His Word ... a prophetic perspective



Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama

•The President’s Inaugural Address

•Inaugural Invocation Delivered By Myrlie Evers-Williams

•Inaugural Benediction Delivered By Rev. Dr. Luis León

•Inaugural Prayer Service Sermon By Rev. Adam Hamilton At 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 57th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States
January 21, 2013

        Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
        Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
        “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
        Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
        For more than two hundred years, we have.
        Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
        Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
        Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
        Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
        Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
        But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
        This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.
        For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
        We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
        We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
        We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
        We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
        We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice — not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
        We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
        It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
        That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.
        For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
        My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction — and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
        They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
        You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
        You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
        Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
        Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Inaugural Invocation Delivered By
Myrlie Evers-Williams,
Widow Of Slain Civil Rights Leader Medgar Evers
At The 57th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States

        America, we are here, our nation’s Capitol on this January the 21st 2013, the inauguration of our 45th [note: should be 44th] president Barack Obama. We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America. We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind, allows us to be. This is the promise of America.
        As we sing the words of belief, “this is my country,” let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all Your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation. One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised votes to today’s expression of a more perfect union. We ask, too, Almighty, that where our paths seem blanketed by thorns of oppression and riddled by pangs of despair we ask for Your guidance toward the light of deliverance. And that the vision of those that came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize that their visions still inspire us.
        They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye but all around us thankful that their living was not in vain. For every mountain You gave us the strength to climb. Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world. We now stand beneath the shadow nation’s Capitol whose golden dome reflects the unity and democracy of one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Approximately four miles from where we are assembled the hallowed remains of men and women rest in Arlington Cemetery. They who believed, fought and died for this country. May their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this nation, and in so doing we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom. We ask that You grant our president the will to act courageously but cautiously when confronted with danger and to act prudently but deliberately when challenged by adversity. Please continue to bless his efforts to lead by example in consideration and favor of the diversity of our people.
        Bless our families all across this nation.
        We thank You for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead.
        We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray, ‘God make me a blessing.’ Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old.

        In Jesus’ name and the name of all who are holy and right we pray. Amen.

Inaugural Benediction Delivered By
Rev. Dr. Luis León
Rector Of St. John’s Episcopal Church On Lafayette Square
At The 57th Inauguration Of
The President Of The United States

        Gracious and eternal God, as we conclude the second inauguration of President Obama, we ask for Your blessings as we seek to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, citizens of a beloved community, loving You and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
        We pray that You will bless us with Your continued presence because without it, hatred and arrogance will infect our hearts. But with Your blessing we know that we can break down the walls that separate us. We pray for Your blessing today because without it, distrust, prejudice and rancor will rule our hearts. But with the blessing of Your presence, we know that we can renew the ties of mutual regard which can best form our civic life.
        We pray for Your blessing because without it suspicion, despair, and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life. But with Your blessing, we can see each other created in Your image, a unit of God’s grace, unprecedented, irrepeatable and irreplaceable.
        We pray for Your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of Your blessing we will see that we are created in Your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor.
        We pray for Your blessing because without it, we will only see scarcity in the midst of abundance. But with Your blessing we will recognize the abundance of the gifts of this good land with which You have endowed this nation.
        We pray for Your blessing. Bless all of us, privileged to be citizens and residents of this nation, with a spirit of gratitude and humility that we may become a blessing among the nations of this world. We pray that You will shower with Your life-giving Spirit, the elected leaders of this land, especially Barack our president and Joe our vice president. Fill them with a love of truth and righteousness, that they may serve this nation ably and be glad to do Your will. Endow their hearts with wisdom and forbearance, so that peace may prevail with righteousness, justice with order, so that men and women throughout this nation can find with one another the fulfillment of our humanity.
        We pray that the president, vice president and all in political authority will remember the words of the prophet Micah, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and always walk humbly with God?”
        Señor Presidente, señor Vicepresidente, que Dios bendiga todos sus días. Todo esto lo ruego, en el más santo nombre. Amén.
        Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, may God bless you all your days. All this we pray, in Your most holy name. Amen.

The Fifty-Seventh Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service
Sermon Delivered By The Rev. Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor
At United Methodist Church Of The Resurrection In Leawood, Kansas
Washington National Cathedral
January 22nd, 2013

Sermon Entitled: Compassion, Vision and Perseverance: Lessons from Moses by Rev. Adam Hamilton is below

(in order of participation)
The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde
Episcopal Diocese of Washington

The Very Reverend Gary Hall
Washington National Cathedral

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

The Reverend Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
National African American Clergy Network

The Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
Executive Vice President
Rabbinical Assembly

The Reverend Dr. Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Kathryn Lohre
National Council of Churches

Imam Mohamed Magid
Islamic Society of North America

His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington
District of Columbia

Sapreet Kaur
National Executive Director
The Sikh Coalition

The Reverend Charles Jenkins II
Senior Pastor
Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Stephen F. Schneck
Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
Catholic University of America

The Reverend Gabriel Salguero
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Rabbi Sharon Brous
Founding Rabbi
IKAR Jewish Community

The Reverend Dr. Serene Jones
President of the Faculty
Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York

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

The Reverend Adam Hamilton
Senior Pastor
United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas

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

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

Laila Muhammad
Founder and Executive Director
Ash-Shamsiyyah/The Umbrella Family Service, Chicago, Illinois

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Union for Reform Judaism, New York, New York

The Reverend Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock
Senior Pastor
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Compassion, Vision and Perseverance: Lessons from Moses
Rev. Adam Hamilton
National Prayer Service; January 22, 2013

        Mr. President, Madam First Lady, Vice President and Dr. Biden, honored guests, leaders in government, the business community and the religious community.
        It’s a privilege to be with you today especially on this, the occasion of the second inauguration.
        Over the last two weeks, I’ve been praying a lot. “God, what would you have me to say to these remarkable people?” And the first thing I felt God wanted me to say to you was simply, thank you. Thank you. Friend of mine once told me, there are three reasons people seek public office. The first, they want all the power and they want to feel important. There’s a second group – those folks are just a little off in the head. There’s a third group, they really want to make a difference, they really want to change the world for the better. I believe that represents you and all the people in your administration and the leadership of our country.
        We Americans say it seldom – but we should say it far more often. Thank you, for giving yourselves, for sacrificing, for living in glass houses, for accepting the constant barrage of criticism with very little praise, for being willing to risk everything in order to serve this country. Thank you. Thank you.
        This month marks the 150th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation. Abe Lincon is known as the great emancipator – but as I was thinking about scriptures to reflect upon I thought of the biblical emancipation story, and the great emancipator there was a man named Moses.
        As we reflect on Moses’ life I’d like to lift up three ideas from his life, from his journey and leadership that might speak to all of us today as leaders in our country, and I hope in some way to speak in particular to those of you who are in the highest authority in our land.
        I begin first with the heart and character of Moses. There are two things we learn about Moses’ heart and character in the Scriptures. Numbers tells us that the man Moses was a humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. God chooses and uses those who humble themselves before Him and before others. Young Mary, the mother of Jesus in her Magnificat says that God “scatters the proud and the thoughts of their hearts but lifts up the lowly.” Jesus teaches the same thing. When He turns to his disciples, who were arguing on the night before he would be crucified, about which one was the greatest. And He says to them, “You don’t understand, that’s how the kings of the world operate but that’s not how you operate.” He said, “The first among you, the one who would be great, will be your servant.” Then he washed his disciples’ feet.
        Now, Moses’ humility was coupled with a deep compassion and concern for the marginalized and the oppressed. He was raised in Pharaoh’s palace, he had everything a man could possibly want, but when he saw the plight of the Hebrew slaves, he could not remain in silence and he could not remain in the palace. Ultimately, he risked his life to stand before Pharaoh and to demand that Pharaoh release the slaves. And he led them into the wilderness towards the Promised Land.
        This is what God looks for in the Scriptures from every king, every rabbi, every leader. He looks for those who will take seriously the call to justice, to do kindness, to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. James says it this way, “True religion and undefiled before God is to care for the widows and the orphans. And Jesus at the Last Judgment it all comes down to this – “How did you respond to the needs of the least of these?” This is America at her best. At our best, we’re a humble people. And we remember the call to have compassion for the least of these.
        Which is why Emma Lazarus’ magnificent poem is etched inside the Statue of Liberty, with these words:

        Humility and courageous compassion for the marginalized and oppressed are central to the heart and character of Moses and are meant to be central to the heart and character of this nation.
        The second thing we learn from Moses is the importance of having a vision. Professor John Kotter, now retired from Harvard Business School, noted that two of the most important tasks of any leader are to cast a compelling vision for the future and then to motivate and inspire people to pursue it. That vision has to be a clear and compelling picture of where we want to go, our preferred picture of the future. Moses led the salves out of Egypt, but that was not enough. Very quickly they grumbled and began to go back to Egypt where there were leeks and cucumbers to eat. It was at least safe there; the wilderness was hard. Moses had to constantly remind them of the vision. He said, “We’re marching to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, where we can worship freely, where we can love, where we can practice justice, where we can live in harmony.”
        A compelling vision unifies us. It excites us, it leads people to a willingness to sacrifice, and imbues them with a sense of purpose. Kotter suggested that the average American company struggled with a lack of vision, a compelling vision at least. As a pastor, I can tell you the same is true of local churches. Congregations across the country that don’t remember their purpose, and they no longer see a compelling vision for the future. And sadly this feels true of America today. With our two-party system, vision-casting often feels like mere political rhetoric. And we typically are offered two different visions, competing with one another, not one unifying vision.
        To many Americans, we feel like a house divided that cannot stand. We find ourselves desperately longing to find common ground. To find a common vision, to be one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for everyone. In this city, and in this room, are the people who can help. This may be, this bringing together of our country, a more important issue than anything else we face: because until we resolve our issues here or at least find some unifying vision that brings us together, we’re going to find it very very difficult to solve any other problems we’re facing – debt ceilings, issues of healthcare.
        Proverbs notes this: without a vision, the people perish. They don’t literally perish. They just bicker and fight and become so polarized they can’t get anything done.
        We’re in need of a new common national vision. Not one that is solely Democratic or solely Republican. We need one or two goals or dreams that Americans on both sides of the aisle can come together and say, “Yes, that’s what it means to be American.” That’s where we need to go.
        God has given you a unique gift, Mr. President. Unlike any other President we’ve ever had, you have the ability to cast a vision and inspire people. You should’ve been a preacher.
        God actually has you exactly where God wants you. and yesterday you began to lay out a vision for us in your inaugural address that was very powerful and compelling. Somewhere we’ve gotta find and forge one or two dreams or visions that people on the right and the left, the Republicans and Democrats, can come together and say, “Yes, we can stack hands on this.” Even just one or two. And you pointed toward that, you hinted towards that yesterday.
        We have to remember our picture of the Promised Land. And when we do that anything is possible in America.
        For one small example of the power of vision from the church that I serve in Kansas City – One of our visions at the church is to address the root causes of poverty in Kansas City so that our city might look more like the kingdom of God that Jesus preached about. And when we began to ask, “How do you address the root causes of poverty?” what we learned that everyone agrees upon is early childhood education. And so we had a vision that we would work, together with the public schools in Kansas City, to find a way to give the 2,284 children in six elementary schools where 90% of those children are on the free or reduced lunch program a chance for a better future. We partnered with these schools; we came and we said, “We don’t have the answers, we just offer ourselves as servants. What do you need? How can we help?”
        This last year, 2,500 of our members volunteered at those schools. We built playgrounds at all six of those schools where they didn’t have playgrounds before. We repainted the insides of the schools where they didn’t have money to fix the schools. Our members volunteered as tutors to read to the children. We purchased 20,000 books and gave them to the children so that they might read at home. When we found out that 1,400 children were coming to school hungry on Monday, because they didn’t have the reduced lunch program at home over the weekend, we started providing backpacks for children with nutritious snacks every Friday, 1,400 of them, that our members pack and then deliver, so the children come back to school Monday fed. When we learned that 300 children sleep on the floor at home or on the couch in their homes, we provided 300 beds. We delivered them, we provided sheets and blankets and pajamas for these children.
        On Christmas eve, the biggest night of the year at our church, we voted a number of years ago to give away the entire Christmas eve offering to projects benefiting children and poverty. And we challenged our members – would you consider giving an amount equal to what you spend on your own children at Christmas in this offering? We give half to the projects benefiting a thousand orphans in Malawi, and half of it to the projects benefiting the 2,284 children in Kansas City. And on Christmas eve, our folks in one evening gave $1.235 million to these projects.
        I mention that not to brag, though I’m very proud of our congregation. But to say that’s one congregation with one vision and that unifies us as a church. We’re Democrats and Republicans in our congregation, we’re left and right, conservative and liberal, but somehow these kinds of visions pull us together into the future. They excite and they help change the world.
        The last word I’d mention regarding Moses is, despite great opposition to his leadership, and despite feeling discouraged many times, he never gave up. To be a leader is to invite criticism. If you’re a Sunday School teacher, they’ll criticize you. If you’re a supervisor at McDonald’s, they’ll criticize you. If you’re a preacher, they’ll criticize you. And I don’t know how you’re still standing.
        It was not long after Moses began to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt that they began to grumble against his leadership. Four years in, they disliked his policies so much, a number tried to vote him out of office. It was a close vote but somehow he managed to keep his job. In Numbers 11, we read that he went out into the wilderness – it’s a wonderful and endearing story of Moses – and he lifts up his hands and he prays, “God, just kill me now. I don’t want to do this anymore. It is too hard.” But this was one time that God didn’t answer Moses’ prayer. Instead he said, in essence, “Get back to work. I need you.”
        I’m reminded of the night in late January 1957 when Dr. Martin Luther King received a threatening phone call. His children and his wife were asleep. This wasn’t his first threatening phone call. Since the Montgomery boycott, there had been many. But on this night, as his children and wife lay sleeping – he felt he couldn’t go on. He began to think of a way, gracefully, to bow out of leadership of the movement. At midnight, he bowed over the kitchen table, and he began to pray, “I’m afraid, Lord. The people are looking to me for leadership, if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too, will falter. I’m at the end of my powers, God. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.” And then he describes something interesting that happened next. He said, “I experienced the presence of the divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying, “Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for truth. And God will be at your side forever.””
        Imagine how the world would be different today if Dr. King had bowed out of leadership because it got just too hard. Had he not stopped to pray that night, to seek God and God’s reassurance?
        The theme of this year’s inauguration was, “Faith in the future of America.” But in this service we come together to acknowledge that, in order for America to have a future, we will first need to find a deep and abiding faith in God. It is this faith that calls and compels us to humility and compassion and concern for the nobodies. It is this faith that helps us discover the kinds of visions that are worthy of our great nation and worthy of the sacrifices we can make. It is this faith that sustains us when we feel like giving up, a faith that comes from trusting in the words of Jesus Who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
        I end with a story. During MLK weekend several years ago, I was listening to NPR and they were conducting an interview with Rev. Billy Kyles, who many of you know, was on the balcony with Dr. King when he died on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel when he was assassinated. The interviewer asked Kyles what he’d be preaching on that weekend, and Rev. Kyles told the interviewer a story you’ve undoubtedly heard before but bears repeating today.
        He said, I’ll be telling the old story about Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson, the 19th-century author, once told how, as a boy, he’d been sitting in front of the window at nightfall, watching the lamplighter light the gas street lamps. He would erect a ladder at one post, he would climb up and light the lamp or the torch, then he’d take it down and go the next one and the next one. And his father walked into the room and he said, “Son what are you looking at? What do you see out there that’s so fascinating?”
        And the young Stevenson said, “Daddy, I’m watching that man out there knock holes in the darkness.” There’s a lot of darkness in our world. Lead us to be a compassionate people, to be concerned for the marginalized. Help us re-discover a vision for America that is so compelling it unites us and calls us to realize the full potential of this country, to be a shining city upon a hill. And when you feel your lowest, don’t give up. Wait upon the Lord, he will renew your strength, that you might lead us as a nation to knock holes in the darkness. Amen.