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February 9, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent. The first one is the usual sermon preparation eMo; the second is intended for preachers who wish to focus on the Church's service to the poor and those who suffer through 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.

Sign of the Divine

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Matthew 4:11

Now, how do we know that? Did Jesus tell Matthew about the angels? It seems unlikely. For that matter, did he tell Matthew about the devil's visit? That doesn't seem likely, either. And nobody else is recorded as having been there. So maybe Matthew used his imagination in giving us these details.

After all, Matthew is telling us a story. He's deciding what to put in and what to leave out of it. What will give us what he wants to give us?

The temptation in the wilderness gives us something we're going to need: the whole reason for the Son of God to walk our walk. Jesus doesn't have to do any of this, need be subject to none of our limits, and yet he chooses them and remains bound by them. This is the beginning: his ministry is all about being willing to share our lives, including our sorrows. And sharing our joys, too: Jesus will leave a life he loves, not one that doesn't matter to him anyway. He will not be pretending to suffer and die. He will not want to. But he is willing. He'll resist these temptations. And he'll resist a larger one, later on, one that creeps close and whispers in his ear: Don't love them so much you'll give up everything for them. Look at them -- they don't love you that much!

And we don't. To love us with that power when we love back so feebly is sign enough of the divine, all by itself.

Upcoming retreat notes:
Barbara Crafton's retreat at Holy Cross Monastery entitled "Good Psalm, Bad Psalm" is full, with a waiting list. The one at Kirkridge entitled "Love Your Enemy" does have some openings. Kirkridge is beautiful, close to the airports in both Newark and Allentown and an easy bus ride from Manhattan. Visit
to register or learn more about this retreat -- surely an important topic these days.

Genesis 2:4b-9,15-17,25-3:7
Romans 5:12-19(20-21)
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 51 or 51:1-13

>i>And here is the ERD meditation:

A Mountain of Mud and Wood

He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written,'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Matthew 4:2-3

Food and shelter. Water. Someone to set your broken leg. Something to wear. Medicine. These are what you need right now. You were so shocked you hardly even knew you needed them at first -- you walked on that leg all that first day, looking for your babies, clawing with your hands down, down into the mud and broken pieces of wood that were everywhere and you didn't find them, couldn't find them, and you didn't even notice how much the leg hurt until, at last, you fell down and then couldn't get up and you saw that it was all black and enormous and it hurt so much and you don't remember anything more after that.

Now you have a little tent which sits in a row along with a lot of other little tents, and it is treated with special insect repellent so that the mosquitoes don't give you a disease. And your leg is in a cast and isn't very swollen at all. You have food and water now -- you really don't remember much about those first days, don't remember how thirsty you must certainly have been, don't remember who found you or who took care of your leg and hardly remember moving into this little tent. You only remember how the mud and splinters of wood and metal felt in your hands as you tore through them, looking and looking. If you hadn't fallen down you could have kept on digging. Maybe you could have found them. One of them, at least. Maybe.

Or maybe someone else found them. Maybe somebody reached out and caught them. This is what you're thinking now. You want the people who have come here to help to help you find your children, because you are growing more and more sure they're still alive. You dream of them at night. Doesn't that mean they're still alive?

You have never heard of Episcopal Relief and Development. You have never even heard of mental health. You have never seen a counselor: your family took care of you, and you took care of them, and that was always that. But here in the camp there are people who have come here only to listen as you tell your story, over and over again, and who help you think about what's happening right now. What might happen? About how terribly you miss your babies and, over and over again, how you dug and dug and couldn't find them.

Sometimes you talk about what you had and what you have right now. What you might do now. Sometimes you just don't care. But sometimes you do, and it is so clear that the lady to whom you've been talking cares a great deal what happens to you, and she isn't even in your family.

The counselor returns to her own tent, thinking of the young woman who clawed through the mud. Wouldn't it be something if her children were still alive? She has the basic physical things she needs now, she tells herself, and I have been given the privilege of bringing God's word to her. Just by my listening, God has spoken words to her that will help her live again.
To learn more about ERD's ministry and how you and your congregation can help, visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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