President Obama hosted a pre-Easter prayer breakfast at the White House this morning with members of his administration and clergymen. Prominent breakfast attendees included Rev. Al Sharpton, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and Rev. Julius Scruggs. White House aides told the press pooler at the breakfast that "heads of major denominations, non-profit leaders and prominent mainline, Evangelical, Orthodox and Catholic leaders from across the spectrum" were all in attendance this morning.
But not all the clergymen came to pray. Some came to deliver a political message.
As the press pooler notes:
One pastor wore a hoodie, the symbol of Trayvon Martin, the young black man shot to death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
The pooler does not note which pastor was wearing the hoodie.
Vice President Joe Biden also delivered a political message this morning, the pooler notes, though his related to taxes:
VP Joe Biden spoke for about 5 minutes. He joked about his "12 years of nuns" in school but said it was worth it. "I'm often characterized as the White House optimist. I like it because it makes me seem younger than I am," he said, adding he's older than everyone there.
Biden spoke of the need for sacrifice - "equal sacrifice" - a nod to Obama tax policy he ended with the words, "Keep the faith," and then visited tables.
As for the president himself, he was practically non-political this morning. "[Easter is] 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," Obama said.
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.”