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CARDINAL AMBITION / IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
July 6, 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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Cardinal Ambition

Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Luke 10:20


Clear evidence of a successful ministry, it seemed: the ability to order demons to come out of people and have them meekly obey. I should think anybody would find that gratifying. A tide of admiration must have enveloped them whenever they did that, which would make anybody want to cast out as many demons as possible, as often as possible.

Everybody wants to succeed. But the spirit and the world define success very differently. For the world, it's primarily money and power and the respect that goes with them. For the spirit, it's primarily faithfulness.

My parishioners want to advance in their companies and become more and more successful, and everyone admires their initiative, a priest told me recently. But if a priest admits that he wants to become a cardinal rector, he's criticized as being too ambitious, as if it were a bad thing.

A cardinal rector. Cardinal meaning "central" -- literally, one upon whom other things hinge. One of the priests in a diocese with whom a bishop had better consult if he or she wants a project to succeed there. One whose church is large, wealthy in comparison with other parishes and has been both of those things for a long time.

There won't be dozens of cardinal rectors in a diocese -- everybody can't be central. The rest will lead churches more modest in size, more challenged in finances -- or, at least, challenged in different ways: it can cost a lot of money to be rich. Perhaps, if they are effective in leading these churches, they will become cardinal rectors someday.

But they won't be effective leaders of their smaller parishes if their chief ambition is to leave them. The primary difference between worldly ambition and spiritual fidelity is the willingness to center one's energy in the place in which one finds oneself, and to spend the sum of one's faithfulness on the community gathered in that place. If you can do that, it will be enough, and the future will take care of itself.
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Pentecost 6, Proper 9, Year C

2 Kings 5:1-14 or Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 30 or Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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And here is the ERD meditation:

It's Not Rocket Science

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean'? - 2 Kings 5:13

Malaria kills so many children worldwide. A problem so immense must have a very complex solution, no?

No. A mosquito net treated with insect repellent, costing a dollar or two, will prevent the transmission of the disease and save the life of a child. It is such a simple solution that an entire nations can be protected from the wholesale loss of their children in a single season.

A major killer of children is poor countries is diarrhea: their small bodies become dehydrated quickly, and they die before medical help can arrive. Think of the complexity and expense of having a clinic with clean IV equipment and people who know how to use it in every village!

But poor villages don't need to wait for that. Just training parents to train their children in the simple technique of thorough handwashing, and training village leaders to locate wells upstream from village latrines will reduce the incidence of lethal infections many fold.

There are countries in which 40% of young people are infected with HIV/AIDS. Millions of dollars have been spent on effective drugs for AIDS sufferers, and millions are being spent to get these medicines to those who need them far away from our own prosperous shores. But the prevention of HIV/AIDS infection costs little or no money at all: the education of women and girls, the promotion of marital fidelity and the use of condoms will change everything about the pandemic.

Medical care is complex -- here in America, we can run up a hospital bill of thousands of dollars just for a short stay and some tests. so many expensive machines, sophisticated specialists. But some of the largest public health problems have simple solutions.

Episcopal Relief and Development is committed to assisting local church leaders in poor countries in the task of educating their people about these and other simple ways of protecting their health and the health of their families. Such simple training, in such simple things.

It's not rocket science, and it doesn't need to be. Saving lives can be much, much simpler.

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