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FAITH: A LOT LOUDER THAN YOU THINK / KIDS ALWAYS TAKE IT ON THE CHIN
October 17, 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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Faith: A Lot Louder Than You Think

And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:8


Read the gospel again -- at first glance, this question seems a bit of a throwaway line, to have little to do with the story about the importunate widow and the unjust judge, who ends up granting her request more or less in self-defense.

But there aren't many throwaway lines in scripture -- writing was too laborious in those days. This one has much more to do with the nagging widow than it appears at first, and the reason centers on a particular idea of what faith is.

Mostly, we think of faith primarily as an irrational acceptance of propositional statements about God's action, a serene capacity to accept things that don't make any sense on their own. We often speak of faith when there appears to be no hope at all, as we normally experience hope -- We must have faith, we tell each other, in much the same tone Dr. McCoy used when he'd turn to Captain Kirk and say, He's dead, Jim.

But the widow isn't very serene. She knows the judge can help her, and she won't be quiet and leave him alone until he does. She knows there is justice, knows the difference between right and wrong, and she fights for it. Her faith is in the goodness she knows is rightfully hers, the primal orderliness of things before everything fell apart. And now we're onto something, because that yearning for the primal order, for the goodness that's supposed to be ours and has gone missing, is just how faith in Christ begins. We don't usually discover faith when things go well for us. We usually find it first when things fall apart, because that's when we realize we need it.

I'm not sure faith has much to do with serene acceptance. Faith is a long and sometimes difficult conversation with God, a conversation that lasts a lifetime, once it gets going, and can get pretty loud here and there along the way. There isn't anything we can say to God that will break that relationship, no matter how nasty we become. Over time, it becomes part of us; we come to understand that human beings have faith the way we have toenails. God just is, in our lives, and we come to know that we do not exist apart from that being, whether we understand it or not.

All that is good must be restored, we say to ourselves and to God. This is broken, and it must be fixed, we say. That, believe it or not, is the voice of faith.

All right, God says, I will fix it and you will help. But it will take some patience on your part, more patience than I see you have. And, in that small exchange, the repair of the world begins.

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Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year C Jeremiah 31:27-34 * Ps 119:97-104 or Genesis 32:22-31 * Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8
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And here is the ERD meditation:

Kids Always Take It on the Chin

In those days they shall no longer say: "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."
Jeremiah 31:29

Kids always take it on the chin,
an old man I knew used to say. By that he meant that children are vulnerable to everything, more so than adults are. They are never the ones responsible for the sins of the community, but they usually pay a heavier price for them than anyone else does.

Look at your watch. Does it have a second hand? Watch it go around the dial once -- a minute. Did you know that a child under the age of five dies every three seconds? Let's see... twenty children died while you were looking at your watch. Twenty tiny bodies that will never get big, twenty little minds that will never give their gifts to the world, twenty mother and twenty fathers whose hearts are broken. I am afraid I may have ruined the pleasure you take in your nice watch; it will be difficult, from now on, to look at it without remembering what a minute means.

They are vulnerable to the weather, to disease, to war. Vulnerable to sexual trafficking, to hunger and to drought. An attack of diarrhea that makes an American child miserable for a day or two kills a sub-Saharan African child in the same amount of time. They don't start the wars. They don't pollute the streams. They don't sell the food on the black market. They're just kids, and kids always take it on the chin.

The steady provision of clean water, simple steps toward disease prevention, building community capacity for food security and developing the capacity of families to earn enough money to lift themselves out of extreme poverty -- these are just a few of Episcopal Relief and Development's efforts aimed at reducing child mortality in the development world by two thirds.

We cannot make a perfect world, but we can make the world better than it is. Perfection is not expected of us, but we are expected to do what we can. There will always be some children whose teeth are set on edge by sour grapes they did not eat - someone else will sin, or maybe someone else just won't care, and they will pay for the sin or the indifference with their lives. There will always be some. But together, we can see to it that there are fewer.

+To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to request a "Gifts for Life" catalogue, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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Q and I will be leaving tomorrow for Greece, to explore a number of her beautiful islands. We will return on October 28th. Deacon J remains stateside -- now would be a good time to subscribe to More or Less Church, if you haven't already, as she'll be at home writing while we are eating baklava. Subscribe to MOLC, also, at http://www.geraniumfarm.org/subscribe.cfm
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