Tell Me: What's in YOUR Closet?
By Rev. Andrena Ingram
July 18, 2014
Now mind you, not everyone can disclose: because of the stigma that still exists in the workplace, in the community, and as I confessed in my own situation, with families and friends. Sometimes disclosing can be very dangerous. I'm sure you've read or heard stories ... (sigh)
I still hold a space for Warren in my heart ... and in that space, I fill it with folks who come to me after business hours to disclose their status, my Facebook group of HIV folks -- especially the newly diagnosed. I have even encouraged a few people from Africa to get tested ... walked with them via email.
Social media is not always a bad thing. I have a blog called "After The Ribbon" (I named it that, because we are good for wearing our ribbon on certain holidays ... and then take it off the rest of the year. ... What happens after the ribbon is taken off?) ...
Life goes on ... HIV goes on ... Amen?
Being propelled off that couch and into the closet left Warren hanging ... and left a space in my heart. One I fill with all the Warrens and Lisa's as I can safely handle, in addition to my own congregation. I long and yearn for peace within our being, and holistic healing which begins with confessing in our heart, ways in which we have knowingly and unknowingly hurt someone, by our words or actions. I long and yearn for the fulfillment of the promise ... the promise of a love so deep, the love only God through Jesus Christ shares with us ... The promise of eternal life if we believe in Christ.
So you see the promise goes beyond ourselves. It goes beyond HIV. It goes beyond stigma. It goes beyond ...
Because actually if we treated one another the way God desires for us to treat and love another ... stigma has no place in the equation. Amen?
God's promise will complete us ... and heal us, from whatever infirmity we have ... indeed, it has already been done!
We hear in Isaiah 53:4: "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted."
There are some who may think we are being punished by God for whatever ... but this is not the case.
Jesus took it all on the cross, willingly ... and died. And on the third day he came back. ... we've been here two days, and on the third day ... you will be sent back into your communities ... hopefully, your mind is resurrected and
ready to get busy completing this assignment of dealing with this HIV issue.
God will complete us after our journey on earth is done. And just as we may long and yearn to be with someone we love, someone who is no longer with us, someone the virus has taken from us ... God's yearning for us goes so much deeper ...
God's yearning and desire for us is revealed through Christ ... on the cross ...
and through the Christ in us, here in this room.
I dream of a world without HIV, a world without stigma, I dream of faith communities who are not afraid of that touch, that holy kiss, and that warm embrace ...
God is still in charge. ... God is still sovereign. ... And God desires to be with us wherever we are. Indeed, whether we like it or not ... God IS with us wherever we are.
God waits for us to walk alongside those silent ones, those afraid ones,
the ones left sitting on the couch or in the pews.
God waits for us to find our way alongside the rejected, those who feel untouchable.
God waits for us to sit alongside those trembling in fear of a diagnosis, if only to be present. You don't have to say a word ... just be present.
This IS the greatest love story ever told: God waiting on us ... and loving us and forgiving us, and being merciful to us ... and extending unmerited grace upon us ...
It's a love story about HIV and AIDS. It's a story about the promise. Yes, the Promise we make to one another, but mostly it is a story of God's saving action through Christ Jesus through this epidemic. ...
It's a story about the "no matter whatness of God": God loves us no matter what, no matter who, no matter why, and no matter where ...
As Warren waited for me to come out of that closet ...
We wait for you ... to come out of the closets of your minds.
Embrace compassion for EVERYONE.
God waits for us to come out of whatever closet we find ourselves in ... to reach out and touch somebody. Reach out and be a help to somebody.
"Write the vision and make it plain." Get tested, know your status, and use protection ... and get educated. Knowledge is power!
Can we do that? (point to audience) Yes, we can!Can we eradicate stigma? Yes, we can!
Can we encourage testing? Yes, we can ... and can we embrace with compassion? ... Yes, we can! ... not by our own power ... but by the power of God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit!
Amen and amen.
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Is the Ribbon Enough?
Rev. Andrena Ingram
Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.
Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.
Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.
Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.
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