I am posting below inspiring excerpts from Sermon by Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins at the National Prayer Service for our new leadership in the White House.
Full sermon may be read at:
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...
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.
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."
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?
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.