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August 24, 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.
An Ancient Joke

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day."
Luke 13:15

Now, remember: the scriptures started out as oral tradition. These stories were told long before they were written down.

So let's picture the storyteller and his audience. He brings out his cast of characters: Jesus, the old woman, painfully bent double from what we now would call osteoporosis, the crowd of people in the synagogue that day, and the man in charge. He spins his story, making sure we know that the woman had been crippled for eighteen long years, and that she straightened up and began to praise God the moment Jesus touched her. And how does the leader of the synagogue react to this miracle?

With a rebuke. It was the Sabbath. Healing was work, and you weren't supposed to work on the Sabbath. The woman should have come on another day.

Now, I ask you: is this a good punch line, or what? It's like the joke about the man who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. Or the bitter one about having to destroy a village in order to save it. There can have been only one response from the people listening to this story for the first time: they must have laughed.

What's good about orthodoxy? Lots of things. It holds us together, connects us with the communion of the saints, joins the living to the dead, reminds us that God endures when nothing else does. It teaches us to love and learn from learn from the past. It joins people from different places, different linguistic groups, different cultures and gives them a common way of responding to the grace of the God who makes them all one.

And what's bad about it? It can encourage in us the belief that God is not free. That God cannot do a new thing. That we have understood God when we have mastered the tradition.

And we have not. We can master our tradition. We can understand it fully. But we can never master God.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 or Isaiah 58:9b-14 * Psalm 71:1-6 or 103:1-8 * Hebrews 12:18-29 *
Luke 13:10-17

And here is the ERD meditation:

Learning How-To in Haiti

Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."
Jeremiah 1:6

Haiti is not far from here -- you can get there on a plane from Miami in an hour or so. No, it is not miles that separate the island nation from its enormous and powerful neighbor. It is the great gulf between our wealth and their poverty.

But even in Haiti, the poorest nation in our hemisphere, things can change. Episcopal Relief and Development joined with the Diocese of Haiti in 2005 to create the Bishop Tharpe Business and Technology Institute in the city of Les Cayes, a school that trains young Haitian men and women. Offering university-level courses that result in the equivalent of an associate's degree in either business management or computer systems, Bishop Tharpe also offers an introductory "bridge year" to prepare students in need of remediation, or instruction in English, before they begin their advanced study. 180 students each year are enrolled at one point or another in this three-year scheme.

The school itself operates a number of small businesses -- a copy center and stationery store, a cafeteria operation, an Internet rental business -- in which students gain experience that will serve them well in starting their own enterprises. They are optimistic, these budding business people, and with good reason. The long night of their country's terrible civil unrest seems to be at an end. They are learning valuable skills. They already knew how to work hard when they arrived at Bishop Tharpe; now they see a possibility of their own hard work rewarded.

If poor nations like Haiti are ever to prosper, there must be a reason for young people to remain there and participate in an economy that can sustain them and their families. Education is central to their capacity to remain. It is not the fault of a young person if he is ignorant because he has never been taught; that fault lies elsewhere. The success of the Bishop Tharpe Institute demonstrates that Haiti's young adults are more than ready to learn. ERD's support of the school demonstrates that we are more than ready to help them do it.

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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