The school in which I usually lead collective worship is now following Rochester Diocese's three year plan for worship, which can be found here. The theme this term is the sea, so although it isn't actually in the plan I thought the parting of the Red Sea might fit in. The children loved it, and one, who has quite profound physical disabilities came up to me afterwards and told me how sometimes he really struggled to do his school work, but that he had found that people helped him. He told me about some of his strategies for coping with his difficulties - a child for whom the glass, movingly, was clearly half-full rather than half-empty!
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, a long way from their home.
The king of Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh, was very cruel to them. He made them work very hard, and he wouldn’t let them rest.
Who would help them? Had God forgotten them? That’s what they thought.
But God had other ideas.
There was a young man he had his eye on to help.
His name was Moses. Moses was an Israelite, but he had grown up in Pharaoh’s palace. He’d run away when he was grown up though, and lived in a desert place, looking after sheep. But one day Moses saw a strange thing. A bush that was on fire, but wasn’t getting burned up.
As he went closer to look, a voice came from out of the bush.
It was God.
“Moses, I have a job for you.”
“ I am the God your ancestors worshipped before you came to Egypt. I haven’t forgotten abuot my people. I love them very much and I can see how much they are suffering. So I want you to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go!”
“I can’t do that” said Moses, “no one will listen to me!”
“Oh yes they will, “said God, “Just you wait and see.”
So Moses went back to Egypt, and he went to Pharaoh.
“My God says‘ let my people go’ “said Moses.
“No” said Pharaoh. “Why on earth should I do that.”
“If you don’t,” said Moses “terrible things will happen.”
“Pah! Don’t be ridiculous”.
But terrible things did happen.
First the rivers of Egypt all went bright red, like blood.
Then frogs filled the land.
Then there were locusts and biting insects, and hailstorms and all sorts of other disasters.
Each time Moses gave Pharaoh another chance.
“Let my people go!” he said.
But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.
Until the very last disaster.
A sickness swept through the land and the oldest child of ever family, human and animal, died. All except for the children of the Israelites, who were spared. It was a terrible, terrible thing.
“Let my people go!” said Moses.
And Pharaoh said yes. How could he not.
So Moses told all the Israelites to pick up their bags and follow him, as fast as they could.
And they did.
And it was just as well they were moving fast, because they hadn’t gone far when Pharaoh changed his mind. “Why should I let them go? I need them to work as my slaves!”
So he sent his soldiers after them, with all their armour and their chariots.
And the people ran, but the soldiers ran faster.
They began to catch up.
Then Moses and the Israelites came to a big sea called the Red Sea.
They didn’t have boats.
There wasn’t a bridge.
They were stuck.
Everyone thought it was hopeless.
But Moses remembered God’s promise
He didn’t think God would let them get this far and then let them down.
So Moses prayed.
And God told him what to do.
Moses lifted up the stick he held in his hand.
And he stretched out his hand over the sea.
And a wind began to blow.
And it blew the water up into a wall on one side, and a wall on the other, so that the water was all heaped up.
And the people just walked across the sea bed to the other side.
But what about the Egyptians?
If the Israelites could walk through, they could come through to.
They set off , following the Israelites, with all their chariots and their armour.
But Moses had got to the other side.
And he turned round.
And he stretched out his stick again.
And the waters came crashing down on the Egyptians and swept them away.
Now I don’t know if it really happened like that at all. The Bible isn’t a newspaper report or a history book, which tells us things exactly as they were. It is a book of stories to help us think.
That story helps me think, because it reminds me that when I think it’s all hopeless, that I can’t do something, I shouldn’t give up. Things can happen that I haven’t thought of. God can help me, perhaps through someone else who comes along to help me. I might have an idea I hadn’t thought of before. I’m not on my own. There are always people who can help.
Prayer: Think of something you find really hard. Think about who you could talk to about that.
Loving God, help us when we feel we don’t know what to do. Help us to tell someone who can help us. Help us to accept their help. Amen
(The children were entirely unbothered by the Egyptians being swept away - I was a bit worried, but they didn't seem to worry about the wholesale slaughter in the story. They listened very thoughtfully to the final plague though, and I could see they agreed with me that it was a terrible, terrible thing.)