Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

My World AIDS Day Church Service

Today is (or was, depending on where you live on the time zone) World AIDS Day. Churches are encouraged to devote the Sunday before or after 1 December for this cause. I was preaching yesterday in a church in South Africa and made full use of the opportunity to devote the entire service to the AIDS issue.
I took my Scripture reading from James 1:19-27 with my main focus on the first part of verse 27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”
I then proceeded to show an AIDS Photo montage which can be downloaded, free of charge from http://www.willowcreek.com/grouplife/aids_day.asp
As introduction to my sermon I used a parable which was once told by the Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard. There are a number of versions of the parable, but the one I used goes like this:
Imagine that geese could talk, Kierkegaard once said, and that they arranged things so that they too could have their Church services and their worship:
Every Sunday they would assemble together and a gander would preach. The essential content of the sermon was the exalted destiny of the geese, the exalted goal for which the creator had destined geese (and every time his name was named all the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed their heads). With the help of their wings they could fly away to far countries, blessed countries, where they really were at home; for here they were just like exiles. And so every Sunday. Then the gathering broke up, and every goose waddles home.
Then the next Sunday off they went to the service again, then home again. That was all. They throve and grew fat, they became plump and tender… that was all. For while the sermon sounded so exalted on Sundays, on Mondays they would tell one another of the fate of the goose who wanted to take his destiny seriously, with the help of the wings the creator had given it. And they spoke of the horrors it had to endure. But they prudently kept this knowledge among themselves. For, of course, to speak of it on Sundays was most unsuitable, for as they said, in that case it would be obvious that our service would be a mockery both of God and of ourselves.
There were also among the geese some that looked ill and thin. Of them the others said, “You see, that’s what comes from being serious about wanting to fly. It is because they are always thinking of flying that they get thin and do not thrive, and do not have God’s grace as we do. That is why we get plump and fat and tender, for it is by God’s grace that one gets plump and fat and tender.
(This also motivated the theme for my sermon: Do you want to waddle or do you want to fly?)
I then asked someone with whom I had arranged beforehand to give a short testimony of what she had seen and experienced in homes where people are living with AIDS.
In the second part of my sermon I spoke about the widows and the orphans, in Biblical times and then also in modern times. I ended this part of the sermon with something that I realised as I had been reading Jeremiah recently in my personal devotions, that God was angry with the prophets and the priests, some of whom were actively involved in exploiting the widows and orphans, but He was also angry with the “good” prophets and priests, because although they themselves did not exploit the widows and orphans, they refrained from speaking out against it!
I then showed a short clip from the excellent South African movie “Yesterday”. If you haven’t seen it, beg, steal, buy or borrow a copy! It is available on Amazon.com as well as Kalahari.net. I showed the part where Yesterday goes to a clinic to be tested for HIV. Then I asked a Swazi woman to tell the congregation how it feels to live with HIV.
In the next part of my sermon I spoke about the fact that the church in general still seems to live in denial of the enormity of the problem of AIDS and that the situation calls us to act. I also included the words of Helder Camara, a priest in Brazil who once said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” We need to address the reasons why AIDS is such a huge problem. Is it just by chance that the countries most affected by AIDS are the poorest countries, the countries in which the greatest discrimination takes place against women, the countries with the lowest education level?
My last video clip was The hidden face of AIDS, which can also be downloaded, free of charge, from Willowcreek’s website. There is a shorter and a longer version. I used the shorter version.
I then ended by asking those who had come to church whether they were going to waddle back home or whether they were going to fly home, because they had decided not only to listen to the Word of God, but to DO what He wants them to do.

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Monday, December 1, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Movie Review, Poverty, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Theology, Worship

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