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January 4, 2008
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.

Q. How Do You Know They're Lying?
A. Their Lips Are Moving

Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.
Matthew 2:8

There is something so familiar about Herod -- now, what could it be? Oh, I know: he's a lying politician. He doesn't want to go and worship Jesus; he wants to kill him. Apparently we moderns are not the only cynics: a public figure who will say anything to get what he wants was a type known to the ancients as well.

How we long for it not to be true, for the people who will lead us to be men and women of their word! And yet how suspicious we are of all of them: in the midst of our longing, how we wait for the other shoe to drop! They're all lying, we figure; if they seem not to be, it's only because they haven't been caught yet.

But blind cynicism is no more intelligent than blind faith. It's not really smarter to think nothing is true than to think everything is. That bored roll of the eyes, that drawn out "Oh, puh-leeze" -- those things are not as sophisticated as they feel to the one employing them. Keep them up for long, and you just sound like a teenager who longs to appear worldlier than she is.

What we must do with politicians is what we must do with everyone else: listen closely to them and think about what we hear. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that none of us is fully self-aware, that we are all influenced by something, that our own interest influences us and that we often are unaware of how it does so. Remember that nobody in a free society will get everything he wants: we all have to share, and the art of politics is the art of compromise, not the bluster of the crusade.

We long for a good leader, and dread getting a Herod by mistake. But off we go, anyway: from Iowa to New Hampshire and beyond. One of these people will be president of the United States someday. Eight years later, somebody else will be. They can do a lot of damage, these powerful people -- but in the end, Herod was not able to thwart the will of God, as hard as he tried. And surely part of that divine will is that we will use the intelligence we have been given when we must make important decisions, and never abdicate that responsibility, no matter who's in charge.
Feast of the Epiphany, Year A
Isaiah 60:1-6 * Ephesians 3:1-12 * Matthew 2:1-12 * Psalm 72:1-7,10-14
Riches From the Sea

...the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you...
Isaiah 60:5

On the west coast of Thailand, six provinces were flooded by the waters of the Indian Ocean tsunami three years ago. 8,000 people there died that day; 1,200 children were totally or partially orphaned. Thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed.

And the major means of support for the people who lived there was lost in a matter of minutes: they were fishermen, and almost all their boats were in splinters on an unrecognizable beach.

But Christ Church Bangkok quickly partnered with Episcopal Relief and Development to repair and replace fishing boats: 13 new ones in Ban Had Nai Yang, plus 52 replacement engines for salvageable boats. 8 large new boats and 1 small one built by local builders in the communities of Ban Nieng, Ta Chat Chai and Lam Kaen. Replacement squid pots and fishing nets, plus repair of nets still usable. With our help, the fishing industry in Phuket province is back in business.

The sea is full of life, and these mariners have long understood how to make a living from its bounty. It didn't take much to accomplish this repair of a crucial segment of the Thai economy -- the total cost of all the boats was much less than an American will spend a modest one-family home.

We remember that the very first Christians were fishermen, just like the people of Phuket province. Their methods probably weren't very different, either: dragging heavy nets up from the sea. They, too, knew what it was to be vulnerable to the sea, to the weather. Here, the prophet Isaiah celebrates the richness of what God provides for us. Reading his words, we can think immediately of Jesus, our Messiah, and his fishermen friends. And we can also think of his modern counterparts, whose lives we have joined in helping them to set out again for the day's catch.
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