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September 1, 2006
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard in church 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 poor and those who suffer, explores the 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 Busy Conscience

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.
Mark 7:15

Each side accuses the other side of more or less the same thing:

The Church has sold out to the secular spirit of the age. It needs
to get back to Christian values.

No! What the Church has done is sell out to the self-absorption of
the rest of modern society and fail to distinguish between custom
and commandment. It needs to recapture its communal capacity for
prophecy as something more than enshrining the past.

Can they both be right? At the very least, both are onto something important: the very essence of human sin is the failure to subject one's own conscience to the scrutiny of the Spirit. We shoot from the hip, and refuse to measure our ethics against much of anything save our certainty of our own rightness. We seek scriptural warrant for the opinions to which we are committed and -- wonder of wonders! -- we always find it.

What if both poles of our very polarized arguments are actually examples of the same thing? There is a seductive charm in defining oneself primarily in opposition to someone else: it occupies the conscience, keeping it focussed outward upon the sins of others and hindering it from its proper sphere of activity, the scrutiny of the self. My conscience cannot dictate your behavior. It ought to be too busy managing my own.

Deuteronomy 4:19
Ephesians 6:10-20
Psalm 15
And here is the ERD meditation:

In the Middle of a War

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh...
Ephesians 6:12

Where did the sudden Israeli/Lebanese war come from? It seemed to many Americans to appear out of the blue, after a substantial period of relative calm between Israel and Lebanon. But there was a kidnapping and a retaliation, and whoosh! -- both countries burst into flames. Now there is a cease-fire, and a cautious situation that bears some resemblance to something like peace.

Right in the middle of a war, while the bombs are falling, what do people do? 916,000 people in Lebanon fled their homes. 695,000 of them are still unable to return, many because their homes no longer exist. Airports were destroyed, and roads and bridges, along with electrical transformers and broadcasting stations. It was days before a corridor was opened in Lebanon for the delivery of basic supplies -- water, food, medicine. People crowded into shelters for days on end. Much of the harvest was lost in Lebanon, one of the most famously fertile countries in the Middle East.

When it's hard to get into a country from outside, it helps that the Church is already there. With Episcopal Relief and Development's immediate support from across the sea, the Middle East Council of Churches and the Inter-Church Network for Development and Relief collaborated with other service organizations throughout Lebanon to seize brief windows of opportunity to deliver basic needs, from food and clean water to pots and pans, blankets and pillows, to families whose breadwinners couldn't get to work, to families whose homes were destroyed, to people in shelters. This support will continue for three months, as people get home, get back to work, get back on their feet.

Where did the war come from? Where do any of them come from? When will it all end? Better minds than mine don't know, either. But we do know what people need in time of trouble. And, halfway across the world, we do have the local relationships we need to get it to them quickly and keep it coming as long as it is needed.
To read more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626,ext 7129.
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