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Table of Contents
Focus Text: Acts 9:36-43
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
I am utterly spent and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O LORD, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes — it also has gone from me. My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off. Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin, and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like the deaf, I do not hear; like the mute, who cannot speak. Truly, I am like one who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no retort. But it is for you, O LORD, that I wait; it is you, O LORD my God, who will answer.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[a] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[c] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)
Other Lectionary Texts
- Psalm 23
- Revelation 7:9-17
- John 10:22-30
Scriptural Commentary on Acts 9:36-43
The story of Tabitha’s restoration falls between two other healing stories: the short, to-the-point episode of the paralytic Aeneas and the much longer, deeply developed tale of the conversion of the gentile Cornelius, a “rebirth” narrative. When we first meet Tabitha, we are told that she “was devoted to good works and acts of charity” (v. 37). She seems to have made clothes for a community of widows, who display her handiwork for Peter as if to say “See, this is who Tabitha was. This is what she did and what she meant to us.” The widows tell her story to Peter, and he listens. Like Tabitha, patients with HIV/AIDS might seem to be the ones in need of ministry, but her story reminds us that even perceived objects of charity minister to the rest of us, too. They bring gifts, talents, stories, and perspectives that enrich our communities, and we feel their absence when they leave. Peter and the widows reinforce how we can care for HIV/AIDS patients: by valuing what they teach us, and by sharing their stories.
Like Cornelius, whose conversion story follows, “Tabitha is restored to and for a community” (Hermeneia , 254). Her resurrection means that, not only is she restored to life, but that a source of help has been restored to a marginalized group whose means of socio-economic support are precarious at best. Healing does not affect an individual, but an entire network of relationships. Cornelius and Tabitha’s miraculous healings draw even more people into these networks of believers (9:42). Modern-day care providers for patients with HIV/AIDS cannot promise that God will raise the dead, but their loving kindness and presence, like Peter’s, speaks to God’s own love, kindness, and presence with us. That witness can draw even more people into relationship with God (Hermeneia, 256). Those called to work with HIV/AIDS point to “the story which proclaims that our history is not closed and that there is someone, some subversive reality, there for the widows of the world” (Interpretation, 85).
by Hana Suckerhoff, Duke Divinity School graduate and former Council intern
Richard I. Pervo, Acts: A Commentary (Hermeneia), edited by Harold W. Attridge. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.
William H. Willimon, Acts (Interpretation). Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988.
Pastoral Reflection on Acts 9:36-43
It was important for Peter to go to Joppa. Despite the circumstances, he walked the distance from Lydda entering a difficult situation. Grief and sadness met Peter when he arrived as Tabitha (aka Dorcas) lie dead. Though she was a widow – a marginalized person – Peter’s interest was in restoring her life. No matter her status, he treated her with love and respect.
Peter serves as an example of Christ’s love. Persons living with HIV/AIDS continue to be marginalized as the disease continues to be shrouded in stigma after 30 years of advancements in medical treatments. What used to be a death sentence is now considered a chronic disease that can be successfully managed. Yet, one of the most difficult things to do as a person living with HIV or AIDS is to openly share one’s HIV status with another person for fear of being shunned or marginalized. As if stigma and disclosure are not enough, the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS live below the poverty level. Regardless, some say that HIV can be eradicated in our lifetime. We have the means to rid the world of the virus through medicine, prevention, and the development of a vaccine. However, we cannot forget the human component of HIV. Like Peter, we must make the effort to restore life to those living with HIV/AIDS. One way is to not forget that there are people in our midst living with HIV/AIDS who need our unbiased love and support.
by Rev. Artie Hendricks, Director, Partners in Caring, Duke University Medical Center
Worship Aids about Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
God of health and wholeness, we thank you that you care about each of us— children, youth, young adults, those of us who are older. We thank you that you desire abundant life for all of Creation.
Lord, from the midst of our perceived abundance, plunge us deep into a sense of sadness at the pain of our sisters and brothers inflicted by war, prejudice, injustice, and indifference. Help us to learn again to cry as children until our tears baptize us into people who touch with care those we now touch in prayer. Today we especially remember in prayer the millions who have been robbed of health and wholeness because of HIV/AIDS.
God, we pray for those in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. We pray for those in the U.S., North Carolina, and around the world. We pray that all those who endure the physical effects and stigma of HIV/AIDS may feel your loving and welcoming arms and sense our compassion, concern and solidarity as well.
We pray for those who are ill;
We pray for those who are dying;
We pray for mothers lamenting the illness of babies;
We pray for children who have been left alone to become heads of families;
We pray for partners watching a loved one slowly die;
We pray for grandparents who now have young children to care for.
We pray for those who are wrestling with ways to confront the stereotypes, stigma and prejudices fostered by culture and religion. Give them strength.
We remember also and give thanks for those who are developing programs of prevention, education and advocacy. May their efforts be creative and effective and may we learn to be creative and effective from them.
Help us, O God, to continue to pray, but also to act so that the conditions that foster HIV/AIDS will be changed.
Help us, O God, to hear the cries of those who are pleading with us, “Please come to us without delay.”
Help us to respond faithfully like Peter and the other disciples, who without hesitation offered hands of healing and comfort to the sick and the dying.
Help us to encourage our government’s participation in acts of awareness and generosity and help us to call the pharmaceutical industry into acts of solidarity and compassion as well.
Help us to find ways to contribute to the efforts of organizations in North Carolina and of partner churches to address HIV/AIDS.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus, our Savior, brother and friend. Amen.
(Adapted from “Prayers of the People,” The United Church of Canada, www.united-church.ca/beads/pdf/studyguide/3.pdf)
Prayer of Confession
O God, we confess our sin in the midst of HIV and AIDS.
We confess our fear, our selective compassion, and our conditional love.
We have denied and avoided sisters and brothers, families and friends.
We have become disconnected from our neighbors.
We have become disconnected from our own sexuality.
And therefore, we have become disconnected from you, O God.
We have removed them from our midst to hospitals.
Forgive us, O God.
Bring us back to the center of your presence where you hold all who call upon your name.
Help us to break the silence.
Help us to reach out to restore the connections
With all whom you love.
We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
(From “World AIDS Day Worship Resources,” www.presbyterian.ca/pwsd/hivaids/sunday2.html)
Prayer and Reflection for Social and Economic Justice in the HIV/AIDS Era
God of liberation and justice, defender of the poor and marginalized, we seek Your guidance.
Give us the vision and the confidence to become prophets when resources are looted.
Let us hear the cry of the widows. Let us feed the orphans. Let us denounce injustice by the powerful.
May we demand drugs for the sick.
May we demand care for the abandoned.
May we denounce wastefulness by the affluent.
Forgive our silence. Forgive our complicity.
In Your mercy forgive our condemnation of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Forgive us when we deal lightly with the wounds of Your people.
Forgive the times when we have offered artificial solutions. Empower us to tackle corrupt systems.
Make us instruments of Your peace. Make us agents of Your transformation.
In the strong name of Christ we pray,
(From Church World Service, “Offering of Prayers,” www.ncccusa.org/missioneducation/aids/document/HIV_GeneralPrayers.pdf)
AIDS and the Power of God’s Goodness and Grace
We gather in the name of the crucified and risen Christ,
Over whom death had no power and through whom there is life eternal.
We gather as a remembering and a caring community,
A community of faith and hope united by God’s love.
We come to give thanks for those we love,
Those who have cared for us. Those who have brought joy to our lives.
Those we love and pray to be reunited with when the time is right.
God calls to us:
To care for one another, to be compassionate and merciful.
We celebrate God’s goodness and grace,
In the love we give, receive and remember.
We experience God’s goodness and grace
Through arms that embrace us when we are filled with fear.
We are the creation of one Creator God.
The child who cries is every child. The woman weakened and tired is every mother, wife, sister, daughter.
The man is every father, husband, son and brother.
AIDS leaves gaping wounds in the lives of those who have lost the ones they love the most.
God, give us the strength and courage to be present in the midst of loss.
Across the infinity of space and time a common heart beats in every breast,
Forbearing pain and clinging to hope we are brought to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.
We are a family of nations united by our common priceless humanity.
AIDS is a worldwide crisis in the midst of which there is no “we” and “they.”
We confess that we are all affected,
When one of God’s creation suffers we all suffer.
We know Jesus identifies with all who suffer;
Through our faith in Him, healing and wholeness take place.
In AIDS ministry there is giving and receiving;
Like a chalice filled and drained and filled again, we receive Christ and have Christ to give.
When we care for a person who has AIDS we show that we love Christ;
To touch, to bathe, to feed, to clothe the one who is ill is to do this unto Christ Jesus.
Today we are called to be a joyful, thankful people,
Upheld by God’s goodness and grace which has the power to disarm AIDS.
In thankfulness we commit ourselves to being a caring, justice-seeking, nurturing community.
We covenant together in commitment to God and to one another.
We will be a caring community;
We welcome into our community and our church all persons whose lives have been touched by HIV and AIDS. We say to all: “You are welcome here.”
We will be a justice-seeking community;
We will oppose all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS. We support the right of all persons with HIV and AIDS to housing, employment, services, transportation, accommodations and health care.
We will be a nurturing community;
We will care for one another and love one another. We will pray for God’s creation.
We will be Christ’s presence in each other’s lives. We will be witnesses to God’s unconditional love.
Through Christ’s example we are made finer, gentler, stronger;
Through Christ, the Savior, and the power of God’s goodness and grace we are set free to love, to seek justice, to become all God intends us to be. Amen.
(edited, by Cathie Lyons, from http//gbgm-umc.org/cam/memorials/goodness.html)
Suggested Hymns about Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
Help Us Accept Each Other
African Methodist Episcopal Hymnal 588
New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ) 388
Chalice Hymnal (Disciples of Christ) 487
Presbyterian Hymnal 358
United Methodist Hymnal 560
Glory to God (PCUSA 2013 hymnal) 754
Lord, You Give the Great Commission
The Hymnal (1982) 528
Moravian Book of Worship 617
Chalice Hymnal (Disciples of Christ) 459
United Methodist Hymnal 584
Presbyterian Hymnal 429
Gather Hymnal (Catholic) 456
Glory to God (PCUSA 2013 hymnal) 298
O Christ, The Healer
United Methodist Hymnal 265
Presbyterian Hymnal 380
Chalice Hymnal (Disciples of Christ) 503
New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ) 175
Glory to God (PCUSA 2013 hymnal) 793
We Cannot Measure How You Heal
Gather Hymnal (Catholic) 575
Glory to God (PCUSA 2013 hymnal) 797
We Meet You, O Christ
Presbyterian Hymnal 311
Chalice Hymnal (Disciples of Christ) 183
United Methodist Hymnal 257
Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Glory to God (2013 PCUSA hymnal) 65
United Methodist Hymnal 127
African American Heritage Hymnal 138
Chalice Hymnal 622
Moravian Book of Worship 790
Evangelical Lutheran Worship 220
Quotes about Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
- I have learned more about love, selflessness and human understanding from the people I have met in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cutthroat, competitive world in which I spent my life.
Anthony PerkinsFrom the point of view of the pharmaceutical industry, the AIDS problem has already been solved. After all, we already have a drug which can be sold at the incredible price of $8,000 an annual dose, and which has the added virtue of not diminishing the market by actually curing anyone.
Barbara EhrenreichThose who suffer from AIDS deserve better than to be branded as sinners outside our concern and to be forced to become some kind of latter-day lepers.
AIDS and malaria and TB are national security issues. A worldwide program to get a start on dealing with these issues would cost about $25 billion.
Following Christ’s example closely, the Church has always considered the care of infirm people to be an integral part of its mission. I therefore encourage the many initiatives underway to overcome this sickness, especially by church communities, and I feel close to people with AIDS and their families, invoking upon them the Lord’s help and comfort.
Pope Benedict XVI
We live in a completely interdependent world, which simply means we cannot escape each other. How we respond to AIDS depends, in part, on whether we understand this interdependence. It is not someone else’s problem. This is everybody’s problem.” Bill Clinton
If you look at three diseases, the three major killers, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, the only disease for which we have really good drugs is HIV. And it’s very simple: because there’s a market in the United States and Europe. Jim Yong Kim
Vignette about Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
I have worked as a chaplain in HIV clinics since 2002. The HIV community (as people refer to it) is unique. It is not a big world. In fact, I know many people across the state of North Carolina devoting their vocational lives to this important work (e.g., medical providers, case managers, social workers, chaplains, peer educators, researchers, health educators, etc.). These dedicated people are partners, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and friends. The ultimate goal of all of these people is to assist in making a better life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
by Rev. Artie Hendricks, Director, Partners in Caring, Duke University Medical Center
Contacts & Resources for Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina serves the needs of HIV/AIDS patients through compassionate and non-judgmental care, prevention, education and advocacy. In partnership with supporting faith communities, laity and clergy respond to the AIDS pandemic from a place of love through the Faith Ministries Program of AASC. The Faith Ministries Program serves by: (1) developing, training, and coordinating faith-based Care Teams, (2) providing spiritual care and counseling to persons living with HIV/AIDS, their families, Care Teams and other care givers; and (3) providing faith-based HIV/STD education to faith communities throughout the Triangle.
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS offers comprehensive worldwide data on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This multinational body brings together the efforts and resources of ten UN system organizations, including UNICEF, World Health Organization, and the World Bank, to the global response to AIDS. They seek to help the world prevent new HIV infections, care for people living with HIV, and mitigate the impact of the epidemic.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), a national health organization, seeks to prevent HIV infection and reduce the incidence of HIV-related illness and death, in collaboration with community, state, national, and international partners. The CDC’s programs work to improve treatment, care, and support for persons living with HIV and to help build capacity and infrastructure to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They offer detailed and comprehensive statistics and resources on HIV/AIDS both nationally and locally. The site is available in Spanish.
“The New Age of HIV/AIDS” is a program series that ran a couple of year ago produced by UNC-TV focusing on the state of the disease in North Carolina. The website includes transcripts, interviews, video playlists and other resources for learning about HIV/AIDS.
Facts and Reflection about Care for HIV/AIDS Patients
1. In the U.S., approximately 1.2 million people live with HIV. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html
2.Worldwide at the end of 2014, there were:
- 36.9 million people living with HIV. 2.6 million of them were children
- 2 million people infected with HIV that year; and
- 1.2 million deaths from AIDS-related diseases
3. In 2011, approximately 41% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. were black. Twenty percent of them were Hispanic/Latino. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html
4. In 2010, the rate of new HIV infections for Latino males was 2.9 times the rate for white males. The rate of new infections for Latinas was 4.2 times that for white females. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html