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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:ïse_enfant_foulant_aux_pieds_la_couronne_de_Pharaon_-_Nicolas_Poussin_-_Louvre.jpg

By Jan Lievens, The Infant Moses Tramples Pharaoh’s Crown
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

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“A Blessing For Those in Exile”

          Greetings to each of you!  Jenney and I keep saying to each other “these are such strange days.”  Strange doesn’t quite capture it, but it’s close.  “Exile” is another word I’ve used often.  Because we are in exile from so many things.  We are in exile from our wonderful worship spaces and more importantly: we are in exile from each other. 

          Thank goodness for that pictorial directory that I can look at and remind myself what folk look like!  If you need a copy, let us know.  Will Mathews can get it in the mail to you. 

          Well, I think we are in need of a blessing, don’t you? 

          I’ve enjoyed reading the blessing that Jesus gives in the Gospel of John.  In the twentieth chapter, a great deal of dramatic events in the life of Jesus and the early church occur.  Jesus is raised from the dead and he appears to a group of disciples that very evening.  The disciple named Thomas missed out on that first meeting.  So he shows up at the same house a week later, on the “Lord’s Day” which we call Sunday. 

          Yes, Thomas shows up…and so does Jesus!  Thomas was the one who wouldn’t believe unless he could “see” and “touch.”  He was a very tangible oriented skeptic.  When Jesus shows up, however, all of Thomas’ big sounding objections fade away.  He is left with the highest of faith claims: My Lord and My God!

          And here is where the blessing comes.  Jesus says, ““Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29). 

          Now, who is that blessing for?  I asked that of the Wednesday morning Bible study group that meets on Zoom.  Theresai Manley said, “it’s for us.”  She was right.  It is for us.  And for every human being who has never seen the physical body of Jesus.  Most of us are not so fortunate to get our own “burning bush” moment: an encounter with the physical Easter Jesus.  But all of us are invited into Jesus’ blessing. 

          That word in Greek means “deeply happy, deeply fortunate.”  Blessed.  I find it the perfect blessing for our time in exile from each other and our worship spaces.  We cannot see each other or touch one another.  We are like Thomas, hungry for the tangible.  And yet, in this time of bodiless existence, we are invited to nonetheless believe.  May you partake of the blessing.  Know of the joy I’ll have when we see one another face to face soon.

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in Lent

Five Practices for this Uncertain Journey

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Friends, we have entered uncharted territory. Many may have no map for the way ahead. Many may be anxious. I’ve been there all week, and have called upon God for help in this time.

It would seem that 2020 is on hold, if not altogether canceled. Christ have mercy.

After some prayerful reflection, I offer these principles to live by in this wilderness time, and I invite you to add your own thoughts and prayers below. These are five “practices” to live by in this uncertain time:

1. Practice grace. Do so with yourself and your neighbor. We are frail vessels for transporting grace, so we need to call upon God for help. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Stress will bring out anxious behavior and language. You do not have to match the intensity the other brings. A good example is when I call a relative or friend and catastrophize, if they remain calm and don’t join in my “sky is falling” approach, I emerge calmer. Try to be that “calm” person once or twice today and see how it goes. Others may not share your assessment of this crisis. That is normal. You are not responsible for their perspective. You are responsible for how you communicate.

2. Practice resurrection. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. How quickly we have forgotten these words from Ash Wednesday. Our mortality is assured, but so too is our resurrection. So we will live with the sure hope that Easter will redeem all plagues. To practice resurrection means that even though we occasionally despair, we are always looking for hope through the grace and mercy of God. What are the signs of resurrection you can see today, if you really open your eyes?

3. Practice prayer. Our source of living hope is God, and a time of crisis and uncertainty is an invitation to deepen that relationship through prayer. Ask yourself how much time you have spent consuming news about Covid-19 vs. time in relationship with God today? Talk to God about what that is about for you. Apparently prayer was so hard to do that Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to do it. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we can’t do this on our own, and that we rely on God for strength and hope.

4. Practice service. Think of how God might be calling you to service in this interim time. Are there people living paycheck to paycheck in your life? Reach out to them and see how you can serve. Are there seniors with underlying conditions like diabetes, heart or lung conditions who are afraid to go out for groceries or medicine? Check in with them to see if you can serve. We are going to need each other to get through this, with the grace and mercy of God. Many will feel lonely and make those extra phone calls to those who are in special need of a human touch.

5. Practice wisdom. The CDC tells us that senior adults and those with underlying chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are “at a higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.” They counsel staying home as much as possible. If you are in this category, do not hesitate to reach out to your family, friends, and clergy to tell them how you are feeling and ask for help. If you are a young and healthy person who is asymptomatic, you may be a carrier of Covid-19 and you have a moral obligation to be wise in your contact with others.…/specific…/high-risk-complications.html

Know of my prayers for you and for the world.

May healing come. Amen.
-Daniel Headrick, Associate Pastor

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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

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