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 Episcopal Relief and Development's outreach to the poor and those who suffer. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
Who Sits Where?
The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized... Mark 10:39
A common assertion: the reason Jesus was crucified was because that is the worst human death imaginable. Thus, his death is greater than ours, just as his life is greater than ours. He is kinder and stronger and smarter and a better preacher. Jesus is really excellent -- even in his death. He is just greater than we are, in every way, like all the other gods: Hercules, who is stronger than we are. Athena, who is wiser. Aphrodite, who is much sexier. Jesus is a god, isn't he? we reason. Isn't he a super version of our human selves? Bigger and better in every way?
No, it's not like that. Jesus isn't just off-the-chart amazing. He transcends the chart itself. The game is over. From now on, it's not going to be about who is more important than whom. The love of God will be the great equalizer among the children of God. The only striving will be the striving to show forth the love of a God who assumes our sad equality in weakness and brings us to glorious equality in blessedness. The point is not that Jesus' death was different from than ours, worse in some important way. It's that it was exactly like ours.
James, John -- it will be enough if you guys can manage to live this life in a spirit of trust. That's going to take every ounce of strength you have. You're definitely going where I go -- everyone does, sooner or later. The question is how you will go. Will you be transfixed in fear because you never allowed yourself to think about your last moments until they were upon you? Will you leave in despair, thinking that this life is all there is? Will you leave looking backward at your unfinished business, your missed opportunities, brood upon your failures even as your very breath fails you? Will you depart this world and leave it none the better for your having taken up space in it, no one the richer for having known you? For what did you think you were here?
Let's think on these things, and leave aside the seating arrangements in heaven. Live this life in a spirit of blessing, and they will be the last thing on your mind.
Psalm 91 or 91:9-16
And here is the ERD meditation:
Bright Sunny Days
Out of his anguish shall he see light...
What is the news from Hawaii? I asked Malika on the phone. She sounded a little hoarse; she has just returned from India, and she caught a cold on the plane.
Well, we're in touch with Bp. Chang and standing by so he can tell us what they need. Not big enough to cause a tsunami -- thanks be to God -- but the biggest since 1983, last weekend's earthquake in Hawaii damaged roads, bridges, houses and businesses but didn't kill anyone, as far as we know. They should all be like that, with only the kind of damage money can repair.
They're not, though: most of the disasters in which Episcopal Relief and Development becomes involved are the aftermath of events in which there is tremendous loss of life, often in the twinkling of an eye-- a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake, a few seconds or a few minutes that rip a community to shreds and then leave it to put itself together again.
The sun shines in Hawaii, every day. It was shining on the day of the earthquake: bright, beautiful sun. The sun shone on the coast of the gulf of Mexico that day after the hurricane passed away, a beautiful bright sunny day after a storm, in which it was easy--at first--not to notice that the levees were strained to the breaking point. The sun shone on the beaches of Aceh, and Thailand, all along the coast of Tamil Nadu, brilliant sunlight spilling on wreckage of lives and livelihoods rendered unrecognizable by the crushing force of the wave that had engulfed them. The sun was bright and beautiful on September 11th, 2001--many people commented, afterward, on what a beautiful day it was.
Shine a strong light on something and you see just how bad things are. You turn your head; you don't want to see this. But the softer light of the love of God is there, too, poised to enter and remain long after the moment of injury. Love lights the way and guides the servants of God who steadily seek to help, for as long as it takes to heal.
To learn more about the work of Episcopal Relief and Development throughout the world, or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
This weekend: a retreat with Barbara Crafton at the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, NC, sponsored by Daughters of the King. Visit http://nativityonline.org/geranium.htm
And next week, onward to Winston Salem, NC, for Centenary Methodist Church's Super Sunday! Barbara Crafton is preacher and will speak again after the main service. The topic? "Theatre and Faith." For more information, visit http://www.centenary-ws.org/centenary-feature3.asp