Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, which explores the work of Episcopal Relief and Development with the poor and those who suffer as a result of war or natural disaster, is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry in the world. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
Life and Death in the Sparrow World
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Such tiny animals, sparrows -- we have a family of them in a birdhouse out back, and they're able to enter and leave their home through an opening the size of a quarter. I'm pretty sure it's the same family each year -- birds do that, you know, find a place they like and come back to it. Of course, how would I know there the same ones as last year, really?
In fact, how could they be? Sparrows only live a year or two in the wild.
Sparrows all look alike to me. People sometimes say that those of a race other than their own all look alike, too, and they say it in all seriousness. Such limited vision improves quickly when one lives as a minority in the midst of someone else's ethnic majority; very soon, the differences that christen each of us an irreplaceable individual spring forth, visible and obvious. Individual faces emerge from the crowd, and we forget that there ever was a time when we couldn't see them. People don't all look alike, period, no matter what race they are. And they never did all look alike to God.
We are treasured, each of us, by the God who made us each unique, and we treasure our own uniqueness. But we are also part of a community, each of us, and the meaning of why we're here is found there. Life would hold little excitement if all I beheld in myself were myself: it is the answering light in another's eyes that brings us each to life.
And when the sparrow falls, that tiny being, consecrated to its brief life on earth by its infinite creator? It leaves a hole in the sparrow world -- I cannot presume to imagine the customs of sparrow bereavement, but I have witnessed the frantic efforts of a pair of cardinals to save their downed chick, and I will never forget their fear or their fury in the attempt. It rejoins the vegetative earth completely, every last graceful molecule of bird. And in the mind of God's eternal present, like all of us, it will never not have been.
Pentecost VI,Proper 7, Year A
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Psalm 69: 8-11, (12-17), 18-20
An Ecology of Need and Spirit
Do not let me look on the death of the child.
There have been more than two dozen fatalities directly resulting from recent devastating storms and flooding in the American Midwest. Some of them have been children -- the four Boy Scouts who died when a tornado swept their campground come to mind, as do their heroic young comrades, who set immediately to administering the first aid in which they had all been trained. The waters continue to rise, in some places, as teams of citizens work round the clock to pile sandbags against the flood.
It could have been worse, of course. More could have died in the raging waters. But the Midwest flooding will have a ripple effect throughout the world: this is the agricultural heartland of America. Its bounty feeds us and also feeds the hungry in many other places. Farmland in the hundreds of thousands of acres has been destroyed. There will be less grain to buy and sell and less to give away, at a time when the worldwide food supply is already running into frightening shortages. Not many children will die here from this flooding, although the loss of even one child anywhere is a tragedy. But many might die of hunger elsewhere because of it.
Episcopal Relief and Development is assisting the dioceses in which the storms and flooding have occurred. In Iowa, Episcopal Relief & Development is working with its partner the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa to provide support to people who have been displaced from their homes. Mental health services will also be offered as the need arises. In Milwaukee, Episcopal Relief & Development will partner with the Diocese of Milwaukee to assist people in rural counties. In northeastern Wisconsin, the agency is working in Fond du Lac to restock the food pantry at the Cathedral and provide temporary rental assistance to families as they clean up their flooded homes. In Indianapolis, Episcopal Relief & Development will work with the Diocese of Indianapolis to provide rental assistance, food and water aid to families in communities that have no potable water. ERD officials are in contact with the Episcopal dioceses in Missouri and Illinois, as rising water threatens towns and farmland there, as well.
We are all connected -- an American family, suddenly homeless in Iowa, and a poor family in Haiti, in need of bread. There is an ecology of human need: everything that happens in this world affects everything else, though not always in obvious ways. And there is an ecology of the Holy Spirit in the world as well, joining those in need and those with plenty in a fellowship of compassion and concern.
ERD has made a special bulletin insert about the Midwest flooding available to us for this Sunday and the weeks ahead. Go to their new website. www.er-d.org, where you will find it available for downloading. You can learn more about ERD there, too, and make a donation. Or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
And visit the Geranium Farm to continue economist Carol Stone's look at the worldwide food shortage. Go tot www.geraniumfarm.org and click on Ways of the World.
While there, check out the book store. Charles Colwell's new book, Collision of Worlds is there, as well as Jim Melchiorre's Novena in Time of War, my own Mass in Time of War and Laura Palmer's Shrapnel in the Heart.