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SHOW US THE WAY / SPENDING OUR SPIRITUAL STIMULUS CHECKS
April 18, 2008
 
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read 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 poor and those in need, explores an aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's ministry. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

Show Us the Way

And you know the way to the place where I am going.
John 14:4

No, I don't!
Thomas answers - across the centuries, we can still hear his frustration. As always, we can sympathize with Tom, because that's what we want, too. Tell us the secret. Give us the information we need. And the answer is that we already know everything we need to know.

It sure doesn't feel that way to us.

When we think about knowing something, we view it as acquisition: There was a time when I didn't know the capital of Maryland, but now I know it's Annapolis. I'm working on my Italian to acquire a more fluid command of conversation; and when I do, I will "have" Italian. I never studied physics, so I don't "have" that. But I do know how to play the castanets; I "have" that skill.

For us, knowledge is something we have, something external to us that we acquire. But that's not the only kind of knowledge there is. Think of the process of growing to love someone. Certainly there are facts to acquire: he loves chocolate, hates hot dogs, used to live in Florida. But growing in love takes you quickly beyond biography: you enter into the world of the one you love, learn to see the world as she sees it, as well as the way you do. You become attuned to the very being of the one you love, knowing her as you know yourself. Better, you sometimes think. And yet a stray fact here and there continues to surprise you through the years. How come you know how to play the castanets?

The quietness of the Way with Christ is like that. It is a settling into love, a companionable walking along together, wordless because there's not really all that much to say. Once in a while a thought comes up, an idea, a picture. But for the most part, the Way is quiet. The way to God's domain isn't one more geographical fact for us to acquire. It is underneath all the things we already know, containing them all, and it always has been. Perhaps we notice it, more than learning it; notice the love that made us, and realize that it has really been here all the time. Show us the way, we beg. I already have, he answers.

Thomas was on the Way already. Had been since the day he met Jesus, and even before then. This was meant to be! we say about something that happens, and we mean that its connection to the rest of life is both obvious and wondrous. Show us the way, we beg. I already have, he answers.

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Easter V Year A
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5,15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

And here is the ERD meditation:

Spending Our Spiritual Stimulus Checks

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.
John 14:2


Extravagant language about God -- the Gospel of John is full of it. The power of God, the glory of God, the wisdom of God, these are everywhere in John -- and here, God's house in heaven is so big, many mansions can fit into it! Now, who can't relate to the excitement of that? Big! The Biggest! The most ever! The idea of abundance entrances us: size, power, wealth. We want it all, and then we want more of it. And when we imagine God, we imagine God to be like us.

But what actually happens in this ancient book with all the high-flown language? The Son of God is betrayed by one of his friends, deserted by others and finally killed. The power and glory of God isn't a simple matter of more and more, bigger and bigger. The one who raises Lazarus from the dead does not escape his own death. And his own rising from death is strangely quiet, mysterious, puzzling. Nobody knows exactly what has happened, but we see no mansion, no big army, no pot of gold. Life in Christ is something else, something different from the usual human love of more and more.

Maybe more and more is not what we need. In May, many Americans will be receiving “economic stimulus” checks from the federal government in the hopes that the money will be spent to bolster the languishing economy. We're supposed to spend it. But, with a national debt of $9 trillion, the United States is arguably the most consumer-oriented society in the world. Far more goods than are needed, or that can be produced in an environmentally-sustainable manner, are purchased by people who already live lives of material plenty.

To help direct the stimulus checks to people who can truly benefit from this money, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) launched the “Give it 4 Good” campaign http://www.giveit4good.org/ to encourage people to give all or part of the stimulus check to an organization working to advance the Millennium Development Goals, a set of benchmarks established by the international community to cut rates of global poverty. Spending our stimulus checks in this way would serve a spiritual purpose for us, as well as a charitable one for others. We don't just need to give poor people money; we also need to change our own values. More and more is not always better, or even desirable. Longing for more and more hasn't always served us well. Part of achieving Millennium Development Goal 7 -ensure environmental sustainability- begins with people who live in western countries limiting their consumption behavior.

To support the Millennium Development Goals Inspiration Fund through this campaign, make a gift to Episcopal Relief and Development online at http://www.er-d.org/ , or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Millennium Development Goals Inspiration Fund”, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. To record your gift with Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, please visit http://www.e4gr.org/ and complete the form, indicating your pledge to Episcopal Relief and Development and the Millennium Development Goals Inspiration Fund.



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