There are times that God speaks through the earthquake or through the fire, but there are also times that God speaks through the still small voice. In the past few days, God has been speaking through the small silent voice of a Syrian boy whose little lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.
His name was Aylan Kurdi and his still small voice is now screaming to the world.
As Americans head to the beach this Labor Day weekend, how many will stand at the water’s edge and remember that children like Aylan are washing up on other shores – today?
Will we remember or are we already trying to forget?
God commands that we remember. It was His refrain long before it became the American slogan of 9/11.
“We will never forget” is a hope and a calling but it is also a reminder of how much we fail to remember. And therefore, as the adage goes, we are doomed to repeat the history we have forgotten.
Do we remember that Aylan is not the first child to drown in the sea of forgetfulness? Do we admit that he will not the last?
Throughout history it is children who bear the brunt of human incredulity – leaving them subject to the cruelty of others. People with the power and provision to do something too often turn an unbelieving eye (incredulity) to the reality being experienced by others. We cannot believe that people are being sold into sexual slavery by ISIS. We cannot believe that millions of people are fleeing persecution, poverty and war in the Middle East and North Africa. We cannot believe the depth of man’s inhumanity to man and so we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the pictures and screams until they are silenced against the noise of our own culture.
Children, like Aylan, will drown today as their parents can no longer cling to them against the rising tides of life. We will pack for the weekend. We will drive to the beach. We will forget. Or, we will remember…who we are, whose we are and what we have been called to do in and for the world that He so loves.
So, what can we do? What should we do? What must we do?
There was a time, not unlike our own, when a boy washed up on the shore of a woman’s life. That woman was in a position to help. She was privileged and powerful. And her one act of compassion changed the course of the life of one child – who in turn, changed the course of human history.
That boy’s name might have been Aylan, but it was Moses.
Moses’ parents were slaves in the days when Egypt was ruled by Pharaoh. It was a culture of haves and have not’s. The Egyptians had wealth, the Hebrews had not. But the Hebrews had children and the Egyptians had not. So, as cruelty would have it, Pharaoh ordered midwives to terminate pregnancies before birth (aborting them). In an act of obedience to God and civil disobedience to Pharaoh, the midwives refused. So, Pharaoh ordered that the male babies be drowned in the Nile.
The site of a dead baby among the reeds along the shoreline would not have been unusual. But hearing an infant cry out for deliverance? Well, that small voice got the attention of someone in a position to help.
The text says that after Moses’ mother, in her own act of civil disobedience, hid him for three months and could hide him no longer,
“she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.”
A baby washed up on the shore of her life and the compassionate act of this one young woman changed the course of human history.
What resources are within your reach? Do you have an empty seat at the table, an empty bedroom, an empty house but a full heart? Could you take in one child or one woman and her baby or even one family? Could your church?
There are more than 350,000 registered religious congregations in the United States. If every church took in one family the refugee situation would be utterly transformed. Could your church do that? Would they? Should they?
People fleeing ISIS in Syria and Iraq and people fleeing persecution and poverty in North Africa comprise a refugee and migrant crisis that the world has not seen since World War II. The question is, “do we see it now?” Do we hear the still small voice of God crying out to His people in the little lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi? And having heard, will we act in compassion?
If not, then I dare say we must prepare ourselves for what awaits us at the beach.