Not that Kind of Baptist

Trampling Pharaoh's Crown

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As I read over the story of the birth of Moses in the opening chapters of Exodus, it occurred to me that there is a gap--much like the life of Jesus--between Moses' infancy and adulthood.  We get this intensive look at the circumstances of his birth, and then the tape is fast forwarded to his adulthood.  

Where the biblical texts give us gaps in biography, extra-canonical sources rush in with imaginative fervor.  The Jewish historian Josephus, writing of the life of Moses in his Antiquities, passes on a rabbinic legend that Pharaoh's daughter Thermuthis, brought the baby Moses to Pharaoh.  Here is Josephus' account:

(232) Thermuthis, therefore, perceiving him to be so remarkable a child, adopted him
for her son, having no child of her own. And when one time she had carried Moses to
her father, she showed him to him, and said she thought to make him her father’s
successor, if it should please God she should have no legitimate child of her own; and
said to him, “I have brought up a child who is of a divine form, and of a generous
mind; and as I have received him from the bounty of the river, in a wonderful
manner, I thought proper to adopt him for my son and the heir of thy kingdom.”
(233) And when she had said this, she put the infant into her father’s hands; so he
took him, and hugged him close to his breast; and on his daughter’s account, in a
pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw it down to the ground,
and, in a puerile mood he wreathed it round, and trod upon it with his feet; (234)
which seemed to bring along with it an evil presage concerning the kingdom of Egypt.
But when the sacred scribe saw this (he was the same person who foretold that his
nativity would bring the dominion of that kingdom low), he made a violent attempt to
kill him; and crying out in a frightful manner, he said, (235) “This, O king! this child is
he of whom God foretold, that if we kill him we shall be in no danger; he himself
affords an attestation to the prediction of the same thing, by his trampling upon thy
government, and treading upon thy diadem. Take him, therefore, out of the way, and
deliver the Egyptians from the fear they are in about him; and deprive the Hebrews of
the hope they have of being encouraged by him.” (236) But Thermuthis prevented
him, and snatched the child away. And the king was not hasty to slay him, God
himself, whose providence protected Moses, inclining the king to spare him. He was,
therefore, educated with great care.

Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged
(Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 68.

A handful of European artists in the 17th century treat this theme of Moses trampling Pharaoh's crown, including the ones depicted above by French painter Nicolas Poussin and Dutch painter Jan Lievens.  

As an image of speaking truth to power, it is enduring.  Why are tyrants so afraid of babies in the Bible?  From Pharaoh to Herod, a thread of genocidal wrath connects the stories of overbearing tyrannical leaders to opposing God's people.  The people of God must decide, in turn, whether to trample Pharaoh's crown, or try to put it on their own heads.  The temptation of politics is that we might become more like Pharaoh than servants of the living God.  

 

Citations for art:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mo%C3%AFse_enfant_foulant_aux_pieds_la_couronne_de_Pharaon_-_Nicolas_Poussin_-_Louvre.jpg#/media/File:Moïse_enfant_foulant_aux_pieds_la_couronne_de_Pharaon_-_Nicolas_Poussin_-_Louvre.jpg

By Jan Lievens, The Infant Moses Tramples Pharaoh’s Crown
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18922542
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

Posted by Rev. Daniel Headrick with

A Pastoral Statement on Violence and Racism

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Rev. James Lamkin and Rev. Daniel Headrick
Northside Drive Baptist Church
Atlanta, GA
June 1, 2020 

As clergy of Northside Drive Baptist Church (NDBC), we believe that every person is made in the image of God and worthy of fundamental dignity. Because of this, we take a clear stand against violence, and against the violence of racism. 

 As was said by several NDBC members in Sunday School this week, “White silence is a form of racism.”   We agree.  We confess.  We repent.  As one friend puts it, “Racism is not Covid-19.  It is Covid-1619.  This was the year that a slave ship carrying 30 African slaves slipped into a harbor of the Virginia Colony.”  If racism is like a pandemic, it is as ancient as humankind; and, certainly as old as the founding of America. Because it is frequently disguised, often times overt, but sometimes unintentional—continuing education about this insidious sin warrants life-long learning. 

 Some call it systemic racism.  Many impersonal forces compose this very personal wrong: cultural, relational, educational, judicial, political, religious, economic, and more.  So many, in fact, that privilege can blind us with layers of blinders; and spiritual blindness leads to idolatry. 

 We believe it is important to name names, such as, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.  By doing so we do not perpetuate the appearance of silence; rather, we take daily steps on the long journey toward justice.  Their tragic deaths are symptoms of on-going, bigger stories.   

 Sunday’s Pentecost text heralded God’s diverse hope.  The Holy Spirit’s fiery presence embraced and empowered all: women and men, slaves and free, young and old, daughters and sons.  Everybody. 

 As congregational clergy, we will pursue God’s wide hope for our world and faith community.  We will study and learn and seek conversation with partners of color; and will acknowledge our sense of privilege. 

 These are anxious days due to disease.  These are painful days as we see the violence racism does to the human race. These are holy days as we yearn to speak the truth in the presence of God. 

Posted by Rev. James Lamkin with

Is This the Apocalypse? A Pastoral Perspective

    Apocalypse is a rare word.  It bides its time and sits quietly on vocabulary’s back pew.  However, when tornados destroy, pandemics overwhelm, and when breaking news leaves us broken…apocalypse is a word we reach for.    
          With Covid-19 spreading, we’ve wondered: Is this The Apocalypse?
          But, not so fast.  Take a deep breath.  Reach for a Bible dictionary (it’s the antique book beside your rotary phone). Look it up—right after Antichrist, just before Armageddon.  You’ll notice that apocalypse doesn’t mean devastation or damnation.  It means revealing.  Unveiling. Ken Sehested reminds of what the poet, Adrienne Maree Brown, said: “Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered.  We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” 
        Oddly, an apocalypse may be Hope’s first step.  Like, “Now that we know the truth, let us begin again with new hope.”    
            Hope is in short supply. Loved ones have died.  Fragile family finances have tipped.  Rock stable businesses six weeks ago, now feel like shifting sand.  Even if fear isn’t coiled like a snake in the board room, anxiety is never far away.   
          However, if this is an apocalypse, let’s not waste it. Let’s ask, “What is being revealed to you?”  Make a list of those things. Here are some of mine.      
            First, everything is more connected than I realized.  Physicists already knew this.  “Pinch a particle over there, and another will say, ‘Ouch,’ over here!”  The cosmos is not something we are in; it is something that we are part of.  Economy is connected to ecology, and the food chain has weak links.   
              I knew that.  But I know it more now.  MLK was right, “We are bound in a single garment of destiny.”  How we treat folk on the far side of the globe has a butterfly effect that flaps all the way to Buford Highway.  
            Second, “essential” is different than what I thought.  Maybe I’m deaf, but I’m not hearing a cry for, “More Preachers!”  Rather, “We need the Publix check-out clerk to show-up for work, and the shelf-stocker at Kroger.”  Thank God they have done so…every day.  Essential folk help piece our small lives together.
            Third, we are more vulnerable than I knew.  We can’t buy our way out of a global pandemic. The human immune system is good, but humans are late comers to creation’s story. Viruses aren’t smart, but they are adaptive. 
            Fourth,  what if Mother Nature is making us stand in “time out?”  With her long finger, she points and snarls, “You will stand in that corner by yourself until you learn to behave.”  That might be a long time.
We just ran over the 50-year-old speed bump of Earth Day.  We’ve made strides since 1970; but, we’ve also backslidden.  Ask the Amazon rainforest, aka the lungs of Planet Earth.  Ask the rivers, aka the arteries of this small blue marble.  Remarkable, isn’t it, that since humanity sheltered in place, Mt. Everest “peeked” into view for the first time in decades?  An ozone hole has healed.   
            Fifth, if human hubris partially got us into this; then humility might be required to get us out.  What did Rabbi Abraham Heshel say? “When I was young, I admired clever people.  Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”  If humanity and the Earth were in therapy, what would the therapist say? “Sounds like dominion isn’t working for you. Try kindness.”
            Perhaps we’ll try therapy and kindness this summer…as a church…for God’s sake.  The rearview mirror might reveal “the meaning of this pandemic.”  It may not be the apocalypse; but it can be an apocalypse…but only if we learn from what is revealed.    

Posted by Rev. James Lamkin with

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About Our Church

Located in the heart of Buckhead Atlanta, Northside Drive Baptist Church is a progressive, welcoming and affirming congregation with a traditional worship service.  We are affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.   We welcome questions and feel called toward the proclamation and pursuit of social justice.   Join us for worship every Sunday at 11:00 AM.
3100 Northside Drive, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30305

Tel: 404.237.8621
info@northsidedrive.org

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