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SUFFICIENT UNTO THE DAY / THE SPIRIT BUILDS A HOUSE
May 23, 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 is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's work among the poor and those who suffer because of war or natural disaster, and deals with the 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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Sufficient Unto the Day

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:34

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,
an older translation says. One day at a time, the recovering addicts say. Same thing.

Sure, you have to plan -- stuff doesn't just fall into your lap. But planning and worrying aren't synonyms. Planning is developing strategies, which is a good idea. Worrying is experiencing pain in advance of its actual arrival in your life, which is not a very good deal.

Planning makes life easier. You don't have to flail around, wondering what to do first -- you've already given the matter some thought. If you're a good planner, you've even built in some flexibility to deal with the unexpected things that you know will always occur, and have resolved to be alert for signs of the new solutions that might go with them. There is a solution for everything.

Worry makes things harder. It paralyses your thinking, riveting it on the terrible thing you think might happen and preventing you from seeing the new thing that really does. Worry blinds and deafens us. I can't think of a single useful function for worry. We do it as a futile means of controlling events, sort of like an amulet -- I'll just carry this dreadful vision of what might happen to me around, and keep the real thing at bay -- but it never works. When we worry, we're like the man who always carries a bomb onto a plane because the odds of two people carrying a bomb onto a plane are so impossibly low.

So how do you stop worrying? It's not helpful just to string your worries together, tack an AMEN to the end and call it a prayer. We need prayer to take our worries away, not to load them back onto our own shoulders. Rather than making your prayers into a list of your worries, consider instead using your imagination to visualize your worries as an untidy bundle of dirty laundry, which you gather together and leave with God. Leave it at the foot of the cross, or leave it wherever you visualize God being -- leave it on God's doorstep, leave it at the edge of God's sea, put it securely into God's very hands. Never mind that God doesn't really have hands or a doorstep -- this is imagination we're talking about here. Just picture yourself giving your untidy bundle to God.

Do this each time worry overwhelms you. Do it in pictures, not in words, or you'll be off and running with your list of worries before you know it. Do it several times a day, if that's what it takes -- there's no statute of limitations on prayer.

And be patient with yourself -- you've probably been a worrywart for a long time. Don't expect to stop being one in an afternoon.

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Second Sunday of Pentecost, Year A, Proper 3
Isaiah 49:8-16a
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34
Psalm 131
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And here is the ERD meditation:

The Spirit Builds a House

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Matthew 6:26


The toll of the dead climbs every time we hear the news from China -- 12,000, then 20,000. Today it's 50,000, and another 30,000 missing -- but we know that the relief effort has reached the stage at which the missing become the lost. The unexpected openness with which this tragedy has been reported has done more than a dozen trade agreements ever could to bring ordinary Chinese people into our hearts: when we see a mother and father cradling the body of their only child, we know that they are just as we would be.

Both recent Asian disasters, Cyclone Nardis and the Sichuan earthquake, remind us how important it is to be part of a worldwide communion. Our partnerships are already in place, so we can send help at once. Episcopal Relief and Development’s partner in China, the Amity Foundation is an independent Chinese Christian voluntary organization. Amity has deployed staff to the affected region and is coordinating their response with local partners. With Episcopal Relief and Development’s support, Amity is distributing rice, bedding and sheltering material to alleviate the suffering of 8,000 families in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Sha’anxi.

The world is changing. Its balance of power will be not be concentrated in the western world in coming decades. The world has always changed, of course -- human power comes and goes. But the world will continue to witness sudden, terrible need, and its people will always be challenged to respond quickly and in concert. Working together to respond when terrible things happen in the physical world binds us all together spiritually, as well. It is true that there is more to living than eating and drinking, that we have a spiritual life beyond these creaturely matters. But sometimes the Spirit builds her house upon the concrete activities of men and women who are just trying help each other survive, and nothing in heaven or on earth will destroy her house.
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