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February 15, 2008
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their attention on the Church's work among the victims of disaster and extreme poverty, addresses the 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.
Imagination and Trust

If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
John 3:12

Jesus talked a lot about earthly things. He seems to have expected that folks would begin to know the love of God by knowing human love, the beauty of heaven by knowing earthly beauty, the realities of the divine power by understanding something of earthly power. God is nothing like us, but we are God's creatures, and the divine fingerprints are all over our experience.

We learn about what we don't know by means of the things we do know. We stand on the shoulders of what is in order to see what is not yet, and we see it in our imagination first. That is why the quest to prove religious propositions is always a futile one, why it wouldn't really help any if we should discover the keel of Noah's ark, the core of the fruit Eve gave Adam, the for-sure-true Pharaoh of the Exodus. It is also why the lack of human certainty about these things is not an adequate debunking of our statements of faith. Our statements of faith are not statements of fact. They are heart-and-mind statements of human longing and trust in a power greater than any human one, in a reality which contains our reality but is not contained by it.

So Jesus spins yarns about women keeping house -- baking bread, sweeping the corners of a room, parching a garment, bemoaning the loss of the grocery money and then rejoicing over its finding. He talks about flowers, songbirds, foxes, chickens, snakes. He talks about merchants, farmers, military strategists, kings, foolish sons, happy newlyweds, carpenters. We know a fair amount about these things. They are as good a place as any to start.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like this...and this...and this" he says, again and again. And yet, in the end, to a Pilate determined not to imagine anything beyond what he already knows, even Jesus can only say, My kingdom is not of this world. There is no way to take someone who cannot imagine things other than as they are to a place to which the imagination must precede us. It takes courage to imagine -- One risks looking like a fool. But there is no other way to learn to trust than to step out onto the path imagination makes into the unknown.
Genesis 12:1-4a
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17
Psalm 121

And here is the ERD meditation:

Displaced Persons, Ancient and Modern

Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.
Genesis 12:1

You have seen on television and in the newspaper how wild and beautiful Afghanistan is -- its mountains and gorges, its rivers, its immense and ancient rock formations, its high, treacherous winding roads. Its hard beauty makes it easy to see why no foreign power has had an easy time subduing the country, but there has not been a shortage of nations which have made the attempt. Internal displacement -- leaving home for a safer place in another part of the country -- is something to which the Afghan people have become sadly accustomed in recent decades.

This year, nature has added additional hardship to the trauma of political displacement; this has been the worst winter Afghanistan has seen in 30 years, with heavy snow and freezing temperatures. Many ethnic minorities have had to leave their homes for safety. Their plight was already a hard one: living in tents or in mud houses with no heat. They have no source of income to purchase warm clothing, blankets, food or fuel. Some have cattle, but cannot afford to buy fodder to sustain the animals through winter. A large number of the IDPs are women, children, and the elderly. As many as 750 may have died.

Episcopal Relief and Development is partnering with Hungarian Interchurch Aid through Action by Churches Together (ACT) International to distribute relief packages containing coal and blankets, along with insulation materials such as straw and foil. Food items including oil, tea, sugar, salt, rice and beans are also provided. Four hundred of the most vulnerable families (over 3,200 individuals) living in four camps will receive relief packages.

It takes courage to leave home, even if you are sure that it is absolutely necessary to do so. We know about Abraham's courage in responding to God's call to leave; we know less about what hard situation may also have prompted his journey at the particular time he decided to begin it. Perhaps these displaced persons, like Abraham and his family, will one day be at home in a new place, and it will all end well for them. But that is in the future. Right now, they must survive this terrible winter.

To help families affected by the severe winter weather in Afghanistan, please make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development’s “Emergency Relief Fund” at, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129.
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