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August 22, 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 service among the poor and those who suffer as a result of war or natural disaster, explores the work of Episcopal Relief & Development. As with al the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
You Are the Christ, and I Am Peter

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
Matthew 16:17

The brain is flesh and blood. A brain on its own is soft and seemingly formless: it needs the cranium to hold its shape. But it's a lot tougher than it looks: although there was a time, not that long ago, when everybody thought that the patient would surely die if the brain were even touched, today doctors do all sorts of drastic things to brains, right up to and including cutting them in half, and usually the brains come out of it just fine.

The human brain is so unprepossessing in its appearance that it was a long time until doctors understood that it had anything to do with thinking. For centuries, that faculty was located elsewhere -- the stomach, the heart. The liver for a while. But now, we can image the process of thinking -- we can actually see the brain do it.

And so we see that thinking is a very physical thing. Physical, and electrical, too: thought is energy. Thought happens in the world of history. We do thought, just like we do other things: we walk, we eat, we scratch an itch, and we think. And yet, and yet -- we know and sense that thought isn't just like these other activities. Thought authors things. Thought creates a possibility, and sometimes that possibility comes to be. So thought authors history, as well as living in it.

Peter blurts out his confession: his friend Jesus is really the messiah! Other ideas about Jesus have surfaced already -- maybe he is Elijah, or John the Baptist, or maybe Jeremiah. These opinions are based on evidence, at least as far as their authors are concerned: to them, at least, they make some sense. But these ideas do not come to be. This is the one that works its way from spirit through the flesh and blood and unlikely miracle of thought into a spoken word that lands dead center on the truth.

There was a time when all the things human beings didn't understand were ascribed to supernatural causes. God was a form of shorthand, then, a way of being in the same room with impenetrable mystery without panicking. God was what was left after we'd come to the end of the very short rope of our understanding. And now? Now that we can watch the brain think on our computer monitors?

The things we know are more numerous than they used to be. They're growing in number all the time; we get smarter and smarter. For each of us, though, thought authors something that needs our flesh and blood in order to come to be. It must somehow be applied. Someone must watch and receive the gift that thought authors, whatever it might be.

A shocking thought, this: in order for Christ to be Christ, then, Peter had to be Peter.

Pentecost 15, Proper 16, Year A
Exodus 1:8-2:10 or Isaiah 51:1-6 + Psalm 124 or Psalm 138 + Romans 12:1-8 + Matthew 16:13-20

And here is the Episcopal Relief & Development meditation:

Ethnic Cleansing, Ancient and Modern

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live."
Exodus 1:15-16

An ancient policy of ethnic cleansing, a systematic plan to eliminate an entire people -- one of many we see in scripture. This one happened three thousand years ago, but we see it today, as well: genocide is in the newspaper every day, in a number of countries throughout the world.

It seemed for a while that things might be improving in Sudan, but recent months have seen a discouraging re-escalation of violence. "Our sense of foreboding is heightened because the violence has come in and around Abyei, a town whose history, resources and proximity to the border between northern and southern Sudan make it a proving ground for the success or failure of the nation's still-young peace agreement," Lutheran Presiding Bishop Hanson and Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori said in a joint statement on Sudan earlier this summer. "Many people have been killed, much of Abyei has been burned to the ground and as many as 120,000 people have been displaced from their homes."

This means that they are refugees now -- homeless, jobless, cropless, lacking in all of the things people need to live. Many of them are children. The two bishops call on all of us to pray earnestly for peace in this African nation in which so many have suffered so much for so long, and to remember their suffering in our giving. Episcopal Relief & Development is working with the Episcopal Church of Sudan Support Office to assist victims of violence and those fleeing their homes. Our emergency aid includes water, food, shelter and basic necessities. We stand ready to support the Church as it reaches out to those who are again facing instability and unrest in their land.

It is easy, when a terrible situation goes on and on like the one in Sudan has, for those of us who are able to give to develop "compassion fatigue." Am I really doing any good at all? Isn't this really a hopeless state of affairs? It is a terrible state of affairs, to be sure, but we are never without hope. With prayer and resolve not to leave the people of Sudan and the church in Sudan friendless, no matter what happens, we are already making a difference in ensuring that these families who have fled their homes with only the clothing on their backs have food, water shelter and emergency care.

This will not go on forever. What will we do? Turn away now, and then swoop back in when it is over, too little and too late? Or to remain in partnership with them through the worst of it, as discouraging as it is? The choice seems clear enough, for the followers of one who was willing to face his own death in order to remain in solidarity with humankind.
Please join Bishops Hansen and Jefferts Schori in prayer for those affected by this crisis in Sudan. To make a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development’s “Sudan Fund,” visit us online at , or call 1.800.334.7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development “Sudan Fund” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.
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