Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday's worship. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the church's ministry to those who suffer as a result of natural disaster or war, features the work 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.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more worth than many sparrows.
Notice something right away: sparrows are small and fragile, and God's intense regard for them doesn't make them big and powerful. Sparrows are not impervious to harm just because God loves them. They don't live forever. Their lives are risky: a hawk might get them, or a snake might eat their eggs. Sparrows fall to the ground.
So when Jesus tells us not to be afraid, one thing he is most assuredly not telling us that we don't have to be afraid because life is perfectly safe. It isn't. We are only a little less fragile than a sparrow.
Faith is not an amulet -- a magic something you carry around with you to protect you from harm. The cross around your neck is not an amulet -- its doesn't protect you from harm. It helps you to understand the place of harm in the overall scheme of your life, to discern the measures of bane and blessing that come your way and see them each for what it is. Faith is what lives in you no matter what harm befalls. It is the assurance of the presence of God through the worst of it.
It is a dangerous world. It seems, to those of us who have been here a while, to be growing more and more dangerous each day -- novel dangers, things we didn't have before. Some of them will get us, and one of them will definitely get each of us before we're through -- nobody lives forever.
But nobody lives outside the presence of God. None of us is unaccompanied through life. Whether you acknowledge or love God or you don't, God loves you, and stands with you when the chips are way down. What might that mean? Lift your head and listen for a moment, lift your eyes and see around you, look at what might be there, something you didn't notice before, an avenue toward higher ground opening amid the wreckage of all your hopes. It may not look like much, but it may be the only avenue open, and so you start out on it. You and your Friend, the Friend who saw everything that happened to you and now comes closer to you than ever, in your need.
Psalm 69:1-18 or 69:7-10,16-18
And here is the ERD meditation.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next...
How many war refugees are there in the world today? Nobody knows for sure. But there are at least 23 million who have fled their countries -- Liberia, Congo, Burundi. And there are at least 27 million more who have been displaced within their own borders -- in Sudan, for instance and, in our own hemisphere, in Haiti.
Life in all these places was hard before the wars began. In short order, it became unsustainable -- no water, no food, no medicine, no power. Armed invaders in the night, sweeping through villages, murdering entire families. Make for the surrounding hills, find the caves in the rock that the marauders don't know about, and huddle there in the dark until they are gone.
And when you return to your house, you can't find it. The place where it was is a smouldering patch of ash. Your furniture and your clothing, all your food. Here and there in the rubble you see a metal pot, recognizable but black with soot; the charred skeleton of a baby goat who couldn't keep up with you with you when you ran; you had been saving it for your daughter's wedding feast, but that's not going to happen now, not after what happened to her the night the soldiers came. Here and there, something even worse: not everyone got out. There they are, what is left of them: blackened, silent.
If you try to rebuild here, they'll be back. There is nothing left to do but to take whatever you managed to carry out and hit the road, find a camp. There they will give you a tent, blankets, food. There will be a doctor or a nurse who will examine your daughter. Perhaps she will talk to them; she has not spoken since that night, not even to her mother.
A refugee camp is not a place anyone would ever choose to live. But war refugees don't choose: they just run for their lives. We have the duty and privilege of being with them, from our safe homes on the other side of the world, through the presence of Episcopal Relief and Development, our wise and experienced partner in service to people we will never meet.
By yourself, there's not much you can do about human suffering but read about it in the paper and feel helpless. Together with ERD, though, we change things for the better every day, giving those left with nothing a way to hang on, recover and rebuild, when it is finally safe to do so.
To learn more about Episcopal Relief and Development, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.