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January 12, 2007
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 Episcopal Relief and Development's work with the poor and those who suffer from the effects of war or natural disaster. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

The Good Wine

Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.
John 2:10

Early in a new year, jokes about the consumption of liquor abound on the train -- I really got wasted the other night, a young man says, and his companion laughs and responds with a story of his own excesses. Even this ancient story, about Jesus' first miracle at a wedding reception, assumes that the wedding guests will drink too much.

We remember the disapproving aunts and cousins of our youth, people who seemed to us to equate Christianity with a sour sense of duty and a principled rejection of anything that might possibly lead to someone having fun. Thank God that's over, we say to ourselves, and we make our own jokes about ourselves, about Episcopalians and their liquor consumption. Where four Episcopalians meet, you'll always find a fifth, someone says, and everybody laughs. How many Episcopalians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two, comes the answer -- one to handle the bulb and the other to mix the martinis, and everybody laughs again.

But sometimes the use of alcohol is no laughing matter. The biggest drug problem America faces isn't the use of illegal drugs by our teenagers; it's the abuse of alcohol by their parents. Noisy "support the family" rhetoric is usually about gay marriage and the colossal threat it is assumed to pose to heterosexual marriage, but booze has devastated more families than gay people ever did.

Mention this in a group and people don't like it. Preach it in a sermon and people will be annoyed. Bring it up to someone you love and worry about and he will probably be angry with you. Mind your own business, he may say. I've got the right to do as I please with my own life.

But then, our lives aren't really our own, are they? They're on loan. We'll be returning them to God when we're finished with them. And nothing we do affects only ourselves. We do have rights over our own lives and conduct, but nobody has the right to hurt another person in the pursuit of them. Like a wife. Or a husband. Or a child.

Just a few thoughts. But stop for just a moment and think: if what I have written has annoyed you, do you know why? Is there something that needs to change, something you know about but don't want to think about today? Something, you promise yourself, that you'll think about tomorrow? Do you know that the people who love you are worried about you, and does it irritate you that this is so?

Explore it. Talk about it to someone you trust. If there's nothing there, you've lost nothing but an hour or so. But if alcohol does play too important a role in your life, it may be that the very best wine of your life isn't the kind a person can drink. Maybe it will prove to be the fruit of another kind of vine, the calm of self-control and the genuine self-love that comes with it.

Just a few thoughts.

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
I Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11
And here is the ERD meditation:

What We Learn in School

I do not want you to be uninformed...
I Corinthians 12:1

You don't need a school in order for people to eat or find shelter, but the restoration of schools is always one of the things a community wants most passionately after disaster strikes. The presence of a school in a devastated village is a statement that there is a future, that things will not always be as they are now. A school represents the community's commitment to normal life. It says that there are children here, and that they will grow up to be adults, wise, and productive.

Many of the schools in the communities in which Episcopal Relief and Development works are church schools. The Church has a long history in the developing world as educator of the young, a trusted partner in shaping the future of a village. When disaster strikes, a school is more than a school: it is a center for community life and hope, a beacon of steadiness in a world that has come apart at the seams. When the student body of a school becomes an assemblage of orphans in a matter of minutes, education assumes a meaning both broader and deeper than the simple transmission of information.

And so: After hurricanes in Belize, the Dominican Republic, Honduras. In the terrible aftermath of civil war in Haiti, in Liberia, in Congo. In war-torn Afghanistan. In South India, in Sri Lanka, in Indonesia after the tsunami. In the American gulf coast after Katrina. In South Africa, Burundi, Malawi, as the AIDS epidemic grinds on and on. Every need a community can have, these communities do have. And in each of those communities, as well as in many more, Episcopal Relief and Development has funded the restoration of schools.

I do not want you to be uninformed, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. Not just about algebra or grammar, but about the spiritual gifts that build up communal life. We are fond of saying that a person doesn't learn everything she needs to know in school, and it is so. But it is also true that a community learns more in a school than the textbooks contain.
To learn more about ERD's work in the restoration of schools, visit
Or to make a donation by phone, call 1-800-334-7626,ext 5129.
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