Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard 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 work with the victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of the worldwide 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.
How Do We known What We Know?
You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" -- Luke 12:56
How can we tell when it's going to rain? And how do we know how far along the plants are? How do we know what we know?
From experience, mostly. We spend time working with the things we care about, and we learn to recognize their ways pretty well. We invest in them, make it our business to learn about them. We seek them out.
That's how we prepare for our careers. We go to school to learn about them, seek the advice of experts, hoping to become experts ourselves. We start out small and hope to advance, and put in hours and years at it. We wind up knowing a lot about our chosen field.
We know a lot about our hobbies. We choose something that feels like play to us, something we do just for the delight of it, and the hours we spend doing it fly by. We work hard at this play, striving to become a better swimmer or cyclist, a better cook or painter, to master something new.
And we know a lot about our families. It doesn't take long for a new parent to crack the code of a baby's cries: which one means hunger, which a wet diaper, which means honest-to-God pain. Let us live together long enough and we can read each other like a book.
How do we get to know the things we know? By caring enough about them to spend the time it takes to learn them.
Oh, I see what Jesus means! He's not contrasting worldly knowledge with spiritual knowledge to its disadvantage; he's merely pointing out that we will learn those things we consider important, and will remain ignorant of the ones we don't care much about.
So where is the spiritual meaning of your days, in your hierarchy of important things? Is the conversation with God in your life a thing you've made it your business to learn about by spending time at it? It's a relationship, after all, and any relationship requires frequent checking in. People who love each other need to talk to each other. We who want to learn the love of God won't do so if we never show up. We won't be punished for it; it's not that kind of a relationship. We'll just learn about other things instead.
How to show up? Sit quietly and listen. Read the words of somebody whose spirituality you respect. Play music that lifts your soul. And ask: Show me yourself. Starting here, starting now, I will be watching for you.
Pentecost XII, Proper 12, Year C
Jeremiah 23:23-29 * Hebrews 12:1-7(8-10)11-14 * Luke 12:49-56 * Psalm 82
And here is the ERD meditation:
What Does God Send?
Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? - Jeremiah 23:29
The mayor of Pisco wept as he described the dead lying in the streets of the Peruvian town. At least two churches collapsed with worshippers inside: 200 people lie in the rubble which is all that remains of a church in Pisco, while seventeen are confirmed killed in a similar collapse in the nearby city of Ica. Many buildings in the elegant Spanish city of Lima have been destroyed. It will be a while before the full scope of the tragedy can be completely known: many roads are impassable, and phone lines are down.
How quickly can we get help there? And what shall we do first? The need is so immediate and so great; it is tempting to rush in with whatever is at hand, and that impulse is understandable: when you've lost everything, everything is what you need. But what part of everything do you need first? And where can we take it? Who will help us not to duplicate the efforts of other helpers, so that those in need don't end up with truckloads of bandages, but no drinkable water?
The first thing is to consult with our partners as they take immediate stock of their situation. For us, that is the easy part: Episcopal Relief and Development already has partners in Peru, church leaders we have worked with before. They know the local social service agencies, know which roads are open, are learning minute by minute where the need is greatest, and the content of that need. We can move immediately to get planes in the air with the right stuff on board, once we know for sure what the right stuff is.
Somewhere this Sunday, people will take time from their grief, and from the hard work of recovering the dead, to attend church. The service might not be in a church; many structures will not be pronounced sound for weeks. Perhaps it will be under a tree. They will stand for worship, probably, for there are no chairs, or they will sit on the ground, wrapped in the warm blankets which will have reached them by then -- it is winter in Peru. They will read, perhaps the same lessons we will read here, these words from Jeremiah, a man who thought he heard the mighty power of God in an earthquake that can break rocks to pieces. The people will shudder a bit at that line about breaking rocks; it will feel a little too close to home.
Besides, they are not sure that it is God who has sent an earthquake to break their lives to bits. The earthquake just came on its own. What God sent was the blankets. And the planes heading toward them right at that moment, filled with all the things that will help them begin again. And God has sent us, too: faraway companions along the difficult way ahead, whose help will reach them speedily, though they will never meet us face to face.
+To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.