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NOBODY STANDS STILL / A LITTLE HELP AT THE RIGHT TIME
November 15, 2008
 
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, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention of the church's work with the poor and those who suffer from the effects of war or natural disaster, explores the minstry of Episcopal Relief & Development. As with all the eMos, preaches and teachersare welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.



Nobody Stands Still

Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.
Matthew 25:24-26


The Parable of the Talents ( text follows) isn't really about money and it isn't really about the rich man.

It's about risk. You don't get anywhere in life unless you're willing to accept some.

None of us stand still. We have to keep moving forward, or we find ourselves left behind. None of us can afford not to contribute what we have to the life of the world and none of us can afford not to grow. We will lose what we have if we try to do either.

Yes, you might lose if you take a risk. That does happen sometimes. But you are certain to lose if you do not. Because the world doesn't stand still; if I refuse to move with it, it will leave me behind.

The last man of the three dug frantically in the black soil until he unearthed his single coin, caked with dirt. Here it is! he said to his master. But it was not longer worth what it had been worth. A talent didn't buy as much as it had when he buried it. It had lost value. It had become less than it was before.

Does this sound frightening? Or just exhausting -- is life just too damned much work? I don't think so. Human beings are hard-wired for work and growth. It agrees with us. We are like racehorses, who just need to run: we feel best if we are stetching ourselves, trying, learning, growing. We are powerfully drawn to a certain inertia once in a while, of course, when we are tired -- but a lifetime of it does not delight us. It makes us feel as if we didn't exist.

And we do exist. We have been given a place here on the earth, for a certain span of time. The time is now: we don't get to come back and give it another shot.

And the risk we take is not ours to bear alone. God also takes a risk on each of us: gives us the gift of life and the gift of talent. Cheers and encourages us to use them fully. And then waits to see what we will do with them.

And if we don't do much? Don't do enough? Will we really be thrown into the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth and lots of etcetera? I guess the writer thought so. But it seems to me that we provide a fair amount of our own etcetera ourselves -- by our own actions or by our inaction. Right here and now.

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Here is the complete text of the Parable of theTalents:

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents,* to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 31
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Petnecost 27, Proper 28, Year A
Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
or
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30
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And here is the Episcopal Relief & Development meditation:

A Little Help at the Right Time

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
Matthew 25:16-18


Microfinance -- small loans to help poor people set up or enlarge small businesses -- is big news in philanthropy these days. It answers the frustration of those who want to help but don't want to enable a culture of dependency, who want people in poor countries to become self-sustaining. There will always be a need for direct aid -- food, water, blankets, medicine -- in time of disaster. But the goal of helping is t o help people return to normal life, not to perpetuate an acute state of emergency.

As soon as possible after something terrible happens, people need to feel again that their own efforts will make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families. They need to find a way out of victim status. It cannot remain, or it will paralyse their spirits, rendering them unable to help themselves.

Microfinance helps this happen. Loans --- tiny by our standards, maybe $25, maybe $75 -- to repair his fishing boat, to buy seed for her market garden, to buy fabric and thread for the garments she will sew after the children have gone to bed, and which she will sell in the village. And then another loan, after the first one is repaid, for another boat, for another small plot of land, for another sewing machine for her eldest daughter to use alongside her. So they will catch more fish, raise more vegetables, sell more blouses and skirts. Almost no one defaults. From place to place, the repayment rate for such loans is about 98 percent.

In the tiny village of Kishorinagar in northern India, Rupchard and his wife Rhada struggled for years to make an income from the land. They managed to piece together an existence from fishing, raising pigs and growing vegetables.

Through a joint micro-finance initiative between Episcopal Relief & Development and the Church of North India, the couple received chicks a nd chickens, allowing them to begin a small poultry business. They determined just how many chickens they would need to make a profit, and even built a special shed to protect the chickens.

“With 30 eggs in a day, it’s possible to recover the cost of the feed, multiply our stock and sell older chickens for profit,” Rhada says.

Just a little help at the right time is often all it takes. They'll do the rest themselves.

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To learn more about the work of Episcopal Relief and Development, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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