President Obama: Grace Personified

Obama eulogizes Rev
This past Friday afternoon, President Obama flew to Charleston, South Carolina to eulogize the Reverend Clementa Pinckney – the South Carolina state senator and pastor who was one of nine people shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week. The president sounded much more like a preacher than a politician. In eulogizing a man of grace, President Obama himself became grace personified:
“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. 
“What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized – after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.
“You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. And then to lose him at 41 – slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God. 
“Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People of great faith.
“To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life – a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships. 
“There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel – a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. 
“We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas.
“He didn’t know he was being used by God. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group – the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court – in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.
“This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals – the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.
“According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God – as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace. 
“For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now. 
“Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought – the cause of slavery – was wrong. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. 
“But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. 
“By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American – by doing that, we express God’s grace.
“But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. 
“If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace.”
And then, our President began to sing “Amazing Grace.” This president – who must surely rank as one of the most eloquent Presidents in American history – gave to us one of his finest moments. Mr. Obama was uniquely qualified to speak in that place and at that time with unfettered power and purpose. In a proud city which had been grievously harmed, he healed hearts and minds. Rev. Pinckney would have been proud.
Barack Hussein Obama. Grace personified.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *