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MORAL VALUES / A KNOCK ON THE WIDOW'S DOOR
November 3, 2004
 
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard in church this Sunday: the first is the usual sermon preparation eMo, and the second is intended for preachers who wish to focus on the Church's work 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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Moral Values

Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother.
Luke 20:28


"Moral values" was the phrase the exist pollsters used: they asked people who had just voted which issue had most informed their votes. Was it the war? The economy? Jobs? Or was it "moral values." And of the first-time voters who swamped the polling stations, "moral values" was the reason given most often for the vote cast.

It was a phrase at once narrow and vaguely defined. It seemed to confine itself to sexual concerns -- moral concerns were gay marriage and abortion. Oh, and stem cell research, the discussion of which relates to abortion. But the poor, and the war, and fair access to health care -- these were not moral concerns. Neither was the budget deficit. Neither was Social Security. Neither was our relation to other countries and other cultures.

I see. I guess you don't learn everything there is to know about morality in seminary. Or maybe you learn too much.

There is a moral theology of sexuality, a discussion that has been going on for thirty years and more. But there is also a moral discussion of war and peace, of the dignity of human labor -- read the eloquent letters of the assembled Roman Catholic bishops on these subjects: they do often express their views on issues other than sex. Capital punishment is a moral issue, especially for those who claim to value the sanctity of human life. Good Lord.

Stand up. Stand up for morality in all its rich dimensions, for the love of God that soaks every human encounter with the wine of eternity. Don't let small minds shrink the arena of God's mercy and power to fit our prurient interests. It is not fitting. It beggars God's greatness. And puts our own further and further off.

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Job 19:23-27a * 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 * Luke 20:27(28-33)23-28 * Ps 17

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And here is the ERD meditation:

A Knock on the Widow's Door

Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother.
Luke 20:28


A custom that may seem bizarre to us, but was absolutely necessary at the time: if a man dies, his brother must marry his widow, so that she may bear children for the family. Their prosperity and her very life may depend on her ability to enlarge her connection to them by this means: a woman alone was a vulnerable figure indeed. Have children -- lots of them -- so that some, at least, will live to adulthood to take care of you and enrich the family into which you have married. Cement your ties to them. Your family of orgin may be far away, and may not take you back: they don't have to. Insure your position against the many dangers that surround a widow.

Episcopal Relief and Development works in many parts of the world in which these dangers are not ancient history: modern-day Iraq, for instance, where there are many widows: sudden widows and widows of long standing. The time after the military phase of the Iraq war was frightening for everyone, but most of all for them. Where will I get food? In all this chaos, who will even remember that I am here? How can I leave my house to find food when they're shooting outside, when violence stalks the streets and I am old, unsteady on my feet?

A knock on the door: it is someone from the church. They have not forgotten you. They do still know you are here. He holds a paper sack, and in it is an array of food -- unfamiliar to you, some of it: milk in powder form, meat in a tin. But it is food. You will not good hungry. Someone has remembered you.

Delivering the basic needs of life to people in the midst of a war is dangerous work. It combines our Lord's basic requirement of us -- I was hungry, and you gave me bread --- with an understanding few people experience of what the cross might mean. You and I are not over there: we're here. If we don't feel like cooking tonight, we can pick up the phone and order in. But through our partnership with ERD, we are part of the courage forced on the widows of Iraq and taken up bravely by
those who venture forth to find them and bring them food.

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To learn more about the work of ERD, visit www.er-d.org or call 1800-334-7626.
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