In fear, love, and trust of God, we are transformed into Christ and sent into the face of evil to midwife God’s love into the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 21 A
Texts: Exodus 1:8 – 2:10; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
They feared God, these Hebrew midwives.
Twice Exodus reminds us that these brave women feared God, and simply would not obey the Pharaoh’s genocidal command. They would not kill half of the Hebrew babies, as they were born.
The rabbis say that if you save a life you save an entire world. These brave women saved a nation, because they feared God and did what was right in the face of evil.
Be transformed into Christ, not conformed to this world, Paul tells his Roman churches today.
These midwives would not conform to a world where a ruler could order the death of half their people’s children. They lived lives transformed by their fear of the God of their ancestors who hadn’t yet saved them from their centuries of bondage. (This is before Moses was born; the Exodus is years in the future.) Still, they feared God. And did what was right.
Paul urges the Romans to be formed into Christ, to be transformed by the renewing of their minds – their attitudes, their way of thinking and being – and in the next few chapters he’ll describe what a Christ-formed life looks like.
But today simply consider this possibility these midwives model for us: what if we are like they were? If we didn’t conform to the brutal evil of our world, even if our leaders order it. If we didn’t conform to systems and structures that crush our neighbor. If we didn’t conform to the cultural attitude of “me first.” What if we asked the Spirit to transform our minds, our attitudes, our way of thinking and being, to be like that of Christ?
Could we, like these midwives, save the world?
Without a doubt. Because we have more than fear of God to work with.
Fear of God is a proper thing, Luther taught us. To be in awe and reverence of the Triune God who made the whole universe, stars, galaxies, is the only wise position to take. Only a fool says such a God isn’t to be feared.
But we’ve met Jesus, whom Peter proclaims today is the Son of that Living God, God’s Anointed. We’ve seen Jesus’ face, and Jesus’ face is a face of love and grace and forgiveness. It is the face of the Triune God for us. For you. For the creation.
We’ve learned from the Son of God not only that the Triune God is worthy to be feared. We have learned to love God. To trust God. As Luther taught us in the catechism: we fear, love and trust God above all things.
So if, like these midwives, you see a world filled with evil that works against God’s good will, you have more than fear of God to inspire you to seek transformation. You know God loves you, so you can love God. You know God saves you with life and grace now that will extend even beyond death, so you can trust God. And if you fear, love, and trust God – imagine what you can do in this world, transformed by the Spirit into Christ!
This could be the rock Jesus promises to build the Church upon.
Yes, Simon gets a new name, “Rock,” “Peter.” But what if the rock Jesus will build upon isn’t Simon Peter himself, but his trust in Jesus? His love for Jesus? That would mean, then, that the Church is built on more than just Peter. That your trust in God, your love of God, even your fear of God, become part of the strength of the Church. Mine do. All Christ’s disciples’ do.
Paul certainly believes we’re all part of the rock Jesus builds upon.
His breathtaking vision of the Body of Christ – with each of us, even you, individual members of the greater Body – shows this. Every single member, small or great, is critical to the Body’s life.
These midwives didn’t lead Israel out of Egypt. All they did was simply help babies be born. And we’re still talking about them three thousand years later, astonishingly remembering two of them by name. Whether you think you’re important or not, you have gifts as a transformed Christ, Paul says, to change the world.
Your job standing against evil might be as simple as making sure you vote this fall and vote early. It might be as quietly unnoticed as kindness to a neighbor. It might be an unseen sacrifice you make to be Christ’s love to your family, or your willingness to support policies that cost you but benefit your neighbor.
Like the midwives, as a person transformed into Christ, anchored in your fear, love, and trust of God, you simply need to see what is before you today, and do what is right. Or, as Paul says, what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.
No more is asked of you than this. No less, either.
And Jesus promises that no evil can withstand such a transformed Body of Christ.
Jesus sends you into the world bearing your anointing, transformed in your mind, your attitude, your way of thinking and being, to be Christ. And Jesus says, wherever you encounter the gates of Hades, they will crumble. Multiply that by millions of Christs.
Pharoahs and rulers will be impotent in the face of such Christ love. Systems and structures that crush and kill will collapse like a house of cards when Christ’s Church approaches them, transformed and loving.
If you save a life, you save an entire world. Be transformed into Christ, and become another midwife for God, helping to birth God’s healing grace and love into existence, and saving the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen