while others may need a bit more self-confidence so that they can take their rightful place in the church and in the world. They need building up not taking down.
As Paul says, like the parts of the body, we all have different gifts. And it is important that each one of us uses those gifts to the full. If we only use the gifts of a few people we are disabled as a church, as a nation and as a planet. As a church, I hope that we can model a way of working in which all can use their gifts. Where those without power do not have to subvert the system as the women around Moses had to. And where those who have power, as Peter ultimately did, are allowed to express vulnerability and make mistakes. We are all members of the one body and all of us have a part to play. Amen.
Prepared by Barbara.
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations …
At this time of reception of exam results, we pray for all those involved in the grades debacle: the students, their parents and teachers, and the universities facing difficulties as a result. We pray for a good and wise outcome that supports all students in preparing for their future.
We pray for all those in leadership roles throughout the world, that they can find ways to lead their people out of these dark times to lives of peace, prosperity and good health. We pray that each one of us does our best to treat the world you have given us with all the love and good care that it deserves. Please help us to learn the best ways to achieve this.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for your Church throughout the world; guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life …
We pray especially for all those involved in preparing and leading worship within our mission area, including St Mark’s Broomhill, St John’s Ranmoor and St Mary’s Walkley. Please help us all to find safe ways to return to worship within our church buildings, as well continuing to worship together online. We know that there is no one right way to worship you – please help us to reach all of your family at this time of trouble and in the future.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles …
We pray for all those suffering from physical illness at this time, whether from covid-19 or from other causes. We pray also for all those suffering from mental distress at this time of great upheaval. Please bring them all your healing and comfort.
We pray for all those who are in financial trouble or who face losing their jobs or their homes. Please bring them your comfort too.
We pray also for all of those named to you in our hearts, knowing that you will know them and help them.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints. We pray that they have found their place in your heavenly kingdom. …
All this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is included in these prayers, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000