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AT A DINNER PARTY, JESUS SAVES / ONLY 116 MORE SHOPPING DAYS 'TIL CHRISTMAS
September 1, 2007
 
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.
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At A Dinner Party, Jesus Saves

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. -- Luke 14:1

Such a relaxing evening. Imagine what it must have been like, accepting dinner invitations that were really traps, answering questions that were really set-ups. Knowing that there were people wanted very much for him to make a fatal mistake.

Eventually, of course, he did. People disagree about which one it was: Was it his paradoxical triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Was it the time he overturned the money changers in the temple? Healing on the Sabbath? The time he used the God-word "I Am" with reference to himself? He had so many chances to save his own life, and he didn't take advantage of any of them. But then, he wasn't in the world to save himself. He was here to save us.

But from what? From a God who, left to his own devices, was prepared to burn us all alive? From the possibility of sin in our lives? From doubt? From a doomed world, far too compromised to salvage? From our own appetites? Certainly, Christians have considered salvation in all of these lights.

But I think Jesus has saved us from something else: from a fear of death that arises from the deeper dread that life is meaningless. If I am a paltry thing -- and I certainly am -- and this is all there is, how can I regard my own passing with anything but despair: if this was my only chance, and I have frittered it away on nothing? I would have been better off if I had been born an animal, unreflective, unaware of a future.

Salvation means that we signify more than we know. That life is more than the sorry sum of all its half-baked events and stray intentions. That the shape of the divine love stamped upon us in creation endures in us, despite all our errors or the errors of others that have scarred us. That we are in a mystery, a large one, and that it is not a tragic mystery. There is a power beyond the power we wield, and we participate in it, much more than we know.

The hints we receive of this truth throughout our lives -- they are our certainty of salvation, and they sustain us as fully as we will allow. Although despair is an option for all of us, none of us is sentenced to it.

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Pentecost 14, Proper 17, Year C
Jeremiah 2:4-13 or Proverbs 25:6-7 *
Ps 81:1,10-16 or Sirach 10:12-18 or Ps 112
Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16
Luke 14:1,7-14
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And here is the ERD meditation:

Only 116 More Shopping Days 'Til Christmas

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Luke 14:12-14


The season of benefits is almost upon us: time to go to dinners with expensive tickets, most of whose cost will go to the worthy organization for whom the party is given. Time to line up guests behind the honorees we chose so carefully, earlier in the year: the best dinner honoree is one to whom many people are beholden, the one whose eye many people want to catch, the one with whom many people want to be seen and, if God is good, photographed. Time to scan the ticket prices and decide at which level of exaltation to attend, to gasp at the cost of an entire table. We make our decision, calculate the size of the tax deduction we will earn, and decide what to wear. Some of us stop right there, and never actually appear at the dinner. We give our expensive tickets away, or donate them back, thereby increasing our tax break and also granting a stay of execution to an innocent pair of Cornish hens.

It's also the time to begin thinking about holiday gifts. Someday soon --appallingly soon-- the first Christmas catalogue will arrive in your mailbox. Look for it before Halloween. Etiquette demands that you display a coy unawareness of the fact that people will be giving you gifts, that you not appear to expect any. But this is silly. A moment or two of brutal frankness now will pay off later, for you and for someone else: tell the people who love you dearly that their love is all you need, that you want someone in need to benefit from your holiday gift.

And then go to Gifts for Life and pick out some stuff. Pick out several things, across a reasonable spectrum of expense: your husband ought to spend more on you than your ten-year-old does, especially since the ones who are really getting your gift are all AIDS orphans in South Africa or farmers in Central America. What used to feel a bit selfish when it involved a cashmere sweater or a nice bracelet feels perfectly acceptable when it's a goat or a pig for a poor family to raise, and you find yourself beginning to lobby shamelessly for your gift, find yourself not caring much if you seem a little loud about it.

Try it. It's not too early, and it puts the fun right back in Christmas shopping.
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Want to "shop" at Episcopal Relief and Development? Visit
http://erd.servicenetwork.com/Store/CatalogList.asp
or request a printed Gift for Life Catalogue at 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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