Tuesday, January 20, 2009
purpose driven prayer: rick warren at the inauguration
Huddling around an office computer while it streamed the inauguration over the web was probably not the ideal way to witness history. My 17” office computer screen was a long way from the grand stage of Washington DC. Yet, we were still awed by what we saw, even if it was scaled down a few hundred times.
There is no doubt that this day meant so much to this country. To go from Jim Crow to Jackie Robinson to Barack Obama in 50 years is amazing for any civilization. But I’m not sure we always grasp the events that happen before our eyes that will someday be essay topics for our children’s sophomore history class. Still, I tried to hang on each visual, each moment so that I could better explain it to my children when they ask years from now, “where were you when Obama was sworn into office?”
Oddly enough, I was encouraged just as much by a man who will probably be left out of this chapter in history. Years from now, his words will be forgotten even if he shared the same stage, the same microphone even, as the “most powerful man on the planet” this morning. He is just as controversial and some might argue that in some circles he is just as influential as the man sworn into office today. His task and words were timely and well said. And I appreciate Rick Warren for it.
A Christian, specifically one as visible as Warren, always walks a tough line when balancing faith and politics. This was a lesson I learned this past fall as I tried to be “Eric: Obama campaign community leader” and “Eric: minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. There is a big difference between being a politician and a prophet. I constantly asked if it was possible to honor God and Caesar?
Admittedly, that question is loaded. In my humble opinion, comparing 1st century Roman society to American politics is easily done but not always spot on. Yes, any form of eternal trust in anything other than Christ is idolatry. The government will never be able to fix all of the problems of the world.
Yes, I fully recognize that this country is not eternal and that the set up in Washington this morning was nothing compared to a wedding feast that will take place sometime in the future. Yes, I think that peace in the inner city of Chicago and in the war-torn streets of Baghdad will not be realized until Christ’s return. However, I also believe that Christ desires for Christians to be active in bringing His kingdom to the forefront of the planet, to raise His banner and mission high in any circle that gives us a platform and a microphone. It just so happens that we live in a country that values free speech. It just so happens that Rick Warren had a microphone today.
You can criticize him all you want. Warren seems to be in a spot where he is easy to hate on both sides of the political fence. We like our political “reverends” a certain way after all. If you aren’t as conservative as Dobson or as liberal as Jackson you can find yourself alienated pretty quickly. But what Warren did today, with the world watching, was deliver a simple and powerful sermon in front of the most powerful people on the planet. Don’t get ahead of me here. I’m not saying we canonize it. But I kind of think this echoed Peter in Jerusalem and looked a lot like Paul in Rome. The difference is, Warren was never in fear of his life. That is what makes comparing Rome to America difficult. This was a sermon (well, okay, it was really a prayer but you know what I’m saying) that was preached freely.
Maybe you were there. Maybe you were watching it on TV or on your computer. Regardless, if you are a Christian parent raising Christian children, I hope that you store Warren’s words (see below) away for that history test in the future. That way, when your children ask about the day the 44th president was sworn into office, you can point them to the King of Kings instead.
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, O 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 44th 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 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, O God, to remember that we are Americans—united not by race or religion or 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--and 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 [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus—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.