The “establishment” was afraid of change. Things were different all around them. There were new people in the society with a different life style, culture and language…and they were growing in number and influence.
Thus those in power, mainly the Pharaoh, tried first to work the “strangers” to death. When that didn’t work – it actually backfired – they told the midwives to commit murder, to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys to stop the growth of their population.
Does this sound familiar? I think most of us here this morning can find parallels between what the scripture text is describing and the situation in our country today. We all read the papers, watch CNN and listen to NPR. “Arizona SB1070” has become part of our vocabulary unfortunately.
Why? Well this is what has many people upset these days – the latest data from the 2010 Census (from the Huffington Post website):
“On May 26, the Census released what an official at the bureau described as ‘the latest, most up to date data on the Hispanic population in the United States.’ The numbers, culled from its 2010 survey, tell a remarkable — albeit anticipated — story: The Hispanic population is growing at a rate much faster than any other demographic.”
Roughly stated, there are now more than 55 million Latinos in the U.S and Puerto Rico. And those numbers may be even larger since undocumented immigrants are usually undercounted for obvious reasons.
And it’s not just Latinos. Other groups such as African-Americans and Asians are growing at a greater rate than whites. Immigrants from the Global South in general have been coming to the U.S. in record numbers for the last 30 years.
The article continues: “The new census data affirms that one of the great stories of the 21st century is the changing majority of America from a majority white country to a majority minority country.”
Thus the reality is that our nation is becoming a truly multi-ethnic and multicultural country. Already Black and Latino cultures permeate and influence our society with their music, food, dances and languages.
Again, the world is changing and some “pharaohs” don’t like it. Those who want to maintain power react by instilling fear and lashing out against those who are different, both in society and church. They even threw a “Tea Party” and others wrote a “White Paper” to stop these changes…
Actually, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and most so-called mainline churches are still approximately 94% white and very rich. Eleven o’clock Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour of the week.
If the church is called to take leadership and demonstrate the kingdom of God with all of its inclusiveness and justice for all, we may not be doing our job too well. I dare say there is incongruence between what God expects from God’s people and the reality we live in.
But let’s go back to the text. The midwives, who feared God more than the establishment, decided to stand up for justice.
Yes, they lied a little to accomplish their task. They were however very smart and courageous. The Hebrew children lived and the course of our religious history was changed.
You can read the rest in your bibles – it’s a lot of fun to see how God’s people flourished and leaders eventually took them to freedom and the Promised Land.
But it all began with the midwives…
Friends, we need midwives in our midst to accompany those who are threatened by the establishment. We need outliers who are willing to stand up for what is right. We need midwives who are willing to set aside stereotypes and seek and recognize the common experiences we share as humans made under God’s image.
We need midwives that remind us of our calling and the demands that the Gospel places on all of us. We need to prepare the way for people of all nations and walks of life to join us in the building of the church and in the worship of God.
We are called by God to enter into the new society that Jesus came to inaugurate and was modeled by the original Jerusalem church where people of all ethnicities worshipped God within the context of their own cultures and languages and there was not a needy person among them (Acts 2: 44-45).
We need midwives today as the Hebrew people needed them back then to withstand the onslaught from those who refuse to see the realities of our changing world. We need midwives today who are willing to question, to think critically, and to act on behalf of those who are marginalized by unjust systems.
God blessed the midwives. God blesses those who follow God’s justice, compassion and peace.
Tony Aja is a minister member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, Presbyterian Church (USA) who serves as coordinator for the presbytery’s Hispanic/Latino Ministries. He is a Doctor of Ministry candidate at McCormick Theological Seminary. A former refugee from Cuba, Tony has developed new ministries with refugees and immigrants in Florida and Kentucky. He has been a missionary, pastor, executive director of an ecumenical community ministry and staff at PC(USA) headquarters. Tony has served in many local and national boards and committees dealing with social justice and immigrant and refugee issues. He has helped develop grass-roots organizations with both local and national scope.