Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesse Tree Day 12 - Miriam

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ —
Exodus 15: 20 – 21

Every family has its own dynamics and the family of Moses was no exception.  Everyone knows the story of Miriam taking baby Moses to the Nile, putting him in a basket and waiting for someone to find him. It really was the only way to save his life. Pharaoh's daughter found basket and baby, decided on the spot to adopt him and must have been quite surprised when Miriam popped out of the reeds to ask if she wanted a nurse for the baby. After that Miriam seems to disappear until the exodus. She reappears to sing a victory song as the waters drowned Pharaoh's army and left the Israelites safe on the shore. Moses and the men saying a long song in celebration, then Miriam and the women sang their antiphon. You know, it's rather amazing to hear a woman's voice acknowledged in this way, especially in a situation removed from home and maternity, and with a very definite female name attached to it.

Songs are an important part of our lives, whether we sing them or just hear them or even think them. There are songs for babies, for children, for almost every stage of life and almost any situation. Songs are not just communication of thought, their expression of emotion and even prayer. St. Augustine is credited with saying "He who sings prays twice." He may not have put it in exactly those words but that's the sentiment and, I think, is a more than valid argument. Certainly David's psalms were songs to be sung but were also in every sense prayers. In the Episcopal Church it used to be the custom to chant psalms and canticles as part of the daily prayer and even in the worship of the church on Sundays. Often the most annoying little ditty from a commercial becomes an earworm that can't be ignored, no matter how fervently we pray to have it stopped or at least changed. I still wonder why Miriam's song was included in the text, but I'm certainly glad it was.

What can I learn from Miriam? It doesn't have to be a long and involved aria or even a ballad created by a master singer. What matters is that my heart sings and that heart song becomes a prayer. I can also learn that sometimes special gifts, like Miriam's title of prophet, isn't revealed right at the beginning. Then too, I can learn that sometimes it's better not to challenge authority, or, if I do, it should be for the right reasons.

Sing in thanksgiving.

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