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April 20, 2006
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.
A Choice, Not a Conclusion

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.
John 20:26

A whole week, huh? Sounds like a long one. Thomas comes back from whatever errand he was on -- maybe Thomas was the only one among them willing to risk going out -- to a story he finds impossible to credit. Everyone but him is delirious with joy at what has happened, and he missed the whole thing.

For a solid week he must listen politely as they tell each other the story over and over again. As the days pass, he cannot help but discern a faint smugness in some of them, a superior mien he does not like. They are in a different class now: People Who Have Seen The Risen Christ. And he is not a member. Why did it happen this way? he asks himself. Why did Jesus come when Thomas was not present? Does it mean something?

Some of his friends wonder the same thing. Are we getting a message about Thomas? Maybe he's not among the those chosen to go forward with the mission. Maybe we were wrong about him from the start. They were in one room, remember -- it would have been hard to hide their sidelong glances at him, their surreptitious conversations. That must have been a very long week.

The appearance at the end of it, then, is an extraordinarily gracious gesture of love on the part of Jesus. He comes back just to see Thomas, it seems. It wasn't the case that everyone but Thomas was worthy of the risen Lord: the risen Lord appears to everyone. All of us.

I guess there are many ways of "seeing." I guess we have some choice in the matter: we can choose a life of hopeful believing, or we can choose another life. It never was a matter of evidence. It was always a choice for hope and joy.
Thomas and the other disciples begin the week reeling from the loss of their friend. For a wonderful book about healing from the loss of a spouse, pick up Where You Go, I Shall; Gleanings From the Stories of Biblical Widows, by Parkerton, Person and Silver, which explores the stories of widows in scripture and the reflections of modern widows.
Acts 3:12a,13-15,17-26 or Isaiah 26:2-9,19
I John 5:1-6 or Acts 3:121,13-15,17-26
John 20:19-31
Psalm 111 or 118:19-24
And here is the ERD meditation:

Scars Still Show, But They Don't Still Bleed

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
John 20:20

The risen Christ still has his scars. Suspicious folk that we are, we assume that he shows them to his friends as proof of his identity. Thomas thought so, too, and was keenly disappointed not to have been present to look them over.

But what if Jesus is showing his friends the marks of the nails for another reason? What if it's not about evidence at all, but a lesson from their teacher about what the resurrection is like? We know what we want it to be like: we want it just like this life, only we're thin and glamorous and happy all the time, and we never die.

But what if it's different? What if our scars are clearly visible, for anybody to see, the way they are here? What if we are transformed in our entirety, our sorrows as well as our joys?

There are over a million AIDs orphans in Zambia. Many of them are infected with HIV themselves, the terrible legacy of their dead mothers or the bitter fruit of their vulnerability to sexual predators. The overall Zambian life expectancy for a child born today is now below 40. What will happen to their scars?

They will keep them, of course -- we don't lose our mothers and fathers and our whole way of life and remain as we were. We cannot bring back their old lives, or give them the lives they would have had if things had been different: things weren't different. But we can help them find a new life.

Episcopal Relief and Development assists the response of the Anglican Church in Zambia in many ways: St. Francis Mission Hospital in Katete district reaches out to the community with HIV testing, peer education for vulnerable youth and commercial sex workers, home care for those whose illness has progressed to the point of need, nutritional support for the children of the infected and of those who have already died. The Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe, the region with the highest rate of HIV infection in Zambia, provides food for orphaned children and their caregivers, as well as job retraining for members of their households, to enable them to regain their footing in the long wake of their loss. In rural Fiwila and Luapala, ERD trains volunteers from among existing village leadership -- teachers, traditional healers, midwives -- to monitor children left behind after the deaths of their parents, to ensure that their caregivers will have the resources they need to raise and educate their young charges.

These children will always be people who lost their parents at a young age. But they need not always be defenseless. We're helping to create that new reality for them right now.

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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