Todays eMo is a meditation on the gospel for Palm Sunday which is taken, this year, from the gospel according to St. Matthew. The gospel is often performed as a staged reading, and takes a fair amount of time.
It may seem odd to preach about Burundi on Palm Sunday, but the congregation will be spending the whole week approaching Golgotha, and will live there on Good Friday. I thought it might be useful for all of us to remember that, while Jesus' sacrifice is unique, people around the world share in his suffering every day, and that Holy Week is a time to ponder that sharing, as well as a time for personal contemplation of the Passion.
As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution.
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Well, almost all of the disciples fled. The women stayed. The women named here stayed and, in another account, Mary stayed: the mother of the man being executed. She didn't leave him. So they stood there together and watched this terrible thing.
When the combination of human sin and human suffering is too much to bear, we must bear it anyway. And we bear it better together than any of us could ever hope to bear it alone. It was a little Mothers Union gathered at the foot of the cross that terrible day: their first meeting.
Some Americans don't know about the Mothers Union. Visitors from Africa are shocked when they learn this -- How on earth do you get anything done? An Anglican fellowship of love and service worldwide, the Mothers Union has held life together in fierce, insistent hope in every country where the Church is. Through war and exile, famine, drought and plague, in places where it takes immense courage just to stand still, women together are able to do much more than that. They are able to move on out toward something better, and to take their families and their communities with them.
Almost three-quarters of the people of Burundi live below the poverty level. Civil war has plagued the country for a decade. Malaria is the leading cause of death, and its incidence has increased fifteenfold in the last twenty years; three million people in Burundi currently have the disease. HIV/AIDS is the second highest killer: between 6% and 8% of the population is affected, the majority of them women and children: there are 200,000 HIV/AIDS orphans in Burundi.
Episcopal Relief and Development works with the Mothers Union in Burundi to make it better. The Mothers Union's approach to problems is always an interesting blend of creativity and pragmatism: besides the obvious provision of mosquito netting and medical supplies, for instance, it has begun a microcredit program, offering small short-term loans to women to start and grow small businesses to support their families. All the medicine in the world can't save a family if it has no livelihood.
If the women at the foot of the cross were afraid, they didn't show it. They were too stubborn to leave the one they loved, dying so young and so unjustly, and so they banded together and stood their ground with him. Centuries later, the women stand there still, too stubborn to leave their children comfortless, too full of trust in God to despair. Stubborn love that refuses to leave and refuses defeat: the first Mothers Union.
To learn more about ERD's work with the Mothers Union in Burundi, visit www.er-d.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.