I just listened to the President speaking at the memorial service in Newtown.
I heard a better sermon tonight than I usually hear on a Sunday morning (no offense, Pastor).
I remember being highly critical of Bill Clinton when he quoted Scripture. One time he said "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard... what WE can do." No, sorry. That's not how to do it.
But this President knows Scripture. I mean, he knows what it means, and how to let it speak. I don't have a transcript, or a link to video, but DO find it and read or listen.
I don't know in detail how he knows Scripture so well. He certainly didn't grow up in church, which is where many of us get our bone-deep familiarity with where to look for what we need to find there. He was not part of Pastor Wright's church for that many years, I think? We know that he read deeply from theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and his theology informs the President's view of the world. But it is obvious that this President has spent his time in the Bible.
Anyhow, he read from 2 Cor 4:
16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.I caught my breath. This passage is very special to me.
My father, who is still living at the age of 97, served in both the European and Pacific theaters in WWII. When we were breaking up my parents' household four years ago as they transitioned to assisted living, I came across a pocket New Testament, water-stained, that was issued in 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. In it there was one passage, and only one -- the verses the President quoted tonight, and a few others nearby -- that my father had underlined in red pencil. The water stains came from a typhoon he endured along with his platoon, 40 men in an 8 man tent, in Okinawa.
And now I was hearing them once again, as I have so many times in church, from our President. And they fit the moment precisely.
God bless President Barack Obama.