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.
The Gift Underneath It All
Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.
Busy people, Americans. I have heard that we take less time off from work than do the people of any other industrialized country, and that we work longer hours than workers in any of those other countries. I don't doubt it for a moment.
It's seductive, our busyness: the highly visible evidence of our worth and importance. You notice that others in your new job arrive at the office before you do, so you get in earlier the second day, so as not to appear lazy. As time goes on, you try to get there earlier -- earliest, you hope, and you're secretly glad when others see you. At the end of the day you try to be among the last to leave. Dependable, hard-working: that's you.
You find that it's hard to slow down, even on vacation,. You call a couple of times in the first few days, some details you didn't get to before leaving. Your colleague answers; he tells you to get off the phone and get a life, and you both laugh.
Your church is a busy place, too. The priest looks tired, often, and people with full-time jobs during the day are often there for meetings several nights a week. Busy people, all of them.
A retreat leader comes to talk about prayer, which is, certainly, a good thing. You go to the retreat because, as a member of the vestry, you do try to go to things as much as you can and show support of church programs. She says that prayer is not yet another job that you must add to your pile of tasks. She says that prayer isn't on top of anything -- and anyway, it's not a task, it's a gift. Prayer isn't evidence of goodness or of anything else. Prayer is underneath everything. Prayer is the place in which you put your life. She says to ask God for the gift of it. She says that's all you have to do.
Well, that can't be right, you say to yourself. It's too simple. It's insultingly so, in fact. Just ask God for the gift of prayer? All I have to do is ask?
Yup. Out of all our complications, something childishly simple: address a plea to Someone you're not even sure is there half the time. Please give me the gift of prayer you want me to have.
The bigger house, the better job, the Volvo: you may not get these things by asking God for them. They are part of the poker game of life. The gift of prayer, though, is yours for the asking, and it hums quietly beneath your day, undergirding everything in it, a steady thread of the love of God accompanying you through it all, the agony and the ecstasy. Steady when you are frantic. Calm when you are pressured beyond bearing. This is the first thing we need, not the thing on top of all our other needs. We're more aware of our blessedness if we choose it first. The other things will come -- or not come. And we will work hard for them, as best we can.
8 Pentecost Proper 11, Year C
Amos 8:1-12 or Genesis 18:1-10a * Psalm 52 or 15 * Colossians 1:15-28* Luke 10:38-42
And here is the ERD meditation:
Mothers and Children
I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son. -- Genesis 18:10a
Again and again in scripture, the figure of the childless woman is one of hopelessness. Who will care for her in her old age? Who will help support the family in all the jobs supporting a family entails -- plowing, planting, hunting, pasturing animals, cooking, weaving, sewing? Women wanted lots of children.
Besides, life was uncertain. Children died easily then. We look at the sturdy little bodies of our own children and rejoice that those days are long gone.
But they are not gone.
In Afghanistan, one in four children dies before reaching the age of five. Half the population lives in poverty. Because girls and women were denied education under the Taliban, the literacy rate among the female population is as low as 4 percent to 14 percent.
Episcopal Relief and Development partners with Afghans For Tomorrow (A4T), a unique organization of young Afghani professionals in the United states that works with Episcopal Relief and Development, to support volunteer and paid workers on the ground in Afghanistan, especially in the areas of reconstruction, health care and education. Together, ERD and A4T have built a school for older girls in Chel-Souton, an impoverished suburb of Kabul. The school offers students a chance to complete the schooling interrupted by the Taliban and to learn a trade to help support their families. This partnership has also created a health clinic in the village of Sheik Yassin, with a doctor, a nurse, and reproductive and maternal health services, together with sufficient security services to ensure the safe operation of the clinic in a country where life is every bit as uncertain as it ever was in Biblical times.
To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-80-334-7626, ext 5129.