This morning's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in churches this Sunday: the first is the usual sermon preparation eMo, and the second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregation's attention on the Church's service to the poor and those who suffer, 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.
Whose Troubled Heart Is This?
Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
Troubled? Sad, for sure. But troubled comes later on, after the first primitive flush of grief is past. The silence on the other end of the relationship makes you wonder if there's anybody there. The banality of your ongoing unpartnered life makes you feel angry and bitter, and then you're ashamed of feeling angry and bitter.
You had not realized how much of your faith was tied up in the life of one person. You believe in God, Jesus says, believe also in me. Ah, you think, I believed in a human being, put all my trust in someone no more permanent than I am. No wonder I am so shaken. Human beings can't be each others' gods. Only God is God.
We can't help doing it, of course. It's just the way we are. Our hearts are so full, and give themselves so completely to what they love. And eventually what we love gives way under our weight, and we get clobbered, again. It happens every time.
Try to remember that your beloved is not God. He will die, or you will -- one of you will be left alone. Love each other well, even if it must be foolishly, as it always must be -- you will be sorry at the end of your life if your fear of losing love keeps you from ever knowing it, and you will know firsthand that it really is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Accept the kindness of those who see your sorrow, and forgive the blindness of those who cannot allow themselves to see it -- know that it is hidden fear, not cold-heartedness, that blinds them.
And then abide with God, after you have lost everything else. So different from the unseen good fairy you may once have thought he was, before your life taught you anything different. So eternally present, so unafraid of your wildest grief or most violent rage. Steadier than your heartbeat, closer to you than your own thoughts and audible, sometimes, within them. Because your spiritual sense have been changed by your trauma, you now sense things differently. Be patient with yourself as you learn what that way is. And then drink deeply and often at the well.
Acts 17:1-15 or Deuteronomy 6:20-25
I Peter 2:1-10 or Acts 17:1-15
And here is the ERD meditation:
The Works of God
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do... John 14:11-12
Miracles of healing, we think, like Jesus did, or turning plain water into fine wine. We'll be able to do things like that. But no: when we're out of merlot, we can wave our arms over a carafe of water all we want -- eventually, we'll have to go to the store and buy some more wine.
The works of God are many and various. Jesus had his and we have ours. Once in a while there is a healing that can only be described as a miracle, and everyone is taken aback by it. But healing and repair happen every day, and these, too, are works of God that help us believe.
Nobody died in Screven when the tornado tore through town in March. Only 700 people live in the little Georgia town, and everybody knows everybody else. Almost a third of the homes and businesses in town were badly damaged or completely destroyed, including the furniture factory where many of the townspeople worked. This was big: it's not that easy to change jobs in Screven.
The first of the works of God in Screven is the miracle that happens on the spot in any disaster: ordinary people rising heroically to the needs of their neighbors, working feverishly to free people from the rubble, to get their neighbors to safe shelter, to count heads and make sure everyone's accounted for. The town handyman, who had lost his own roof, exhausted all his own resources assisting his neighbors in repairing the damage to their homes.
Nine farm families in Screven could no longer live in their houses and suffered damage to their homes. They had a problem unique to farm families: banks won't lend to you if you have no cash income and no crop in. Through the offices of the Diocese of Georgia and the Episcopal parish in neighboring Jessup, St. Paul's, families like these are receiving financial aid from Episcopal Relief and Development to bridge the gaps between insurance and reality or -- in many cases -- to begin rebuilding when there is no insurance at all.
The little town will survive. The furniture factory will reopen and people will go back to work. People will get their roofs back on before much more time has passed.
This work of God was immediate, but it is also slow. It isn't surprising and exotic, faraway in a place like India or Sri Lanka. It is right next door in Screven, Georgia. It isn't magic, but it is profoundly holy in the way the works of God are holy: they take what happens here on earth and, in our response, they show us heaven.
To learn more about ERD or to donate to disaster relief in Screven, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.