Our Part in the Story, August 27, 2017
Our Part in the Story
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been telling the stories of our ancestors in the faith—great–great–great–great–great grandpa Abe and grandma Sarah, their kids Isaac and Rebekah, then the twins Jacob and Esau, and finally Jacob’s wives and kids. These were family stories for Israel, and they told the stories as if God were also a character in each story.
They probably told the story differently each time. That’s what happens with family stories. We do the same thing—we’ll tell a story, and each time we tell it, we put a slightly different spin on it, depending on the context in which we tell it.
It all begins with Abraham and Sarah being promised they’d have a baby when they were way too old to have kids, and how they laughed and named their son Yitschak, Laughter.
Then crazy old Abe was tested by God; he actually thought he was supposed to kill Isaac to satisfy God. I think he failed the test. Children are not meant to be sacrificed, not even in the name of religion.
There aren’t many stories about Isaac and Rebekah, so we went on to stories about their children Jacob and his older twin Esau.
We ended with the rags–to–riches story of Joseph. Exodus picks up the story with God’s people on the verge of slavery. It begins with a chilling line: “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.”
The new king is afraid. There are way too many of these Israelites. They could be a threat to us. So the king decided to make slaves of them. Unfortunately for him, the more they were oppressed, the more the Hebrews multiplied and spread. The Egyptians worked them harder and harder, but the Hebrews just kept having babies.
So the king comes up with a new plan. “Check the sex of the Hebrew baby,” he orders the midwives. “If it’s a boy, kill him. If it’s a girl, let her live.”
It’s a horrifying plan. The courageous midwives refuse. They defy the king. As a result, this story names these two women—which is highly unusual. They are Shiphrah and Puah. Notice that the king isn’t named.
Despite the king’s orders, Hebrew babies keep being born, and so the king calls them again. “Why do you defy me?”
“It’s not our fault, O mighty king. These Hebrew women aren’t like Egyptian women. They are chayyot—more vigorous, more lively. There is a surging power for life in these Hebrew women. The baby is born before we can even get there and we can’t do anything about it.”
Faithful people learn to tell some really creative lives in the midst of evil. God is powerfully present in this story. God motivates these midwives. God wants to birth a people, and God’s mothering purposes will prevail.
Shiphrah and Puah defied the king because they loved God. They aligned themselves with God’s will for life. It’s not heroism. It’s an act of faith. They tweaked the king’s nose, and remained faithful to God.
As a result, Moses is born and allowed to live. He ends up actually being raised by the king’s daughter, who finds him in the river. God has the last laugh, and it’s because of these two wonderful women, Shiphrah and Puah. They truly are midwives of hope.
Now, I want to pause a moment. We tell these stories to discern signs of God’s presence in the lives of God’s people.
I want to pause today, because today we’re doing something significant, something really important in the life of Christ Church. We are adding another chapter in the story of God’s people in this place. We are adding our own voices to this story we’ve been thinking about together.
In 1997, Christ Church told parts of our story in a booklet called A Century in God’s Light. These are wonderful stories of men and women and children who tried to be faithful to God’s ministry in this place. (There are still some copies available; feel free to take one.)
We began our life together in 1898. We were the first church built in Cranbrook, under the care of the congregation in Fort Steele. Over the years, priests came and went, and the congregation began to grow. From the very beginning, we understood that we are here to serve Cranbrook and the region in the name of God.
A Century in God’s Light tells the story of our first 100 years, often in the words of the people who were here. Some of them, like the folks in Genesis, were real characters. I know that, because some of those characters are still here!
A common theme which runs through our story is the vitality and joy people have discovered at Christ Church. That part of our story continues today. This is a place of welcome, vitality, joy and compassion.
Twenty years ago, our vision was that “Christ Church would be a growing, active congregation operating from an efficient, well–equipped facility.” So we expanded the church and added the hall to serve the wider community.
Three years ago, we began working on a new vision for Christ Church, in conjunction with the Diocesan stewardship campaign called Together in Mission. We began to dream about the ministry God has given to us. We dreamed of an expanded and enhanced ministry. Part of our dream was to add some staff —
—and so today, we commission Deb Saffin. We are building on our history, enhancing and enlarging our ministry as we seek to reach out in new ways to meet the needs of Christ Church and the needs of this parish of Cranbrook. We are reaching out, together in mission and ministry, to serve with vitality, vibrancy and joy.
We also have a new vision statement to guide us into God’s future: “Christ Church Anglican, a progressive, inclusive and vibrant community, follows Jesus compassionately and faithfully. All are welcome!”
Progressive. Vibrant. Compassionate. Faithful. Welcoming.
We seek to live out the gospel, and we add our own chapters to this story which began with great–great–great–great–great grandpa Abe and grandma Sarah. We tell the stories of our faith, and we see God at work with us, and through us, and within us, and among us.
And the wonder of it all … we get to work with God.
So today, for the ministry of Christ Church, thanks be to God.
Today, for the vocation which Deb Saffin has discerned, thanks be to God.
Today, for the life and work of all of us in this parish of Cranbrook, thanks be to God.
Today, for the life of God made manifest in us …
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
August 27, 2017 (12th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21)
Exodus 1: 8 – 2:10
Romans 12: 1–8
Matthew 16: 13–20