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WHERE IS JESUS? / WHEN GOD AND GOOD ARE HARD TO SEE
May 16, 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 Church's ministry in the world through the work 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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Where Is Jesus?

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20


The more people I know on the other side - and there are more and more all the time, of course -- the more I experience this promise as a current reality. Just as I first learned about love from human beings, it has been human beings who have taught me what I know about resurrection. Every time one dies, the same sequence: at first, the loss is all there is to feel, unbelievable but true. The image of life's last moment is etched in my mind, and I visit and revisit it. The life is all but lost to me; I see only the death.

Then some time passes, and memory enters, alternately painful and comforting, prompting tears and smiles. Sometimes both at once. Gradually, I am no longer a prisoner of the death alone; gradually, the life I mourn returns to my thoughts as well, and I can see the life as a whole, not just as preamble to the loss of it. The most important thing about the one I lost is no longer that I lost him, but that he lived in the world and graced its life. Death is part of life, but it is not the most important part. I'm not sure there is a most important part.

And there is more. I find that the dead are present in other ways, too, besides in memory. These are harder to describe, and impossible to prove; if it's proof you want, you'll have to go back to math class. But walk through life and loss with open eyes and open heart, and you will begin to sense them: moments of something that can only be called presence, other moments that seem to constitute advice, given in the nick of time, when you were about to do something really stupid. A deepening consistent gratitude that begins to walk around with you, aware that you would be nothing like you are without that person in your life, whether she is alive or dead. That he, and many others besides, have formed you.

This is African concept of Ubuntu. It applies not only to the living but to the dead. Ubuntu is a description of the way life is: I am me, it holds, only because you are you. We form each other. I can no more disregard your existence than I can discount my own.

How lovely to think this: we make each other. The very fact that you exist means that I do, too. We stand or fall together. I read Jesus' promise to this friends as he passes from their sight, and it sounds like normal life to me: open-hearted and open-eyed, willing to let my own existence rest upon the communion of saints and not on my own lonely pedestal. I am with you always.+
Thanks to everyone who has helped me surpass my goal for AIDSWALK/NY. I am so excited about it - every time a donation comes in, it's like Christmas. Now pray that I will also complete the walk in one piece! Go to www.aidswalk.net/newyork and click on "sponsor a walker" to donate.
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And there is some big news to share:

I am excited to announce that I will be taking up duties as the interim rector of St. James in Florence for one year, beginning in August. Q and I are very happy to be going, and have visited with the congregation already: they are lively, diverse and interesting people and the church is wonderful. It has just celebrated its 100th aniversary.

The Farm will continue as always, although my retreat schedule, of course, will be drastically curtailed. But the Internet is everywhere, and the eMos will reflect our Italian surroundings faithfully. What's-Her-Name, Kitten and Gypsy and staying home with our granddaughter; Ben (who's real name is Benito) is going along. Il Duce.
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And here is the ERD meditation

When God and Good Are Hard To See


God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
Genesis 2:3


When the news is of devastation. as it has been recently, many people wonder if the world really is good. Why are there terrible earthquakes? Cyclones? Where is the goodness when thousands of innocent people die in an instant?

Of course, none of these things we call "natural disasters" would be disastrous if there were no people involved in them. The earth just quakes, the winds just blow -- by themselves, these events are neutral. It is our living in the tectonic fault, by the sea, in the river valley that puts us at odds with nature's power. The earth goes about enormous business of its life, and the tiny people on it are sometimes just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When that happens, the tiny people band together. They run to the scene, paw through the wreckage, call out hope to the wounded they cannot see but whose voices they hear. Tenderly, they lift the dead out into the daylight and lay them carefully on the ground. They feed other people's children, comfort devastated parents they don't even know, carry cases of bottled water and bundles of blankets through the mud.

It is easy to see God in a flower or a glorious sunset. But God is present in the terrible things, too: not as the one who perpetrates them, but as the one whose thousands of emissaries join to help us through them. Want to find God? Go where something terrible has happened and look around you. All of the saving you see -- boats, trucks, hand-to-hand relays of water buckets, first aid, all of the help, whatever its name and whoever does it -- all of it is the physical manifestation of the divine love.

We have seen the photographs of Chinese parents bending over the lifeless bodies of their only children, and suddenly we have felt our closeness much more than our distance. The Anglican Communion is just about everywhere in the world, and that means that we have sisters and brothers already on the ground in these stricken areas, whose work we are supporting right now. Over the past weeks, we have been privileged, through Episcopal Relief and Development's partnering with churches there, to embody God's love for people in Burma and in China whose lives have been shattered. People we will never meet.

Why do such terrible things happen? Nobody has that answer. But what is God doing about it? We ourselves are the answer to that one.
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To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626.
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Trinity Sunday, Year A
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8 or Canticle 2 or 13
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20
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