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May 18, 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 eMos. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and those who suffer because of war or natural disaster, explores the work 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 Time and a Place for Everything

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:25

Well, I suppose the other prisoners were listening, whether they wanted to or not. If Paul and Silas were singing and praying at midnight, for heaven's sake, it would be hard to block it out. If one wanted to, say, sleep.

As amazing a man as St. Paul was -- who could fault his devotion to his cause? -- there were times when he had a tin ear for other people's needs and concerns, and this sounds like one of them. There is a time and a place for everything. Your message of love, peace and righteousness may be the gospel truth, and you may be its most sincere bearer in the history of Christendom, but that doesn't absolve you of the responsibility for sensitivity to the reality of the one who will hear you.

Evangelism, after all, is not just about the evangelist. Preaching is not about the preacher, even if it makes good use of a story from the preacher's own life. The most autobiographical of essays isn't really about the writer, in the end. Rather, all these communicative acts are about the one to whom they are communicated. They stand or fall in accordance with how they are received, not how they are transmitted.

Odd -- we must find a way to get out of the way, even of our own story, before it can do anyone else any good. Unless it can connect with the story of the one to whom we tell it, it is a narcissistic look-at-me project that will edify no one.

I witnessed to her for more than two hours, more than one budding evangelist has told me proudly. Oh, the poor thing, I say to myself, thinking of his captive audience. The fact that someone is looking at you and nodding doesn't necessarily mean she's absorbing your message hungrily -- impaled on her own politeness, she may just be unable to get a word in edgewise.

So, leader, enjoy yourself, and do not hesitate to show yourself, as an evangelist, as a singer or a lector or a leader of prayer, as a sister or a brother. But never let your worship of God in community be solely a matter of your own enjoyment or your own struggles. In the moment that occurs, you have ceased to lead.
Easter VII, Year C
Acts 16:16-34 + Psalm 97 + Rev 22:12-14,16-17,20-21 + John 17:20-26

And here is the ERD meditation:

Waters of Death, Water of Life

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Revelation 22:17

Flooding? In Kansas?

Even a creek can become deadly very quickly if conditions go wrong -- and they did last week. Almost the entire town of Greenburg was leveled by a tornado. 10 people died, and the storm triggered flooding throughout the state.

As daunting a thing as finding immediate help in the midst of such a horror is, it isn't as big a challenge as securing help for the long-term rebuilding of a devastated community. Episcopal Relief and Development's newly formed Long Term Recovery Committee will work with the two Episcopal Dioceses involved, Kansas and Western Kansas, to provide information and help for disaster victims during the recovery process and important aid for communities that do not qualify for assistance from the federal government.

The water of life can become the chaotic waters of death a matter of seconds. It can take years to recover from a few terrible moments. But Jesus used the image of the water of life to mean many things besides drinking water: for us, it is also the unending love of God, coursing like a mighty river through the joys and sorrows of human history, never destructive, always life-giving -- sanctifying and healing everything in its path.

To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-80-334-7626, ext 5129.
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