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April 28, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on Biblical texts that will be used in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo; the second is for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the work of the church with 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.

The Kindest Cut

Jesus said, I am the true vine, and my father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
John 15:1-2

Sometimes you have to throw things overboard, even things you love. Not every good thing points in the direction you want to go, and you can't go in every direction at once. This truth is so much more painful than it sounds: the choice between clear good and unequivocal evil is an easy one. What's hard is choosing between two good things.

To remove a branch that bears no fruit, which is what Jesus is talking about, isn't all that hard. But pruning in the garden isn't that simple -- in the garden, you often must remove branches that are fruitful. Beautiful and promising, they fall on the ground, separated from the plant and certain to wilt and die in a few days -- and you did it. On purpose. You have to decide which one you want to keep and which one will go, based on what you think the plant will do with the one you leave.

But this could be my last chance to do this, you wail as you consider cutting something out of your life. Maybe I'll never have any chance to do it.

Maybe not. But few things in life are irrevocable, and few opporutnities unique. There's usually another chance -- if not for one good thing, then for another. Pruning always produces at least a few new branches down at the bottom, new branches that will grow to be like the one you cut off. A plant always gives us a second chance, and a third and a fourth -- it is full of hope for life until it's dead.

For our lives are not really our own. We are being cultivated, raised, by a wise gardener. The gardener takes a long view. One season of want prepares for another of plenty; one sacrifice paves the way for a later gift. It's the whole life, not just this one uncomfortable moment of it, that grows up toward the sun of God's creating love.


And here is the ERD meditation:

Tomatoes and More

Those who abide in me, and I in them, bear much fruit.
John 15:5

The tiny village of Katakela in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very poor. School for the children, clothes to wear to school, even a pencil to use once they are there -- these things are luxuries in Katakela. Like his neighbors in the village, Ambroise Shinpauka had a garden behind his house, from which he struggled to extract food for his family, as well as another plot of land nearby that wasn't very productive.

But Mr. Shinpauka's life is changing. With help from the Diocese of Katanga in partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development, he and 64 other farmers in the village have banded together to make everyone's farms more productive. Education in agricultural techniques like crop rotation and diversification, so that two different crops can come from the same land, one in the rainy season and one in the dry season, have greatly increased everyone's yields. The diocese has provided improved tools for tilling the land. Now Mr. Shinpauka and his neighbors are rethinking their approach to getting crops to market -- up until now, it's been on a bicycle piled high and wide with baskets -- to generate a lot more of something very scarce in Katakela: cash.

It will be good when they get this problem licked, for Mr Shinpauka smiles as he reports a problem familiar to many North American gardeners as well: too many tomatoes!

Acts 17:22-31 or Isaiah 41:17-20
I Peter 3:8-18 or Acts 17:22-31
John 15:1-8
Ps 148

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