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Moms and Sacrifices - Rev. Martha J. Lockwood

Doing What a Mom Needs to Do                                  Exodus 1: 22-2:10  CUW  March 3, 2024

 

The American humourist Erma Bombeck wrote;

For the first 4 or 5 years after I had children, I considered motherhood a temporary condition -- not a calling. It was a time of my life set aside for exhaustion and long hours. It would pass. Then one afternoon, with 3 kids in tow, I came out of a supermarket pushing a cart (with four wheels that went in opposite directions) when my toddler son got away from me. Just outside the door, he ran toward a machine holding bubble gum in a glass dome. In a voice that shattered glass he shouted, "Gimme! Gimme!" I told him I would give him what for if he didn’t stop shouting and get in the car.

As I physically tried to pry his body from around the bubble gum machine, he pulled the entire thing over. Glass and balls of bubble gum went all over the parking lot. We had now attracted a sizable crowd. I told him he would never see a cartoon as long as he lived, and if he didn’t control his temper, he was going to be making license plates for the state. He tried to stifle his sobs as he looked around at the staring crowd. Then he did something that I was to remember for the rest of my life. In his helpless quest for comfort, he turned to the only one he trusted his emotions with -- me. He threw his arms around my knees and held on for dear life. I had humiliated him, chastised him, and berated him, but I was still all he had.

That single incident defined my role. I was a major force in this child’s life. Sometimes we forget how important stability is to a child. I’ve always told mine, "The easiest part of being a mother is giving birth.... the hardest part is showing up for it each day..."

 

 

Now, imagine you are three years old. Take yourself back to when you were that little.  And if something went wrong - if you have just hurt yourself? Or if you are scared? Who do you run to? Most of you would have run to your Mom and she would make it all better.

During the scariest times of Covid, even though we are adults - there was a bit inside each of us that was still three years old and in those crisis times we wanted to run to our Mom and she’ll give us a hug and make it all better…. Even those who might have had poor relationships with your mothers, you probably still had a longing to run up to someone whose hug will make it all better.

 

Today we look at a Mom’s sacrifice as read from the book of Exodus, and the other Mother-types that were also present.

 

(1) Moses’s birth mother

Moses’s mum – we find out later her name was Jochebed- gives birth to her boy – an occassion that brings much joy into a home. It ought to be a time when she can celebrate with her friends and have them all come round and coo. BUT NOT AT THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY.  A genocidal dictator has decreed that all Hebrew male babies are to be killed at birth. She has to hide the fact that she is pregnant - self isolating for nine months? And then for another three months - she keeps the babies existence a secret to all outside her home.  Then comes the time when she can hide little Moses no longer and shows the ultimate mother’s love - she gives up her little baby so he may live.

 

During World War II, Jewish mothers packed their children onto the kinder transport knowing they would never see them again - to keep them safe. Approximately 10.000 children were relocated to Great Britain and their lives were saved.   In most wars, mothers have had to do the same thing.  Can you imagine?

During the pandemic we experienced another type of separation for the sake of safety.  I remember some very moving photos of elderly (grand)mothers in a care home holding up sheets of paper with messages for their families. One said “looking forward to seeing you through the window on Sunday. All the messages expressed a deep sense of longing for the family members it was not safe to see - yet all the women were smiling.

 

Jochebed sets for us an example that tears at the heart. The sacrifices most of us have made are far less than what she did when she placed baby Moses in the little reed basket in the Nile. We made sacrifices by staying at home. We kept our elderly neighbours safe. And while it hurt not to be able to gather to see family – it did not hurt as much as that New York family who had a large gathering for most of their extended family.  In spite of warnings most got Covid and three died as a result of selfishness.

 

Jochebed knew her sacrifice would have a long term benefit.  Her baby would live and have a chance to grow into a man.  Most of you know that I am adopted and found out I was adopted at the age of 25 and then within the year knew who my biological parents were.  After the shock had worn off, and I had time to reflect on all parties of the situation, I realized my biological mother had sacrificed raising her own child, knowing that I would have a more stable and enriched life with Clarence and Alice.  And while my parents always wanted a second child, they sacrificed their empty nest stage of life as Mom and Dad were 40 and 47 when I came into their lives.  All this sacrifice and unselfishness certainly made my life better.  Jochobed knew her son would not be executed, but also that he would have a life of abundance that would ultimately achieve the freedom of the Israelites under the tyranny of the Egyptians.  Sacrifice brought tremendous value.

Another mother figure in this story is Moses’ older sister Miriam. We don’t know how old she was, but she was young enough that it was obviously not her baby. If Jochebed had been hiding, watching Moses’ fate,  it might have raised suspicions for a woman of child baring age  to be in the vicinity of an abandoned baby when Pharaoh's daughter showed up. So Miriam was probably about ten. Can you imagine what it would be like for a ten year old to have to step up to save their sibling’s life? The birth mum cannot help so the baby’s big sister has to step up in a maternal way to save her baby brother’s life.

 

There are many examples of young care-givers today in Canada. Children, out of necessity having to step up and act like mothers.

Sometimes it is because of economic factors or a seriously ill parent when there are younger siblings.  I think that like Moses’s sister we sometimes have to step up and do things we don’t feel equipped to do. 

 

It was late August 2019, and Saturday morning in the Walenga household was off to its typical All-American start. Kristen Walenga sent her husband off to work and geared up for her team mom duties as she made breakfast for her four children. Her daughter Rose, 14, got ready upstairs for cheerleading pictures and her youngest sons, Sam, 11, and Nate, 9, ran around outside to burn some energy before their youth football game.

The family’s eldest child, Eddie, 15, was in the basement playing video games when he heard a loud crash coming from the kitchen above him, followed by screams for help from his younger brothers who had just come inside. Then the family pet, a certified therapy dog, started howling. That’s when Eddie realized this wasn’t a typical Saturday at all.

He raced up the basement stairs to find his mom in a heap on the floor, and his two little brothers standing there in disbelief. At first, they thought their mother was just playing around.

Eddie, who had taken a Hands-Only CPR class a few years earlier in middle school, quickly realized his mom wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. His training immediately kicked in and he began chest compressions while little Nate ran to get help from a neighbor. The neighbor’s son, who happened to be visiting, was a former Army medic and ran straight for the Walenga’s kitchen where he found Eddie performing CPR like a champ.

In the midst of the chaos, Sam had the presence of mind to call 911. Paramedics arrived, continued CPR and administered four AED shocks. They got a pulse and transported Kristen to the hospital where, a couple of days later, they removed her from a ventilator. She woke up from a medically-induced coma with an internal defibrillator firmly implanted in her heart at the age of 45.

“So I had a sudden cardiac arrest,” Kristen says. “They were not able to find any reason for it. It’s ‘idiopathic,’ or unexplained. Their best guess is that it was stress induced. I was a full-time teacher, the school year had just started. We’re a very busy family, and I had been working a ton that week.”

Later, one of the paramedics told Kristen that she was very fortunate. “He said that I had so many good things fall into place. Of course, one being a ‘witnessed’ cardiac arrest. Two, having someone at home who could start CPR within a minute or two.”

There are times when God calls us to do things beyond our day to day routine, and when we answer you can count on God being there with us.

The third mother in the story is Pharaoh's daughter. Perhaps she was 17 or 18 years old. Young enough not to have her own baby - but old enough to look at a baby and know she had to protect him. “She opened it and saw the child—a baby crying! Her heart went out to him.”

She is no biological relative of Moses’s . Some of us were raised by our aunts or grandmas or sisters while your parents had to work.  And it’s amazing the love they showed you. But they were still your relative. Pharaoh's daughter is not related to Moses. Yet she steps in to adopt him. She shows that mothering someone has nothing to do with biology. She understands the great evil that goes along with committing genocide, especially when it includes killing babies.   Pharaoh's daughter breaks that cycle of evil. She says “This must be one of the Hebrew’s babies”  Like an ancient Schindler she saves a life who would have died.

 

In the bible the truest family relationships are not formed by genetics but by love. On the cross Jesus starts a new family saying to his mother “behold your son” as he places her in John’s care - and to John “Behold your mother”. Theologians see that as the start of the Church, a new family formed not by blood ties but the blood of Jesus, not by genetics but by love.  Pharaoh's daughter’s adoption of this Hebrew baby was an act of love and an example of God’s plan for Moses being fulfilled in an unexpected way.  She too, embodied a Mother’s love.

 

 

 

I began today by asking you to imagine yourself back to when you were three and you were desperate for someone to give you a hug and make it all better. For most of us, our Moms and Dads have passed from this life into the next. 

But the good news is that there is still one who can hug you and make it all better. The bible describes God as the Mother who will take you in his arms and comfort you. However tough it feels at the moment, he will make it all better.

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