Emancipation Day is celebrated next Monday in the District of Columbia as a day to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on April 16, 1862 by President Lincoln. The DC government has asked churches to consider including some form of thanksgiving for this event – an event that altered the course of American history as well as the lives of Americans of every color – into their services this coming Sunday. Because April 15 is the Second Sunday of Easter it happens also to be “Doubting Thomas” Sunday. Somehow miraculously tying all of this together at St. Alban’s will be the presentation by the Choristers and St. Cecilia Choir of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Joseph’s story from the Book of Genesis tells of being held in slavery in Egypt and acquiring his freedom by means of his gift for interpreting dreams. He has been sold into slavery by his own brothers, and when the brothers come to Egypt seeking help in a time of famine, they are terrified that Joseph, now an aide to the Pharaoh, will avenge their terrible betrayal of him. But Joseph speaks words of extraordinary compassion and assurance to his brothers. Words that could only be spoken from a place of profound faith–the kind of steadfast faith that many of us, like the disciple Thomas find all too illusive in the absence of any hard evidence.
“Do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here,” Joseph tells his brothers in Genesis, “for God sent me before you to preserve life. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Genesis 45:8)
Even in light of the suffering he has endured, Joseph believed in God’s grace and redemptive power. He believed in God’s purposeful presence in his life. And most astonishingly, the struggles he has lived through have increased his faith more than his doubts.