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September 15, 2004
Today's eMo is actually two different meditations on texts that will be heard in church this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus on the Church's ministry to the suffering 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.

The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness

The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
Luke 16:8

But I'll bet he didn't hire him back.

The dishonest steward was shrewd, but seems not to have been shrewd enough not to be apprehended in his enterprising plan to prepare for his own jobless future -- reducing the amounts owed his master by all his creditors, in order to curry favor with them when he lost his job: not exactly insider trading, I guess, but something in the spirit of it. His boss caught him -- we finish the parable with the master's compliment, but I don't imagine that's quite the end of the story.

Right before the jig is up, right before actions birth their undesirable consequences: a window of opportunity. Parcel out favors while you still have them to give -- maybe one of your beneficiaries will give you a job. Go ahead and betray a confidence if you know the friendship is over anyway -- maybe you'll get a new friend. Withdraw everything from the joint accounts right before you tell you wife you want a divorce -- at least you'll have some cash. Rip the priceless paintings off the walls in the house you are about to burn to the ground -- the people who lived here are being loaded into a train and taken away to a place where they won't be needing them. Gallop through the village and grab all the young girls; rape them before you kill their fathers and brothers, and make the fathers and brothers watch. What does it matter to you what those who are about to die think of you?

Shrewd. The one with whom you are breaking relationship -- or who is breaking relationship with you -- ceases to be a human being in your eyes. Get what you can of hers, in the brief moment of trust remaining to you before everything that once joined you as human beings goes up in flames.

And Jesus commends this?

No. Only the shrewdness. Only by way of wondering why we don't put our best intelligence toward the tasks imposed on us by our commitment to the good, when those who are up to no good work so hard at realizing their fell intent. Why we never seem to wage peace as energetically as we wage war, or as shrewdly. Why we are passive in pursuing what the world needs, content to wring our hands and hope for the best, as if we had no role to play in the saving work of God in our own lives.
And here is the ERD meditation:

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much...
Luke 16:10

Used books. Baked goods. Plants. Homemade jam. Parish events, large and small. Every week, something. This is how Bill Seixas and his
fellow parishioners at St. Peter's in San Pedro, California have managed to become Episcopal Relief and Development's largest continual donor.

St. Peter's is not the largest parish in the diocese, nor is it the wealthiest.
But in the thirty years since Bill fell in love with the opportunity ERD offers to apply every donated dollar directly to the work of relieving
human suffering, St. Peter's has donated $300,000 to its ministry.

Bill was a high school football coach for many years, and he knows how to create a team and keep it motivated. He knows that there is no
unimportant member of a team, that everyone is essential. He knows that there is no such thing as a small contribution -- they're all big. This is how he has exercised his leadership at St. Peter's, but it is also how he has fit into the larger team of which he is a part through his partnership with ERD. No matter how enthusiastic a coach, Bill might be, he and St. Peter's could never reach into a Namibian village to help shelter and educate AIDS orphans while rushing money and supplies to hurricane victims in Florida and wildfire victims in his own Southern California, at the same time rebuilding a health center in Iran and providing agricultural assistance to farmers in Ecuador and helping villages in Nicaragua and Tanzania gain access to safe drinking water.

In football, you never make a goal in one play, one spectacular solo run from the center line to the goalpost. You pass the ball back and forth to your teammates, and the team works its way up -- and sometimes back down -- the field many times before you score. To gain even one yard is important, because you know that it is only yard by yard that it all adds up to a win.

In the spiritual life, it is the same. Every good thing is a big thing. Everything counts. Nothing is unimportant, and nothing is lost -- no prayer, no song, no sacrament, no study, no holy fellowship, no moment of generosity. All combine to become the joyful life of a soul in Christ.
Although Bill and his friends have given much to serve sisters and brothers they will never meet, their joy in each other while they're doing it is palpable.


To learn more about the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development and to offer assistance to its immediate work this weekend in areas currently ravaged by Hurricane Ivan, visit or call 1-800-334-7626.
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