This morning'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, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the church's service to the poor and those who suffer as a result of war or disease, explores the work of Episcopal Relief & Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
A Political Conversation
And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know."
Watch the presidential and vice-presidential debates, and you will see the careful use of words chosen to keep the candidate "on message." No matter what you are asked, on no matter what subject, make sure you get your special words in there -- you know, the ones we've been coaching you on all these weeks.
This set of verses from Matthew is a very political discussion. "We'd better choose our words carefully: if we say this, he'll say that. And we can't have that, so let's say it this way instead. No, wait -- then we leave ourselves wide open to this, and that's no good. You know, let's just not say anything. Let's just tell him we don't know. "
But you can't skate around the edge of the pond forever. We can't avoid taking responsibility for our own ideas and beliefs. Sooner or later, we have to come down somewhere. If we refuse to do so, we will have earned the irrelevant status we will achieve. Nobody will ask us anything if they already know we won't give a meaningful answer.
But I might lose! People might be angry at me. I might even lose a friend. I might even be ostracised. Maybe. And those are big losses to absorb.
But at what cost do you play it safe for a lifetime? The cost of not being an example of moral courage to the people who look up to you. The cost of not being a person to whom anybody with any moral sense would look for moral leadership. That's the cost of a lifetime of safety at all costs.
And it's just too expensive.
Pentecost 20, Proper 21, Year A
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25: 1-8
And here is the Episcopal Relief & Development meditation:
"Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and o ur children and livestock with thirst?"
The entire town of Galveston was destroyed by Hurricane Ike. 31 people were killed, and many more were injured. Thousands were left stranded in what remained of their homes -- some marooned on nothing more than the remnant of a roof -- necessitating a house-to-house rescue mission involving emergency workers and volunteers from all over America. Many residents evacuated before the hurricane hit, or it would have been even worse.
And so the survivors survive. They are still alive. But their troubles are not over. The water is undrinkable. There is no food. There is no power. Much remains to be done.
Why did God save us, the Israelites wondered, after the first triumphant flush of victory? Why bother to save our lives if we are only to die here in the wilderness of something else? This is the aftermath of tragedy if you survive it: a grinding cycle of improvisation and need, an endless What's next? What now? What do we do what has happened?
It is precisely in the "What now?" that God shows forth his glory. The way in which life becomes possible again, a way in which we can figure if we choose to do so, is the way of Christ. Christ doesn't defeat death by not dying; he does it by dying and rising. How will we rise? And how will be be part of the rising of other people, like Hurricane Ike's victims, who have lost everything?
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has been deeply affected by the storm. Recent reports are focusing on the destruction in Houston, Orange, Galveston, Beaumont and other areas. News continues to pour in and assessments are currently under way. Episcopal Relief & Development is responding with funds to address immediate needs of vulnerable families.
The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has been affected by evacuated populations. Twenty-one of their institutions are functioning as Red Cross shelters and network of more than two hundred volunteers will maintain the shelters for as long as they are needed. These churches offered meal programs and relief supplies including tarps and water.
“Episcopal Relief & Development is communicating with affected dioceses in Western Louisiana, Texas, West Texas and Arkansas and is providing critical assistance as the needs arise,” said Don Cimato of Episcopal Relief & Development. “We are working in coordination with voluntary organizations at state and national levels with the goal of preventing the duplication of services.”
Episcopal Relief and Development is ready to be a part of the rising with emergency support: food, water, medicine, shelter and other basic supplies. And to be part of the "What now?" on a long-term basis as well, as rebuilding follows recovery.
To support people on the Gulf Coast affected by the worst hurricane season in some years, please make a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development’s “US Hurricane Fund” online at www.er-d.org, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development “US Hurricane Fund” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA22116-7058. For contributions assisting those in Haiti and the Caribbean, please give to Episcopal Relief & Development’s “Hurricane Relief Fund”.