Rev. Lowery said, "Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia"
In 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King eulogized these four young girls as angels after they died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, the iconic civil rights era Baptist preacher and a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, gave a sobering benediction fitting for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. He started by quoting the lyrics of James Weldon Johnson, who wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," in 1901 and often called the Negro National Anthem.
Rev. Lowery is known as one who does not avoid controversy. He is blunt, sometimes to a fault, and he proved that yesterday when he spoke of the nation's worst ills.
"And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and peace.
Rev. Lowery, who spoke in the tradition of the great black preachers of the 20th century, turned his attention to President President:
"We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.
He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.
Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other."
A good preacher always tries to invoke God's intervention to bring out our better selves, and Rev. Lowery did so when he said,
"And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia."
Each time their names were called, the sweet little girls looked up as though surprised.
The moral arc of this country was at its highest yesterday when two little black girls watched their father being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. That moral arc was at its lowest when the word "angelic" was used when Rev. Martin Luther King gave the "Eulogy for martyred children" at the funeral of the four little girls who were murdered by white racists in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in September, 1963, a mere two weeks following the March on Washington. Then, we who attended their funeral heard King say,
"As I stand over the remains of these beautiful, darling girls, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare, Good night, sweet princesses. Good night, those who symbolize a new day. And may the flight of angels take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you."
In forty-five years, our black children have gone from being bombed to death to being the daughters of a president.
Lowery, whose raspy voice reminds us of aged fine wine, was at his best when he raised us to our highest heights in his closing:
"We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen."
A great closing for a beautiful day.