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TWO WALKS / OF COURSE, I WILL HELP
April 26, 2007
 
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.
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Two Walks

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. -- John 10:22

Hmmn -- it's the feast of the dedication of the temple when this exchange about whether or not Jesus is the messiah. We are told it is wintertime, and that Jesus is walking in the portico of Solomon -- oh, right, Solomon, who built the first temple. Hmmn -- why do we need to know these three details? Oh, wait -- there is a hint of something slightly familiar in this opening line. Who else do we remember walking alone somewhere?

Ah. It was God, of course -- And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) -- walking in the garden of Eden, in the consistent happy summer that was how Eden always was. No winter. No cold, no scorching heat. And here, Jesus is walking in the temple like God walked in the garden. This time, he says, no one will snatch my people away. This time, what was lost will be restored. This is the second chance humanity has needed since humanity began.

In the ancient story of how our troubles began, we see a glimpse of paradise lost: God walked in the same garden the people walked in. We were close then. And now, again, after ages of estrangement, another offer of that closeness: God walks again, in the place where Israel has the regular opportunity to encounter God. And the walk is in the portico of Solomon, the king renowned for his wisdom, the king who built the temple his warlike father David was not permitted to build. The messiah will not be a military leader, but something else. My kingdom is not of this world, Jesus will say later, and Pontius Pilate will not understand what on earth he means.

Force cannot solve the mystery of human cruelty. It only makes it worse. One bad turn seems to deserve two or three others, and it never ends until somebody just decides to end it. Not to win it; to end it. To make peace is not to win; it is to remove oneself from the whole sorry project of human dominance and submission.

Can't happen, people say. Wars have been around since forever. Indeed they have. War has never ended war -- there is always a sequel.

But resistance to war has been around since forever, too. There is always a way to resist evil nonviolently. It is true that a violent world might turn its fury upon the resistor. Certainly, there is no guarantee of safety in nonviolence. But there is a promise of the restoration of God's will on earth to be found within its practice, a way of living that need not lie or hide or spin our hardheartedness because we have decided against being hardhearted.

We still have choices. There is still a way of living in the earth as if it were a garden in which God walks.

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Easter IV, Yr C + Acts 9:36-43 + Ps 23 + Rev 7:9-17+ John 10:22-30

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And here is the ERD meditation:

Of Course, I Will Help

All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. --Acts 9:39

A gifted woman who truly enjoys helping others -- how many women in your church are like Dorcas? Probably more than one. What would your church be like if they were all suddenly disappeared? Nothing like it is now, that's for sure.

Westerners sometimes assume that women in developing countries are uniformly powerless, and it is true that many kinds of direct political and social power are closed to women in many countries.

But it is never true that women have no power at all. For as long as human society has been here, women have used what they have -- because nobody can use what she does not have -- to make life better for the families that have so defined them. From scratching out a living as a subsistence farmer to selling eggs or vegetables or baskets or home-cooked food, millions of individual women doing small things combine to represent a significant economic force throughout the developing world.

Helping women help their families and one another has proven everywhere to be a good investment. This week, on Africa Malaria Day -- coinciding with the first-ever Malaria Awareness Day in this country -- major newspapers throughout America ran advertisements from governments, charitable societies and foundations, medical societies and corporations and articles to educate us about how this preventable and treatable disease, for so long a scourge of tropical life, is being combated throughout the world. And the most important line of defense against it is also the simplest, and it is squarely in the hands of women: inexpensive, long-lasting mosquito repellent nets, under which their vulnerable children can sleep every night in safety.

To date, Episcopal Relief and Development has trained over 2,000 community malaria agents, almost all of them members of the Mothers' Union, and has distributed more than 210,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in countries including Angola, Zambia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Many important people have paid a lot of attention to malaria this week -- corporate and world leaders. But it has always been true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. It is that very hand that will save the lives of those most in danger from this ancient enemy.

Read all about Africa Malaria Day -- with some very impressive numbers! -- at http://www.er-d.org/newsroom_85244_ENG_HTM.htm


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