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.
A Free Spirit in a Hard Place
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world...
The news is hard to take, most days -- the economy has gone south, the weather has gone mad, and politics has gone negative. Not that any of these are a surprise, of course. We should have been expecting them for some time. It's just the way the world is. It's a hard place.
But it's the only world we know. Hard as it is, most people don't ever want to leave it. We'll take its harshness, for as long as we are allowed to stay.
These few days, in which we ponder Jesus' leaving of the world and hang suspended, awaiting the spirit's coming: they hit us squarely with the nature of our walk with Him. It's not like the earthly one he and his friends enjoyed. But the paradox is that it is not less potent than that one -- in fact, for many, it is more so. Many people who knew Jesus of Nazareth did not experience him as Christ. It may even be that some who received miracles of healing did not. Enough people didn't get it that it was possible for the Romans to kill him off without anybody raising much of a fuss.
The Spirit is needed, for Jesus to become The Way for us. Without the Spirit working in us to receive him, he's just another first-century person to us -- a fine teacher, maybe, many of whose interesting stories survive to edify us. But without the Spirit, He would not be The Way.
Quakers talk about "Way" a lot - Way will open, they say, when it is not immediately obvious what should be done in a given situation. They mean that the Spirit will direct us. They expect that the God who created us does not intend to leave us rudderless, and are willing to wait for Way to reveal itself, however subtle it may be.
And so we wait. The Spirit is wider and deeper and bigger and smaller than anything we know, and we don't own or control it. There is nowhere it does not go, if it is really Spirit we are talking about. Many things are not Christian, but nothing is without the possibility of the Spirit, including many things in which its presence is not at all obvious to us.
Easter VII, Year A
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
And here is the ERD meditation:
A Disease Without Borders
... for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
I Peter 5:10
For most of our time on earth, human beings have lived in tribes, and we have based these tribes in places where life, though difficult, was at least possible. Near water, for instance: people and animals cluster all along the world's rivers, giving each other a respectful berth: not so close that a crocodile can have you for lunch, not so far that you can't make the twice-a-day trek for water. For all of human history, people have desired to live in intimate proximity to water, and this has meant intimate proximity to animals who want the same thing. Humans have not, until very recently, thought of themselves as citizens of nations, and many still do not. And animals never have. They just go where there's water and food.
The mosquito anopheles does not consider itself a citizen of any nation. Water and warm-blooded animals are all it needs, and it finds plenty of both those things in the heat of sub-Saharan Africa, tropical Asia, humid Central America. It takes only a tiny sip of blood, not enough that we miss it. But it leaves something behind: anopheles often carries the malaria virus, and human beings are the perfect host.
Modern people arrange their civilization in national groups. But the effort to control the spread of malaria must represent the combined efforts of many nations, and it must be carried out in much smaller units: one village at a time, one family at a time, one mother at a time. Malaria's reach is wide -- truly transnational -- but its transmission is always one by one by one.
Episcopal Relief and Development is in the forefront of the fight against this disease, one which sickens many millions of the strong but which kills the weak: children, the elderly, pregnant women. Last month, officials of ERD participated in the Zambesi Expedition, a trip by boat along the Zambesi River through countries whose vulnerable populations have been devastated by malaria, hoping to attract significant government and philanthropic support for the best and simplest means of malaria prevention: the distribution of insecticide-treated nets to families in remote villages and the training of parents in their use.
Somewhere in the world, a child dies of malaria every thirty seconds. It doesn't have to be this way. And, with our help, someday it won't be.
+To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.