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, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's service to the poor and those who suffer from the effects of war or natural disaster, explores the 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.
Where's the Dread?
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness...
I Corinthians 3:12
...since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory...
It's more or less a rule that the sermon on Sunday will be on a text from the gospel. This arises out of a certain ecclesiastical politeness toward Jesus, one that seeks to elevate Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as somehow more about Christ that the rest of scripture. So we don't all stand up and watch a small parade make its way down the center aisle when someone reads from the Hebrew scriptures or from St. Paul: we save that reverence for the gospels.
But here is what I think is true for us: Christ is either everywhere in scripture, or he is nowhere. I don't mean that Isaiah was thinking about as-yet-unborn Jesus of Nazareth when he wrote his famous passages of messianic hope. I mean that everything in these ancient books points us toward the transformation into which we know that Christ invites us. We must work to see the invitation, often: it is not to be found in an absurd aping of the past, trying to do everything they did in Biblical times, just the way they did it in Biblical times.
In many instances, we assess the things we see in scripture as examples of how our understanding of God has moved and changed -- for example, the frequent rejoicing in scripture at the bloody vanquishing of Israel's enemies, with God something just north of a general on the battlefield, plotting military strategy and ordering deployment of troops, often with great specificity. This was their image, but it is not ours. We no longer think God rejoices in the deaths of thousands of people, not any more. Sometimes we read these ancient texts in order to argue with them, emerging from the conversation with something new for the world. In short, sometimes we are transformed.
And so we see Jesus' face transfigured, shining like the sun, reminding us of the transfigured Moses long ago, and of our own transformation, now begun and yet to come. We read Paul's assertion that boldness comes from hope, and realize in an instant that of course, it must be so: hope never brings timidity or anxiety. They are its opposites.
We pray this week for hope and transformation among Anglicans worldwide, as our leaders meet in Dar Es Salaam, a city on the continent where the Church grows and grows, the continent where more Anglicans live than on any other. We have been anxious and fearful about our common life for so long now that we can hardly think of it without a sense of impending doom. This is what is so striking about our new Presiding Bishop: she seems to be missing her sense of doom! Bp. Katherine stands without anxiety in a consistent state of matter-of-fact hope. Whatever happens, God will be in it and we will be able to find God and God will lead us toward the healing of the world. We will move steadily forward, doing what we know to be right inasmuch as we can know the right, and God will be with us because God has promised it so.
So there's your gospel. Stay awake, and you will see the glory.
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
And here is the ERD meditation:
One Next Sunday
Of course, next Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent. So that's one one. But it's another One Sunday that I am thinking of, I who love everything about Lent: its quiet, its soberness, its steady progress towards the tumult of Holy Week and the joyous release of Easter Day.
Next week has been designated "One Sunday" by our Presiding Bishop. It will be a time to make a commitment to do what Jesus asked us many times to do, while he was here with us in the realm of history: look to the poor. Become one with them. Make them first, not last. Make them more important than you are, for a hardhearted world has decided to award more importance to you than to them, and this is wrong in God's eyes.
Episcopal Relief and Development is the means by which we can each be part of making those in need first, not last. ERD, with the rest of the Church in convention, has accepted the UN Millennium Development goals, concrete plans to change the landscape of suffering in the world.
Why should the church embrace something that began in a political organization like the United Nations? Isn't that more properly the sphere of government activity? I don't think so. Government is people. Government is us -- we elect it and we support it. It represents us -- sometimes better than at other times, but that's what government is. It is us, in the aggregate. No government will be better than its people.
And it protects our private work: what we decide about our lives and our right to decide. Where we worship, and whether we worship at all. There is a way in which people of faith are citizens of the world, and participating in a life of service to those in need is part of that way. So you vote. You pray for the world. You pay taxes. And you give. That's how people of faith live in society.
You've got a week. Think about it. What it would mean to put the poor first.
The official statement on “ONE Sunday” can be found online at
http://www.er-d.org/programs_82425_ENG_HTM.htm. A bulletin insert can be downloaded from
To learn more about ERD's work, or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1--800-334-7626,ext 5129.