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July 20, 2004
Today's eMo is in two parts, both meditations on texts which will be heard in church this coming Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo; the second is for preachers who wish to focus their words on the Church's service to the poor through the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMo, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.


What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? Luke 11:11-12

We want to give them what they want. And they love us when we do -- You're the best mom in the whole world, they say improbably, clutching the $20 bill we've just handed them.

But they want a lot of things. Some of the things they want are scorpions. Sometimes they want things they shouldn't have. Young people don't always really know they're young, that their judgment is not completely grown yet -- things that seem self-evidently true to them are, in fact, questionable. They are still able to convince themselves that the things they wish were true really are.

Actually, we're not bad at that, ourselves. We manage to live as if certain obvious facts were not true. We pull out the credit card and put it down on the counter as if it were extra cash we found on the sidewalk. We eat the way we did when we were fifteen, as if our metabolism hadn't changed in the forty years that have intervened since we were. We smoke as if we didn't know cigarettes were harmful. And we get angry when somebody draws our attention to our blindness.

The loving father gives his children only those things which are good. In this story, the children only ask for good things -- not like us: we beg with equal desire for both gifts and curses. Please make the world other than what it is, we say. Please make the rules not apply to me.

But we do them little good if we craft for them a world in which the rules don't apply to them. Help them believe that an exception will always be made in their case. It will not -- as it will not in ours. The job is to help them grow into people who can live in the world as we have it -- and we are unlikely to do that job well if we still half believe that we ourselves are magical.

We love fairy tales, wizards and powerful magic. Stories of a world in which the rules don't always apply. We love them, but we don't live in them. They are just for fun. In our world, we must ask for real food, and train those who come after us to tell the difference between real food and a scorpion, between real food and fairy dust.

And here is the ERD sermon meditation.

Genesis 18:20-23 * Ps.138 * Colossians 2:6-15* Luke 11:1-13

Aristeres (A-ree-ste-rees) has eight children to feed and educate. The feeding must come first for a family that sized in Venezuela, and that has grown much more difficult during the current coffee glut: Aristires isn't earning nearly what he was just a few years ago, when coffee was dead. Maybe things will improve, he thinks; inflation in Venezuela was only 27.1 percent last year. The year before, it was 31.2 percent.

Things are indeed looking up. Aristires is working now on a new demonstration garden, a collaboration between Episcopal Relief and Development and the Diocese of Venezuela. Crop rotation, complementary planting, diversification into new environmentally sustainable crops suitable for the local climate and soil, so that never again will all his eggs be in one economic basket -- Aristires is learning a lot about his ancient craft in the new garden, and he's doing something else a farmer hardly ever does: he's drawing a salary while he learns.

And the children? Against great odds, five of the eight go to school every day. They couldn't do that without ERD's help -- they'd have to stay home and help wrestle their meager living out of the earth, as everyone in their family has always done. Aristires lives far away from us; we will never meet him and his large family. But he is not so different from us. We dream of a better life for our children, too. Life for Aristires family has changed now -- life will be very difreent for them from what it has been for their dad. And not just different -- it will be what every dad dreams of. It will be better.


Episcopal Relief and Development saves lives and builds hope in communities around the world. We provide emergency assistance in times of disaster. When the immediate crisis is over, we rebuild devastated communities and offer long-term solutions in the areas of food security, health care, and HIV/AIDS. For more information on ERD, call (800) 334-7626, ext. 5129, or visit our website at
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