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July 14, 2005
Today' s eMo is really two separate meditations on scripture texts that will be heard in church this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's work with the poor and those who suffer, considers one aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's ministry. As with all the eMo, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over

"Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?" He answered, "An enemy has done this."
Matthew 13:27-28

Mary is bent over one of the flower beds in her front garden as I drive up. We are going to the gym, but I am not sure she needs any more exercise today: she has been weeding, workout enough for anyone in high midsummer. They come up overnight, we agree: after the fourth or fifth straight day of weeding the same bed, Matthew's explanation stops sounding paranoid and begins to make sense: An enemy has done this. Someone is coming in here at night and planting weeds next to my daisies.

Me, I forget where I've planted things sometimes, and then I can't distinguish between the early life of a plant that is new to me and the early life of a weed. I know most of my garden's weeds, but there are always interlopers, friends of theirs from out of town, who arrive like unwelcome in-laws and decide to stay. If they squat next to a plant with which I am unfamiliar, I don't always know who's who.

All you can do at times like this is wait. Let them both come up and they will declare themselves: the weed will eventually look different from the plant I want, and its relatives will also pop up elsewhere in the garden, in places where I didn't plant the strange new bulbs. Then I'll know. But I'll only know only if I wait.

I suppose I could be more meticulous -- I could scarcely be less so -- and precisely mark each spot where a bulb has gone. Then I would know which was which, and could pull out anything that I didn't put there. But then I would have cut off any initiative on the part of the garden itself. I would never allow it to surprise me. I would only have what I already knew.

A weed is nothing more than a native plant. They are not weeds to their mothers. Sometimes I end up liking both the planned plant and the weed equally well, and they both stay. And sometimes I find I was mistaken about that that the weed in maturity really is a wretched thing and I don't want it, and out it goes.

You just don't know in advance, that's all. And you can't always tell by looking. People and plants are a lot alike: it isn't over until it's over.
Wisdom 12:13,16-19
Romans 8:18-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43
Psalm 86 or 86:11-17
And here is the ERD meditation:

Who's the Enemy?

"Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?" He answered, "An enemy has done this."
Matthew 13:27-28

Remember the Cold War? Communism was the enemy then, and our foreign policy was dedicated to combating it everywhere.

That was not so long ago, but the world is now a very different place. Some communist nations have become democracies. Others, like China, remain communist in ideology, but combine that with free market economics in what looks from afar like an odd embrace indeed.

In the old days, thoughts of China's intentions woke American presidents and cabinet members at night with political and military nightmares. Today they may toss and turn even more: China is a formidable business power, certain to become dominant in world economics in a very short time.

An enemy? No -- more like a friend to be reckoned with. But there are human situations in which such questions are utterly irrelevant, and the flooding that has repeatedly ravaged southern China during this rainy season is one such situation. What matters now is not ideology but speed: over two million people have been displaced, at least 76,000 homes completely destroyed, more than 500 people killed and countless reservoirs, rail lines, roads, fields and entire villages damaged or demolished in the deadliest flooding the region has seen in a decade.

Xinshawo, Lianyuan, Anhua and Xinhua counties, in the province of Hunan, and Qingzen County in Guisho province have been profoundly affected, and are being served by Episcopal Relief and Development in partnership with Church World Service, which have joined forces to supply food, quilts, medicines and critically important mosquito nets to guard against malaria.

What will the political future of the region look like? How will America relate to such an enormous economic competitor? Others will have to deal with such things as history unfolds. For now, the needs in flood-ravged China are clear and urgent, and each of us is able to respond through the ministry of ERD.

To learn more about ERD or to make a donation, visit Or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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