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.
Not Just Blind, and Not Just a Beggar
Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Well, wasn't it obvious? The man was blind -- why would Jesus even ask? Of course he wanted his sight back. What else would he want?
But Jesus does not assume that. Yes, the man had a disability -- but he was still a force to be reckoned with, capable of defying anxious friends, who wanted him to sit down and be quiet, for heaven's sake. And capable not only of that, but of "springing up," tossing his cloak aside and making his way toward the healer. Try "springing up" with your eyes closed sometime: moving around without sight is a scary business for most of us.
So yes, he was blind, and a beggar. But he still had a life in his community, and he still had spirit and initiative. He could have wanted to talk to Jesus about any number of things. Jesus interacted with the whole person, not just the handicap.
People are always patting me, a friend told me once. She has had executive positions in several nonprofits and served in several leadership positions in her large parish. She walks with crutches and often uses a wheelchair. Once a priest stroked my cheek while giving me communion! That priest allowed herself to become fascinated with her own compassion, a dangerous thing if ever there was one. She saw the chair and the crutches but missed the person.
None of us can be fully understood in terms of only one of our attributes. We are all more than even our most visible weaknesses, just as we are all less than the sum of our strengths. And our fellowship with one another is as whole people, not as walking maladies.
This man hints at a life of the mind and spirit we know nothing about. He already knows who Jesus is. "My teacher," he calls Jesus, whom -- presumably -- he has never met, as if he were already part of his band. He's been on the road to fulfillment for a while, it seems, before we encounter him, blind and begging, on the side of the road.
Pentecost 21 Proper 25
Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
And here is the Episcopal Relief & Development meditation:
Happily Ever After
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children's children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Most Jewish and Christian scholars agree that these final verses of the Book of Job are not original to the story. They were added later on, by someone who could not bear the starkness of the original. Someone who couldn't bear it if everything didn't turn out well in the end.
It's hard on us, that things don't always turn out well in the end. But that's the original message of Job: life is hard, and frequently unfair. Your faith will need to be based on more than your own well-being and that of those you love. Our faithfulness -- or our lack of it -- is always lived out in the midst of this universal truth.
In no other activity is this knowledge so important as in serving the poor and those who suffer. There are so many of them, and we know going in that the task is bigger than we are. But faith encourages us to go ahead, refusing to allow the knowledge that we can't do everything prevent us from doing anything.
Almost half of Bangladesh’s 135 million citizens live below the poverty line, and the country’s malnutrition and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest. In a setting with multiple poverty challenges, targeted programs can have a major impact. The Church of Bangladesh is improving health care in the impoverished Madhupur subdistrict of the country by supporting a health clinic. The Thanarbaid Clinic and its sub-center in Dhorati provide services to 18 communities at a nominal cost.
With a population of 100,000, the district has few government services available. The Thanarbaid Clinic is the only health program accessible to the poor, providing outpatient and inpatient care, a mobile health unit and hospital transfer service. In 2008, more than 14,600 people directly benefited from the Clinic’s services and additional outreach programs.
The Clinic employs innovative strategies to meet the needs of patients. Visiting health workers travel by bicycle to remote villages in order to assist pregnant women who have no means of reaching the clinic. The workers provide training and supplies for sanitary home births, as well as postnatal care to babies and toddlers, who are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. This care includes monitoring nutritional intake, giving immunizations and weighing and measuring children to assure proper growth.
Kanon, a Thanarbaid visiting health worker, sees expectant mothers each month through the seventh month of pregnancy and weekly during the last two months, or daily if complications arise. Recently, she visited Lipa and Tilu, each of whom is expecting her second child. Each mother had delivered her first child at home. This time, Lipa and Tilu said, they’re both planning to deliver at the Clinic “for safety, because of the experienced nurses and the instruments available.” If a mother chooses to have the child at home, Kanon assists with delivery and ensures the safety of mother and baby before, during and after birth. She also teaches families about basic health issues to prevent disease, such as hand washing, latrine use and choosing nutritious foods.
According to Kanon, just five years ago, local residents were superstitious and fearful of health workers coming to their homes. “They believed that if a child took medicine, it would grow up to be difficult,” she said. “A pregnant woman would not come out of the house for fear that bad spirits would get her. Villagers wouldn’t allow children to be weighed for malnutrition.” Through the efforts of Kanon and her Thanarbaid colleagues, residents have grown more comfortable with seeking care at the Clinic and from visiting health workers.
With hunger an ongoing local problem, the Thanarbaid Clinic maintains a fish pond, duck farm and produce garden to provide inpatients and staff with sustainable sources of food. In addition, a sanitation outreach program ensures clean water through the installation of wells and latrines. This initiative is helping people improve their overall health by decreasing the amount of waterborne illness.
The Clinic’s dedicated staff is enabling Madhupur residents to receive needed medical care, give their children the right start and live healthier lives. Together with the Church of Bangladesh, Episcopal Relief & Development is healing a hurting world by helping vulnerable people meet basic needs and overcome the challenges of poverty.
Still impoverished, still in need of many things -- prosperity hasn't poured into the laps of the people around Thanarbaid, as it does in the spurious ending of the Book of Job. But there is abundant comfort in a community, local and far away, that works together to make it better, one step at a time.
To learn more about Episcopal Relief & Development, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org, or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129.
Coming Events with Barbara Crafton in 2009-2010
Nov. 8 St Luke's Episcopal Church, 17 Oak Ave, Metuchen NJ Barbara Crafton will preach at 8 and 10, and will read from her latest book, Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet, after the 10am service. The book will be for sale, and Barbara will sign copies.
Nov. 9, 6-8 pm. Benefit Cocktail Party for St. James in Florence at the New York City home of Anne and John Herrmann. Meet Mark Dunnam, new rector of our favorite church in Florence, and help support the work of St. James. Juilliard students who studied in Florence this summer will perform. $100 per person. Telephone Barbara Crafton at 732-762-1767 or Peter Casparian at 516-922-6377.
Nov 9-13 CORL Retreat
A retreat with Barbara Crafton for members of Anglican religious orders, to be held at Community of St. John Baptist in Mendham, NJ.
Wed-Sun, Nov 11-15, 1-2:30pm Women & Spirituality: A Soulful Journey Among Ourselves
The profound experience of women's spiritual quests are explored in a four-part series presented by the Psychotherapy & Spirituality Institute in association with Auburn Seminary, General Theological Seminary & Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City.
Sunday, Nov 15 | 1:00pm-2:30pm | Trinity Wall Street 74 Trinity Place | Barbara Crafton is speaker in the fourth part of this series.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info about the whole series or
November 21-22 St.Paul's, Fairfield, CT
Young people's event Saturday evening, "Telling My Story."
Barbara Crafton is preacher at 9:30 on Sunday
Adult forum follows: "The Devil You Know, and The Angel You
Haven’t Met Yet." http://www.stpaulsfairfield.org
Dec 11-13 Advent Artists; Colony at Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT
Writers, painters, actors, singers, delighted members of the audience -- come away to a beautiful spot for a thoughtful look at the creative process. To register, visit www.trinitywallstreet.org.
December 16-17 Visit to Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, GA Barbara Crafton is retreat leader. To learn more about this visit, call 706-322-5569
January 2-3, 2010 200th Anniversary, Christ Church, Binghamton, NY
The beginning of a yearlong feast of worship, music and celebration of this beautiful church, the oldest in Binghamton. Saturday night, Feast of Lights, Sunday morning, 8 and 10am. Barbara Crafton is preacher.
Saturday, January 23,2010 Christ and St. Stephen's, New York City
Glorify the Lord, O Chill and Cold!
The weather outside may be frightful, but a small green shoot of spring lies nestled deep in the heart of all that icy brown. There is no better time to ponder the glory of nature than when one is most deprived of it, and that would be January in New York City. Snug and warm, we will look at the ways scripture talks about nature, animals, plants, farming and outer space, and perhaps emerge with a hopeful sense of our own place in God's grand scheme of things. Hot cocoa provided. (212) 787-2755
Saturday, February 6, 2010 St. Thomas, Whitemarsh PA Quiet Day
February 21-23, 2010 Calvary Church, Memphis. TN
Barbara Crafton visits for sermons and teaching. www.calvaryjc.org
February 27, 2010 St. Peter' Episcopal Church, Bay Shore, LI (NY) Barbara Crafton is retreat leader. Visit www.stpetersbayshore.org.
March 2-3, 2010 Caroline Church, Stony Brook, LI (NY)
Barbara Crafton is retreat leader.
March 5-6, 2010 Kanuga Retreat with Holy Trinity, Clemson
Barbara Crafton is retreat leader.
March 13-14, 2010 St. Matthew's Evanston
Barbara Crafton visits St. Matthews for a Saturday Quiet Day and Sunday preaching.
March 19-20, 2010 Quiet Day at St. James Spiritual Center, Greenville, SC
Barbara Crafton is retreat leader. For information, visit www.saintjamescenter.org
Saturday, March 27, 2010 National Cathedral, Washington, DC
A Spirituality of Joy of Sorrow
On the day before Palm Sunday, a look at the ups and down of anybody's serious walk with God. www.nationalcathedral.org, click on "congregation" and then "formation."
May 21-23, 2010 Daughters of the King, Diocese of San Joaquin, CA
Barbara Crafton leads a DOK retreat in this reborn diocese.
June 11-13, 2010 Companions of the Holy Cross, Adelynrood, Byfield, MA
Barbara Crafton is retreat leader. Visit www.adelynrood.org.
Saturday, July 17, 2010 Sisters of St. Margaret Patronal Festival, Boston
The Sisters of St. Margaret have a long and loving history of service throughout the church; you can "visit" them and see at www.ssmbos.com. Barbara Crafton will preach.
Church of the Ascension,Montgomery, AL Dec 12, 2010
Barbara Crafton visits for quiet day and preaching.
December 5-6, 2010 Grace Church, Camden, SC
Barbara Crafton visits for a quiet day and preaching.