This is the second part of a homily delivered at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio at Evensong on Wednesday, December 1st 2010. The service commemorated both St Andrew (30th November) and World AIDS Day (1st December). You may look back to yesterday’s post for the first part of the homily.
Today, as well as celebrating the example of St Andrew, we commemorate World AIDS Day. I wonder what Andrew has to teach us about our commitment to pursuing a cure, a prophylactic, a remedy for the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is a disease which affects a multitude of people the size and number of which I doubt our biblical writers could even have imagined. Children are being orphaned, and babies are being born already affected by the virus. This hungry hillside crowd stretches across the world, and no one need go up to the heavens to see it, or cross the sea; there are too many people in our own communities whose immune systems are compromised by this infection, who live with spouses or parents or children whose lives will be shortened by disease. There are too many who mourn. And there are too many who live with the added burden of necessary secrecy, in a society which stigmatizes people for having the wrong sort of viral infection.
The problem may seem too big. The virus may seem to have gotten away from us, to have taken too strong a hold for us to wrestle, but [what about this news (from 2011’s letter from the joint Presiding Bishops of ECUSA and ELCA):
Our global community has made significant advancements in tackling this pandemic. Investments in medicine and prevention education have halted transmission in communities around the world. Infection rates continue to decline. The number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment is increasing—by a factor of 13, just from 2004 to 2009—allowing tens of millions of HIV-positive people to lead healthy lives. Hundreds of thousands of babies are prevented from being born with HIV and a comparable number orphaned from the virus receive food, education and assistance from churches and aid workers. ]*
There is hope; and if we learn one thing from Andrew’s relationship with the word of hope, the Word of God, it is that an apostolic church is called to spread hope. An apostolic church is called to spread the gospel to everyone, young, old, Jew, Greek, HIV positive or status unknown, that the promise of God to stand by God’s people, God’s word to the world is very near to us.
And as followers of Jesus we, like Andrew, are called to welcome and encourage and support the efforts of those who are called to alleviate hunger, distress, poverty and sickness. As he welcomed the small child with his little piece of food, and enabled a miracle, so we can empower the efforts of those who have something to offer to the effort to fight this disease. As Andrew, by his faith in Jesus’ power, helped a little child to offer food for a multitude, we can help to enable the researchers, the scientists, the doctors and health practitioners, by the grace of God and the wisdom of God’s Spirit, to do something wonderful in the world.
Even as we weep with those who mourn; even as we hold the hands of those who are sick or bereaved; or seethe silently with those who live with a secret in their blood, it is the calling of an apostle, of Andrew, of us, to lift up the hope of God’s promise to God’s world.
The word is very near to you. God is with you.
My friends, may your feet be beautiful as they carry the good news of God to the ends of the earth. May you, with Andrew, proclaim the coming of the Christ, the day of the Lord when the blind receive their sight, when those who were lame walk freely, when the leper is cleansed and reconciled, and good news is preached to the poor; and may each of us take every opportunity we see to bring about the hope that we proclaim. Amen.