Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather here today, we take a moment to recognize land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and we ask the Creator to help us use and share it wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us in all that we do.
Call to Worship
We gather together to worship God, who comes to us when we least expect it.
We gather together to worship God, who calls us out of the safety and security of our ordered lives.
We gather together to worship God, who loves us and calls us to love each other.
We gather together to worship God, who challenges us to embrace others as friends.
We gather together to worship God, who invites us to join in the adventure of faith.
And so, as we gather together let us worship God!
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Loving Creator and Guide, through the teaching of Jesus we have come to see ourselves, not as subjects or slaves to our faith, but as friends. You challenge us to live out that friendship in how we treat others. As we gather this morning, we ask that you will help us to recognize one another as friends, appreciating the special gifts that each person brings into our lives. Help us also to be ready and willing at all times to share our gifts and talents with all those we meet, knowing that, through your love, they are all our friends. We ask this in the name of our friend, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Gift of Music All My Hope is Firmly Grounded VU#654
Exodus 1:13-14, 22 Exodus 2:1-10
The story of the baby in the basket is one that I’m sure we all learned in Sunday School. It is a story of unexpected help arriving from unexpected sources in ways that changed everything.
Near the end of Jesus ministry, the Gospel According to John tells us that Jesus promised his disciples that they would no longer be considers servants but that they would be considered friends.
The Necessity of Friends
Based on Rudyard Kipling‘s 1894 book of the same name, The Jungle Book was the 19th Disney animated feature film and the last one in which Walt Disney himself was involved. Having been a heavy smoker all his life, Walt Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday. Before his death, Disney Studios release 89 movies including animated, live action, hybrid (containing both live action and animation), documentaries and nature films.
Although it was not released until 1967, work on The Jungle Book had been completed before Disney’s death under his close personal supervision. It was Disney himself who decided that Kipling’s book was a bit too dark for a family-oriented film and chose to focus only on Mowgli’s journey from life in the jungle to the time of his return to the human village.
Like the story of Moses, the movie The Jungle Book begins with a baby in a basket. Bagheera the black panther finds a broken boat washed up on shore. In the bow was a basket containing a baby, or as Bagheera calls him, a man-child. Bagheera picks up the basket and carries it to the cave of a wolf family who has just had a litter of cubs. Mowgli is adopted into the family and raised as a wolf.
But as the years pass, word arrives that Shere Khan, the tiger, has returned to that part of the jungle. Shere Khan hates anything human which puts Mowgli in great danger. It also means that anyone who protects him is also in danger. The wolves’ council decides that, for the sake of the pack, Mowgli must leave. It is Bagheera who volunteers to take Mowgli to a man-village where he will be safe.
Now, by all the laws of nature, neither a wolf nor a panther should ever befriend a human child. But in the story of Mowgli that is exactly what happens. And it is also what happens in the story of Moses.
The Egyptians had come to fear the Israelites because the descendants of Joseph who had settled in Egypt, had become so numerous that the Pharaoh feared that, if they chose to rise up against the Egyptians, they could overthrow them and claim Egypt for themselves. So, the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They we treated harshly and forced to endure extreme physical labour. Yet despite all of that, their numbers continued to grow instead of diminishing. Finally, a decree came down from Pharaoh ordering that every male Israelite child be taken out, thrown into the River Nile and drowned.
In an effort to save the life of her son, Moses’ mother placed him in a water-tight basket and set him adrift along the banks of the Nile. Perhaps she merely intended to hide him there until she could figure out a way to keep him safe. Perhaps she intended to return and care for him as often as she could. But her love for her child was obvious especially when the baby’s sister was left to stand guard over the precious basket. But fate intervened and the basket drifted to a spot where the Pharoah’s own daughter had come to bath.
Like Bagheera, the Pharoah’s daughter should have had no desire to save this child. They were, if not by nature at least by the politics of their time, enemies. And yet, like Bagheera, Pharoah’s daughter took pity on the helpless infant and was determined to ensure that he was safe and cared for.
But in our movie, despite Bagheera’s best efforts, Mowgli had no desire to return to the world of man and far preferred to stay in the jungle. And it is here we are introduced to the carefree and fun-loving bear named Baloo. A deep affection quickly develops between the boy and the bear and Baloo adopts Mowgli as his own and promises to teach him how to be a bear and to survive on the “Bare Necessities” of life. The duet that the two sing had become one of the all-time classic Disney songs and although it lost the Academy Award to Dr. Doolittle’s Talk to the Animals, The Bare Necessities of Life remains a favorite song of many.
Baloo and Mowgli seem like two of a kind, and when Mowgli is kidnapped by apes, it becomes clear that the bond between the two has grown stronger and stronger and that Baloo has come to love Mowgli deeply. But when Bagheera reminds Baloo what great danger Mowgli will be in as long as Shere Khan is in the jungle, Baloo must face the fact that the best thing he can do, if he truly loves Mowgli, is to send him back to the human village.
I can’t help but think that Moses’ mother must have felt very much the same way that Baloo did. It must have been heart wrenching for her to give up her son. But she knew it was the best thing she could do.
For Moses’ mother, however, the story didn’t end there. When the Princess pulled the baby out of the river, he was only a few months old. She knew that he would need a wet nurse to care for him until he was weaned. And this is where Moses’ sister stepped in. She offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. When the Princess agreed, she went and called her own mother, Moses’ own mother, to come and take care of him.
For Moses’ mother it must have seemed like an answer to all her prayers. Her son had been returned to her and she could now care for him within the safe protection of the Egyptian princess. She did not need to fear him being taken away and put to death.
But the solution was only temporary. The time soon came when the child was weaned and the protection he had enjoyed, would no longer be assured if he were to stay with his mother. Much like the return of Shere Khan to the jungle, the danger of a Hebrew boy being raised by his own people, had returned for Moses. To keep him with her, meant that Moses’ mother would be placing him in serious danger. So, like Baloo, she had to let him go if she truly loved him. He had to be taken back to the Princess to be raised in the palace.
Now of course in the movie Mowgli’s return to the man village isn’t quite as straight forward as that. Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle so he runs away from Baloo. He encounters first Kaa the python who tries to eat him and then a group of four vultures, who bear a remarkable resemblance to the Beatles, who sing a wonderful song about the importance of friends.
But in both cases Shere Khan appears. Mowgli escapes Kaa while Kaa is trying to convince Shere Khan that he doesn’t know where Mowgli is and the vultures quickly desert Mowgli at the first sight of the tiger. Facing Shere Khan with nothing but a stick, all hope seems lost until Baloo appears again and puts himself in danger in order to protect Mowgli. With the help of the vultures Mowgli escapes, but in anger, Shere Khan attacks Baloo.
A lightening strike and the ensuing fire scare Shere Khan away, but by the time Bagheera arrives, Baloo lies lifeless on the ground. Now of course, this is Disney so just as Bagheera and Mowgli prepare to leave, Baloo joins the conversation, very mush alive.
In the final scene of the movie, just as Baloo has determined that he will keep Mowgli with him, Mowgli spots a young girl form the village who has come to fetch water. He follows her into the village and as they watch, Bagheera comments, “It was bound to happen. Mowgli is where he belongs now.”
And perhaps this is where our movie and our scripture connect one more time. In ways, both are about finding where we belong. And it’s not always where we think it will be. Mowgli, having been raised there, firmly believed he belonged in the jungle. He had no connection with and no desire to live in the man’s village. But the wolves, Bagheera, and eventually even Baloo realized that, for his own safety, Mowgli had to return to the human community.
Moses’ mother realized that for his safety, Moses had to be sent back to the palace. It was certainly not where a Hebrew child would have been expected to belong, but his mother knew that only under the protection of the Pharoah’s daughter would her son be truly safe.
The thing is, that it didn’t mean that this was either Mowgli or Moses would belong where they ended up, forever. In Kipling’s original story, Mowgli returns to live in the jungle. He eventually kills Shere Khan saving both his jungle family and the people of the village.
In the story of the Exodus, Moses grew up in the palace but later ran away and settled in the land of Midian where he married and raised a family. But he does not stay there either. Eventually he was called back to Egypt to set the Hebrew people free and to take them out into the Siani Desert.
We need to remember however, that none of this would have been possible for either Mowgli or Moses without the help of some unexpected friends along the way. If Bagheera had not rescued a tiny boy lost and alone in the jungle, he would likely have died. If the wolf pack had not accepted him, he would never have survived to grow up. If Bagheera, Baloo and others had not helped to lead him to the human village, he would never have learned human ways and he would never have return to the jungle and defeated Shere Khan.
If Moses’ mother had not placed him in a basket in the river, he would likely have been killed by the Pharoah’s soldiers shortly after his birth. If Pharoah’s daughter had not pulled him out of the river and then protected him, he would likely have died before he ever had a chance to grown up. If Jethro, the priest of Midian, had not welcomed him and allowed him to become part of his household, Moses would probably have died in the desert. And if all these things had not happened, Moses would never have returned to Egypt to set the Hebrew people free.
Without all of these “friends” in their lives, we would not have the stories we do of either Mowgli or Moses. Without all of those who interacted with them, often in ways that were totally unexpected, there would be no story to tell. And we need to remember that the same is true for us.
It seems to me that in this time of Covid many of us have forgotten this. We have become even more independent and insular then we have ever been. We seem to believe that we can hide away from everyone and deal with whatever comes our way, all by ourselves.
The truth is that we all need “friends” whether those friends are people we count on and cherish or whether they are people who just happen to come into our lives and end up making a difference. None of us can survive all on our own.
And sometimes God seems to put the people we most need into our lives when we least expect it. But like Mowgli running away from Bagheera and Baloo, we sometimes seem to fight against them. Other times, like Moses being pulled from the bullrushes, their appearance comes as a great relief, even if we have no idea how much our lives will be changed and reshaped because of them.
We often say that none of us knows what the future will hold, but perhaps we also need to also remember that none of us knows who the future will hold. Perhaps we need to remember that the people who come into our lives may just be there of a reason and maybe we should learn to appreciate them more as friends, sent by our greatest friend, that Divine Mystery we call God. Amen.
Gift of Music What a Friend We Have in Jesus VU#664
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. We may offer our gifts by placing them on our offering plates, by giving through PAR or through other ways of making donations. But, as always, we need to remember that our financial contributions are only one of the many things that we have to offer. We offer our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitments and our prayers. And so, whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, as your spirit has continued to touch and bless people throughout history, bless the gifts that we offer you today that through your spirit they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, let us take a moment to remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, we often speak about welcoming others as friends, as brothers and sisters in Christ, but sometime we forget that friendship goes both ways. When we think of those who are hungry or frightened or lonely, we think of ways in which we can reach out to help, but we seldom think about what we can learn from them or how getting to know them might change and enrich our own lives …
We pray for all the areas in the world where deep divisions run between ethnic groups because of race, religion or past history, areas where war and violence between groups cost the lives of so many. We pray for peace. But we also pray that we will be open to learn about the lives, the values and the beliefs that cause these divisions so that we may find new ways of bridging these differences and recognizing all people as friends …
We pray for our communities where different traditions shape different outlooks and different realities. We think of those living in poverty who have never known any other reality. Help us to share more justly the bounty of our world, But help us also to understand that the way we grow up and the experiences and traditions we grow up with cause us to see the world differently. Help us to listen to and to honour the experiences of others so that we may come to know them as friends …
We pray for families, where growing up is difficult, where harsh words spoken in anger are not easily taken back, and hurtful or thoughtless actions endanger relationships. We pray for safety and patience for all those living in difficult situations. But we also pray that we will learn not to judge but instead to listen offering ourselves in friendship not judgement …
Divine Love, help us to not only be friend, but to see friends in all your children everywhere, loving and accepting them as freely as you love and accept each of us. Amen.
Closing Hymn Amazing Grace VU #266
So now, go out from here excited to see what or who God might place in your path this day. Go out knowing that no matter where you go and who you might meet, you are not alone. God is with you, Christ leads the way and the Spirit walks with you, now and always. Amen.