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August 26, 2006
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts for this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the work of the Church with the poor and those who suffer, focuses on some aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's ministry. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
The Spirit and the Word

It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 6:63

This is so -- you know this if you have sat with someone who is dying. Everything is there that was there before: the face is there, the body. But once the spirit has left, nothing is the same. The body could no longer hold it, and now the body is of no use. This is painful to those who watch, who wanted life to go on and on. But it is not painful to the one who has died. The still form in the bed isn't sad to the spirit that has just left it there. Life is immediately so much larger, so immense and yet so familiar. Now, at last, the spirit understands what was meant by "going home."

The words of Jesus in the gospel of John are all about this homecoming. It is important for us to understand that they do not describe a reality we can encompass with our minds -- our minds are flesh. We haven't seen the things Jesus tells us with our eyes or heard them with our ears. The spirit doesn't just report life; it creates and expands it.

So the words of scripture are never just one thing. They aren't true in the two-dimensional way a human newspaper story might be true: Yesterday, so-and-so did such-and-such at such-and-such a time in such-and-such a place. The truth of them plumbs truth to its very bottom, and searches it out to its widest expanse. It is as much the truth of possibility as it is the truth of history. By its very nature, it is bigger than we are. We must never cut it off at the knees by insisting that we know exactly what the words say. We do not know. We will never know, not here. We struggle to understand them, but we cannot know, because we can't see what comes next. We can only read them, discuss them, pray them and then trust them to reveal their mystery to us.

Who is that in the hospital bed, lying so still? That's my mom, that's my wife, that's my friend. But then again, it is not any of them, not any more. They were much more than that body, even while they were in it. And now, they are so much more.

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-25
Ephesians 5:21-33
John 6:60-69
Psalm 16 or 34:15-22
And here is the ERD meditation:

Do You Also Wish To Go Away?

So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go?
John 6:68

Although they have a remarkable ability to tell time, animals probably don't observe anniversaries. The drive to mark them, to ponder the bittersweet and perplexing dance between time and change is a human one. We remember the happy and the sad, all of it -- as a species, we are as irresistibly drawn to history as a moth to a light bulb.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, reducing 90,000 square miles of land to rubble and killing more than 1,500 people. The happy part: the Church has been a bright spot in the Gulf Coast's dark year. Episcopal Relief and Development and Episcopal Migration Ministries have joined forces in a response that has taken domestic disaster relief and ongoing planning for the future to a completely new level, both of giving and of resource deployment with local partners. As was the case in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami at the end of 2004, ERD's ability to move quickly in comparison with the more bureaucratic structures of local and national government has enabled Episcopalians to get help to where it was needed in time for it to do some good.

And the sadder part: there were losses that cannot be reclaimed. There will be no quick fix. "Normal" is still far away for everyone there, and many cannot go home again. Some never will. The realization that nothing will ever be as it was in life is always a painful one, and ERD understands a major part of its ongoing role will be assisting people in come to terms with what that sad truth means in their post-Katrina context.

ERD has raised $15 million for our Katrina response, and more is coming in very day. Some of it has come from dioceses and from wealthy institutions, but most of it has come as modest donations from thousands of ordinary people. $8.6 million has been spent already, and local dioceses' plans for rebuilding will use up many times the remainder before the job is finished.

Such a long time it will take -- so many years. Decades. Do you also wish to go away? Jesus asks us. But how could we leave? To whom else could we go? In the Gulf coast, the Church is exactly where we need to be, and by God's grace we will stay.

Read about ERD's yearlong Katrina response at or call 800-443-7626, x 5129.

This Sunday at the Church of the Ascension, Staten Island, NY, Barbara Crafton will preach. Ascension's rector, Buddy Stallings, is the famous 'voice' of the audio eMo on the Farm! Services are 8 and 10am, and Ascension's address is 1 Kingsley Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314.
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