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AN OUTRAGE! / IF YOU CHOOSE, YOU CAN
February 10, 2006
 
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 is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and victims of natural disasters or war, through 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.
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An Outrage!


"I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?"
2 Kings 5:11



Surely, someone as important as Naaman should have a healing that matches his high estate. If you're rich, you can make sure many things in life go your way. Buy what you wish, live where you wish. Go to any school you wish to attend, no matter what the catalogue says about the school being need-blind: they're glad to have you and your parents' money.

But no: illness is the great leveler. Nobody on a bedpan feels very important right at that moment. Our bodies are more or less the same, no matter how much money we have.

Poor people aren't outraged by this; they're just resigned. They already knew they didn't run things. Get HIV/AIDS here and you'll experience it for decades as a chronic but manageable disease; get it in Malawi and you'll be dead in two years. It's the powerful who experience it as a personal affront. They are so often the exception to the rule; why not now?

Naaman's healing seemed so mundane to him. His illness must have seemed an outrage, too: people with leprosy were outcasts. How on earth could such a thing have befallen him?

I imagine the whole experience was the best thing that ever happened to Naaman. Finally he understands who he is. Important in his world, working for an even more important king -- but really just another child of God.

Like everybody else.

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2 Kings 5:1-15ab
I Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1:40-45
Psalms 42 or 42:1-7

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And here is the ERD meditation:

If You Choose, You Can

A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!"
Mark 1:40-41

What the man with leprosy said to the Son of God, is true for us as well, ordinary men and women that we are: If you choose, you can. We are not Jesus, all of us can bring healing into a bad situation -- if we choose to do so.

The people of St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, Mississippi already knew that they could do a lot -- St. James is a wealthy church. Immediately upon the arrival of thousands of evacuees and displaced families, parishioners found the second part of the capacity to heal: desire. If you choose, you can. With their considerable ability and their strong desire, they set about the task of welcoming and healing in a variety of ways.

An imaginative tic-tac-toe to redeploy some of St. James' office space, and both the Bishop of Louisiana and the Dean of the Cathedral in New Orleans had a place for their staffs to work. The day school found room for another 100 elementary school pupils by thinking outside the box a bit -- St. James famous choir found itself sharing its space daily with a class of schoolchildren, kid's drawings and workbooks appearing among the sheet music.

Coffee, tea, comfortable chairs, Internet access, television -- and, above all -- showers: the whole first floor of St. James office building became a respite center. Rescue workers in the morning, moms with brand-new babies in the evening -- a cadre of volunteers came each night just rock the babies while their mothers showered, and then to talk quietly with the women afterward. Soon the school dietitian added a hot breakfast for the moms, delivered by volunteers to First Baptist across the street, where the moms and their babies spent the nights.

"I'm so proud of our church," the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans said on a recent visit to New York. 'Of all of it -- ERD, all those parishes, all the people from all over the Church. Of all the organizations involved in this, the Church has helped the most."

St. James parishioners described the work they were doing as a blessing -- and they meant it was a blessing for them. The desire to be part of a great healing flooded their hearts and has stayed there, finding more and more ways to heal as they remain among those who have lost everything. We can be part of it too, even if we don't live in the stricken Gulf Coast region; we're part of it now, through our support with ERD. All we have to do is want to help, and God will show us what to do. If you choose, you can.

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To learn more about ERD's work or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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