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FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE
June 30, 2004
 
,i.Today's eMo is in two parts: a meditation on texts that will be read and preached on in church this Sunday, and a second one, on the same set of texts, for preachers who wish to focus their sermons on the work of the Church among the suffering, through the 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.

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Do not move about from house to house.
Luke 10:7

You move up by moving out these days, of course -- let the headhunters know you're available, and they will sniff out your next move up the ladder at one of your company's competitors. This used to work like a charm in boom times, and people darted back and forth among companies like pinballs, changing jobs every couple of years, while the companies hired four-star chefs and installed pool tables in their efforts to become -- and remain -- queen of the prom. Then came the slump, and the chef became a microwave in a corner of the copy room, the pool table received an overlay of plywood and became a storage space for cardboard filing boxes. Then one day it disappeared completely, and the cardboard boxes were lined up against the wall. Times were tough, and you can get eight or nine thousand dollars for one of those pool tables.

Now people are glad to have a job at all, and are willing to play pool on their own time to keep one. The ones who have lost their jobs can play pool all day, if they want to, although there's no longer any money in it, unless you're really, really good, and that's a different profession altogether. They are a bit puzzled at the rosy statistics about job creation that they read in the papers, until they reflect upon how important a thing the definition of words is: recently, it was suggested that food service jobs -- like working at MacDonald's -- be reclassified as manufacturing jobs, on the argument that one assembles a Big Mac in much the same manner as people used to assemble a Ford Taurus. Manufacturing. I see. Your Big Mac comes in significantly below your Taurus, though -- the MacDonald's line worker makes the minimum wage, instead of the living wage the UAW worker used to get.

I guess we have to move from house to house, now, move to whatever house we can afford to live in. Cash in on the incredible prices people are getting for their houses these days -- This is really crazy, every seller says, looking at the long string of zeroes, the three bids that came in over his asking price. The next time he walks by, though, he is stunned to see that his house is gone, and that an enormous but somehow still cheap-looking shell has gone up right on the spot where it stood. That all his trees have been cut down so the squatting behemoth can fill the entire lot, right out to the edges.

Such large houses, yet so many out of work, and for so long. Some doing so well, some paralyzed in an economic Never-Neverland. Something doesn't make sense.

In the apostolic preaching business, staying in the same house was a matter of finding fertile ground for the work and staying there to work it. Don't give up too quickly, but don't waste your time on doomed enterprises. Not everything works, so get to the place where it does work and stay there, extracting every last drop of good from your time there. After you are gone, you no longer control what will happen there. Maybe more good things, or maybe the complete undoing of all your hard work. Maybe they'll tear your house down and put up a disaster in its place. The ultimate success or failure of what we do and what we build is not entirely in our hands -- we only have them for a little while. The rest of it is up to God, in whom the unknowable future lives.

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And here is the ERD sermon meditation:


Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you."
Luke 10:8


Abel is not the only child in Kitwe whose mother has died. Kitwe has the
highest incidence of AIDS in Zambia. He is not the only one living with an aunt, either: his aunt and uncle, who had four other children, took him in when his mother died in 1999 and his dad could no longer care for him. For a while, it was a stable arrangement, but then Abel's uncle died in 2000. Now Aunt Justina sells charcoal and vegetables all by herself. She feeds the six of them on what she earns doing that. I guess Aunt Justina is what we mean when we talk about a hero.

Could we do that? Would we? Take in a fifth child, when we could hardly feed the four we had? Each of us much answer that question for
ourselves, and my heart is heavy at the very thought. May we never be
in a position to find out for sure.

But this courageous woman has an important friend in faraway America.
Episcopal Relief and Development is partnering with the local Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation to provide food, education and medical care for the children of Kitwe. At Abel's school, the Mary Sikaneta Preschool, a balanced meal is provided every day for every student, and more food goes home to Aunt Justina for the family. Abel and his cousins receive free medical care at the clinic.

Little Abel loves his school, and he works hard at his lessons. He will
have more education than the aunt who has saved his life, whom he also adores, and to whom he clings a little -- Abel can never be sure that the
people he loves will stay in his life.

For now, Abel eats what is set before him: physical food, of course, but
also the education that will give him a chance for a better life. Like Jesus'
disciples, he is fueling himself for the work he will do. Perhaps he will go
on to become a teacher, or a doctor, or some other minister of God's
healing power. He will never forget Aunt Justina. He may not even know about us: the people on the other side of the world, who helped her help him grow up.
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For more information about Episcopal Relief and Development, go to http://www.er-d.org/
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