Did Andy Stanley Really Mean Obama Is 'Pastor in Chief'?
Then the very next thing John says is that "Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist." So I talked through the narrative of Jesus washing their feet and then telling his disciples, "This is what you're supposed to do for each other." And I noted how he just took away their excuses. "If I did it for you, you have no excuse not to do it for each other."
I talked about the tension that was in the room between the disciples, because they'd just been arguing about who's going to be the greatest. Jesus removed their excuses. So those of us who follow Jesus, this is the example: You leverage your power for the sake of other people in the room.
Then I told the President at the very end, "Mr. President, you have a very big room." And he smiled. I said, "It's as big as the nation. It's as big as our world. And my prayer for you is that you continue to leverage this stewardship of power for the sake of our nation and the world."
That's good. That'll preach.
Years ago, I read Joseph Ellis's book Founding Brothers. He says that in learning that Washington intended to reject the mantle of emperor, King George III allegedly observed that if Washington did that, he would be the greatest man in the world. So King George recognized that anyone that would walk away from that much power—that's a sign of greatness. I love that little historical insight, and it seemed to fit the occasion.
In the sermon, you referred to the President as "Pastor in Chief." That phrase has caused a great deal of anxiety among people.
First, I understand the anxiety. If I had read that in isolation, it would give me concern as well. So I don't fault anyone. Apparently there was one pool reporter in the room, because they didn't allow any media. In fact, they didn't even announce who was speaking. This was as private as they could make a ceremony for the President private. The pool reporter wrote his or her story and mentioned that I said that, which I did. But of course, he or she didn't have time to give the entire context. So I don't fault anyone for the reporting or the confusion around that. But here's what happened.
In mid-December, the President went to Newtown [Connecticut], to the high school, and gave this address on television. I knew the President got there early. Each of the families who lost a child was taken to separate a classroom. So this would be 20-something classrooms. In the classrooms were the parents, siblings, in some cases grandparents. And the President got there early enough and went to every single classroom, and spent time with every single family individually.
It's still emotional for me to think about. As a pastor, I've walked into homes where people have lost children, teenagers. The grief and emotional toll it takes on a pastor to sit with a family, to listen, to be eye to eye—it's excruciating. The President had done that with every single one of those families before he walked into that auditorium to give what I thought was an incredibly appropriate and powerful message.