Commander-in-Chief interprets Easter
President Barack Obama delivers remarks before the Easter Prayer Breakfast, in the East Room of the White House, April 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
For me as a Canadian, it is odd to hear a political figure speak intimately about faith. It underscores the fundamental role of Christianity in the U.S. narrative.
It is also odd to hear the U.S. Commander-in-Chief interpret the core of the Gospel. Indeed, it is a gray world.
And as a writer, I’m certainly interested in how some of the most gifted speech writers around meld Christianity and the White House.
Below are Obama’s comments to 150 church leaders at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast.
See clips of the speech, and a partial list of attendees (including one in a hoodie) on the Sojourners blog.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 4, 2012
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT EASTER PRAYER BREAKFAST
9:43 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. . . .
Now, I have to be careful, I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon. It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals. (Laughter.) But in a few short days, all of us will experience the wonder of Easter morning. And we will know, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus…and Him crucified.”
It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the triumph of the resurrection, and to give thanks for the all-important gift of grace. And for me, and I’m sure for some of you, it’s also a chance to remember the tremendous sacrifice that led up to that day, and all that Christ endured — not just as a Son of God, but as a human being.
For like us, Jesus knew doubt. Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened — that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”
So the struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us. It helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face. It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with. And it gives us courage and it gives us hope.
We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph. Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” I heard an amen. (Laughter.) Let me repeat. “In this world, you will have trouble.”
THE PRESIDENT: “But take heart!” (Laughter.) “I have overcome the world.” (Applause.) We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live. And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.
And with that, I’d like to invite my good friend, Dr. Cynthia Hale, to deliver our opening prayer. Dr. Hale. (Applause.)END