In 2011, when Journalist James Foley was held captive for 44 days by forces loyal toMoammar Gadhafi in Libya, he prayed while imprisoned that his family, many miles away, would somehow know he was safe.
“Haven’t you felt my prayers?” Foley asked his mother, Diane, when he was finally allowed to call home. She responded that his friends and family had been praying, too, holding vigils filled with former professors, priests and Marquette students. She echoed his question back: Have you felt ours?
He had, the journalist said. “Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat,” Foley later wrote.
In 2012, the 40 year old Catholic was abducted again, this time by the extremist group ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State and which has chosen an "ends justifies the means" approach to creating a warped vision of the Ummah, or Islamic community.
On Tuesday of this week, James Foley was killed. The ISIS militant responsible said Foley’s murder was payback for U.S. airstrikes that have helped drive ISIS from strategic cities and infrastructure in northern Iraq.
Journalist Daniel Burke wrote, The man in orange, kneeling. The man in black, wielding a knife. One asked God to cross the “cosmic reach of the universe” and soothe his family. The other claimed to kill in the "name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful."
…..the contrast between the two religious paths - one led a journalist to cover conflicts,the other a jihadist to create them - is jarring.
Martin Marty, one of our most insightful living religious historians, observed, "It's story versus story…and the more you are threatened, the more dramatic and deep the story is going to be."
(Burke) It should be said, and repeated often, that the contrast is not between Christianity and Islam. No faith teaches people to massacre innocents, and the vast majority of those being massacred are Muslim.
Faith becomes an excuse for human goals.
(Burke) ISIS has bombed revered religious sites,murdered hundreds and tortured and enslaved many others – all in the name of building an Islamic state.
Foley's friends and family say his faith inspired a very different moral course. He organized fundraisers for slain journalists, taught convicts in Chicago to read, and risked his life to tell the stories of people living under the brutal rule of dictators.
He was the kind of guy who always offered half his sandwich or cigarette, one friend recalled. He was mensch, if such can be said of a Catholic from New Hampshire.The source of his unselfishness was clear, said Foley’s friends."Jim's faith was something we all agreed not to discuss publicly while he was held in Syria,” said Max Fisher, a journalist at Vox.com, “but it was the wellspring of his generosity."
It’s a paradox of modern life - most of human history, actually – that saints and sinners alike draw from …. religious waters.
"It's story versus story," as Marty put it, "and you get rid of the bad ones by telling good ones."
Our reading from Exodus this morning is just such a “story vs. story.”
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
The Middle East of Moses' day had change in political leadership, forgetting what brought hope and life in the past.
He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
The king is afraid
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."
The King is strangely Conflicted-afraid they’ll fight us and afraid they’ll leave.
What do we need them for? Is it to remind us of our superiority? Because we need someone to exercise power over? Economic reliance? (a situation created by the King’s choices.)
The King feels an urgent need for defensive action. Will he fight or flee? What choice does the king have?
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.
Does anyone else find this reminiscent of the prelude to WWII?
But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.
Does anyone else find this reminiscent of western slavery?
Or-attitudes toward young black men today.
The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites,
and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live."
But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?"
The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them."
To whom do the midwives owe the truth?
So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."
“Story vs. story,” one a story of imploding control one a story of expansive hope.
Both contain an element of fear.
Not only, who do you fear, but also quality of fear.
Defense vs awe.
Power of king in this story is death,
There is an element of Jungian Male/female
The male power cannot give birth, its purpose is to protect and sustain.
Power of midwives-choice of life or death.
Similarity of birthing and dying-close to the source,
We are kings or midwives to each other.
Protect and sustain?
Accompany journey of birth, death?
FEAR or HOPE
It was the king’s choice.
It was the midwives’ choice.
The midwives fit Pat Farrell’s description of “Weeds of Hope”
……in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Hope makes us attentive to signs of the in-breaking of the Reign of God. Jesus describes that coming reign in the parable of the mustard seed….
Though it can also be cultivated, mustard is an invasive plant, essentially a weed…. We can, indeed, live in joyful hope because there is no political or ecclesiastical herbicide that can wipe out the movement of God’s Spirit. Our hope is in the absolutely uncontainable power of God. We who pledge our lives to a radical following of Jesus can expect to be seen as pesky weeds that need to be fenced in. If the weeds of God’s Reign are stomped out in one place they will crop up in another.
 Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog editor, August 20, 2014, http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/08/20/james-foleys-prayers-and-the-dark-side-of-faith/