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.
The Devil Quotes Scripture
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you...' -- Luke 4:9-10
It's true that we read this on the first Sunday of Lent every year to remind ourselves that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet did not sin. But this year I was struck by something else: The devil quotes scripture to the Son of God. That must have been an edifying experience for Jesus. And somehow I don't think this particular temptation was hard to resist: it wouldn't be all that difficult for me to decide not to throw myself from a church steeple. The loaf of bread would have been tougher for me.
The devil quotes scripture. Probably goes to church, too. Probably never misses -- probably pretty proud of that. Probably finds plenty of work in the precincts of the holy: there are so many opportunities for pride and malice in the Church, it's not funny.
Oh, do be careful. Remember the sin of pride, how easy it can be to mistake your loyalty to your group for your ethics. How habit-forming it can be to look down on people, how perversely good it can feel, how easy it becomes to define yourself almost totally by the people and things you oppose. And how good we are at finding reasons not to do the things that we know will cost us dearly.
Lent I, Year C
And here is the ERD meditation:
A Dry Season
Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.
You probably have to move around anyway, in the best of times if you are a native of Chad -- the seasonal rhythm is dry/rainy, rather than our summer/winter. If you have animals, you and they both have to follow the water. Right now it's dry, the height of the dry season -- many people will not return to their villages until the rains come in May, when they will begin their short season of cultivation.
And these days, there are more people on the move: not only must you move around, you have company: refugees from Sudan. There are three large camps of Sudanese refuges in Farchana along the Chad/Sudan border, where Episcopal Relief and Development supplies clean water, health care, basic necessities in partnership with Action by Churches International (ACT). ERD also supports schools and mental health services for the traumatized women and children in the camps.
To be so challenged already, in so many ways, and to welcome the stranger anyway: this is Christlike. The Chadians haven't built a fence to keep out the neighbors who have known such suffering; with very little in the way of resources themselves, they have chosen instead to recognize kinship over difference, and they have had the sense to ask for help in order to make that recognition a source of blessing to all. It is our privilege to be the ones with the means to support this work.
Do they rejoice in the refugee camps? It may be that they are too numb with the horror of what has happened to them to do much rejoicing right now: it is a dry, dry season. But Christians always look forward, to the possibility of joy that God can bring out of great sorrow. We make a place for things to be other than as they are, and then we can wait for God to fill that place with his blessing.
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.