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December 7, 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.
Holy Enough?

Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. -- Matthew 3:9

So much in the news about just how Christian our next president should be -- a Baptist preacher or a Mormon bishop? It unsettles some of us, for whom the separation of church and state means that our leader should focus on statesmanship in the oval office, rather than on theology. We hope his or her faith will support a public life that can only be difficult and draining.

But surely, someone might say, you can tell a lot about a person by his attitude toward everything that goes with religion? Surely it matters in his ethics? Surely the fact that she was a Sunday School teacher counts for something?

It can. On the other hand, sometimes it doesn't help at all -- a person can be a model of personal rectitude and a terrible leader. Anybody can go to church or temple and be untouched by what he hears there -- and sometimes what you do hear in a church makes your blood run cold. Knowing somebody's religious credentials or assessing his religious fervor isn't going to spare us the responsibility of making a judgment about her leadership. We're going to have to rely on our brains for that.

Advent II, Year A Isaiah 11:1-10 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12 Ps 72:1-7,18-19


And here is the ERD meditation:

A Baby and a Snake

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. -- Isaiah 11:8

A disturbing vision, to the large number of people who fear snakes: a little child playing with one. Vulnerable innocence and dangerous power in close proximity to one another -- we don't like it. We don't like anything that threatens children, and most of us respond with great emotion to any news of their suffering.

Of course, they are the ones who suffer most from poverty. They are the ones who die from its effects most often. Malaria visits a community, or cholera, or typhus, and many are sickened -- but the children are the ones who die most often. It's not that we think adults deserve to die, but there is a fundamental unfairness about the suffering of children that offends us deeply. They never even had a chance to live.

Goal #4 of the eight Millennium Development Goals is to reduce child mortality by two thirds among children under five -- as things now stands, a child under five dies somewhere in the world every three seconds. The terrible irony of this fact is that the world has never had more resources at its disposal to keep children healthy than it has today. The things that kill children in developing countries all have such simple solutions: community water sanitation techniques are simple, inexpensive insecticidal mosquito nets are simple, antibacterial medicines -- all are simple things to implement in a poor community, and none are costly. The great frustration about the world's child morality rate is that almost all these deaths are unnecessary.

Through our support of Episcopal Relief and Development, all of us are working already on meeting MDG #4. Clean wells, community sanitation planning, treated mosquito nets, the tools of providing food security for families -- ERD works with local leaders to bring these things to those who need them, and to train and empower them in their use.

Could we really do this? Decrease child morality 2/3 by the year 2015? Of course -- we could do it before then if we were to put it on the front burner. We already have what we need to do it. Maybe now is the time when we also have the will. Maybe we are the ones whose children will say of us: They set eight great goals and they met them. Maybe this very day, you and your child or grandchild will sit together and talk about this, and maybe one of their memories of you when you are gone is that you were a person to whom things like this mattered. And maybe, in this most important of all ways, they will follow in your footsteps.

+To make a donation or to request a "Gifts for Life" catalogue to look at with your child, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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