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TURNING THE TABLES / UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR FORTY-SIX YEARS
March 16, 2006
 
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMos. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's service to those in need, features an aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's work. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

Turning the Tables

"Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" -- John 2:16

Jesus turns out the money changers and lets all the animals loose early in the gospel of John, long before anyone in authority has thought of plotting against him. In the other accounts, it's later on, making us think the disruption must have been an immediate precipitating factor in the decision to go after him. And maybe it was -- the powers that be don't like to be messed with. They wanted worship centralized in the temple at Jerusalem, where they could keep an eye on it. Animal sacrifice -- birds, lambs, cattle; prayer, almsgiving -- let's keep it all here. A whole hierarchy depended on keeping things just as they were.

But that couldn't be. There would come a time when there was no temple -- just one wall of it remains today. The rest is rubble. The priests and the people and the sanctuary furniture and all the animals were scattered to the four winds.

And the world was changing. Faith would become more interior, more focused on ethics and learning. This accounts for its survival to our time: nobody worships Moloch anymore. The great heritage of the Jewish people as we have received it isn't animal sacrifice: it is the majesty of the law. It is tied to no city or country; this way of being godly is portable. It can go anywhere.

A violent sign of a violent end to an ancient form of worship. What on earth?!? the people around him said when he was finished making a complete mess of things. What sign can you show us for doing this?

It's not going to last, your exclusive claim on the way to God. It's going to fall down. You will think it's the worst thing in the world, to lose your absolute control over how it is that your community will experience the divine presence, but it won't be. God has many ways of coming to us. The very loss you feared will be the one that sets you free.

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Exodus 20:1-17
Romans 7:13-25
John 2:13-22
Psalm 19:7-14
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Under Construction for Forty-six Years

The temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days? -- John 2:20

It takes a long time to build a house, but Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of them in a matter of hours. Afterwards, the people who lived in the houses returned to the places where they had lived, and some of the places where they had lived were unrecognizable. Even the trees were gone. A lifetime of saving for a home and loving it and caring for it, and now it was gone.

And it was not just houses -- it was whole towns. Towns without schools, without any public buildings, towns without hospitals, towns without stores. How long does it take a hospital to get its routines of care down to a smooth science? A business to get on an even keel and begin to make a profit? A long time. But these things can be overturned in a moment.

But the people who lived in the houses, who worked in the hospitals, who ran the businesses -- they still know what they know. They still want to live and work in the communities they love, and they still have the skills they had before the storm. Helping them rebuild will take a long time, but it will not take as long a time as it took to build the first time. They have a shared history on their side.

And they have help, from Episcopalians and other religious groups all over the country. Episcopal Migrant Ministries and Episcopal Relief and Development are partners in helping those who have been displaced by the Hurricane to relocate to new cities and towns. We are nearing the end of the second phase of a 4-phase plan for recovery and redevelopment of the Gulf area; in this phase, we are assessing long term needs and meeting immediate ones in the affected communities. As always, our work is local in its leadership, putting the resources of money and expertise that ERD can marshall into partnership with church leadership right in the communities in which they will be deployed.

There was an outpouring of support from all of us when the Hurricane struck. We must continue to care and to show our caring, for the need is ongoing. But it will not be bottomless. It will not take forty-six years to rebuild the Gulf Coast. This is a job that can be finished. They have a plan and they have partners. And they have the energetic love of God to guide and encourage them.

+ To read about the four phases of ERD's plan for redevelopment in the Gulf Coast, go to http://www.er-d.org/newsroom_68442_ENG_HTM.htm
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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