June 27, 2012
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk!
"and by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you" Acts 3:16
The man we hear being spoken about is a man who's story is told earlier on in chapter 3 of Acts ... He was lame from birth and sat each day at the gate of the temple begging for money, until he encounters Peter and John. The man thought that they would be giving him money as well, but Peter says to the man: "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk ... and he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
People who were used to seeing this man begging at the temple are amazed at his transformation and his healing ... all in the name of Jesus ...
All because this man had faith in the precious name of Jesus he was able to stand up and walk.
Today is National HIV Testing Day ... One of the themes is "take the test, take control" ...
You might say that the lame man who stood up and walked ..."took the test (by being invited to get up and walk), and he definitely "took control" ... he did it! It didn't matter that he was lame from birth ... it didn't matter that he had to sit and beg ... it didn't matter that all of his life he had been incapacitated ...none of that mattered.
What did matter was that he had faith in the name of Jesus to make him strong. What did matter was that Peter extended his right hand and lifted this man up and out of his predicament ...
Peter did not think that this man was sick or lame ... Peter knew that with some help, this man would be able to rise above his station in life and live and be a witness to the power of Jesus' name.
Take the test, take control.
Have you been tested? Have you taken control of your life?
This is a little bit of my story: Twenty some odd years ago, I took the test and my test results came back positive. I have been living with the HIV virus for over 20 years. Now, I must tell you that 20 years ago ... taking the test was quite different. You had to wait for over 2 weeks to get your results. It was a terrible waiting period. My husband died from this disease ... I have seen friends die, I have seen friends get "sick" ... because they either took the test and refused treatment, or took the test and pretended that this virus would go away. The HIV/AIDS look is not the same as it was twenty years ago ... .twenty years ago, you could probably spot someone who had AIDS a mile away ... it is not the same today ... medicines are keeping people living longer and healthier ...
unfortunately ... .
Twenty years later, the virus is still here. Twenty years later, there still is no cure. Twenty years later, people are still not practicing safe sex, and are getting infected. Twenty years later, people are still stigmatized, still feeling ashamed, still in denial. Twenty years later there still is much education needed.
A few nights ago, I took my sister back home to New York and we were doing some sisterly bonding and talking about our children and she was concerned about the state of her health, after recently recovering from a mild stroke. She was concerned about "who would take care of her child" if she was not around. And she said ... "to me": "I thought about you, but you are sick". And it took me by surprise and on the turnpike, I had to stop her in her tracks to let her know, that I am not "sick". I am not lame ... I am not incapacitated because of this virus. I took the test and I took control of my life, by changing my behaviors ... beginning with standing up and walking to the nearest clinic, the nearest doctor, the nearest pharmacy and beginning treatment.
Twenty years ago.
Now, I know, my sister didn't mean any harm. She just didn't know any better.
Twenty years later ... there are still people walking around, who do not know any better. And so, it is up to us ... to teach them. It is up to organizations like Philadelphia Fight, to come out and engage the community and encourage people to get tested for the HIV virus. Did you know that every 9 and a half minutes someone is infected with the HIV virus?
Take the test and take control of your lives, beloved! And if this does not apply to you, certainly it applies to someone you know. This virus doesn't have a name on it ...it doesn't say, I am just going to infect the drug addict, or the alcoholic or the prostitute, or the gay man down the street. The HIV virus does not discriminate; it crosses all economic boundaries, all genders, all ethnicities, all cultures ... all ages. Preventative measures are abstinence (not having sex at all), and practicing safe sex at all times!
Although I have been "living" with this virus for over 20 years, I will not have you believe that life with HIV is peachy keen ... there are medications to take, doctor's appointments to keep, keeping tabs on our CD4 counts and viral loads. It is not an easy life, for those of us living with this ...
Our reading from 2nd Corinthians describes some of our lives: "We are afflicted in every way, but we are not crushed; perplexed, but we are not driven to despair; some of us are persecuted and stigmatized, but we are not forsaken; in some countries, some of us are struck down, but we are NOT destroyed ... because those of us who live by faith in Christ name, always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our bodies."
The life of Jesus is visible in my body, in my being, and "in my virus".
We heard that Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
Many people took me by my right hand and helped raise me up and strengthen me: people from my home congregation, my family who have been by my side supporting me emotionally (with the exception of the "you're sick" statement) ... and here in this place, you have been supportive of me as well.
That support and "faith in the same precious name of Jesus", gives me strength to proclaim with confidence: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to offer hope to those infected and/or affected by this disease, because ultimately, it is Christ who is in control.
... Christ got up and walked out of the tomb, and shows himself to us ... again and again, in people we meet, in the people we reach out to and help. Christ "orders our steps" and teaches us to stand up and walk ... and if we should stumble along the way, God is there to pick us up: we hear from our Psalm this morning that: "our help comes from the Lord, that the Lord will not let our foot be moved, that the Lord is our keeper, who will keep us from all evil". Amen?
Take the test ... take control ... and if your test comes back positive, know that it doesn't have to be a death sentence ... but it can be the beginning of a new life. It has for me ...
and whatever ailment you are struggling with: diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer, depression ... whatever it is, you too can have new life in Christ, by having faith in his name ...