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THE PROMISED LAND / FINDING THE ROCK
August 17, 2005
 
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches 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 among those in need, explores the worldwide 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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Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 11:33-36
Matthew 16:13-20

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The Promised Land


Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord.
Isaiah 51:2-3


The picture in the morning paper is heartbreaking: a little boy in a yarmulke, tears streaming down his cheek as he pushes with all his might against the massive chest of a young Israeli soldier. Other soldiers strive with other settlers, and their young faces clearly show the misery of their position: We are arrayed against our own. We are forcing our own people out their homes. My grandfather was forced out of his home in Germany -- how can I be doing this? One covers his face with both hands in a vain attempt to hide his own tears.

The little boy is no match for the soldier. The settlers are all leaving: they can choose to leave under their own power or to be physically carried out. What they can't choose is to stay. Some set fire to their homes as they leave, watching numbly as the black smoke climbs up into the blue sky -- even though they know that all their homes will be razed to the ground anyway, after they are gone.

Most Israelis think that this painful event, and the others like it playing out throughout Gaza, is something that must happen. Most hope that it will begin a new chapter in the decades-long agony that has been Israeli-Palestinian relations. Most hope that it will bring peace a little closer. Most think that the most extreme of the settlers have become the victims of their own religious ideology, that the potent Biblical image of God's calling of Abraham must have meaning for modern Jews beyond the literal promise of a land unaltered from ancient times. Painfully, born of loss and the self-examination that always comes with loss, something new has become thinkable to many Israelis.

This, too, is a loss: an old dream is dying, and a new day is in sight. It is very possible that it will not dawn, that the old darkness will descend again. If it does, it will not be the first time a Jew has glimpsed the Promised Land and been unable to cross over into it. It was a land of figs and dates. It was a land running with milk and honey. And the old man Moses looked upon it from afar, knowing he would never reach it himself, that he would die before the people reached it.

But he died trying to get there. We may not see peace in the Holy Land. We may die before we get there. But we don't know yet, and so we must journey on toward it.

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And here is the ERD meditation:

Finding the Rock

Upon this rock I will build my church...
Matthew 16


The punishing Indian heat has been broken, for a moment, by the coming of heavy rains. But with the welcome relief has come other danger: terrible flooding and landslides in the state of Mahashtra that has killed at least 1,000 people and destroyed at least 10,000 homes. Besides the known dead, more than 20 million people have been affected in some way -- injured, homeless, orphaned, hungry, sickened, bankrupted. For many, many people, all of these devastations have piled on at once.

In an instant, everything is changed. Nothing is as it was. The school is gone, and the health clinic. Your house is gone, and everything that was in it. The roads in and out of what was your village are impassable.

When everything has changed in an instant, stability seems an unattainable dream. But there is one thing does not change: the clear charge of Jesus to the faithful. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you have cared for the poor and the sick and the wretched, it is I myself that you have served. Whatever changes the world endures, the Church's instructions are clear, and it swings into action immediately. Action by Church Together International is the on-the-ground partner with whom Episcopal Relief and Development is working in the aftermath of the floods, providing cooked meals and dry rations, clean drinking water, clothing and blankets, hygiene kits.

Life is uncertain for everyone; when disaster strikes anywhere in the world, all of us remember that this is true. All human beings are vulnerable creatures, but those who are already very poor are vulnerable in more ways than we are -- the foundation of their lives is shifting sand. If there is to be a rock upon which they can rebuild, a place where they can come to rest that is more dependable than what they have now, it cannot come from them -- they have been stripped of what little permanence they had. Someone else must help them regain their footing.

ERD's work in India is work on our behalf, service offered in our name and supported by our money. So it can be no better than we are ourselves, and we can claim its blessing as our own: it is our blessing to be able to help those in need find their footing, no matter where they are.
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To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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