Does anybody know what the name of Moses’ Mum was? Jochabed. I’d like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to Moses’ Mum. We know lots of stories about Moses, and the great things that he did. The way God chose him to lead the people of God out of captivity in Egypt and into freedom. The parting of the Red Sea, being given the ten commandments, winning battles. Moses is one of the most important heroes of the people of God.
None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for his mum. We don’t know very much about her, but we do know that she was a slave, someone who was a living in a place where her people were hated. She had probably had to keep working through her pregnancy, making bricks for the new city that the King of Egypt was building. She knew that all the Jewish boy children were being killed by the Egyptians. We know that she did not want her little boy to die, so she put him in the very first Moses basket and entrusted him to God’s care in the river. And, in a roundabout way her son was returned to her. With a name that she hadn’t given him, but alive and well and with a future.
God showed that God was big enough to protect her son, and cared enough to see a tiny little basket holding a tiny little boy. Sometimes things in life don’t work out the way we want, or the way that we expect for ourselves or our children. But even when we don’t understand we can trust that there is nothing that is too big for God’s power, and nothing too small for his care.
Does anybody know the name of Moses’ adoptive Mum? No, not only does nobody here know, but nobody in the world knows – there are different traditions: Bithiah, Asiya, Thermuthis, Merris and Merrhoe, but no-one really knows. Nevertheless, I’d also like to take a moment to think about this Egyptian princess. Now we might not know her name, but we do know a bit about her. We do know that she saw a baby in a basket in the river and took pity on him. We can’t tell what she felt about her Father’s policy towards the Hebrews, but it’s obvious that she was aware of it – “This is one of the Hebrew babies” and that she wanted to subvert it by rescuing that baby. Once Moses had been weaned, he was brought to the palace and, “he became her son.” She adopted him.
Adoption has such a deep, important place in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Moses’ adoption saved him from death and put him in a position that meant that God could send him to free God’s people. In the New Testament, in the beginning of John’s gospel, we read, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In Paul’s letters we read in several places about our adoption as children of God. He writes in the letter to the Galatians,
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
One of the things I have heard repeatedly about families in St Catherine’s and All Saints is how many are or have been involved in adoption. It seems to me that this is a sign of God’s kingdom and of a healthy church. This is not only because it is an act of love to those particular children, that gives them a new future, but also because the act of adoption points towards God’s adoption of all of us as God’s children.
Whilst it is right to celebrate adoption, we know that it comes with heartache. Whatever the reason that a child is looking to be adopted, there is grief in the background. Jochabed did get to wean her son, but then she had to take him to the palace and give him back again. We know that our own adoption into God’s family is rarely straightforward, we still rebel and want to do things our own way and fail to trust that God really loves us. So it can be in adoptive families. One of things church is for is to support and help each other in these kind of circumstances and to offer the healing and forgiveness that comes from the only perfect parent, God.
Does anybody know what the name of Jesus’ Mum was? Mary. A bit easier that one, isn’t it. But the relationship between Jesus and Mary was not always easy. To start with, he was a very unexpected child and his birth meant that the young family was uprooted and had to go in live in places where they were strangers.
Before that happened, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to God. As they were there this man comes over and starts praising God. He then says something hard to Mary, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” What a thing to say to a young mum about her days old son.
Their next trip to the temple didn’t go much better. By then Jesus was twelve and they had travelled down to Jerusalem with friends for the Passover Feast. The Feast finished and the family returned home. Except that Jesus wasn’t with the family. Mary and Joseph thought he was somewhere, off with his mates, but no, he was nowhere to be found. Back to Jerusalem they trudged and searched for three days, until they found him in the temple courts, talking theology with the rabbis. “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house” he said. I wonder how that felt. Mary and Joseph were bewildered, they didn’t understand.
Even when Jesus grew up Mary sometimes seemed to miss the point and to push him forward when he wasn’t ready. Once at a wedding, she thought that Jesus ought to help when they ran out of wine, but he wasn’t ready. So she did a bit of organising behind the scenes and put Jesus in a position that he couldn’t refuse any more. She seems to have nudged him along a bit.
Later in his life, Mary and some of Jesus’ brothers had gone to see Jesus teaching. The crowd was so big when they got there that they couldn’t get any where near Jesus. The crowd told him that his mother and brothers were there and then Jesus said, “Who is my mother and brothers” Pointing at those who followed him he said, “here are my mother and brothers, those who do what God calls them to do.” How must Mary have felt about that?
At the end of Jesus’ life on earth, we find ourselves back in Jerusalem, near the temple, at Passover time. Mary is going to face another three days of wondering where Jesus is. It is time for Jesus to bring to fulfilment the sign of the Passover, blood spilt and spread on a post, not just as Moses commanded for the deliverance of a particular people, at a particular time, from a particular slavery, but spilt and spread on a post for the deliverance of all people, for all time, from all slavery.
As we come to this place, to the place of the cross, to the end of Jesus’ life, so that sword pierces Mary’s heart as she is there, as she had been at the beginning of Jesus’ life. At that time, in all that pain, Jesus looked down from that cross and he loved Mary, and wanted her to be looked after. We read this, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’”
Perhaps adoption isn’t just for children.
Despite all the ups and downs, the misunderstandings and the hurt, Jesus loved his mother. In the most horrible situation, in the most pain, he looked out for his mum and made sure she was OK. That is the kind of person Jesus is. That is the kind of person that Jesus wants us to be. The kind of people who look out for each other, who are willing to open our hearts and homes and families to those who need them, and who trust God even when things don’t seem to be working out the way we thought they would.