(Doubting Thomas, Caravaggio, 1602, Pushkin Musem, Moscow)
Northeastern Seminary Chapel Homily - January 19, 2016
(John 20:19-31 & Luke 24: 30-31)
Thomas is a figure of intrigue and mystery. Only one Gospel, that of John, really relates anything particular concerning Thomas, the rest is left to our intimation.
I’ve had the privilege of attending ten of the eleven Northeastern Seminary women’s retreats at the Abbey of the Genesee. Each year, I experience the deep peace of the Abbey grounds, nestled in the wide-open beauty of the Genesee River Valley, and the rich fellowship with a group of fun, wise, kind, godly women who gather together there for a day to step out of our normal routines and enter the rhythms of rest that make retreats so nurturing. Each year, the experience is wonderful, but different from all the others. This year was no different.
“Do you tell the truth?” That was the theme the Northeastern Seminary Women’s Retreat with Marlena Graves this April at the Bethany House at the Abbey of the Genesee. The sun was shining, the air was brisk, and all the women who gathered came humbly open to discern together what God might be wanting to say to us in our various seasons of ministry and life.
We live in a society where a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by high unemployment, poor health, violence, and low graduation rates. Their interest in, and knowledge of, Christian theology can sometimes take a low priority simply because of the need to survive day-to-day.
The struggles for economic opportunity of black congregations were once led by the black church through marches, voter registration drives to elect public officials who are sensitive to the needs of the black community, and embracing of urban black entrepreneurship. The voices of protest are still there when there are clear and blatant signs of racism and discrimination, police brutality, and horrific crimes, yet most voices are confined to the four walls of the congregation. Thus, "without public expression beyond the confines of the sacred space round the altar, religion can lose its savor and become irrelevant." Our messages and interaction must be constant going forth; not just when evil shocks our community. We must also be willing to be rejected by the very ones that we reach out to help—because it is a fact of nature that you cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped!
We live in a society where a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by high unemployment, poor health, violence, and low graduation rates. Their interest in, and knowledge of, Christian theology can sometimes take a low priority simply because of the need to survive day-to-day. Over the past 10-20 years, an acceleration of heinous crimes, immoral, unethical and shameful behavior, a disdain for common decency, and a rejection of God has weighed heavily on everyone’s faith.
From the great halls of splendor
As it is written in the book of Isaiah, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Luke 3:4