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October 13, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and victims of natural disasters or war 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.
Whose Image Is This?

Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this they were amazed, and they left him and went away.
Matthew 22:21-22

Oh, good. Until I see Jesus' picture on a twenty-dollar bill, I can keep it all.

But wait -- God made everything and everything is God's. We're just borrowing what we have, and we leave it all here when we go. There's nothing here that didn't come to us that way -- not a statement for Intelligent Design or anything like that: just the observation that I know I don't make any of this myself and neither did you and neither did any of us. We inherited most of it, and got the rest as gifts.

GIFTSS?!?!?! What gifts? I've worked like hell to get what I have. Nobody ever gave me anything.

But we live in a rich country where you can work and see the gain of your work. In a place where the wind or the rain or a mudslide hasn't swept it all away -- not yet, anyway. In a place where we could learn how to make a living, where we could to go to school. It's not really true that nobody ever gave us anything, no matter how self-made we think we are. God has given us everything. There are millions -- billions -- of people who have worked even harder than we have and have none of these things to show for it. People who have lost everything. People who never had anything in the first place. We weren't placed among them. We were placed here. A gift.

God' picture is on the twenty-dollar bill -- I just can't see it. Must be that new printing process they're using now. He's on my computer screen, too, even though all I see is "Microsoft." God's image is on the miles and miles of wheat and corn that grows in the West and could feed the world. He stamps every molecule in every chemical reaction as his own.

And my picture isn't on a single one.

Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96 or 96:1-9
I Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

And here is the ERD meditation:

Only God Anoints

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped....I surname you, though you do not know me.
Isaiah 45:1-4b

So Cyrus is the anointed one in Isaiah 45. Jesus is the anointed one in the New Testament, so we know that this title is no small thing: the anointed one is the one chosen by God to restore the glory of Israel. He must be an important and faithful king of Israel, Cyrus, to receive that designation.

But no -- Cyrus is not a king of Israel at all. Nor of Judah. He's a king of Persia. Persia?!? What is God doing, choosing someone who is not even one of us as the instrument of his saving righteousness? We thought we were the chosen people. What's going on?

People of faith have long made this mistake: thinking they are the only ones in whose community God acts. But God isn't having that: God helps where the need for help is greatest, calls forth people to help who will answer the call, and doesn't ask our permission first. We are the ones who have to figure it out -- God already gets it.

The terrible earthquake in Pakistan, Kashmir and a piece of India has killed at least thirty thousand people. Whatever community they belonged to when they were alive -- most were Muslim, many were Hindu, few were Christian -- they are now in a larger one. We're not in charge of the membership roster for that community.

Those who remain behind are a mixed bag, too, and God hasn't asked us to sort them into neat piles, either. Just to treat each of them as a sister or a brother, simply because they are human beings in trouble.

Too many disasters, we think as we read the paper, look at the pictures of more beautiful children with bandaged heads and haunted eyes. I'm not sure I can take any more. I'm weary of it all. We turn the page.

Turn it back. If we think we're weary, let's remember the people still sleeping out on the mountainsides in what's left of Balakot, covering their children with their bodies to try and keep them warm, the rain beating on their own backs. Now that's weary.

ERD has sent five truckloads of food, medical supplies, clothing, tarps for emergency shelter. The trucks have arrived and more are on the way, from us and from people of many other denominations.

These partners aren't us, either. God must have anointed them. God must have anointed all of us, for just such times as these.

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