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June 23, 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, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's service to the world through the ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development, discusses the texts in light of some aspect of ERD's work. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

Whipping Boy

Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, "Send us into the swine; let us enter them." -- Mark 5:11

What had the herd of pigs ever done to the demoniac? Nothing.

So why was it fair to kill all those innocent pigs? I, an admirer of pigs my entire life, wish to lodge a formal protest.

The explanation for Mark, of course, is that pigs are unclean for Jews anyway, so who cares what happens to them?

But we don't think pigs are unclean today. Pigs are animals, like other animals. We've changed our minds on that. That and a lot of other things in the Bible. That's why Christians don't keep kosher, why Christians think owning slaves is wrong, why we allow women to speak in church and why we do and believe a host of other things people rejected in Biblical times. Now, as always, people interpret the Bible from their place within history, and history only moves forward.

The idea of a group of animals -- or people -- standing in for something that is really someone else's responsibility rubs us the wrong way. It rubs us an even wronger way if the rationale for this injustice rests upon a belief about uncleanness we no longer hold. It is like the old royal household practice of having a "whipping boy" for a young prince -- when the prince misbehaved, the whipping boy got his thrashing, so that his royal hide wouldn't have to bear the indignity of the blows. His nobility of spirit was supposed to make that painful for the prince, but I imagine it was more painful for the whipping boy. But who cared about him? He wasn't a prince.

Oh, but being the whipping boy makes you Christlike, you know. Taking on someone else's pain like that.

But Christ chose his redemptive suffering, freely offering himself on our behalf. Martyrdom is one thing if we choose it for ourselves -- it is quite another if someone else chooses it for us.

Got a problem with a demon? Take him on, armed with the mighty love of God -- don't pawn him off on somebody else. Don't make him somebody else's problem. But first be sure he really is a demon. It's not always so easy to tell.


Job 38:1-11,16-18 2Corinthians 5:14-21
Mark 4:35-41(5:1-20)
Psalm 107:1-32 or 107:1-3,23-32

The recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church having voted to use the Revised Common Lectionary as the preferred lectionary beginning of Advent I of this year, the Farm will follow suit. Until then, we will use the BCP lectionary for the remainder of Pentecost. If that last sentence makes no sense to you, never mind.


And here is the ERD meditation:

Tell Your Friends

Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you. -- Mark 5:19,/i>

We can count on being in the news every three years, for sure -- our General Convention titillates reporters who don't always understand the Church very well, but who do understand that sex sells newspapers. So their focus is on our ongoing discussions about the consecration of bishops, marriage, divorce -- and little else.

So we can't count on the secular media to tell our friends what else we're about. This frustrates us: church, for most of us, is a rich and godly blend of worship and service and fellowship, the healthy soil in which a spirit grows over an entire lifetime. It is not an endless discussion of other peoples' personal lives. Most of us feel that the world doesn't really know who we are.

We will have a better chance of communicating the truth about ourselves if we also communicate it among ourselves. To that end, Episcopal Relief and Development has a lively and loving fellowship of friends called the Network, whose job it is to make sure all of us know about the work ERD does in our name to relieve suffering throughout the world. There are almost 3,000 Network members nationwide. There is a Network person in your diocese. There is one in your seminary, if you are a student: you're not going to graduate not knowing about how Episcopalians serve the poor. God willing, there is one in your parish, making sure clergy and lay leaders keep ERD's work in mind in all things, praying and working for those in need.

Is there a Network member in your parish? Does everyone know what ERD is and what it does? Does everyone know how to give to it? Do parents know that there are special ways for children to become involved? Does everyone know what to say when someone else begins to talk about the Episcopal Church, focussing only on our controversies? If we don't know our whole story, how can we tell it?


To learn more about ERD's work, about becoming a member of the Network yourself, or to make a donation visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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