Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be used in church this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations attention on the Church's service to the poor and those who suffer from natural disasters, considers some aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's work throughout the world. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
What Paul Would Give Up
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.
People seldom preach on this verse. It is a far cry from the every-man-for-himself approach to faith that typifies American Christian thought and behavior, so let's be clear about what Paul is saying: He would give up his own salvation for the salvation of his fellow Jews. Paul's faith isn't about him and his Jesus and the heck with everyone else. It isn't even about talking other people into a faith that's about them and their Jesus. It is something else entirely.
It is about oneness before our creator and our redeemer. It is about the blossoming of an ancient tradition, and the blossom isn't the same as the root or the stem -- it can be expected to look different.
A powerful conversion experience is not an end -- it is a beginning. It inaugurates a life lived in expectation of God's continuing action, which includes God's capacity and freedom to bring ancient things to flower in blossoms that look different from their roots. A powerful conversion experience like Paul had does not substitute spiritual self-absorption for material selfishness: it introduces us, rather, to a life lived without anxiety about what we will wear or what we will eat or how many cars we will have.
Our life in Christ is no longer our own. More than anything else, conversion introduces us into a community whose hallmark is its diversity -- Christ goes everywhere, touches everyone, lives in every culture, is not dependent on cultural certification for any of his power to enter human lives and change them.
And here is the ERD meditation:
Despair Will Not Stop Us
But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
The frightening news from London, just four weeks ago, came in the midst of the G8 conference in Scotland and drowned out most of the news from there. But there was good news to hear, including the most sustained and serious attention to Africa the G8 has ever offered. Significant segments of crushing African debt were forgiven, with the expectation that more might be forthcoming. There was much testimony and discussion of responses to famine in Africa, and of the AIDS pandemic that grips the entire continent. Amid the shock and fear of the terrorist attack and the emerging death count from London, representatives left Scotland in a hopeful mood. Reasonable hope.
Workers in Episcopal Relief and Development's African Program are delighted to hear anything that suggests that the prosperous nations might bring their resources to bear on problems so enormous that the temptation is to turn away in despair from what looks like a lost cause. But in the meantime, there is urgent work to be done.
There will be no harvest at all in Zimbabwe, where more than 700,000 citizens have lost their homes or their businesses through the misguided urban renewal plans of their own government. More than 2.4 million people will be in need of food support. In Niger, years of drought have been followed, this year, by a devastating locust infestation. 150,000 children are in immediate danger of starving to death, and 3.6 million people will need food support, as well as feed for those cattle which have survived. The subsistence farmers of rural northern Ghana are overwhelmed by an unusually long dry season this year and consistent low rainfall which has crippled the harvest for the past several years. 2.5 millions people are malnourished.
Peter got out of the boat and made a brave beginning. But then he saw what he as up against, and he lost heart and began to sink. Jesus was there, though, and reached out his hand, so that Peter could regain his confidence. Jesus was with him. He was not alone.
We do not face the problems of the world alone in front of our television sets. We have each other. Episcopal Relief and Development never works alone in its response to monumental human suffering, but reaches out a hand to the church and ecumenical service agencies already on the ground to respond together. Food aid and agricultural help is already on the way to Ghana, Zimbabwe, to Niger and throughout Africa. We have not forgotten them, and we do not know the meaning of the word "despair."
To learn more about ERD's work, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.