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August 4, 2006
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.
Silence, and Light Beyond Color

And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. -- Luke 9:36

The pilot was the only person on board the Enola Gay who knew what the mission really was. The navigator and the bombardier were experienced, though, and the bombs they carried didn't look like anything else they'd ever seen. He told them in the air over Japan.

Josef Stalin didn't know. He knew the bomb had been successfully tested, but didn't know what that meant. What would happen next.

Winston Churchill knew. He didn't know, as Stalin didn't know and the pilot didn't know and most of us don't know, that there once had been a plan to drop one on Europe -- simultaneously with the Hiroshima bombing, at the very same red-hot moment. No: first black, then white-hot. A rainbow of hot. Then hot beyond color. And why should the pilot know -- he wouldn't have had to fly that one. Why should Stalin and Churchill know? One cannot imagine that they would have received the news calmly.

Not even President Truman knew about the bomb before he took office when FDR died. Why should he know, until he had to?

Because it was a secret. I used to live a block from the building in which the Manhattan Project scientists worked to develop the technology we would need for the atomic bomb. Not too many people know that, either, I guess.

The bomb changed everything. It introduced a brand-new form of dread into the long human experience of fear: we might just kill everybody off. Us. Them. People who are neither us nor them. Everybody but the insects. Maybe the insects would go, too; maybe life on earth would just go back to the beginning. When God said "Let there be light."

Light there certainly was, that August 6th. The Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus face shone bright beyond all color, so bright you couldn't look at him. The light of creation and the light of universal destruction, one day.

What do you think? President Truman asked the pilot when they met in the Oval Office some time later. He had looked at him in silence for a full ten seconds before speaking. The pilot said he had done what he had been told.

And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Exodus 34:29-35
2 Peter 1:13-21
Luke 9:28-36
Psalm 99 or 99:5-9


And here is the ERD meditation:

A Bright Light

You will do well to be attentive to this, as to a lamp shining in a dark place... II Peter 1:19

The familiar list of urgent needs when disaster strikes -- food, medical supplies, shelter -- is essentially a large list of small things. It is met a box at a time: a crate of powdered milk, a crate of disposable bandages, a pallet of new tents, a bale of blankets.

But the bombs and the earthquakes destroy large systems, too. For instance, we may forget that the rescue work must proceed by daylight. There is no electricity to light the dark. It will be a long time before there is any. The power infrastructure has been destroyed, and you can't bring a new one in on the back of a truck tomorrow.

Soon, the roar of generators is everywhere amid the wreckage. For now, power is measured out carefully: an hour here, an hour there. It will be a long time before flipping a light switch there becomes the absent-minded thing it is here.

Americans have had a similar experience for different reasons in recent weeks: the heat exhausted our power systems in several cities. Trying to stay in and stay cool brought the whole thing down. Across the country, the frail elderly died in the heat. And they died in the dark: there was no lamp.

Episcopal Relief and Development has local partners on the ground in every war-torn or disaster-stricken area. As the days and weeks and months pass, the lights come back on. Permanent restoration of the power infrastructure will take years, and it is a matter for government. In the meantime, the task of getting help to people who need it right now is the daily reality of ERD and its colleagues around the world, stabilizing situations so that the slow healing of the return to normal life -- whatever normal is in Gaza, in Indonesia, in St. Louis, in the American Gulf coast, in Lebanon -- can begin.

In the darkness and chaos of recent disaster, I can be a bright light, if I choose to be part of the rescue and recovery and rebuilding. It isn't easy to do, but it is easy to become a part of it. All I have to do is call ERD and ask what I can do to help.
To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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