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March 29, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday's worship. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregation's attention on the minstry of the Church to those who suffer 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.


No Faith? Show Your Need, Instead

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:29-30

That's all of us, of course. We haven't seen Jesus, although I did have a vision of his once when I was seven. Verse 30 follows verse 29 for a reason, and the reason is us: people who weren't around when Jesus walked the earth. People who didn't witness any of the events recorded in the gospels. People who are afraid their late arrival puts Jesus at a distance from them.

Not so. Almost all the people who did see and hear and touch him during his life didn't recognize him after he rose from the dead. Most of the people who heard Jesus preach came and went and didn't believe in him, enough so that nobody much cared when he was killed, and only one historian outside Christian circles mentions the event at all, and he mentions it in passing. Even some of the people whom he healed of terrible diseases by him vanished without a trace, uninterested even in knowing who their healer was.

So we needn't wish we had been there. We're fine where we are. Faith would still be a process, even if we had been there. We would still go about it mistakenly, as the ones who did know him went about it mistakenly. The same freedom we have is the freedom they needed: their eyes needed opening, just as ours do. Thomas says he must touch the wounds themselves in order to believe, but we never hear whether he did or not -- his eyes are opened, somehow, and he falls to his knees. My Lord and my God, he says, and that's all we hear of Thomas.

We must do what they did: take our broken hearts and all our doubts and all our need and spread them out before him. Even if we feel like gullible fools in doing so. If we can't summon faith -- and we usually can't -- then we can admit to need. We have that in abundance.

And here is the ERd meditation:

Aftermath and Healing

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
John 20:29

We don't know much of what the boy on the Red Lake Indian Reservation had seen of Jesus, and he is no longer here to tell us. We did hear that he demanded of one of his victims "Do you believe in God?" right before shooting her -- exactly what one of the Columbine killers did. This lonely boy wanted to be famous, like those boys, wanted to be a desperado, wanted power and felt he had none, wanted revenge for years of bullying, wanted payback for a short life that had seen more than its share of pain and betrayal.

Do you believe in God? I imagine the victim stammered out a "yes," realizing that her life was about to end. And God, who believed in her, believed in both of them, all of them has taken them home to himself -- young lives cheated of their full length: children, victims and killer alike.

Our Church was there. All of us were there, in a more immediate way than just watching the aftermath of the tragedy on television. Seven Episcopal clergy were the only clergy present at the memorial at Red Lake Elementary School on Wednesday morning. They noted an amazing degree of forgiveness and understanding in the Chippewa community for the young man who pulled the trigger, as well as for his victims. And Episcopal Relief and Development, working with the Diocese of Minnesota, has provided emergency help for the families of the victims - burial expenses, counseling services for them and for the children in the school.

There is nothing good about the tragedy at Red Lake except the love that has poured out among the people in its aftermath. Now is the time for the tightly knit Chippewa community to rally around its children and its own bereavement and heal. Dignified burial, quietly available clergy and lay counselors, and the passing of time, by God's grace, will begin the long work of healing. In the course of that work, they will see Jesus somewhere in it. As they heal, they will recognize him.
To learn more about ERD's good work, visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129
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