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YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU
July 28, 2004
 
Today's eMo is in two parts: the usual sermon preparation eMo, followed by a second meditation on the texts intended for preachers who wish to focus on the Church's service to the poor 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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His tiny room was full of stuff: blankets, clothing, pots and pans. More than he could ever use. He picked up things he found, things other people had thrown away. But he himself couldn't throw anything away -- he hoarded things, like lots of the formerly homeless. But also like the rich man in this Sunday's gospel reading. Odd, that the very poor and the very rich would both accumulate more than they need and be unable to let it go.

Might there be a species of panic they have in common? A school they have both attended? It is inconceivable to the poor man to throw something away -- he has done without too many things, for too long. You just never know, he tells himself as he lugs yet another bulky television set home.

And the rich man feels exactly the same way, even if he has never been poor in his life. You never know. I might lose everything I have. Better hold onto all of it.

And both are exactly right: you never know. Or rather, you do know: you're going to lose everything you have. Everything. You'll leave this world naked and alone, the same way you came in. Rich or poor, the same.

We hoard things for a rainy day that may never come. We worry about losing everything, as if there were a way to avoid it. There isn't. We have what we have for a short time, so we'd best use it well -- and enjoy it -- while we're still here.



Ecclesiastes 1:12-14;2:(1-7,11)18-23
Psalms 49 or 49:1-11
Colossians 3(5-11)12-17
Luke 12:13-21



And here is the ERD sermon meditation:
'Fool! This night your souls is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Luke 12:20-21


Americans throw away thousands of tons of food every day -- restaurants, school cafeterias, stores, households. We take more than we can eat, and then we throw the rest away.

Don Comelio did something different with his surplus.


Don Comelio lives in the small farming community of La Canoita, Usulatan, El Salvador. He has a small family farm. For years, his crops have been corn and beans, the same crops his father grew, and his grandfather, enough corn and beans to feed his own family: subsistence farming.

But these days, the farm is very different: Asociacion El Mangle in Bajo Lempa, a local agricultural institute, has received assistance from Episcopal Relief and Development to transform agricultural production and produce marketing in Usulatan. Don Comelio attended the training, learning about new crops, and the next season he divided his crop between tomatoes and eggs. Agronomists from Asociation visited the farm often, offering assistance and advice, and the yield was impressive: the first season, his hens were already producing all the eggs his family could eat, and enough tomatoes to sell the surplus, using marketing assistance Asociacion provided. Now, a few years later, Don Comelio is an entrepeneur: he sells to lunch counters in Usulatan, small stores and market vendors. If you eat a tomato in Bajo Lempa, it's probably from his farm. And his own children are growing tall and strong, their diets enriched by plenty of protein and fresh vegetables.

He is as proud of his success as the landowner in the gospel reading. But he doesn't hoard his surplus, like his ancient counterpart -- he keeps it in motion, to improve his farm and support his family, to feed his neighbors and assure his own future and that of his children.
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