Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard 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 work with the victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of 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.
On the Road Again
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." -- Mark 6:8-11
Jesus wants the apostles to live on the economy, as the military puts it: the people you serve will have to supply your needs. If they do so willingly, you'll have a bed and three square meals. If not, you'd best move on.
With these instructions, he sets the tone of the mission: Christians will have to have a relationship with the people they serve, or it won't work. They'll starve to death. They can't come in with a foreign program and a foreign way of life and expect everyone to get on board. They'll need to be part of the local scene, dependent on it in the same way the people they encounter are dependent on it.
And what they do bring with them will have to be of some use in their new surroundings. No answering questions which nobody in the community has asked -- take seriously the questions already on the table, and start there.
Most importantly, perhaps: they will have to be willing to be changed by the people they meet, among whom they live and minister. They will learn from the new people they will come to love, if the mission is at all successful. Intelligence and experience is already present in every community; no human fellowship is a blank slate upon which we write our monologue. We teach each other, or nobody learns.
With such an attitude abroad, uniformity is not to be expected. Places won't be alike. They will be intense about different things. The bonds of love never have had much to do with autobiographical similarity: those are just the bonds of nostalgia.
Off they go, the new apostles: walking down the road toward the next town without so much as a sandwich. They will find out very soon
if their message of love and redemption is getting across: their stomachs will tell them, if no one else does.
And here is the ERD meditation:
The Demons of War and the Prince of Peace
They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. -- Mark 6:13
We know that people in New Testament times thought that many illnesses were the result of demonic possession. We don't think that now: bacteria and viruses and genetic defects cause disease, not demons. But there is still work aplenty for the demons in our world, it seems: forces of hatred too enormous for humans beings to vanquish. Evil that seems to have a life of its own. War that simply refuses to yield to peace: malignant, it has developed its own blood supply, and it grows.
Most of us watch in helpless horror as the ongoing warfare between Israelis and Palestinians continues. Time and again, it seems that peace might break out; time and again, war smothers it in its cradle. It spills over: the conflict is invoked by the perpetrators of acts of aggression far from the borders of the Holy Land, a bloody stain that has spread across the world.
And all the while, life and healing must go on in the name of Christ anyway. More than a million people live in war-torn Gaza, and only 3,000 of them are Christian. But Al Ahli Arab Hospital, operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, is a refuge to violence victims of all religious identities. Today, with electricity completely unavailable in Gaza, the hospital must rely on its own backup generator for power. Fuel for the generator is hard to come by, and hospital officials are afraid they will run out of power in as little as a week or two. Phone lines are gone, and cell phone communication is intermittent. Basic medical supplies are in short supply, both at the main hospital, where civilians and soldiers line the corridors waiting for help, and in Al Ahli neighborhood clinics, the only place many people in Gaza can turn for emergency medical care.
We can only ask God for mercy now, says the hospital's administrator. Episcopal Relief and Development is an important incarnation of God's mercy at Al Ahli these days, providing medical supplies and other critical aid so that the overworked hospital staff can continue to provide critical care. Assisting in this difficult work under these terrible circumstances is something all of us can do now, at a time when none of us know how or when the violence in the land where Jesus walked will ever end.
We can only ask God for mercy. No human reality lasts forever, not good ones and not bad ones. This one won't, either. Someday this will be settled, and there will be peace in the Middle East. In the meantime, while the demons of war seem to have the upper hand, the Prince of Peace has work to do.
To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
Two times with Barbara Crafton at St. Bart's NYC this weekend: One at the Rector's Forum at 10am, an onstage interview with rector Bill Tully, and a sermon at St. Bart's new "Emerge" service at 7pm. Corner of 51st and Park. Free parking at St. Bart's, by the way. Visit http://www.stbarts.org/howtoget.htm
July 23-28 Pinch-hitting for church musician Clarence Boyer, who has had to bow out for health reasons, Barbara Crafton will keynote the Kenyon conference this year, continuing the theme 'I Will, With God's Help.' This is one of the Church's happiest assemblies, with fun and fellowship for all ages. Find out more or register at http://www.dohio.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=496&Itemid=153