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.
The Quiet Confidence of Repentance
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Always, this has seemed to me to me to be one of the most hopeful passages in all of scripture: It is never to late to turn around. No matter how dire the consequences of your actions have turned out to be, they will not keep you from God's embrace.
We need not live lives stained with our own regrets. We need not paper over our faults and errors, desperately trying to convince ourselves and others that we don't have them. They're ours, all right, and they're not pretty. But there isn't a one of them that must remain with us, unexamined for fear that it is unforgivable. Nothing is unforgivable.
This is not to say that everything doesn't have consequences, that we will not have to pay an earthly price for the things we do. That mathematics is part of human life. Only that the love of God will support us in the amends we must make.
We must be on our guard. Our desire to be righteous can turn us into self-righteous prigs, loving nothing so much as pointing out other people's faults. The headlines are full of public figures who have made careers out of denouncing others, plunged by their own hypocrisy into the very cauldrons of condemnation they have helped so enthusiastically to craft. That isn't pretty, either.
Honest self-assessment is quietly confident, conducted from start to finish in the knowledge that God already knows what we've done, knows more about the why of it than we probably do. My being forgiven is not in question; of course I will be forgiven. Our question is not Will God forgive me? It is, rather, Will I humbly accept the grace God offers me at this very moment to help me change?
Pentecost 16, Proper 19, Year C
Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28 or Exodus 32:7-14 * Psalm 14 or 51:1-11 * I Timothy 1:12-17 *
And here is the ERD meditation:
Skilled in Doing Good
They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.
So much money and energy goes into so many questionable enterprises in this world. Sometimes it seems that there is not a law or a moral obligation that cannot be skirted, provided enough money is thrown at it -- and there seems never to be a shortage of money for that.
We are disheartened by the zest with which evil is waged, but there are people waging good, too, with equal vigor. Dr. Stephen Dzisi, a physician with long experience and special expertise in infant and child mortality in Africa, has just been named head of Nets For Life, the partnership program joining Episcopal Relief and Development and a number of corporate and philanthropic foundations whose mission is to dramatically reduce the number of infant and child deaths from malaria, through the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and training of local community members in helping parents learn to use them.
Nets for Life is now completing its second year of operation. It has distributed 328,708 nets to families in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, protecting almost 700,000 people from contracting the disease that kills 3,000 children every day worldwide. 3,400 people have been trained as community volunteers in this effort.
Stephen Dzisi is a doctor, highly educated and well-traveled. Some of the community volunteers in Nets for Life have had little or no schooling. They work together, teaching skills that make the difference between life and death for vulnerable children and the parents who love them.
Human beings are endowed with the gift of reason and the capacity to learn. How we use our gifts is up to us. We can squander them on unimportant trifles. We can deploy them in the service of genuine evil. Or we can use our gifts as the people in Nets for Life do: to learn and teach a safer, better way of living to protect the innocent and make the world a safer, better place.
+To learn more about ERD and Nets for Life, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.