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His Word ... a prophetic perspective



Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama

Click here for information on the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama which includes the President’s Inaugural Address, the Inaugural Invocation delivered by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the Inaugural Benediction delivered by Rev. Luis León and the sermon by Rev. Adam Hamilton at the Inaugural Prayer Service in the Washington National Cathedral.


Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama

•The President’s Inaugural Address

•Opening Inaugural Invocation, January 18, 2009, At The Lincoln Memorial Delivered By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

•Inaugural Invocation Delivered By Reverend Rick Warren

•Inaugural Benediction Delivered By Reverend Joseph E. Lowery

•Inaugural Prayer Service Sermon By Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins At Washington National Cathedral


Inauguration of President George W. Bush

•The President’s Inaugural Address

•Inaugural Invocation Delivered By The Rev. Dr. Luis León

•Inaugural Benediction Delivered By The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell

•Inaugural Prayer Service Washington National Cathedral


Inauguration of President George W. Bush

•Inaugural Invocation by the Rev. Franklin Graham, and Benediction by the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell

•Inaugural Prayer Service, Franklin Graham’s Sermon

Inaugural Address Delivered By
President Barack H. Obama
At The 56th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States
January 20, 2009

        My fellow citizens:
        I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
        Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
        So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
        That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
        These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land—a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
        Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.
        They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America—they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
        On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
        We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
        In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
        For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
        For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
        For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
        This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions—that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
        For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act—not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
        Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions—who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
        What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them—that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works—whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account—to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day—because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
        Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control—and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart—not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
        As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
        Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
        We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort—even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
        For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
        To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
        To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West—know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
        To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
        As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
        We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment—a moment that will define a generation—it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
        For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
        Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
        This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
        This is the source of our confidence—the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
        This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed—why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
        So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
        “Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”
        America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Opening Inaugural Invocation
A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural Event For The 56th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

        Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

        O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...
         Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
         Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
         Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
         Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
         Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
         Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
         Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
        And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
         Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
         Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
         Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
         Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
         Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
         Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
         And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

Copyright 2004-2006 by The Diocese of New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church

Inaugural Invocation Delivered By
Reverend Rick Warren,
Pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif.
At The 56th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States

        Almighty God, Our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of You alone. It all comes from You, it all belongs to You, it all exists for Your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’ and You are the compassionate and merciful one and You are loving to everyone You have made.
        Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 43rd time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the united states. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a a son of an African Immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.
        Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet and every one of our freely elected leaders.
        Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans. United not by race or religion or by blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.
        When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.
        Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations, all people will stand accountable before You. We now commit our new president and his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
        I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (Spanish pronunciation)—who taught us to pray:
        Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Inaugural Benediction Delivered By
Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, Minister at United Methodist Church and Former President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
At The 56th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States

        God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.
        We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
        For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
        We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
        And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
        And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
        Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.
        We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
        Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
        Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — when yellow will be mellow — when the red man can get ahead, man — and when white will embrace what is right.
        Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

The Fifty-Sixth Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service
Washington National Cathedral
January 21st, 2009

Sermon Entitled: Harmonies of Liberty by Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins is below

(In Order of Participation)

The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III
Dean of Washington National Cathedral
Washington, District of Columbia

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington
Washington, District of Columbia

The Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, Ohio

The Reverend Dr. Cynthia L. Hale
Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Decatur, Georgia

The Reverend Andy Stanley
Founding Pastor, North Point Community Church
Alpharetta, Georgia

Rabbi David N. Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Washington, District of Columbia

Most Reverend Francisco González, S.F.
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Washington, District of Columbia

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
Primate of The Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of The Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in The United States and Canada

Dr. Ingrid Mattson
President, Islamic Society of North America and Director of Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein
Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun
New York, New York

The Reverend Jim Wallis
President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners
Washington, District of Columbia

Dr. Uma Mysorekar
Hindu Temple Society of North America
Queens, New York

The Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook
Senior Pastor, Believers Christian Fellowship Church
New York, New York

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York, New York

The Reverend Canon Carol L. Wade
Washington National Cathedral, Washington, District of Columbia

The Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell
Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church
Houston, Texas

Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, S.T.D.
Archibishop of Washington
Washington, District of Columbia

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

The Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Sermon: Harmonies of Liberty
Isaiah 58:6-12, Mt 22:6-40
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
National Prayer Service; January 21, 2009

        Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, and your families, what an inaugural celebration you have hosted! Train ride, opening concert, service to neighbor, dancing till dawn...
        And yesterday... With your inauguration, Mr. President, the flame of America’s promise burns just a little brighter for every child of this land!
        There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work. As we do, it is good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath. It is good that we center for a moment.
        What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.
        Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.
        We will follow your lead.
        There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

        One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.
        “There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.
        “One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear...
        “The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love...”
        The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
        His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

        There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center—crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.
        We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.
        We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.
        This is not a new word for a pastor to bring at such a moment. In the later chapters of Isaiah, in the 500’s BCE, the prophet speaks to the people. Back in the capital city after long years of exile, their joy should be great, but things aren’t working out just right. Their homecoming is more complicated than expected. Not everyone is watching their parade or dancing all night at their arrival.
        They turn to God, “What’s going on here? We pray and we fast, but you do not bless us. We’re confused.”
        Through the prophet, God answers, what fast? You fast only to quarrel and fight and strike with the fist...
        Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice... to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house ...? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly...
        At our time of new beginning, focused on renewing America’s promise—yet at a time of great crisis—which fast do we choose? Which “wolf” do we feed? What of America’s promise do we honor?
        Recently Muslim scholars from around the world released a document, known as “A Common Word Between Us.” It proposes a common basis for building a world at peace. That common basis? Love of God and love of neighbor! What we just read in the Gospel of Matthew!
        So how do we go about loving God? Well, according to Isaiah, summed up by Jesus, affirmed by a worldwide community of Muslim scholars and many others, it is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “people can be so poor that the only way they see God is in a piece of bread.”
        In the days immediately before us, there will be much to draw us away from the grand work of loving God and the hard work of loving neighbor. In crisis times, a basic instinct seeks to take us over—a fight/flight instinct that leans us toward the fearful wolf, orients us toward the self-interested fast...
        In international hard times, our instinct is to fight—to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other—and why not? They just might be out to get us. We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect. Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President—Tag! You’re it!
        But on the way to those tough decisions, which American promises will frame those decisions? Will you continue to reason from your ethical center, from the bedrock values of our best shared hopes? Which wolf will you feed?
        In financial hard times, our instinct is flight—to hunker down, to turn inward, to hoard what little we can get our hands on, to be fearful of others who may take the resources we need. In hard financial times, which fast do we choose? The fast that placates our hunkered-down soul—or the fast that reaches out to our sister and our brother?
        In times, such as these, we the people need you, the leaders of this nation, to be guided by the counsel that Isaiah gave so long ago, to work for the common good, for the public happiness, the well-being of the nation and the world, knowing that our individual wellbeing depends upon a world in which liberty and justice prevail.
        This is the biblical way. It is also the American way—to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all. This is the center we can find again whenever we are pulled at and pawed at by the vengeful wolf, when we are tempted by the self-interested fast.
        America’s true character, the source of our national wisdom and strength, is rooted in a generous and hopeful spirit.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,...
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,1

        Emma Lazarus’ poetry is spelled out further by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,: “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy... I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made.”2
        You yourself, Mr. President, have already added to this call, “If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child... . It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper—that makes this country work.”
        It is right that college classes on political oratory already study your words. You, as our president, will set the tone for us. You will help us as a nation choose again and again which wolf to feed, which fast to choose, to love God by loving our neighbor.
        We will follow your lead—and we will walk with you. And sometimes we will swirl in front of you, pulling you along.
        At times like these—hard times—we find out what we’re made of. Is that blazing torch of liberty just for me? Or do we seek the “harmonies of liberty”, many voices joined together, many hands offering to care for neighbors far and near?
        Though tempted to withdraw the offer, surely Lady Liberty can still raise that golden torch of generosity to the world. Even in these financial hard times, these times of international challenge, the words of Katherine Lee Bates describe a nation with more than enough to share: “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain...”
        A land of abundance guided by a God of abundance, generosity, and hope—This is our heritage. This is America’s promise which we fulfill when we reach out to each other.
        Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbor, including our global neighbor, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope. Even in these tough times, we can feed the good wolf, listen to the better angels of our nature. We can choose the fast of God’s desiring.
        Even now in these hard times let us

Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring,
... with the harmonies of Liberty;

        Even now let us Sing a song full of hope...
        Especially now, from the center of our deepest shared values, let us pray, still in the words of James Weldon Johnson:

Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us... in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,

True to our native land.3

        1. Emma Lazarus
        2. The Words of MLK, Jr., selected by Coretta Scott King, 21
        3. James Weldon Johnson

        Copyright 2008 Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)