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 eMos. 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.
Palm Sunday Politics
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen... Luke 19:37
One always wonders, at the beginning of this week, just how things could go so wrong, so quickly. Did people really cheer wildly for Jesus, vying for the honor of having his donkey track mud all over their their best clothes, only to call for his death within a matter of days?
Ah, but it was two different crowds, scholars tell us. It was ordinary people who were out on the street the day Jesus made his triumphal entrance. The ones who called for his execution were a different group -- more powerful people, people who had much to lose if his open resistance to corrupt power were to succeed. People who had long ago decided to get along by going along with an occupying power. They needed everybody to keep below the radar and not make waves. This would be the way to survive the occupation that humiliated Israel and threatened her always-shaky fidelity to God.
So ancient Israel was like 21st century America in one way -- it was not of one mind. People disagreed about what was right, and many felt that their very survival hinged that disagreement. Polarized, we might say today: what was right for one group looked disastrous to another.
Perhaps to both sides -- all sides -- Jesus looked like a leader in a political fight. He was crucified between two other political prisoners -- the word "bandit" was used to describe revolutionaries, and it is "bandit," not "thief," that appears in the oldest account.
For if politics is about the moral fabric of life together, Jesus was highly political. Does it impair our sense of Jesus' sonship to know that his struggle was political? It would if that were all we had of him. But we have so much more: the teaching, the healing, the example of prayer and intimacy with God.
To say nothing of what will happen in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday.
At the Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19:28-40
At the Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a + Psalm 31:9-16 + Philippians 2:5-11 +Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49
And here is the ERD meditation :
Women Doing What They Can
The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. -- Luke 23:56
Because women in poor countries often lack the direct participatory power and decision-making authority in civic life we expect here, we sometimes think they have no power at all. This is a mistake.
The women watching the crucifixion of Jesus were probably invisible to the authorities overseeing the terrible event. Who would care about their presence? Certainly they could do nothing to prevent his death. But they took careful note of where he was laid to rest, so that they would remember where it was when they came to visit again. And then they went home and made preparations to do what they could do, which was to anoint the body of their dead brother. Because they were willing to do what they could do, it was to them that the first news of resurrection would come.
In 20 countries worldwide, Episcopal Relief and Development equips women living in poverty to do what they can do. It is rarely anything very big: a small business making and selling candles, cooking and selling food, making and selling baskets, selling eggs. With small loans, they begin to make small money. And then they make more. They reinvest, and make still more. Enough for a school uniform and books. Enough for other things.
In many towns, ERD money goes to dig a well, which is the single most important factor in fostering the education of girls. It is women and girls who draw water. A well nearby can make the difference between educating a girl and not educating her: she can spend the hours she would have spent walking back and forth to the river in school instead. And in school, she meets a teacher, perhaps a nurse: women who show her something of what she might become.
Worldwide, ERD money goes to preventive medicine for poor children. Mothers are trained in the use of anti-malarial mosquito nets, so that they need not watch their children die of the preventable disease. Mothers are given better seeds and farming tools for greater crop yields -- the majority of the world's farmers, after all, are women.
Poor women already know to do the next thing they can do. What we do is offer them a wider view of what that might be.
To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-80-334-7626,ext 5129.