From the eMo Archives: here is a meditation on texts you probably last heard read and preached on in church in 2010. I have amended it slightly to reflect this year's fearsomeness. Regrettably, only the details change -- the world is, as always, a hazard place.
WHERE'S JESUS? / MENDING WORK
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard 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 with the victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of the worldwide ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution, No further permission is necessary.
Pentecost 25, Proper 28, Year C Isaiah 65:17-25 * Canticle 9 or Psalm 28 * 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 * Luke 21:5-19
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. -- Luke 21:10-11
People who put a lot of effort into figuring out just when the world will end are usually riveted by this passage. It's happening right now! one of them will tell you urgently, gripping your lapels. See? The typhoon in the Philippines just last week. And the polio epidemic in Syria, as if life weren't terrible enough there -- plagues, right? Just like Jesus says in Luke!
Of course, the world is always just like Jesus says in Luke. It was back then, too. That's the world in which we live: a stressful world, disastrous stuff raining down on us all the time. War, politics, misunderstanding, disease, natural disaster -- there's never been an age that didn't teem with these things. Just being here is uphill work. This passage, so often adduced as evidence of the end times, is, in fact exactly the opposite: a counsel not to waste time trying to find the Messiah hidden in the midst of all the wreckage, not to count down to the end so carefully that you miss the opportunities you have now, before the end, to live a holy and loving life in the world.
If Jesus is hiding from us in encrypted events, accessible only to special people who can crack the code...well, maybe that's not Jesus. The Christ who loved us enough to live with us here isn't hiding from us.
And here is the ERD meditation:
- to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. -- 2 Thessalonians 3:12
We gripe a lot about work: groan when we awaken and realize it's Monday, long for the weekend to come. We begin to watch the clock in the late afternoon, and we're ready to go when it's quitting time. This can be true even when our work is something we truly enjoy. Work is work; there's a reason they don't call it "play."
We do all these things until we are unemployed. Suddenly, we want a job more than we want anything else. Now the leisure time we longed for in the old days hangs heavy on us. We feel unexpectedly unworthy, defective in some way because we are not working. We feel this way even if we know our unemployed status isn't our own fault. Human beings need work. We're not okay if we're not productive in some way. How we are remunerated may vary from person to person and place to place, but we don't do well when we cannot work at something.
Your need to work takes a big hit when disaster strikes, along with your home and all your clothes, every pot and pan in the house, the dog, the cat -- all gone. But so is your job, and so is everyone else's job. So is the crop that was two weeks away from harvest, the fishing boat upon which you depended to go out each morning -- smashed to smithereens. You sit amid the wreckage and wonder who you are now.
When Episcopal Relief and Development and its local partners enter the wake of a disaster, it is with a fairly predictable array of things that will help: food, water, tents, medicines. Later on, though, the recovery is more colored by local realities that vary from place to place, rebuilding the structures within which people can work and provide for their families. Helping a shattered market for local goods come back into being. Replacing lost equipment. Maybe offering training for new trades.
We don't swoop in and out of disaster areas, dropping a few hundred blankets and some bottled water and then bowing out. We rely for guidance on the people who know the situation and it's imperatives best: those who live and work right there. Help is a long-term thing, and its goal is the return to self-sufficiency of the people whose working dignity has been wounded by nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
To learn more about ERD's work in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan or make a donation, visit http://www.episcopalrelief.org/press-and-resources/press-releases/2013/super-typhoon-haiyan or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext. 512.