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.
A Repentance Warning
Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.
Here is an important sermon hint: this isn't a passage about how God's going to kill you if you don't repent of your sins. It's a story about the fact that we've all got to go sometime and today might be your day. It's a call to get your affairs in order. You're going to die and you don't know when. Get things straightened out while you can.
How do you straighten things out? Replay alternative scenarios to your own history in your mind, things you might have done that you didn't, take back things in your mind that you wish with all your heart you had not said, but you can't undo your past. It's spilled milk.
And you sometimes can't make restitution. The injury you did someone else may have been a permanent one. There may not be enough money on earth ever to make it even.
But you can make a beginning. You can tell the truth, first of all: to yourself and then to God. You can even do this in a sacramental way with a priest, who imght also have a few thoughts on where you might go from here. And you can tell the truth to the one you injured, unless doing so would cause further injury -- no late night tell-all phone calls to the wife of the man you had an affair with twenty years ago, neatly transferring your anguish from your own heart onto hers. That burden is yours, and you can ask God to help you carry it.
And you can look to the future. It's true that we don't know how long we have here, but we're not dead yet. I may yet be able to salvage today. I can leave something good to the world today -- not in reparation but in gratitude for the gift of life itself. It's never too late to do that. It's not a matter of doing the math and making sure injury and pardon all balance out. We're talking about washing away sin entirely, in a forgiveness available to everyone.
Lent III, Year C
I Corinthians 10:1-13
And here is the ERD meditation:
Patience and Courage
Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.
The gardener was a better judge of the fig tree than the man who owned it: it takes a little while for any fruit tree to mature enough to bear. You have to be patient if you 're going to farm. A lot can happen. One species isn't like another. And one season isn't like another, either: a farmer is at the mercy of the weather.
The farmers of southern Africa know their crops and their climate. They know never to pin all their hopes on one crop; too many things can happen. Root vegetables and tubers are always among the crops they raise, in case the grain crops succumb to pestilence or drought.
But this year, a perfect storm of circumstances: torrential rains, destroying homes and businesses and washing out the grain crops, leaving water saturating the soil so that not even the tubers -- so faithful a friend in time of drought -- could grow. In Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, the entire growing season will be a loss. The only ones who could show a profit were the mosquitoes, causing an increase in cholera and malaria.
Right away, Anglican bishops were in touch with Episcopal Relief and Development through Hope Africa, the social service organization for southern Africa, and the needed disaster relief was on its way: temporary shelter, blankets, medical supplies, emergency food. And equipment for the rebuilding of life: construction materials, seeds for new plantings, replacements for lost tools. Another growing season isn't far off. The people are strong. They have known hardship before, and they know how to look toward another day.
To help, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1--800-334-7626,ext 5129. Or mail a gift to Episcopal Relief and Development, Africa Relief Fund, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.