Lord, today we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your goodness. We thank you that you have blessed us with a day filled with such meaning and mystery. We thank you today that your child John Lewis has lived to see the fulfillment of his dreams and to be honored by that child who is that fulfillment. As John himself has said, “Barack is what comes at the end of the bridge in Selma.” And so we thank you first for those who went across that bridge, Lord. For those like John who suffered and bled and in some cases died going across that bridge. We rejoice that today the nation that had sent its dogs upon John Lewis, the nation that had sent its hoses upon John Lewis, the nation that sent its FBI to deter and defeat John Lewis, we thank you Lord that today that nation has seen fit to honor John Lewis, to give unto him an earthly reward in advance of his heavenly reward. We thank you Lord that he did not just get any old medal, but that he got the Medal of Freedom, Lord. Never has that Medal fallen on one for whom freedom was so costly. Never has that Medal graced the neck of one more beaten and bloodied for freedom. And so we thank you Lord for John’s witness. We bear witness today to his witness and we say it is good. We say thank you Jesus for this servant of your cross. We say thank you Jesus for this bearer of your wounds. Don’t let us forget what he did for us. Don’t let us forget what so many did for us to make us a nation that could truly be a city on a hill again. To make us a nation that could call on all the talents of all its people so that at this moment we could have a leader like Barack Obama. Thank you for bringing him to this point in his life. Thank you for giving him the opportunity to honor his dear friend and mentor John Lewis. Fill him anew with your spirit. Renew in him a desire for justice that burned in the prophets of old and burned in the prophets of the movement that opened the door for him. Humble him Lord, keep him dependent on your strength. Protect him from temptation and from discouragement and help his family. And help us all, Lord, to live up to the glories of this nation. Help us all to cherish our freedoms, to protect our freedoms, to expand our freedoms and to rightly use our freedoms.
From Lewis’ website comes this moving statement:
“I accept this great honor on behalf of the countless individuals who decided to stand up, speak up, and speak out, for those who stood in unmovable lines trying to register to vote all across the South, for all of the Freedom Riders who were beaten and jailed, for all the participants of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement who helped transform America forever, and those who could not be here today.
“For me this is a very long journey that began in a rural Alabama sharecropping town so remote, and so distant from the realms of power. To have grown up the way I did, to attend segregated schools in a one-room schoolhouse and end up standing before the President today is a testament to the capacity of this nation to empower even the least among us to play a fundamental role in this country’s evolution. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way—my two loving and devoted parents, my sisters and brothers, my colleagues and friends and my son John Miles, with special appreciation to my wife, Lillian, for her decades of support and sustenance. Last but not least I will be eternally grateful to Martin Luther King Jr. who showed me how to speak truth to power and to Rev. Jim Lawson for imbuing me with the discipline and philosophy of non-violent action that changed my life forever.”