Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 13 MDG Sermon (Epiphany 6)

This sermon was given at the 8 AM service (some of which was also given at the 10:15 AM along with a children's sermon):

O Loving God, we bring before you this day the burden the whole world carries as so many people endure extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease. Stretch out your loving arms, we pray, to embrace the suffering women, men and children whose bodies, minds and spirits are shrinking before our very eyes. Kindle within each one of us a flame of love and purpose, and then enable us to channel our love into action in every way possible and impossible. For this we pray, in your son’s name. Amen. (adapted from a prayer by Mimi A. Simson)

Think back 100 years. What was medicine like? It certainly wasn’t like today… We took Hannah in to the Pediatrician on Friday, she was complaining of a sore throat and was wheezing. She had two breathing treatments at the doctor’s office and after a visit to CVS, we had 3 prescriptions to help her feel and get better. (She is doing much better.)

None of that was possible 100 years ago, although, researchers were well on their way then in developing the antibiotics we use today to treat our illnesses. Now, we can pop a simple pill in our mouth and treat those bacterial infections. Now, we can, effectively treat cancer, it no longer is a death sentence for many (think Relay for Life – and all those survivors). For those with HIV or AIDS in the US, there are effective treatments making it a chronic disease. We have come a long way!

Which is true in the US but our brothers and sisters in Africa, and in many other places around the globe, look more like the US 100 years ago then what we have today. That is what the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) were created. To help those in extreme poverty, overcome it through universal primary education, combating preventable diseases like hiv/aids, malaria, TB, ensuring environmental stability, improve the lives of mothers and children and eradicating that extreme poverty and hunger.

It is a global partnership, helping to develop countries, so we are not just giving them fish, but training them to fish on their own, as the old saying goes. For so many people in Africa, dealing with AIDS, it starts with a simple pill to help what could be fatal turn into something treatable. It is the Lazarus Effect. Where people with AIDS had a bleak future, it is now filled with hope because of the AIDS medicine they are receiving. A treatment that in 40 days transforms their lives (40 days – wandering in the wilderness – Jesus).

When these ARVs (antiretroviral medications) first came to Africa they were very expensive and people had to decide between money for rent, money for food, or money for the ARVs. And its neighbors talking with neighbors, getting rid of the stigma and getting real help and medicine for those in need. But now through partnerships like the Global Fund, the people that need those medications are getting them. It is indeed a miracle. I think of the song “Miracle Drug” from U2
The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I've seen enough,
I'm not giving up
On a miracle drug

Of science and the human heart
There is no limit
There is no failure here sweetheart
Just when you quit

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
It's whispering
In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in
That is why today’s offering is going to the Global Fund. Since 2003, programs supported by the Global Fund have saved 6.5 million lives through providing AIDS treatment for 3 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 7.7 million people and the distribution of 160 million insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria.

Why is this important for us? Because it is what is expected of us as followers of Jesus. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live – Moses told the Israelites – obey the commandments. (Loving your neighbor.) Jesus wants us to lay our offering at the altar and go reconcile with our brothers and sisters. For Jesus, what was most important was our relationships, with God and with one another. That’s what he wants us to focus on.
“The MDG’s serve as an invitation to get on with what God wants us to be about; to join with sisters in brothers in Christ, with people of other faiths, with wider global civil society to be about the repair of the world.” (Bishop Ian Douglas)
Repairing the world through love, through care, through the medicines people need to live.
“This is our moment, this is our time, this is our chance to stand up for what is right. Three thousand Africans, mostly children, die every day of mosquito bites. We can fix that. Nine thousand people dying every die of a preventable, treatable disease like Aids. We have got the drugs. We can help them.” (Bono of U2)
We can do it. As you leave this place today, with those songs ringing in your ears, think of this little marble as a symbol. A symbol of hope that you gave in your offering today. A symbol of life, when someone will get the medicine they need for AIDS or TB, or nets to sleep safely and soundly. It is a symbol to remind you of what God has given to you, it is marble of great value because we know God brings life to all and today we have tried to share that with the world. Amen.

No comments: