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May 19, 2005
,i>Today's eMo is really two different meditations on scripture texts that will be heard in many churches this Sunday: one, the usual sermon preparation eMo, and the other intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the work of Episcopal Relief and Development with the poor and with the victims of natural disasters and war. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
The Great Commission

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

This is known in church circles as "The Great Commission:" important words for Christian evangelists, and Christian evangelists have followed these instructions for centuries. Christian rulers have followed them, too, often with disastrous results -- they have seemed to them to baptize wars of conquest that also had less religious goals, like gold or oil or territory. Thus the Crusades felt high and holy to the people who went, at least at first -- no war feels high and holy once the shooting starts, not to the soldiers on the ground. Too many conversions to Christ have happened at the wrong end of a sword. Teach them and baptize them. It has seemed for centuries that this was a set of instructions about increasing church membership, getting people to abandon their beliefs and embrace ours.

The formal Trinitarian baptismal words in the verse -- in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit -- may be an example of that assumption about what Jesus wanted: we know that the disciples baptized in the name of Jesus, that Paul knew about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus himself seems not to have baptized, and that in a few decades Christians would begin a furious and complicated argument about the Trinity, attempting to explain what God was, that would last for several centuries. Some scholars think its inclusion in Jesus' final words to his disciples is an addition to them by a later hand, in hopes of locating a formal doctrine of the Trinity in the mind of the earthly Jesus. It would be a different verse, would it not?

Go and tell everyone, everywhere: what you see is not all there is! Even though my body is gone, I will still be with you. I will be with you forever.

All nations. Everyone, everywhere. Spread the word -- it is a good word, good news. All the things people have thought about what power is and what wealth is and what happiness is aren't true in any lasting sense. The way you live on earth lasts for a few decades. The way you live in Christ lasts forever. It is beyond time. It is now and it is in the future. It doesn't really have a future -- past and future are earthly concepts, not heavenly ones. Have the humility to understand that there are adventures ahead, unfolding right now, that are beyond your imagination or your experience, and prepare yourself for the goodness of them when they unfold for you.

Genesis 1:1-23
2 Corinthians 13:(5-10)11-14
Matthew 28:16-20
Psalm 150 or Canticle 2 or 13


And here's the ERD meditation:

Goodness Again

And God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good....
Genesis 1:22

It is hard to remember the goodness of the earth in the midst of a natural disaster -- nature seems enormous, raging, ruthless, an enemy. It seems that whatever goodness there was in nature was a million years ago, and it seems that it will never be good again.

What can restore a person's faith in goodness? What can give someone who has lived through something terrible the courage to stand up amid the wreckage of everything he had and trust that life will again be possible?

Rural Mississippi was struck by tornadoes last month, twelve in one day. Dozens of small communities were affected, some of them leveled: Rankin County saw thirty families left homeless; in neighboring Smith County, terrified high school students huddled with their teachers in a hallway while the twister tore the roof right off the building. In all, 253 homes were destroyed, and more than 5,000 families were without power for days.

You're at school and the roof flies off, and you stare at the sky and think to yourself that you're going to die right here, right now, and you're only fifteen.

The Bishop of Mississippi asked for immediate help from Episcopal Releif and Development, for families in immediate need. Now they know a lot more than they wish they knew about the power of nature, the fragility of human life. And a lot more about the hand of God reaching out to touch and heal through the giving of faithful people whom they will never meet. That's how you learn of the possibility of goodness after something terrible: we are God's hands in the world, and God heals through us.

To learn more about ERD, visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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