One of the Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday is from Exodus 1-2. When we are sharing this text with children, we usually focus on the part about baby Moses in the basket being saved by the Princess. Who doesn’t love that story of danger, adventure, and rescue?
But I think other parts of this story give us a chance to talk with our children about some of the larger issues that have come to light in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, MO.
During Moses’ day, Pharaoh was afraid of the Hebrew people and so he encouraged violence against them–especially against the boys. We need to talk with our children about the racialized violence of our own society, and the way that violence is connected with fear. Since July (last month) four unarmed black men have been killed by police–and no charges have yet been brought against any of the officers involved in these deaths. In the case of Michael Brown’s shooting, there has also been violence directed against the mostly black, mostly peaceful, crowds who gathered in protest.
This story here at the beginning of Exodus, as well as the broader Exodus story, tells us in no uncertain terms that God hears the cries of the oppressed and God works, through God’s people, to end oppression and bring freedom. One thing I love about this first part of the story is that God is working through the cunning and courage of women: Shiphra and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who refuse to follow Pharaoh’s order to kill all the baby boys; Jochebed, Moses’ mother, who manages to hide her infant for three months and then releases him in the river. Pharaoh’s own daughter who defies her father’s command by adopting a Hebrew baby boy into the royal family.
Thinking about these courageous women can lead us to consider how we might resist the powers of oppression and racism in our own culture. Obviously this discussion will vary greatly depending on the race(s) of your family members, the make-up of your community, and the age of your children. But I think children of any age can understand that things are not fair for some people in our country and that God wants us to be part of making things more fair for everyone.
We are sad that things are not fair for everyone.
We are sad for the people who are hurt and killed because of the color of their skin.
We pray that you will work through us to make our communities more safe for everyone.
Thank you for your promise of freedom.
Thank you for Jesus’ example of the peaceful, powerful way.
Read about the four men who have been killed by police recently: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, and John Crawford. Light four candles and pray for the families of these men, the communities in which the killings occurred, and the police forces involved.
Read Osheta Moore’s “Prayerful Response to Ferguson,” and consider taking pictures of your family members with their hands raised.
If you are a white family, listen to stories from a non-white family about the prejudice they face. How many times has the black father been pulled over by police, and how was he treated? How many times has the black mother been “randomly” searched at a store to make sure she wasn’t stealing anything? Personal conversations are best, but you can also find blog posts and other sources of stories about discrimination.