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HUNTING AND FISHING / MANY SOULS, MUCH JOY
January 25, 2008
 
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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Hunting and Fishing

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."
--Matthew 4:18-19


This line makes some folks more than a little uncomfortable -- it makes evangelism sound like hunting and the unfortunate people we evangelize sound like prey.

But real fishers and real hunters have more respect for the ones they pursue than those who aren't hunters or fishers realize. We may have our large brains, our opposable thumbs, our firearms -- but they are at home in the wild, and they are wise in the ways of living there. It is true that the destiny of the hunted may be death, that very afternoon, joined with its human counterpart in the ongoing circle of life, death, and nourishment, a circle in which all of us have participated since birth. But it may also be life, a chance to live to fight another day. You miss more than you get when you hunt or fish. In the wild, real hunting is a struggle between equals.

So your encounter with the one you pursue has no inevitable outcome. Anything might happen. You seek what you seek; sometimes you find it, and sometimes you do not. Sometimes your destinies are not twinned. You both live to see another day, a different destiny.

Is my evangelism a failure if the one to whom I speak does not, in the end, embrace my beliefs? Not at all. Evangelism isn't really about you; it's about the one you encounter. Just as a day of fishing is a glorious day regardless of the catch -- outdoors, on the water, seeing animals and plants and feeling your human closeness to all of them -- so a moment of showing Christ to another is good of itself. Christ brings us into community, and does so no matter what words (if any) are used to describe his work in the world.

Along with the boldness one usually associates with the word evangelism, another word is apt: humility. I don't know God's will for another -- I am still frequently in the dark about the exact nature of God's will for me. I know what I know from my own life and learning, and from what I think God has shown me; of these alone can I speak with authority. The one to whom I speak has wisdom I do not possess; in our encounter, we will learn from each other -- if we do not, it wasn't really an encounter at all. It was a lecture. It was like those canned hunts that people pay money to go on, in which an animal is penned so it can't get away. You aim and shoot, and the animal falls down. That was not a hunt. It was just a slaughter.

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Third Sunday of Epiphany, Year A
Isaiah 9:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23
Psalm 27:1, 5-13

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And here is the ERD meditation:

Many Souls, Much Joy

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy...Isaiah 9:3

For the people of Biblical times, population growth was an unalloyed good thing, a certain sign of God's favor. Every family hoped for many children: there would be many hands to help with the many tasks of farming, of caring for the house; there would be adult children to care for parents in their old age.

But modern life is different; having many children today no longer means an automatic increase in joy. The Gaza Strip has one of the highest overall growth rates and population densities in the world. The 2007 population was 1,482,405, giving the region a population density of 4,118 persons per sq km (10,665 per sq mi). More than half of Gazans live in the region's urban centers, the largest of which is the city of Gaza.

The residents of the Gaza Strip are Palestinian Arabs. The overwhelming majority are Sunni Muslims, and the remainder are Christians. The primary language of the Palestinians is Arabic. Only 40 percent of the area's residents are indigenous Gazans. The rest are permanently settled refugees or residents of refugee camps. Opportunities for work in Gaza are relatively few: more people work in Israel, and the means by which they travel back and forth to work is strictly controlled by Israeli authorities, who can close the borders to traffic at any time.

They are currently closed, and have been since January 17th. This has resulted in fuel shortages throughout Gaza, necessitating the closing of the region's main power plant. Fortunately, the blockade of the borders has been relaxed this week to allow emergency fuel shipments to enter Gaza.

Episcopal Relief and Development is providing emergency assistance to Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip. Immediate financial support has enabled the hospital to procure enough fuel to run its generator and steam boiler, so that it can remain open. Ahli Arab Hospital is one of only two hospitals in the Gaza strip, which has a population of about 1.3 million souls.

The birth of any child is still a cause for rejoicing: it tells us that God hasn't given up on us yet. It is also a call to the world to welcome that child. None of us are born knowing anything about politics; we only know our need. It is for all of us to teach each of us what it means to be a member of the human family.

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