This past Sunday, many Christians celebrated the feast of Pentecost. This is sometimes referred to as the “spiritual birthday” of the Church, when the Holy Spirit descended in power upon the earliest followers of Jesus, empowering them in bold witness to the good news of Jesus, the Messiah. Peter, one of those first followers of Jesus, stood amongst the others and preaches a convicting sermon (Acts 2:14-36). We know it is convicting, because those who heard it were “cut to the heart” and ask this question: “What shall we do?”
What Peter had just performed was a prophetic act of truth-telling. He was telling them that Jesus was a victim of a lawless and brutal act, one in which you are both complicit and guilty. And yet, in spite of this wrongdoing, God is active and at work, raising Jesus to life as Lord and Messiah, and pouring out God’s Spirit on all people.
This provokes the question: what shall we do? Peter’s response: repent. Make steps to turn and walk in a different way. Admit you are wrong and begin doing right. What happens next is incredible. Three thousand are added to their number, they develop this new, deeply relational worshipping community in which people give generously and no one has needs among them.
I often tell people that HopeSprings began in part as a collective act of repentance. It sounds a bit weird at first, but it is rooted in another sort of truth-telling: The Church at large has not responded well to the HIV epidemic. The Church in the US has been complicit in perpetuating poverty, systemic injustice, and the breakdown in core relationships with our neighbors. It has been a place where shame, silence, stigma, and discrimination are prevalent. Those who were instrumental in founding our organization saw these shortcomings and wanted to develop a positive response, providing a pathway of repentance and restoration. Thus, HopeSprings’ purpose has been to awaken the Church to the reality of HIV and related health disparities, equipping her to respond in faithful service and love to those most affected by these realities.
Since its inception, HopeSprings has been working to restore relationships. We continue to proclaim that we belong to one another: whether we are living with HIV, affected by it personally, or having been living in ignorance of the epidemic around us. We have been pioneering new pathways of relationship and practical love: meeting tangible needs, rebuilding key supportive relationships, leaning into conflict, and learning together how we can end this epidemic.
However, just as God’s work was not done on the cross, our work is not done even if we do see an end to the HIV epidemic in our lifetime. The Spirit comes to empower, to breathe new life, and to re-create community. We are working for more than a cure: we are working to flourish as a community. This is the answer to the ever-present question we face as we still live with a stigmatizing virus: what shall we (the Church) do? We will continue to confess where we have fallen short of loving our neighbors and siblings, as ourselves. We will turn and do the long, slow, and critical work of restoring community, working in hope that another world is possible. We radically contend that we can experience healing together in that shared space of meeting needs, praying together, sharing meals together, and even giving sacrificially to one another.
As we prepare to enter a new strategic year, would you consider joining with us to restore community, proclaim hope, and experience healing? You can give to help us end our fiscal year with key funding. You can sign up for our next volunteer training to serve with us. Or, drop us a line to share how you’d like partner with us in this next season of community building.
May the Spirit continue to pour out on us all as we join God’s work to restore community, that all might flourish.