Sermon for Year B Proper 13: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Here is my first sermon preached in Antigonish, Bayfield and Country Harbour. Enjoy!

Year B
Proper 13
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
Focus text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

For those of you who are married, how many of you remember the sermon the priest gave at your wedding? Do you remember the address given at your graduation? Or perhaps a graduation you attended? Here’s the real test. How many of you will remember my sermon when you leave this morning/evening? =)

One of the most profound encounters I have had was at a graduation ceremony, and it wasn’t even my own. About 8 years ago, I attended the convocation of UPEI. The speaker was a Canadian diplomat, just returned from a turn in Africa. His emotions were clearly still raw-angry and confused. He avoided any language to those dear graduates of roads less travelled, and spoke very frankly of the world they were committing themselves to, a war-torn world full of inequality, disease and poverty. My friends were completely disgusted. “What a downer”. I was spell-bound. That freshly homebound diplomat was Stephen Lewis, now one of the most powerful prophets of our time, opening the eyes of the world to the devastation HIV/AIDS is causing in Africa.

Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians are a very meaningful parallel to our own Anglican church in these times. The Corinthian church struggles with her priorities, is confused about who to follow, comes close to schism more than once, and lives in tension with a market driven world. Sound familiar?

Today, Paul is telling the Corinthians how the Christians in Macedonia, who have little, have been very generous to help the poverty ridden Christians in Jerusalem. He asks the Corinthians to consider their own resources and to show the same commitment to the furthering of God’s kingdom as the Macedonians have. Although the Corinthians are capable of giving a great deal, Paul wants to witness their desire to give and minister, not just what they can give monetarily. He asks them to finish that which they start, to keep to the commitments they have made.

Stephen Lewis shows such characteristics, giving of himself not out of convenience or well wishing. He has, as Frederick Buechner says, found where his deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet.

This morning is not the beginning for this parish. The coming of a new incumbent or rector does not mean the wiping of a slate—all things made new. I have come to Antigonish, Bayfield and Country Harbour as only one in a long line of priests, deacons, lay readers and many many ministers. Much has happened before my time here, and much will happen long after I am gone. As a Christian community, we have commitments. We have financial commitments to ourselves, the function of our diocese and our wider church. As a worshipping community we gather to praise God and reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Anglicans, we are committed to our communion in a very tumultuous time. Our Archbishop of Canterbury, our Primate and our own bishops have commended us to prayer, reflection and conversation. As a parish in the Diocese of NS and PEI, we are committed to a diocesan vision encompassing healthy congregations, organizational effectiveness, youth, Xn formation and stewardship. As part of a national church, we are committed to the work of the Primate’s Fund. And, as a parish family, we are committed to one another, encouraging and upholding one another, caring for the sick in our midst, and working for restorative justice in our community.

The Corinthian church was often guilty of becoming consumed by its internal struggles ending up in a downward spiral of confusion. WE DO NOT EXIST UNTO OURSELVES. The teaching of all the prophets, the great commandment of Jesus has us looking outward, loving God and loving our neighbour. My task is to offer direction and leadership so this parish maintains these commitments. And I am grateful to walk in knowing that so much of this work has been continued even without full-time leadership for almost a year. That is a great testament to the strength, authenticity and reliance on Christ in this parish family. WE DO NOT EXIST UNTO OURSELVES. The Church that Jesus, Paul and all of our founders began was one that looked outward, a city on a hill, shining a light into all dark places.

As I have been preaching, I know you are beginning to paint a picture of me in your mind. Next week there will be a more complete narrative about me in the bulletin, but allow me to fill in a few gaps. I am an Islander, raised on PEI—I won’t say the island, I know how dangerous that is around here! I grew up in a fishing village called Souris on the eastern end of the island. My mother, Carol, who is with us this morning, still lives in Souris and I have one older brother who is a chef in London, England. Before my degree at AST, I worked as an economic development officer with the PEI and federal governments, a youth minister, and spent four years working with an online resource for professional fundraisers. I am a rock climber—when I can find a climbing partner–and I hope you will see me riding around town more on a bicycle than in my car.

I am also a deacon, and I am going to indulge for a minute to speak about this. There is an unfortunate blip in our process that makes being a deacon look like an awkward transitional time when you are “not quite ordained” and “what’s the good of you if we can’t have the Eucharist?!” The ordaining of vocational deacons in our diocese has helped to educate all of us about the traditional role of deacon to the church. The ordained deacon’s task is, as I see it, to be the bridge between what happens in here and what is going on out there, and it is a role I take very seriously. Some say deacons are the social justice people, and, as a rule, deacons are committed to social justice, but their task is to bring those needs to the church so the church can respond in its ministry. When I am ordained a priest, I will continue to be a deacon, building those bridges. The Eucharist will continue to be a central and regular part of our life together, even though we will not celebrate it every Sunday. These months of morning prayer are a good time for us each to reflect on the role the Eucharist plays in our relationship with Christ and how it brings us together as community. It can also be time for us to focus on another area that is critical to our worship together, and that is prayer, that morning prayer is a time for us to gather and spend time in reflection and laying our concerns, our blessings, our lives before God, knowing that God is waiting for us to spend a few quiet moments with him.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Rev. Glen Kent and Rev. Susan Best who have served as priests in charge over these past months. In particular, it is important that we acknowledge all those parishioners who have continued to serve as wardens, treasurers, parish and church councils, lay readers and musicians. I invite all those who served in some capacity over the past year to stand. Now, take a deep breath. Now let us all stand and show our appreciation (applaud). AMEN

In response to "Cops want access to medical records…"

In response to “Cops want access to medical records in cases of possible exposure to HIV

Since returning from India where I provided HIV/AIDS training and education to caregivers, I have been increasingly dismayed at the complete lack of knowledge exhibited by prominent groups of Canadian society in regards to this subject. The behaviour of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and members of the CFL this past summer is particularly embarrassing. Now, the B.C. Federation of Police Officers wishes to invade the privacy of Canadians by gaining access to medical records of a specific part of the population, for fear of contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases.

The message is simple. If you feel you are at risk, you should seek medical attention and request an HIV test. We learned this 20 years ago. How soon we forget when it comes to things that make us uncomfortable. There is no need to single out members of our society who already battle with unwarranted stigma.

Published in the Sunday Herald, March 5, 2006

Litanies for HIV/AIDS

For my presentation to Diocesan Council last week, I wrote two litanies. The first is a general litany using our relationships to God to highlight our concern for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. The second is written specifically for India. If you would like copies, feel free to email me or post a comment. Cutting and pasting may be more trouble than it is worth.

Blessings,

Dawn

Litany

O God, remember your daughters. They care for the sick until they are too sick to carry on. Then who is to take care of them? AIDS is taking our women, many against their will. They endure great burdens with no choice. And yet they are strong and unstoppable. Bless them, Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your sons. They too are trapped by inequality. Give them the courage to speak out against , and support them as they support their families.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your little ones. As parents die from AIDS, young children are left to care for one another. Surround them with loving mother and father figures. Do not leave them alone.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your sick children. Accompany those left to die alone. Comfort those whose health is declining, and family members as they keep vigil. Bring them Your love, and your healing.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your healers. The many women and men who devote their lives to healing without medicine or resources that we take for granted. Provide for them, Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember those who have authority over us. They have the power to enact change. Grant them courage to enter into uncertainty in order to save lives from HIV.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your church. Stir us from complacency. Open our eyes to AIDS in our midst. Show us the way to a generation without AIDS.
Lord, have mercy.

Litany for India

For India, a country on the threshold of a tragedy with the possibility of change still in her sights, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer

For pastors, teachers, bishops and lay ministers who struggle with the difficult conversations, that they may have courage to speak out and compassion for those who enter their doors, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For village health workers, doctors and nurses those brave women and men who travel for miles to educate their communities and provide healthcare, that they may be protected on their journeys and blessed in their healing work, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For migrant labourers, truck drivers and commercial sex workers, as they are forced to make difficult choices, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those organisations who work on the front lines, often challenging the governments they rely on, that they will be provided for in their fight for justice in the struggle against HIV, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the women of India, struggling for equality and the choice that could save their lives from HIV, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who are turned away from their villages and suffer discrimination due to ignorance, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who have HIV and those who are dying from AIDS, that they may experience comfort and healing, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who have committed to the long fight against HIV/AIDS in India. May our eyes be opened to the urgency of their task, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

Resources for AIDS and Lent-Updated

Over the past few months I have been travelling around the Diocese preaching about my time in India and the fight against HIV/AIDS (CNI-HIV/AIDS Programme) . In my spare time (HA!) I have been trying to find resources that parishes can use to promote awareness for the Partnership for Life: A Generation without AIDS.

I would commend the many worship resources available on the PWRDF website (click on Partnership above). In particular, Jeanette Romkema PWRDF HIV/AIDS Education and Animation Coordinator has compiled a beautiful collection of prayers, litanies, confessions and affirmations. Along with that, I have found a Stations of the Cross (post below), courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. I have adapted it somewhat to reflect a more global focus.

When looking for resources, I would recommend those that have a focus on more than one of the following:

  • AIDS in the Americas
  • The spread of AIDS in Asia and Eastern Europe
  • Caring for Africa
  • Women
  • Stigma and Discrimination
  • Orphans
  • Distribution of medications
  • Proactive awareness campaigns

Each of these can be overwhelming, but AIDS is overwhelming.

I will try to update this post over the weeks ahead with further resources to help your parish include the struggle against HIV/AIDS in your liturgies.

Blessings,

Stations of the Cross For a World Living with AIDS

PLEASE don’t cut and paste what is below. I’m sure it will cause you more trouble than it is worth! I have only posted Stations 1, 2, 14 and 15. If you would like to use it, please email me and I will send you a clean copy.

I have attended two liturgies of the Stations of the Cross in a Roman Catholic setting. Both were beautiful, profound, heartbreaking and completely transformed my Easter experience. However, not everyone is up for the entire journey in one go. Some parishes will perform 3 stations each Sunday of Lent ending the Sunday before Palm Sunday.

If you do not have stations posted on the wall, you can be creative. A red ribbon with a number under it for each station would be a powerful visual, for example. Lit candles on window sills also works.


STATIONS OF THE CROSS

FOR A WORLD LIVING WITH AIDS

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, we live in a world affected by HIV/AIDS. Its victims are our co-workers, our friends, our family members, our neighbours, our students, our classmates, our church members. Its face is both anonymous and very familiar. It is as close as our neighbourhood and as far away as the other side of the world. We gather now to pray for all those whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS. Be with us as we pray for them and for ourselves.

STATION I

Jesus is Condemned to Death Deciding to Be Tested for HIV/AIDS

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: Every day many people struggle with the decision to be tested for AIDS. Should I? Shouldnt

I? Would it be better to know? Will I need to leave my family if the test is positive? Can I ignore the possibility that I have HIV/AIDS and just go on living? And these people who struggle…they are just like you and me…just like our sons and daughters, just like our friends…and yes, just like our parents and grandparents. So many times it is fear that keeps them from reaching out for help. And for some, it is ignorance…they cant believe that they might be carrying the disease and might even be passing it to others. The absence of symptoms gives them a false security.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, help all those who are afraid to be tested for HIV/AIDS. Calm their fears and give them the courage they need. Bless those who do the testing with compassion and gentleness so that they may mirror your love to all they serve.

STATION II

Jesus takes up his cross: Accepting the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: Each person who has HIV/AIDS has his or her own individual story, but people all over the world are united by this tragic illness and by the struggle to accept what it means for life and for death. The question, “Why me, and not some other?” strikes deep in the heart. The struggle may include anger at others, anger at life, anger at self, anger even at God, and the peace of acceptance seems unreachable.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, the journey of life for someone who has HIV/AIDS may be long, difficult, and painful. As Jesus was given courage and strength for his painful journey, give to those affected by HIV/AIDS courage and strength to make their journey through life. Let us remember that though heavily burdened we can come to you to be unburdened through your grace, and that through your journey we have the opportunity for eternal life.


Station XIV

Jesusbody is placed in the tomb:Leaving friends behind

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: After Daniel’s death family and friends struggled to come to terms with the loss, with letting go of him, and with the fact that physical death, rather than a miracle of new physical life, resulted. There was an empty space for caregivers who ran errands for him, kept watch with him, managed his medications, and handled his remaining daily affairs. No matter how strong their faith, there was a sense of loss and grief, an empty hole where care and comfort-giving have been. Even today the search for a personal meaning of the loss continues, and there is a great need to find spiritual comfort.. For many, there is a need to experience comfort with others who understand and who have shared similar losses. New bonds of friendship and family are being forged through these painful times.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, you tell us you are always with us. We know that in our minds. Help all of us to feel it in our hearts. We offer you our grief and pain; we know that others are suffering deeply, too, and we offer you their grief and pain. We know that your love will surely provide the healing comfort that we seek.

Station XV

The Resurrection: Beginning New Life

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: The joy of eternal life awaits all who have died. The blessing of this belief offers hope, reassurance, and peace to those who remain, to encourage them to see in this death a resurrection. Even where the idea of eternal life is doubted, all can be helped to open themselves to new ideas, new life, and new beginnings, a resurrection of its own kind, smiled upon by a gentle God who knows our hearts and our needs in death and in life.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, please forgive our fragile faith. Help us to recognize in your resurrection the wonderful gift that is right here before usours to accept your eternal grace and love. We pray for all our loved ones who are now with you, and we await with joy your promised reward.