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I was in the room when my niece was born. That is my primary experience of childbirth in real life, and it seems like enough. Here’s what I know then about childbirth: it comes with pain, struggle, it is difficult, and can take anywhere from a long time to a really long time. I can also be Joy filled, fulfilling, wondrous that, if all goes well, a life never existed before is breathing and the world will never be the same.
Hospitals always seem a little clinical. A little sterile, a little cold. Even as hospitals are trying to make their birthing sections as modern and comfortable and soothing as possible.
The work of a midwife always seemed spiritual this holistic calling forth of life and hope until the world where there have been pain and uncertainty. Like they aren’t delivering a baby but ushering new life into the world.
I’m not sure if this is the dichotomy that Pharaoh understand birthing has or if it’s really a dichotomy at all. But he probably didn’t understand much about childbirth and as he was probably not there at the birth of any of his children. He is so disconnected from the birthing experience and clearly his whole family that later on in the story his daughter is going to show up with this baby and claim it as hers and apparently no one is going to question that.
It seems Pharaoh would have had a single focus and that was his power of having power of keeping power of increasing power. Was a time of Empires someone was always at your borders waiting to take from you what you or your ancestors had clearly taken from someone else. It can make the powerful self-focused and self-absorbed and maintaining what they have and it can make one mad seem dangerous at every corner from inside the nation and far away.
When I was preparing and reading I came across this quote, and as it sometimes happens I forgot who said it but I thought it was fitting as did the brighter of who put it in there commentary. Anyway the quote “fear leads to anger and anger leads to hatred and hatred leads to suffering.” **And I thought that’s real good and it’s Yoda it was it was Yoda who said that.
But it seems fitting such fear and hatred would lead to the suffering of everyone around pharaoh. It led to the suffering of the Hebrew people in Egypt it isolated them marginalized them villainized them and exploited them. Pharaoh thought he could break their spirits and destroy their hope and yet life prevailed. Their numbers grew they continue to have children as children and birth is life and hope and Future.
So Pharaoh called the midwives to do the irrational act of killing the infant boys. Irrational because the daughters are the ones who carry the children and the men with his primary source of physical labor in his cities.
Shiphrah and Puah have one job to do, to usher in and care for life. When they were faced with this terrible option they did not. They chose no.
We don’t know if there was any doubt in their minds. We don’t know if at the first birth each arrived at gave them pause, if they were a relieved when the baby was a girl or if they hesitated when it was a boy. Or we don’t know if they never doubt it never hesitated never flinched Dash they knew what they would do and they would do what they were called to. They assured in life.
When call before Pharaoh again they told half truths about how strong the women were and whole lives about how they had never made it there.
As far as we can tell this was the first Act of civil disobedience in the Bible.
And the decades following Jesus death and Resurrection Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome and advise them on how to live in the midst of an Empire. He advised them to follow the laws of the empire for all authority comes from God. And this is often taught as the ideal way for Christians to live in the midst of empire. Yet, in every time and every era we can see how this can be dangerous. Of dangerous people usually men claiming the authority of God to keep their power in place to keep the oppressed under rule.
So we have to remember is written for a time and a place a particular group of people. That much of scripture is the prophets calling out the powerful when they don’t care for the people who are without power access or food or resources or hope or future. But the prophet calls us to do justice, love mercy, and to love god. And that throughout the centuries of scripture and throughout our understanding since then has been an ever- expanding, the full humanity and life and hope for all for people when we are at our best and when we are at our worst it is taken away, when we live out fear, and bring suffering to others.
The Midwives led nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of a violent power.
The last hundred years non-violent Mass campaigns have seen a hundred times increase because they’ve increasingly been seen as legitimate and effective, because technology has made it easier and the market for violence has dried up and are expanding expectation of full humanity and rights for all people and discomfort for authoritarian. This understanding has grown on each generation each event each success and each failure.
William Thoreau in disgust of slavery and the Mexican American War wrote civil disobedience and how individuals can and ought to respond to a government failing. That essay read by Gandhi inspired the salt marches of marching of walking 240 miles in opposition to English rule in India. Mahatma Gandhi met with Rev Dr Howard Thurman who was a teacher and friend of Reverend Dr King and Gandhi’s work in India became an influence of the Civil Rights Movement of sit-ins and the Montgomery Bus boycotts, influencing generations to come around the world.
Rosa Parks of the Montgomery Bus boycotts later in her life would say quote people always say that I did not give up my seat because I was tired but it isn’t true I was not tired physically or no more than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have imagined me being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
From the Soviet Union to South Africa, from New Zealand to Iran, from singing revolutions dying in the streets, from celebrated successes to lessons from less successful, non-violence Civil Disobedience as a way of bringing change in the face of power that wield suffering and violence.
We don’t always get called before the powerful where they tell us and no uncertain terms the injustice and evil that they are going to do, or ask all of us to do. We are still called by the prophets to see the places where injustice exists, where folks are being treated less than human, where the well-being of and care of people is being contracted instead of expanded, where there is less love, less kindness, less compassion, less resources available to some systemically than there are for others.
And then we are called by the prophets by God by follow as followers of Christ to do something about it and there is always something any of us can do. No matter our age–how young how old, how physically capable–there is always some way to do something.
When you see Injustice you can learn all that you can and teach others. Are you going to show up at meetings at Gatherings and connect with other people you can say something in the face of injustice. You can vote and use the gifts and skills and talents you already have.
I found a list of 26 types of activism and I just want to tell you that my favorite is this one called craftivism where you use your crafts to make statements because it just sounds like fun.
There is something for everyone. To gather to learn to show up and to Make spaces safe for everyone for everyone to live whole and abundant lives.
And just some things locally just be aware of ways to learn more and just show up and to say something. Our public libraries in Waukesha County are some of them are being closed some of them are losing staff or having huge fights over whether or not certain books should be available just in case it’s the wrong person runs across them. It has been seen as easier or better to close the public library a place for people to gather to rest to read and to use the internet for job searches, for education, or for taxes that it is to have to be Discerning of their children’s book selection or to be uncomfortable with something they see. Which is really about making a Space safe for a group of people while not allowing the full stories of another to be available which is only funny in a real sad way as we deny safe places for LGBT kids in their public schools because everywhere should be a safe place. And it’s not. And by taking things away from an LGBT community of students just makes it seem like to others that their voices their stories their places in the school don’t matter and makes them available makes it seem okay to bully to abuse them. Or education that denies race and racism and the shameful history of a nation of a people it denies the stories the history the successes and the abuse it makes it so there is no way to make reconciliation or to make change if you think everything you teach has been good all along. There’s ways for us to show up at Civic meetings at school board meeting to write letters to the paper or is a public officials to say something to teach others to Make spaces safe to make education and resources available to be people of reconciliation and honesty and of expanding love and the face of fear that brings suffering.
We are called to bring more Justice more love more hope more joy more abundance into this world. And sometimes that means that we say no. We say no to Injustice, no to fear, no to hatred, no to suffering, no to abuse, no to Contracting of Rights and resources and spaces.
Means they say yes to love and joy and abundance and hope and life we be bearers and ushers of life and hope and future for everyone. And in those ways we can change the world or are part of the world are part of our communities our neighborhoods and the lives of our neighbors.