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January 11, 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.

An Adventure in Love

John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Matthew 3:13

This happens to Jesus a lot: he seeks to show his dearest friends what it means to be the Christ, and they have a hard time allowing it. John is aware of his limitations, and shrinks from baptizing the one he believes to be the Messiah. Peter, later on, will shrink from allowing Jesus to wash his feet -- he feels unworthy. Martha will shrink from allowing Jesus to raise her brother from the dead. I think each of us can understand exactly how each of these people feels: we would feel the same.

We are unworthy of being served by Christ. It is impossible to raise someone who's been dead for four days. These folks are not wrong about any of these things -- we would agree with all of them. But Jesus the Christ is all about turning the world upside down, including many things to which we're firmly committed.

It all starts with God becoming human. Plainly, this cannot be: not if God is who we think he is and human beings are what we know ourselves to be, short on both virtue and attention span, much of the time. Once we have plunged into the waters of the Incarnation, all bets are off. Anything can happen.

Near my house, a Greek friend writes, the priest throws the cross into the sea to make it holy. And then all the divers go into the water to find it. Maybe it's not as cold in January in Greece as it is here, but it's brisk for a swim. Greek Americans do the same thing here in New York -- leap from the pier right into the East River, after a cross the priest has tossed into the waves. That's a lot more than brisk: it's freezing.

Strange? Pagan? Irrational? Well, maybe, but it's also an apt visual summary of what the Incarnation means. Into the chaos of earthly life comes the Son of God, joining us in what we face in life. And we can find ourselves in some strange situations when we become part of that adventure in love.

Epiphany I Year A
Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17
Psalm 29

And here is the ERD meditation:

Beyond Presidential Politics

He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. -- Isaiah 42: 2-3

A church charity cannot take sides in another nation's national elections -- we can't even take sides in our own! People's political views belong to them, in a democratic electoral process, and it would be a misuse of religion to meddle in them. Besides, people with very different viewpoints about politics often find themselves perfectly able to work together in providing compassionate service to those in need of it, precisely because this kind of work does not take sides. Even when we can't do very much of anything else with one mind, we can still serve those in need.

The recent presidential election in Kenya seemed hopeful at first, but quickly spiraled into a disputed outcome and violence between supporters of the opposing candidates. More than 600 people have died in the unrest, and 250,000 have fled their homes. Businesses have been burned to the ground. Refugee camps have sprung up, and the local supply of clean water in those areas has become dangerously low.

Our church is responding to this ongoing emergency. With four Anglican dioceses in the Nyanza province of Western Kenya, Episcopal Relief and Development is offering food, shelter and blankets to those who have been left with nothing, without regard to ethnic background or political persuasion.

Of course people's political opinions matter, and of course we all bring our faith perspectives into our political lives, each of us as we seek to discern God's will for the world. But feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless are religious duties that transcend party loyalties. About those sacred duties, none of us can disagree.

To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5219.
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