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October 2, 2009
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 work of the church with victims of war or natural disaster, explores the minstry of Episcopal Relief & Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attributoin. No further permission is necessary.

Hardness of Heart

But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you."
Mark 10:5

Well, yes. Divorce is always about hardness of heart. It's never God's will for marriage not to last. But sometimes it does not. Sometimes we kill it.

We act counter to God's will all the time. If we did not, we would have had no need of saving, and Jesus' very name means "God Saves." That's the why of his life and resurrection in our world. Hardness of heart? Oh, yes. Guilty. Go far enough down that road and you're sure to end up strangling the life out of something -- your marriage, your relationship with your children, a friendship. Something.

But we are curious creatures -- we often believe our hardness of heart to be something other than what it is. We will go to considerable lengths to convince ourselves and others of our own righteousness in the face of significant evidence to the contrary. We sometimes conceal the truth about ourselves from ourselves. We are full of reasons why our selfishness really isn't selfishness at all, but something else. This exchange between Jesus and his questioners is about that: Take a good look at yourself. And if something makes you sound too good to be true, take another look.

A divorce may be necessary, but it's never a triumph. It's always made of heartbreak. Just ask anybody who's lived through one.

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16
And here is the ER&D meditation:

The Book of Job

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life."
Job 2:6

This is the progression of the Book of Job: worse and worse things keep happening, until it seems certain that the only thing left to happen is death. And then -- death does not come.

The progression of events after the typhoon and seismic occurrences this week in Pacific Asia is tragically different. At first, a trickle of casualties in the Philippines, Indonesia, Samoa. Then a few days go by, and the terrible truth dawns: almost none of the missing will be found alive. The death toll will mount steadily. In the ancient book of the world's most famous sufferer, what looks like death stubbornly clings to life. But in that newly-stricken part of Asia, the hope for rescuing the living sags again and again into the harsh reality of more and more death.

But the progression of response is also familiar, and it swung into action immediately. Conversations between Episcopal Relief & Development here and local bishops there got the ball rolling quickly, which is the great advantage of relying, in emergencies, on partnerships already thriving when everything hasn't just been turned upside down. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines and the Philippine Independent Church, whose parishes have become evacuation sites, have relationship of long standing with the Episcopal Church in America, and are ready conduits for our help. Indonesia may be the world's largest Muslim nation, but we have helped disaster victims there before, working with the Anglican Church in Australia, Church World Services and other ecumenical partners.

By now the familiar progression of ER&D's response is in full swing. Emergency help first -- water, food, shelter and medical supplies -- and then partnership in recovery based on the needs as they are revealed going forward.

On the news just now: another typhoon, gathering strength and heading straight for the Philippines. The Book of Job, life in the world -- Job never did get to find out why he suffered so. Neither will any of those brothers and sisters of ours, so different from us, and so far away. But we do know what to do to help right now, and we are ready.
To donate toward disaster relief in Pacific Asia, vidsit or telephone 1-800-344-7626, et 5219.
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