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August 10, 2007
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard 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 work with the victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of the worldwide 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.

Jesus is Coming; Look Busy.

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. - Luke 12:40

People who study scripture for a living usually take this to be a statement about the end of the world, and who am I to disagree? Not a famous Bible scholar, that's for sure.

But it's a weak word that can mean only one thing, and so I am drawn to Jesus' use of the word "coming." Jesus is coming, an old seminarian joke goes, Look busy! Jesus is coming sometime in the future. Could be this afternoon. Could be decades from now, thousands of years. Could be ages and ages, who knows? Better get ready.

But it could also be that Christ is coming into my life today. That Christ constantly comes into my life, steadily inhabiting every moment and every chance, consistently stands ready to fill the random things of my random life with meaning. It could be that Christ is in my life and I haven't noticed, that I am so focused on preparing for an unknown future event that I can't see what is before me now. That's certainly true about other things: we try to borrow the future every day, to live in either its happiness or its horrors, when the only joys and sorrows we really have are the ones we have right now. Those we toss carelessly aside, our eyes on what we think is the only prize, and lose the chance to examine them for the nuggets of gold embedded in the homeliest of them.

I have often said that one of the purposes of the spiritual life is to prepare us for a holy death. But that is not its only goal. A life that includes prayer and silence, that makes room for wonder, and is not too full of its own power to entertain the possibility of God's grace, comes to know the quiet flush of gratitude which always follows that open-hearted contemplation.

Pentecost 11, Proper 14, Year C
Isaiah 1:1,10-20 or Genesis 15:1-6 * Ps 50:1-8,23-24 or 33:12-22 * Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16 * Luke 12:32-40

And here is the ERD meditation:

Locking A Door

But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. -- Luke 12:39

Once the house has been broken into there's not much to do but clean up the mess. The damage is done; you'll probably never get your television or your grandmother's silver back. It's enough to make you wish you'd locked your door.

There are many things for which cure is difficult and prevention is easy. Some diseases are like that: incurable, but highly preventable. Thinking ahead can be a matter of life and death.

In Zambia, Episcopal Relief and Development has partnered with the Zambian Anglican Council and the M.A.C. AIDS Fund to create a pilot program aimed at helping pregnant women protect their unborn children from infection with HIV/AIDS through Preventing Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT). Many Zambian mothers are unsure of their HIV status, and don't know about the mechanisms by which the HIV virus is transmitted, resulting in a woeful 40 percent infection rate among Zambian babies born to HIV-infected mothers. And here is both challenge and hope: although a mother will be HIV positive until the end of her days, it is still possible to prevent her child from infection during pregnancy, labor, childbirth and breastfeeding through the proper use of medication at each of these stages. And who is better able to teach and encourage her than another expectant mother?

Recruiting other pregnant women as the teachers, ERD is educating mothers and their partners on key preventative mother-to-child transmission methods, mobilizing pregnant woman to gain access to information about PMTCT, and providing voluntary counseling and testing. PMTCT also aims to increase awareness and knowledge of sexual practices among women of childbearing age, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to children, and encourage participation in the health centers’ post-natal services.

A 40 percent mother-to-child transmission rate is a sad story indeed. But ERD and its partners are convinced that the rate can fall to 0 percent, enabling Zambian mothers to give their children a gift they did not themselves receive: life free of HIV related illness.

+To learn more about ERD, to make a donation or to volunteer, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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