Reading: Exodus 2:1-10
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’
Today’s reading from Exodus is set against a background of fear. The Pharaoh of Egypt had introduced a brutal policy of infanticide against male Hebrew children. We can imagine the fear and anxiety felt by the Levite woman when she gave birth to a son. Normally that would have been an occasion of celebration and joy, but not in the climate of oppression in which she lived.
She hid her baby son for three months, loving him and caring for him as every mother does, but fearful that if his cries were heard he would be taken from her.
How painful it must have been for her to give up her son in the way she did. A lot of thought and planning went into her action, right down to waterproofing the basket with pitch. It was an act of faith when she placed her son in the basket among the reeds in the Nile and left him. No doubt she prayed to God for his protection, while her daughter kept watch.
God works in mysterious ways. The daughter of the very ruler who sought to murder Hebrew infants took pity on the baby boy she discovered by the riverbank. She knew he was Hebrew, yet she took steps to protect him and ensure that he was cared for. She might have been expected to report her find, but she defied her father when she colluded in hiding the baby Moses. Sometimes we discover God’s love and compassion in the most unexpected of places. In the midst of pain, God is present.
Today is Mothering Sunday when we give thanks to God for all mothers and the love they give and receive. This Mothering Sunday will be different from any other. We will not gather in our churches and give out flowers as we usually do. For many mothers, this is a very difficult time. Some are worried about the health of their children, especially those with underlying health issues. Some mothers are working in the frontline of our health services, risking their own health and that of their families, while caring for others. Grandmothers will miss seeing their grandchildren because of the risk of infection by the Coronavirus. Those in nursing homes cannot receive any visitors from their families.
There are some encouraging words in today’s epistle reading from Roman’s chapter 5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us”.
God is present with us through his Spirit, no matter what we face in life. Let us trust in God and place our hope in him. Let us remember before God today all mothers, giving thanks for their love. Let us pray for mothers who are under stress, those who are worried, anxious or fearful for the future. Let us show God’s compassion and care for all mothers and grandmothers.
Collect for Mothering Sunday
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
Strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
You are the Maker of heaven and earth,
As we face the Coronavirus pandemic help us to lift our eyes to you,
May your peace be with those who are feeling anxious,
May your strength be with those working to keep others safe,
May your comfort be with those who are grieving,
May your wisdom light the way for those making decisions,
May your healing be upon those who are unwell,
May your hope fill those who are fearful of the future,
May your compassion prompt us to love our neighbours,
Keep us from harm,
Watch over our coming and going,
Both now and forevermore,