Wednesday, 16 November 2011

World AIDS Day 2011; Intercessions

Intercessions for use during the Eucharist
Intercessions could be provided with a focus by placing and lighting the Paschal Candle, lit and with a red AIDS ribbon attached.
We offer our prayers to God our Father, in whose image all is created, in the name of the Son through whom all is redeemed, and in the power of the Spirit whose healing and saving power is given.

Leader: Almighty God and Father, we bring before you our prayers. We pray for your Church and those places where it witnesses amidst suffering. We remember particularly those marginalised and affected by HIV and AIDS. May they find in you their hope, and know the broken body on the Cross is also the symbol of new life.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those suffering from the effects of HIV and AIDS. We ask you to be with them in their suffering. We pray for families and friends of those who suffer, that they may find strength and peace.
We pray for all doctors, nurses and carers, that they may bring relief and know purpose in the use of their skills.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

We pray for communities torn apart by the ravages of illness and loss. We ask that you will raise up those who can bring leadership and hope. We pray that the nations of the world may be converted to address the imbalances of justice and poverty.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

We pray for research programmes, and a blessing on those whose skills and endeavours may bring new treatments and cures.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who seek to bring information, that educational outreach programmes will be successful in combating ignorance and misinformation about HIV/AIDS.
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for ourselves, that as the Body of Christ, we may know compassion for those who are sick and suffering, and know that all are in need of healing as members one of another.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

We remember before you, Father, those who have died – and particularly those who have died from complications arising from HIV/AIDS. We pray that they find peace at the last.
Lord, in your mercy;
Hear our prayer.

In the one Spirit we are baptised into the one Body. We bring our prayers to God our Father through Jesus the Son who knows our every weakness and pain.
Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen

Offertory prayer
Lord, you show yourself in those who are vulnerable, and you make your home with the poor and weak of this world. Accept these gifts which we offer in your service. May they be symbols of your loving power among us, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Post Communion prayer
We offer you thanks and praise that in Jesus you have found us and placed us under the protection of your love. May we, your people, using all our energy and imagination, and trusting in your unfailing love, be united in conquering all disease and fear. We make this prayer in the name of the one who has borne all our wounds, and whose Spirit strengthens and guides us. Warm us with the fire of your Spirit so that all may come to know the joyful good news of healing and peace. May the love and compassion of God, the strength and healing of the Spirit and the life-giving words of the Son be known in all Creation. Amen

World AIDS Day 2011; Bible Study

Bible study: The tangible good news
Mark 1:35-45
In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel we meet a Jesus in a hurry, anxious to share God’s good news with a wide range of people. Initially this takes place in Capernaum, but then Jesus travels outside his home town.

In Jesus’ day, people with leprosy were regarded as ‘unclean’. It was forbidden by Jewish law to touch someone with leprosy, or for someone with leprosy to touch other people. (Leviticus 13-14 sets out both attitudes to people with leprosy and the rituals that had to be gone through before sufferers could be reintegrated into the community.) The fact that Jesus used touch – rather than merely words – is particularly significant: touch breaks down barriers symbolically, it provides psychological healing and it aids physical healing.

There is another intriguing detail about the story. Most of our biblical translations say that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ – in Greek splanchnizomai. It is a strong word which is related to the Greek word for a person’s internal organs – the English word ‘spleen’ comes from it. Quite literally we could say that Jesus was ‘gutted’ by what this man had gone through.

However, it may well be that what was originally written was not ‘moved with compassion’ but another verb which means ‘moved with anger’. The footnotes to the biblical text suggest this possibility. If this was so we can understand why people later on might wish to change the text – because the idea of a Jesus who is ‘moved with anger’ is frightening to many.

Questions for discussion

1. Compare the experience of the person healed by Jesus to someone living with HIV or AIDS today. What does this tell us about Jesus’ attitude to AIDS?

2. Why do you think some church-goers take a judgemental attitude towards AIDS, with some people even claiming it is a sign of God’s punishment?

3. Different translations state that Jesus was either ‘moved with compassion’ or ‘moved with anger’. How do the two translations alter our understanding of the incident? With what might Jesus have been angry?

4. Assuming both ‘moved with compassion’ and ‘moved with anger’ are applicable translations, how should this affect our attitude as Christians as we reach out to those who have been infected or affected by HIV?

World AIDS Day 2011; Sermon notes

Galatians 6:17 From now on let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.
• The Christian faith is a ‘bodily’ faith – we believe that, in Jesus Christ, God took human flesh and became ‘body’. Our bodily experience is not therefore to be trivialised or neglected.

• This was shocking to many in the world of the New Testament – Creation and physical elements were seen as dirty. This was largely a consequence of the predominance of Greek philosophy, which held that the material world was of significantly less importance than the spiritual – an assumption Jesus challenged.

• Even worse – as Phil 2:7 puts it – Jesus took not the prestigious body of an emperor but ‘of a slave’.

• And the fate of this body – crucifixion – was the ultimate scandal for many in the ancient world.

• Jesus’ followers went on to express their unity by describing themselves as the ‘body of Christ’, whether slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female. This was shocking because it broke down social and religious barriers.

• In some ways we have become so anaesthetised to the phrase ‘the body of Christ’ that we fail to realise it is a powerful and shocking challenge.

• So the sentence ‘The Body of Christ has AIDS’ can serve as a sharp and powerful reminder of our unity with Christians who are living with HIV and AIDS. Perhaps their suffering can bring us all, as one body, closer to the cross.

• In Gal 6:17 the word translated as ‘marks’ is in Greek ‘stigmata’ – which is of course, the technical name for the wounds of Christ on the cross (wounds also visible in the hands of great saints such as Francis of Assisi).

• In turn, ‘stigmata’ is the plural of ‘stigma’, by which we mean ‘marks of shame’ or ‘our inability as humans to cope with one who is different than we are’ (Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, South Africa). Stigma is something frequently experienced by people living with HIV and AIDS.

• The reality is that our brothers and sisters are suffering due to the stigma and physical effects of HIV and AIDS. Through our connectedness in the Body of Christ we are invited to share in and respond to their suffering.

• Through sharing in this suffering we have an opportunity to discover something profound about the love of God. God does not remove us from suffering, but – according to Isaiah 43:1-5 – he brings us through suffering to a deeper experience of his presence.

• See the reflection of Donald Hilton below:
‘How is it, Lord?
Is it that humankind is really one;
Life interlocked, emotions joined, our sinewed nerves combined?
And have I touched the secret of the Cross
Where pain of all is carried by just one,
Lifts us all?
If so, then let it be,
And I will bear the pain,
And walk the way of Christ.’

Expanding Horizons: a placement in Swaziland

“When you go home to Ireland tell your people about the problems that we have with HIV and AIDS – we need help to deal with this.” These words were addressed to me by a parishioner of the church where I spent my summer placement in Swaziland.
As part of my training for ordination I had the opportunity to travel overseas in order to gain experience and awareness of the world-wide church. I travelled to Swaziland in southern Africa under the Expanding Horizons programme run by the Anglican mission agency U.S.P.G.
Before I left I had learned a little about Swaziland and the Anglican Church there. I knew that the country had the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, but having spent a month there I now have a greater appreciation of the problems faced by the church and their efforts to respond to the situation.
I spent the first week with Andrew and Rosemary Symonds, mission companions with U.S.P.G. and had the opportunity to visit several parishes, meet clergy and see something of the church’s work. At one remote rural church we were greeted by a group of about twenty small children who gathered around Andrew’s car in curiosity. These children, I learned, had come to be fed at the church where two women cook a large pot of mealy (maize) porridge and beans. The children are either orphans or whose families are too poor to feed them and they come several times a week for food. The parish also runs a training course for carers of HIV sufferers.
In a nearby homestead we visited an elderly lady who was caring for two young grandchildren on her own. She had a supply of maize that she grew on her small holding, because her neighbours had ploughed and sown the crop for her. The two grandchildren had attended school but now she was unable to pay the fees and they had to leave. Although teachers’ salaries are paid by the government, schools depend on fees to cover the other running costs and even modest fees are beyond the reach of many poor people.
It was humbling to meet people with so little; and yet they have a remarkable faith. This same lady showed us her newly born chickens. She informed us that God had rewarded her with many chickens because she had donated one to the church!
At a girls’ secondary school the chaplain described how HIV/AIDS impacted on the lives of the girls. Many of the girls have lost one or both parents to the virus and they are very vulnerable and some have been abused. She told us of one girl that had lost both parents and then was raped by a pastor to whom she had gone for counselling. Her aunt did not want the girl to report this to the police in order to protect the pastor. Seemingly such stories are not uncommon.
After my introductory week, I spent three weeks at Usuthu Mission church, staying in a house attached to a small community of Anglican nuns who provided my meals. While I was there the nuns accompanied lay ministers on outreach visits to remote homesteads where they found several people that were very ill and with nothing to feed themselves or their families. Through the outreach work of the church, numbers are growing as people come to faith including some elderly people who had never attended church before.
At my first service in a remote rural congregation food was provided after church. The rector informed me afterwards that several of these people would not have eaten for two or three days. The parish would like to offer meals on a regular basis, but does not have the resources.
While at Usuthu Mission I was involved in preaching and leading worship, conducting school assemblies and pastoral visiting to the elderly. This involved collecting elderly people from their homes and bringing them to the home of somebody who is ill or housebound to celebrate the Eucharist.  The African worship was vibrant with wonderful singing and rhythm. This was evident in the parish church, at the schools and even among the elderly. In one home service a group of elderly ladies danced around the room on their walking sticks!
While the people of Swaziland are full of joy and have a deep faith many lives have been devastated by HIV/AIDS. Invariably we found elderly women caring for very young children that have lost their parents. The parish does what it can, feeding some and paying school fees for orphans.
The diocese of Swaziland has plans to launch a sustainable development project that will fund its social outreach and provide employment, but this cannot happen without substantial funding. U.S.P.G. Ireland is currently looking at ways to fund this project which is so badly needed.

Paul Bogle