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 on the church's work among the poor and those who suffer as a result of war or natural disaster, explores the ministry 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.
God With Us
Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
People looking on were shaken, it seems, by Jesus' display of emotion. Perhaps it made him look weak in their eyes. The Gospel of John is an odd place for this glimpse of a Jesus overcome with sorrow -- the rest of the book depicts him striding through the events of his life and death like Superman, so godlike that his humanity doesn't look much like ours at all. But in the 11th chapter of John, Jesus weeps because his friend has died.
If he was truly human, he was truly mixed. We don't like our mixed nature -- we want people to be good or bad, either strong or weak. We try our best to categorize ourselves and one another, so that we will know always know to proceed. But people aren't just one thing or another; we're each a blend of warring strengths and weaknesses. We can be highly intelligent and still do something really stupid. We are both rational and irrational. We are capable of both nobility and moral shabbiness. We may be strong, but sometimes our strength fails us.
When he enters our world, Christ enters our weakness. The Greeks have a fine word for this: ekenosen, literally, "he emptied himself." He pours out his power. All power comes into this world of no power. Strength chooses to be bound by the weakness that binds us. Why? Why does God choose to live as we live, here where the people you love all die, where you die?
I remember two men I knew years ago when I was on the waterfront. They had known each other from childhood; they were from the same tiny Calabrian town, and they were cabin mates. One was a steward, a head waiter, and the other a wiper in the engine room. Ordinary, a wiper might be a young person working his way up in the engine department, but this man -- shy, silent, developmentally disabled, I always thought -- had been a wiper for years and, clearly, would never be anything else.
The cabin they shared was tiny and supremely uncomfortable, and the steward had a chance to take a better one for the rest of his contract. He refused it, though, choosing to stay with his friend. He had promised the man's mother to take care of him, he explained, and another cabinmate might not understand the vulnerability of his friend -- or worse, might understand it all too well and capitalize on it. So he stayed in a hard, narrow bunk in a cabin scarcely bigger than a closet, when he could have had his own cabin.
It was a small thing, I suppose -- but a seafarer is on board for months at a time. It's a hard life, and one pretty low on perks. It would have been nice to have a private space befitting his superior rank. For the sake of love, though, he bound himself with the same chains that bound his friend.
Why is there a Jesus? So God can be with us and we can be with God, even now, and so we can know it. So we can know we're not alone, no matter what happens. So we can know that we are understood. God not only loves us and our world into being, but then chooses to know our world as we learn to know it: from experience.
Feast of All Saints
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
or Isaiah 25:6-9
And here is the ER&D meditation:
Now, More Than Ever
See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."
In the news this week: two terrible car bombings right in the heart of Baghdad. 150 dead, more than 600 wounded, terrible damage to property. Among the buildings extensively damaged was St. George's, the Anglican Church in Baghdad. It could always have been worse: nobody was in the church when it was struck. But the medical clinic in one of its buildings suffered a body blow: much of its equipment was destroyed in the blast. Expensive and hard to replace in wartime Iraq, the equipment was part of one of the city's more hopeful enterprises: it offers free medical and dental care to hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children each week.
Canon Andrew White, vicar of St George's and president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, does not even think of closing up shop. "Some people ask me whether days like today make me want to give up, Canon White said. We have seen much of what we have worked for destroyed. But the truth is, it is days like today that remind us why our work in Iraq is absolutely essential.
Episcopal Relief and Development agrees. That hundreds of clients, of all sects and ethnicities in Iraq, derive such life-saving benefit from one of our churches paves the way for peace there. ER&D will assist St. George's and the Foundation in replacing its lost equipment as soon as a plane can get it there, so that its vital peacemaking work can go on.
To help rebuild the medical clinic at St. George's in Baghdad, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5219. The new Gifts For Life Catalogue from ER&D is out, too: you can view it online or request a paper copy, and let your Christmas "shopping" take a different form this year. My husband and I always give each other ER&D for Christmas -- we are at the point in our lives at which one wants to lighten up, not accumulate, and nothing is more fun than leafing through the catalogue on Christmas morning and deciding what to "buy."
Monday, November 9th, 6-8 A Cocktail Party in New York for St. James in Florence. Spend a couple of convivial hours with Barbara Crafton in an intimate setting on Park Avenue, and do the American Church in Florence some good while you're at it. Former rector Peter Casparian will also be there, as will Bishop Pierre Whalon, and we will meet and mingle with Mark Dunnam, the brand-new rector of St James. Our beloved Juilliard students will be there to serenade us, and our hostess Anne Herrmann tells me that she has just had the piano tuned. The donation is $100/person. RSVP to Barbara Crafton via email@example.com.
And, on Sunday the 8th, Barbara will read and sign copies of Jesus Wept, her most recent book, at St Luke's Episcopal Church, 17 Oak Avenue, Metuchen NJ 08840. She will also preach at 8am and 10am that morning.