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May 12, 2005
Today's eMo is actually two different meditations on texts that will be heard in many churches this Sunday. One is the usual sermon preparation eMo and the second intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development to the poor and those who suffer. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

Melt Me, Mold Me, Fill Me, Use Me

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him.
John 14:16

Interesting: of all the terms Jesus could have used for the Holy Spirit in this passage, he chooses to call it an "advocate" -- a lawyer. The Holy Spirit does not relate to us from a posture of icy neutrality. The Holy Sprit is not blind, like the Greek allegorical figure of justice: the Holy Spirit is on our side, pleads our case. And the Advocate is the spirit of truth: the truth will prevail, and that will be a good thing for all concerned. The truth will bring us to the place we're supposed to be. You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)

The joining of truth to advocacy on our behalf is important: the Spirit doesn't baptize every selfish goal we dream up. It will not advocate our lies. It will not just represent us as we are: it will lead us into all truth if we are not already there. The Spirit knows something we keep forgetting: we cannot erect lasting joy upon a foundation of lies. There is a good higher than our own immediate interest, and we are always invited to be part of it. Even if uniting with it is difficult and painful, the Advocate will help us find the strength to unite with it.

Lawyer shows on television often show an attorney impaled on the difference between truth and advocacy: he discovers his client is guilty, and agonizes over his role as champion of the accused. Or a prosecutor is sickened by the knowledge that his prey was really innocent, that it was really someone else who committed the heinous crime for which he sent an innocent to his death. High drama: your human lawyer's job is to get you acquitted. What if she wins, and you walk jubilantly out of the courtroom, free from the consequences of your actions? Free and encouraged, now, to commit the same crime if opportunity should ever arise? What is truth then? The person scripture who famously asks this question is Pontius Pilate, who is about to condemn an innocent man to public execution.

The Spirit as Advocate has a larger task: to bring you to truth, and fill you with it so that living within its realities becomes your nature, a better and better fit as your life goes on. Nothing about this has anything to do with escaping the consequences of our actions; rather, the Spirit molds us and teaches us, so that our actions may be in accord with the truth of God's goodness and our energy released to serve with a joy we could not have imagined on our own.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me, read the words of a familiar praise song by Daniel Iverson. In the book of Acts, the Spirit comes in tongues of fire. It will burn away our lies, even the ones we don't know about, and leave only what is really real. Free of whatever is not the truth, we will be truly free at last.
Acts 2:1-11
Ezekiel 11:17-20
I Corinthians 12:4-13
John 20:19-23
John 14:8-17
Ps 104:25-27 or 104:25-32 or 33:12-15.18-22


And here is the ERD meditation:

The Repair of the World

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
John 14:20

What brings people to Christ? Hint: it's usually not a convincing argument.

People come to Christ because of a need they have begun to feel within themselves. Usually this need is a gradual understanding that something important is missing. And sometimes it is a cataclysmic event, a terrible thing that has happened and cannot be ignored, something that has swept away all the familiar ways of organizing the world and deriving meaning from it. An earthquake. A tsunami. A hurricane. A war.

Armed only with their overwhelming need, they face the tragedy. And what will bring them to Christ? The knowledge that they do not face it alone. In the words and actions and presence of people who come to their aid, they see Christ more clearly than most people ever see him.

Will they convert to Christianity? Become Episcopalians? Maybe. Maybe not. At times like these, when food and water and medical resources and housing are all in crisis at the same time, no one is thinking about that; it is a subject for a later time. Maybe they already follow another path to God, one besides the Christian one. Nonetheless, in the words and actions of those who come to their aid, Christ has come to them.

And what brings us to Christ -- we lucky ones who didn't wake up this morning with nowhere to live and nothing to eat? Studies have shown that people who see Christians working to make the world a better place cite that as a reason why they might want to become active in a church. They may start out working in the soup kitchen, and only later find their way into the sanctuary. For many people, the ethical precedes the spiritual; they want to be part of the world's healing, and only later on become aware of their own thirst for life with Christ.

And so, besides fulfilling our Lord's command to serve him by serving those in the most need, our work through the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development evangelizes our own prosperous society. Without preaching a single sermon, it shows forth what God does for a world in great need.

This is also the godly way through the current disagreements about doctrine that divide the Church and set Anglicans at one another's throats: say your prayers and serve the suffering. There is much work to be done in a hurting world, and too few people to do it. ERD is one way to be part of what the Jews call tikkun: the repair of the world, God's gracious work of healing, in which human beings are called to join.
To learn more about ERD or to make a donation, visit or call 1-800-334-7626.

Want to volunteer in El Salvador? Bring family, friends or congregation members and help build communities there. Learn together, strengthen bonds, discover a new place, explore a new culture and deepen your faith. Trips are one week long. Groups range from 5-12 people. Volunteers work in community building and reforestation. Basic knowledge of Spanish if helpful but not mandatory. Visit
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