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, oh God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day.
Rev. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction was the unexpected highlight for me as I watched the inauguration. And when I thought my tears had run dry, I was proven wrong as I felt the stirrings of my own lost faith come rushing into my heart.
Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
When then President-Elect Obama announced that Rick Warren would be giving the invocation at the inauguration, the blogosphere and news media erupted with the battle over LGBT rights and the meaning behind having Warren, a known bigot, be part of this historic moment. And in the process of this outrage, Rev. Lowery’s place in this event got pushed to the background.
Rev. Lowery is a stalwart of the Civil Rights Movement. In 2006, at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, Dr. Lowery received a standing ovation when he remarked before four U.S. Presidents in attendance:
AT THE FUNERAL: We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor!
Unlike Warren, Rev. Lowery is a supporter of LGBT rights.
For we know that, Lord, you are 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, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
He supports “civil unions” for gay couples because he sees their struggle against discrimination as one that blacks have endured as well. And what’s more, he understands that he has “culture shock” when he hears the term “gay marriage”. Is that offensive to me? Yes. Am I glad that he recognizes that it is his personal hang up? YES. His recognition is the first step in bringing about real change. Warren is not even close. And honestly, the label “marriage” is not important to me, though I understand it to be important to others.
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.
Though I could understand the outrage, despite not sharing in it, of having Warren give the invocation, I had faith in Obama to hold true to what he has put forth as President and over his recent political career and beyond.
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.
Obama did not fail me on January 20, 2008. Warren’s speech failed on many levels for me, not the least of these pointing out what a hypocrite he is. But, far more importantly, the stirrings of my faith came when Rev. Lowery took the stage and brought to closure the inauguration of our 44th President, while also setting the stage for the faith that Obama brings as our new President.
And as we leave this mountain top, 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.
Our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever. Rev. Lowery’s faith is inclusive, representing all of America, including those of us who do not believe.
Having grown up in South Carolina where strong Southern black churches abound, I have been greatly influenced by the power behind preaching. Listening to Obama at the DNC in 2004 caused tears to stream down my face because he is a talented orator, undoubtedly influenced by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Lowery, and many others whose words easily dance with the soul.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations 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.
I have faith in MY President, and my heart swells to be able to rejoice in feeling that the President of the United States is mine, a leader to be proud of and support with all that I have to give. My faith is not the blind, blank check handed over by the broken and battered religious right. My faith is in those stirring words of Rev. Lowery….
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say Amen!
REV. LOWERY: and Amen!