8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13 The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live." 17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?" 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them." 20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
This Sunday, we continue our series "Be Significant," where we are taking a look at discipleship, and how our lives might magnify the miraculous work of God in the world. Last week, LeeAnn taught about the need for ongoing discipleship, and how this lifelong journey continues to develop and shape our faith. This week we'll be looking at the importance of community in the midst of our discipleship journey.
The text for this week is an interesting story out of the early verses of Exodus. This story sets the tone for the journey the Israelites will be on throughout the rest of the book. Two seemingly trivial and insignificant midwives make a decision to go against orders from Pharaoh, the most feared official in all of Egypt. We'll get into why this action is so significant on Sunday, but for now, let's zero in on the fact that this defiant decision is carried out together between the two of them. Shiphrah and Puah do not act alone.
In one of Richard Rohr's devotions this past year, during a season where he focused on the idea of community, he shares a story from Christopher Bache, a college professor, who noticed what he called "collective consciousness" emerge when he gave assignments to small groups of students. Bache said that when he would form these small groups, many students began to show abilities "as team members" that he hadn't witnessed before in their individual work. Bache also realized that each of the teams in his classroom had begun to take on a life of its own. Each team was enjoying a kind of "collective consciousness," where they were thinking as one unit and each person seemed to have access to the consciousness of the others. When someone on the team made a good suggestion, everyone on the team seemed to recognize its value, so it became easy to implement ideas with minimal discussion or without people taking sides.
While this might seem idealistic, especially if you have ever found yourself in one of those groups in school and were the unlucky one who had to carry the weight of the entire group, Bache's point was that in order to contribute to the success of the team, each member was challenged by the team spirit to tap into the abilities they possessed within themselves. The point is, the "collective consciousness" pointed to a unified vision that inspired the usage of each person's diverse set of gifts. Rohr expands on this idea by suggesting that people who truly unite for a purpose beyond themselves become "differentiated" as they unite and work together in a shared consciousness to achieve a larger purpose. Essentially, this is what Shiphrah and Puah did. They were completely locked in to the "collective consciousness" of the Israelite nation, and due to their community, they shared in a common understanding of their identity, as well as the ways their individual gifts would serve the greater vision God had for the Israelites. This is the blessing of community.
Working together, encouraging one another, supporting each other, these are valid results from being in community with one another. But what if there is more to it? What if community has little to do with us, and more to do with God? Community is an essential gift from God. A blessing, shared with us in order that as we develop in our discipleship, we might be able to make disciples as well, bringing transformation to the world. So how connected are you to your community of faith? How would you define what the vision is for followers of Christ?
This Sunday, let's consider how our "collective consciousness" might be the very thing that can enable us to "be significant" as a community of faith, the Body of Christ, alive and well in the world around us.
See you on Sunday,