Sermons on the inauguration

Inspired by the Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, the Boston Globe invited local clergy to e-mail the texts of inauguration-related sermons and prayers for their Articles of Faith religion blog. Michael Paulson reports on the sermons:

All across the region, ministers and priests, rabbis and imams are looking toward tomorrow’s inauguration with a sense that they are about to witness history, an improbable moment in the American story that requires examination, reflection, and prayer.

Some preachers spoke of their own family’s struggles, or their own histories pushing for civil rights. Many read from the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday the nation celebrates today. The enthusiasm was so high that more than one felt compelled to remind their congregations that Barack Obama is not the messiah.

Read more here.

You can find all of the submissions here.

The Reverend Anne B. Bonnyman, rector of Trinity Church in the City of Boston, an Episcopal parish in Copley Square:

“I have been asked a big question. The question came in the form of an invitation and assignment. My friend, the Rev. Hurman Hamilton called from Roxbury Presbyterian Church last week. He invited me to speak at a worship service tonight, sponsored by the Black Ministerial Alliance. “Tell us, Anne” he said, “Tell us how the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the pending inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama have affected you personally.” I am humbled and honored by this invitation, and have been blessed as I live with the question. I share it with you now in hopes that we all can reflect personally on this historic time in our public life.

I also confess to you that it is much easier to engage in public conversation than private introspection. I mean that it’s easier to follow the news and discuss my hopes for public policy, than it is to explain why my eyes fill with tears when I think of Tuesday’s inauguration. How do the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the inauguration of President-Elect Obama affect me? How does it affect all of us personally?

The phrase that has swirled in my head all week is “the beginning of healing.” It keeps popping up in my mind, and I don’t mean ordinary healing of a superficial cut. I mean healing of cosmic proportions: healing of old, deep wounds between human beings. Because I am a visual thinker, the image of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa comes to me. Years ago I flew over this amazing gap in the earth’s surface. It was caused by prehistoric shifting of tectonic plates that left a vivid gash in the land. It reminds me of how racism has divided the human community in North America for over 400 hundred years

My awareness of racism is among my very first memories, as far back as flashes of being pushed in a stroller. I remember there was a big difference in how people lived and were treated, depending upon the color of their skin. Adults talked to African Americans differently and they talked about them differently, too. There were opposing rules about respect and fairness for the different races, which was very confusing. There were also separate water fountains which seemed downright stupid to a child. Every time I asked “why?” fear entered the room like a noxious gas. “It’s terrible but it’s the way things are. We cannot change it.” And so I grew up, as many of us grew up, with conflicting rules and realities based on solely on race. I have also enjoyed privileges based solely on race. It is a pathological dynamic, like a disease of the spirit.

In his March speech on race, Barack Obama spoke of “the original sin of racism.” This is our language in the Church. We know that original sin is the deep flaw in humanity that drives us and divides us from God and one another. It’s what we mean when we say that we are created in God’s image but fall short of God’s reality. In God there is perfect union. In us there is something else that insists upon division, even to the point of cruelty.

It’s enough to drive you to your knees to pray for deliverance.

Read the rest here.

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