Written by Bennett Guess
During the closing worship at the 26th General Synod, the president of the Near East School of Theology said the UCC's 50th anniversary gathering was "Pentecost relived."
And Dr. Mary Mikhael pointed out, "when Pentecost happens a Resurrection has definitely taken place." She compared what had happened in Hartford to events "in that old city, Jerusalem," where the church was empowered to witness to the truth "in a world darkened by ignorance and violence and where fishermen became apostles and changed the face of history."
The soft spoken ecumenical guest congratulated the UCC on the first 50 years during which "you have advocated justice and righteousness in a world crushed by aggression and violence, where human rights are smashed to the ground." She pointed out that even before the United Church of Christ was born, its predecessors had helped start her Near East School of Theology, an institution now struggling in the midst of violence and warfare.
Then, and several times in her sermon, Mikhael skillfully echoed the words and cadences of John Thomas, the general minister and president, who hade preached two days earlier. In the UCC's mission for justice and peace, she said, "you have disturbed Jezebel, and no doubt have paid the cost." Thomas had told the story of the Hebrew prophet Elijah who stirred the wrath of the ruler of his time and then went into hiding.
"Fifty years is a short time," Mikhael said, "and you are not done." Over and over, she challenged the United Church to continue its witness. In places like Palestine, Darfur and "any place in what is called the third or tenth world where you will be stunned by the crimes against humanity," you and your ecumenical partners "must destroy the Jezebels of the world. You are not done."
"Look at our world," she said, frequently addressing the delegates as "Dear friends." "Sit in front of your TVs and watch the violence, hear of the oppression, where children's bodies are starved, their minds blasted, their characters twisted, their prospects wrecked. Youth in many places see no future. Women are treated as if they are sub-human. The list grows longer; the view of the world is blurred with human blood stains. Your work is not done."
"Once you have experienced Pentecost," she insisted, "you have no choice but to continue to stand for justice and to promote peace and righteousness. You are not done. What you are doing here in Hartford is getting ready for another 50 years of mission. You are not done."
As Mikhael returned to her seat, the Synod's popular musician, Ken Medema began fingering his keyboard. At first it seemed to be transitional music. Then he began singing a song he had just composed: "You are not done. You've seen a new Pentecost and you are not done. In the upper room the windows are open…the winds are blowing and you are not done; you are not out of work yet….. Jezebel has taken notice….its dangerous….and you are yet done." Soon the whole Synod on its feet, singing and repeating Mary Mikhael's challenge: "You are not done."
And, like several earlier speakers on the same platform, whose words had become a Medema song, the scholar from the Middle East went to the blind musician and they embraced. Delegates and visitors in the crowded arena broke into applause and tears… and the recognition of a challenge accepted.