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June 7, 2006
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard in many churches 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 victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of the worldwide ministry 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 Famous Short Creed

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. - John 3:16

Modern Americans are very intellectual. That observation might come as a surprise -- we are, after all, a people who think that Paris Hilton is interesting -- but I stand by it.

We are intellectual, though, only in the sense that we think that belief is primarily a matter of considered opinion. We understand belief to mean assent to a proposition of fact: I believe that water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, and that Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. And we think that our belief in the Son of God is belief on that order, as well - I believe that Jesus is the Son of God - so we read today's famous sentence from the gospel of John and think that it means that having the right opinion about Jesus means we will go to heaven, and that having the wrong one means that we won't. Entire churches encompassing thousands and thousands of members are erected on the foundation of accepting that opinion, and the moment of salvation is understood to be the moment when you embraced it as true. My Lord and my God! we gasp, ringing down the curtain triumphantly on the last vestige of our doubt.

But of course, it isn't like that at all. Intellectual assent to a statement about who Jesus is isn't the end of the play: if it is the end of anything, it's only the end of Act I. And the saved aren't readily identifiable as those people who hold the proper opinion about him -- God is much freer than that. The details of the salvation business are God's to hold; we don't run it. With regard to our claiming it, there is probably no such thing as too much humility.

And yet we are manifestly in need of saving. At every turn, we demonstrate this, falling short of even our own modest excellence, let alone the majesty of God's. Are you saved? Is your life, spinning out and out from its watery start to its inevitable conclusion here on earth, aware of the transformation that has already occurred in it, and of the one that is still ahead? Are you aware of how large the Kingdom of God really is, and how much you don't know about it yet?

Tremble, then, at the smallness of your own life, and rejoice that the first words in this brief and famous creed are these: "God so loved the world."


Exodus 3:1-6 *Romans 8:12-17*John 3:1-16*Psalm 93


It is time to let me know you're coming to the Geranium Farm Brunch at General Convention, June 17th at noon at the Hyatt Convention Center. the cost is $20, payable at the door, but we need to know you're coming. Just reply to this eMo.


And here is the ERD meditation:

Walking Toward the Kingdom, Working on the World

If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
John 3:12

So Jesus does tell us about earthly things, then -- it's not all pie-in-the-sky-when-you die. We surmise that he was a tradesman -- a carpenter's helper, probably, having learned at his father's side -- and we can tell he knows about farming, about herding: Jesus knows the ways of the world. Clearly, although we meet him in the pages of scripture as an itinerant preacher, he was a working man.

Almost everyone displaced by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was a working person, too. Fishermen, mostly, but also the communities that supported the fishing business: shopkeepers, shipwrights, builders. Small-scale farming was everywhere in Tamil Nadu, on fertile land which the wave of seawater salted, in a matter of minutes, into a uselessness that will last for years. Clearly, for many surviving families, it is time for something new.

With the Church of South India, Episcopal Relief and Development has provided start-up assistance for new or rebuilt businesses in Tamil Nadu and has replaced hundreds of fishing boats, repairing 35 others and providing replacement nets to fishermen who lost theirs. The church has also provided planning and training assistance to communities in recovering non-fishing livelihoods; ongoing startup support in the form of micro-loans will continue for three years. 1475 families have taken advantage of this help and have become able, again, to work to support themselves. The loan structure of this assistance will make it possible for others to follow.

Churches were destroyed in the tsunami, too, of course: churches and vestments, precious Bibles and hymnals, washed out to sea and lost forever. Earthly things and heavenly things were tossed together in this tragedy, as they are tossed together in all of life. We serve God in caring for the earthly ones that we can see and touch and hold in our hands, and in serving so concretely, we draw closer to heaven ourselves. We turn out to have been working on the kingdom the whole time we were working on the world.

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

Wedding Flash! Matt the Web Dude, the genius behind the wonder that is the Geranium Farm website, has finally married Jen (now Jen the Web Dudette). Visit More or Less Church to see a picture of the happy couple, and see if Matt looks anything like you thought he would. You can also leave them a message of congratulations at MOLC, and Deacon J will be sure they get it.
Or, if weddings always make you cry, take a look at the actual Geranium Farm's actual garden in the HodgePodge!
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