I find it very difficult to move beyond the first line of our readings.
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
There is so much wrapped up in that. Injustice and grief. We have been deeply within the story of Joseph for some weeks now in our Sunday readings.
Joseph, the favourite child (which is annoying) but whose siblings picked on him so badly that they actually sold him to slave traders and told their father he’d died. The first part of that kind of sounds like a joke… Do you remember that time we sold our little brother on ebay.
We used to have a Pharaoh in Egypt who had good relations with neighbouring and migrant people, the Israelites.
And much of this goodwill was based on the work of Joseph, that boy who was sold into Egypt and made a new life for himself, became a trusted member of the government administration, who led wisely from his position of government responsibility.
Who was so magnanimous that he forgave his brothers.
Most of us do eventually forgive our siblings.
And yet things changed.
So much so that the new Egyptian leadership saw the Israelite people, the descendents of Jacob, as threats and moved against them. Actually moved against the most vulnerable members of their community. The pregnant women and newborn babies.
This seems unfathomable to us today, here in Grafton.
That pregnant women, in their time of birthing, were not safe, that their children were stolen.
As Australians we do know some of this grief from our history of the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents.
Last week I stood amongst Vietnam Veterans at the
50th Anniversary withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam and the Cessation of Conscription.
And we remembered the time in history when conscription was law and young men were taken from their families to fight in a war.
And we live in a world today where families running for safety, seeking asylum, are separated from other family members.
We have heard the grief, the cries of women and children and men.
In my ministry in schools, I have met many young people who in our very own diocese who have lived in refugee camps and found their way to asylum in Australia.
So its not far from many of our experiences to understand the depth of the grief of Moses’ mother and her generation of birthing women as they were under threat.
I’ve heard said that when we watch the news or hear stories from history of terrible things happening, and it feels heavy to watch and remember and grieve,
I’ve heard it said when all about looks overwhelmingly bad, look for the helpers.
Look for the helpers in Moses’ story.
They're there. There’s the women. The subversive women. The midwives, so important in the text that we are given their names,
Shiphrah and Puah.
The daughter of the Pharoah.
And the sister of Moses,
The one who ran and got Moses’s mother to be the nurse for baby Moses.
whom we later find is named Miriam and revered as a prophet in her own right.
These are the helpers.
I had a phone call this last week from a young woman I used to teach.
She grew up as a carer in her family,
She has a younger brother with Autism who is non-verbal, and a father with a very slowly progressing form of Motor Neurone Disease, also non-verbal.
Her life as a young person was different to many of her peers.
She spent much of her time as a carer.
And she now works for an organisation called Little Dreamers which has funding to support children and young people who are carers in their families.
She grew up around need and surrounded by the values of the bible and now she is a helper herself to others.
The Theologian Frederick Buechner has said that vocation is when we take what we are good at and use it for the love and service of the world.
Frederick Buechner — 'Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.'
Like Midwives, who use their positions of power to protect children and keep them with their mothers.
Like pharaoh's daughter who used her position of power to protect one small child.
Like the disciples, the ones who followed, transformed into apostles, ones who are sent out, who went out in service of God and the world.
Like many in our congregation today - who come and serve and love others.
In these last two weeks, I have been blown away by the numbers of those around here who just give of their own time to serve our community.
Without recompense. Not here being paid for their time.
Who just give, because that is what is good to do.
Church wardens who I have seen cleaning and gardening and organising and preparing so that we can meet here for our worship.
Op shop and bookshop volunteers.
Mother Camellia, whose diary is filled with ministry activities of visiting and taking the sacraments to those in aged care and those unable to leave their homes, who is involved in an array of local organisations contributing with her volunteer time and skills.
Deacon Grant, who uses his skills in liturgy as well as his professional skills to serve our community.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus sets Peter in a very special position of helping, a Helper who is leader. The rock on which the church is built.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, Matthew 16: 18
But remember, we are not alone in this task of helping.
To be a helper often seems to be a subservient role.
Do we tend to ignore the helper and just notice the one they are helping? Do we ignore those who serve and see their value simply on what they produce?
Perhaps this is our tendency, but this might need a spiritual correction, for Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.
And as you are a helper, remember you are in the image in likeness of who?
God, who is our helper.
The psalmist says in todays psalm:
Our help is in the name of the Lord: who has made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6
Named again and again in Scriptures as our helper.
God is our shepherd, one who guides and protects and helps.
God who says, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41)
We too will face change, just like the people of God living in Egypt faced,
We have the opportunity to be like the subversive midwives and use our power to do good and save lives,
We have the opportunity to be apostles, going out into the world to serve.
We have the opportunity to live into our image and likeness of God our Helper, who comes to us in our need.
May God bless us and empower us all in the ways we help and serve and lead.
May God fill us with dreams in this Cathedral of how we might all use our skills for the love of the world.
The Very Reverend Naomi Cooke
Dean of Grafton