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THE BED IS TOO SHORT, BUT THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
August 18, 2004
 

Today's eMo is in two parts: a meditation on texts that will be read and preached on in church this Sunday, and another one intended for preachers who wish to focus on the Church's work with 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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For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on it, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in it.
Isaiah 28:20
Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. Luke 13:30


Of course these ancient passages are about more important things than sheets and beds, more important things than being first or last in an actual queue. They're poetic drawings on everyday life to suggest much more transcendent holy things.

But I'm in the hospital, and my bed really is too short for me to stretch out comfortably on it. My skimpy blanket really does develop drafty gaps in the night. It really did take me six hours of waiting to get my pacemaker, when I had been scheduled to be first. I am reminded, here, of what it is to long for small things. To wish to be first, and not to be first. To be rather thoroughly at the mercy of a schedule uninterested in my own desires and opinions.
I can see that the temptation to self-pity is the fiercest of all the tempters who visit the sick. One's world shrinks radically in illness, becomes little beyond the brief journey from a supine position to an uncomfortable seat, from weary wakefulness to fitful sleep.

Soon, my happy testimony will join that of the enthusiastic millions for whom the machine which now fires the muscles of my heart into an unaccustomed and somewhat disconcerting energy. Today, though, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

Such a pout, over so temporary a state! Still, nothing sells to us quite as well as the hope that all our trials will have an end. And they will, all of them: my petty ones, and the real heartbreaks that make everyone weep. It will not always be like this.

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And here is the ERD meditation.

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Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

Luke 13:30



"We are here to fight the fight." says Sabine. "We want to bridge the gap so that our children do not face the same difficulties in the future. That is what makes it all worthwhile."

Sabine lives in Lambert's Bay, in the Diocese of Cape Town, South Africa. But the fight she is talking about is not a violent fight. She's talking about her restaurant, a popular spot with tourists on Bird's Island, the first coloured-owned business there.

The legal victory has preceded the winning of hearts and minds in toppling the vicious apartheid system of South Africa -- hearts and minds take longer. Eight years after apartheid's dismantling, the black and coloured majorities continue to feel the sting of discrimination and exclusion from the mainstream economy.

A partnership- between Episcopal Relief and Development and HOPE Africa, the social development arm of the Diocese of Cape Town, builds the capacity of people like Sabine to grow their initiatives into viable businesses. The partnership addresses the needs of people in the Diocese, where great wealth sits incongruously side by side with terrible poverty. Sabine is one example of someone who understands very well that the only way around the difficulties ahead in South Africa is straight through them, and that you need the determination and drive the journey requires. Decades of apartheid have made South Africa's black majority strong and tough, more than able to take what a dying prejudice can dish out.
Through ERD and Hope Africa, Sabine received the training she needed to run her business. On the menu? Delicious grilled crayfish. A local specialty.

To learn more about ERD and HOPE Africa, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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