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Faces on Faith: In search of compassion

By Staff | Mar 15, 2013

Rev. Thomas E. Nyman

There is a powerful story in the Biblical book of Exodus.

A man and a woman from the family of Levi married and had a son. The mother knew the child was special and hid him to prevent the ruler from killing him. When she couldn’t hid him any longer, she put him in a little pitch covered papyrus basket and set him afloat near the reedy shore of the Nile River.

The Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile to bathe. She found the basket floating in the reeds and saw the child, a little boy, crying! Her heart went out to him.

I am thinking about tomorrow as I write this. Tomorrow I will be handed a little baby boy, not from a floating basket but from his parents’ arms. This little one will be surrounded by family and friends, and he will not be a chance discovery. He will not be mine to raise, but rather to baptize.

No one will be afraid of this baby. No one has issued a decree to kill him. On the contrary, he is welcomed by purveyors of child care and child wear, as well as toy stores and educational institutions.

But tomorrow’s baptism isn’t that distant from the Nile River, reed baskets, Pharaoh and chance discovery.

This little one will find his world always expanding. He will find friends outside his neighborhood. He will find new ways of learning and new adventures. He will explore shops and he will face media opportunities. Some day he will be offered a set of car keys and perhaps go out on a date.

As he grows, he will have to make important decisions that have far reaching consequences. Some day he will leave home for who knows what living arrangement.

He will find some wonderful people, but he will also discover that not everyone is his friend, not everyone has his best interest at heart. He will face danger.

I would hope this boy finds some people like the Pharaoh’s daughter who hear his cries and whose hearts will go out to him.

Moses’ fate depended upon the compassion of someone of a far different culture and social status. If she had acted as might have been expected from someone like her, end of story. If the ethnic difference caused her to react in hate or fear, end of story. If she had been too self-absorbed to notice what was going on around her, end of story and end of Moses.

The story depended on her compassion, her putting mercy ahead of ethnic cleansing.

When we baptize this little boy tomorrow, and send him out into the world, we know he will be vulnerable and somewhat unaware of the ways of a dangerous world. We will pray that he finds sensitive, warm, loving and considerate people, teachers who believe in him, friends and strangers who act beyond self-interest, and faith communities where mercy, forgiveness, charity and love prevail.

Dear reader, may you find compassion in your heart toward the vulnerable in our midst.