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GOOD NEWS-BAD NEWS / NEEDS AND WANTS: NOTHING TO WEAR
December 13, 2006
 
This morning'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, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and those who suffer because of war or natural disaster, explores 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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Good News/Bad News

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. --Luke 3:18

Is that what the good news is? That we'd all better behave ourselves or we'll be burned alive? Then what's the bad news?

I think we can say that John's "exhortations" and his "good news" aren't the same thing. John is a prophet: he looks at the world and comments on it for the sake of the people, and he does so in order that they might change their lives. So he has some concrete suggestions for how certain members of his society might comport themselves: some people abuse their authority, and they need to stop.

But he is also a herald of something new. We fail to live well. We are unholy. But one comes among us to empower us -- he compares his own water baptism to the coming one, a baptism "with the Holy Spirit and fire." Power is coming, power we don't have on our own. We're not going to be on our own anymore, not if we don't want to be.

It is one thing to admit your sins and turn from them, and it's another to have the power to do things differently in the future, no matter what you've done in the past. You are never reducible to the worst thing you've ever done; no matter how bad it was, there is still more to you than that. The greatest of your sins is not larger than the mercy of God, and the loving power of God is more than a match for your own weakness. And it's coming within reach of anyone who wants it. All we have to do is admit that we need it and open our hearts. God does the rest.

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Advent III, Year C
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Canticle 9
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18
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And here is the ERD meditation:

Needs and Wants: Nothing to Wear

Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise. -- Luke 3:11

It is a familiar cry during this very social season -- I have to go to a party tonight and I don't have a thing to wear! We stand in front of bulging closets and proclaim loudly, to anyone within earshot, that there is nothing in them. And we honestly believe that this is true.

It isn't, of course. What we mean is that the things in our closets are last year's fashions, or that we have "outgrown" them, or that we have worn them too often: Everyone will recognize my dress. I need to get something new. At the time, this feels like an honest-to-God need.

It isn't, of course. It's just a want. And the truth is, we don't really want that new dress all that much, don't really want to fight the crowds of shoppers. We really don't. We just don't want to be considered out of step. People have expectations of us, and we want to meet them. But our actual desire for all these new clothes? In and of itself, it's not very passionate. It's not really much of a desire at all.

The clergy are insulated from all this. Nobody ever takes it amiss if we appear in the same black suit at event after event. Years of dressing like a crow at social functions teach a person something important: wearing a uniform is liberating. You save your brain for other things. This is the philosophy behind the little black dress movement, which never departs the fashion scene for very long. It's nice not to fret about clothes.

It is also good. While it's certainly not wrong to love pretty things, it's good to keep that love fairly low down on one's list of priorities. A dollar I spend on an outfit is a dollar I can't spend on anything else. I can take that dollar and give it to someone who doesn't have a full closet. Someone who doesn't even have a closet. That would be a really good good thing.

And it's an easy good thing. A gift to Episcopal Relief and Development is easy. You can do it online or on the phone or by snail mail. You can do it in five minutes or less. You're sure your dollar gets where it needs to go, to help address someone's acute need -- a very different thing from satisfying our own half-hearted wants.
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For more information, or to make a gift to ERD, visit http://www.er-d.org/, or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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