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National Day of Prayer: Service At Washington's National Cathedral

Aired September 16, 2005 - 11:29   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you back now live to Washington, where the archbishop of New Orleans, Alfred Hughes, is speaking on this National Day of Prayer.

MOST REV. ALFRED HUGHES, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW ORLEANS: They will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The gospel of the Lord.

NGUYEN: That was archbishop of New Orleans, Alfred Hughes speaking there at the National Cathedral in Washington, where they are observing this National Day of Prayer.

Coming up now is Bishop T.D. Jakes, who will be delivering the sermon today.

T.D. JAKES, PASTOR, POTTER'S HOUSE: To President and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, to all that are assembled here, and most importantly, to all families who have been deeply touched by this catastrophic storm, our prayers are with you.

As we understand that God is the only one who can heal the wounded and bruised soul of this nation, and its families, and those particularly in the Gulf. As we face these troubled times, we look to God's word for solace and comfort and strength. There are many passages that would provide that solution and peace for us.

But my heart is fixed today on the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 10, Verse 30 through 34. In the text, it speaks specifically about a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell amongst thieves, which stripped him of his raiment and wounded him, departed leaving him half dead.

By chance there came by a priest who saw him, he passed by. A Leavitt came, he looked, too. But he passed by on the other side. Finally, a Samaritan passed by his way. Only the Samaritan came where he was and when he saw him, he had that thing that we so desperately need today, he had compassion on him.

He went to him. And bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine and set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Briefly, I would talk to you about the power of a helping hand. Five simple truths that are born out of this text that are so relevant, as we face this time of perplexity and crises, confusion, hurting in our nation.

Number one, the Leavitt and the priest show us that restoration is more than observation. It's more than looking from the safety of our television into the lives of other people and assessing their situation from the comfort of our own luxuries and lives. It teaches us that we can no longer be a nation that overlooks the poor and the suffering and continue past the ghetto on our way to the Mardi Gras, or past Harlem for Manhattan, or past Compton for Rodeo Drive.

Secondly, from this text, we learn that we must reach beyond our neighborhoods. The text is born out of a question that the disciples ask Jesus, who is my neighbor? I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, our neighbors are more than the people who look like us, who live where we live, who drive what we drive, or vote the way we vote.

In fact, in all likelihood the person who gave this man the most service was the Good Samaritan, different in ethnicity from the victim, but moved with compassion. He responded powerfully to the crises at hand. I'm struck today by the response around this nation as I moved from one shelter to another and saw the helping hands reaching out to touch the victim.

The stories that have not been told is that those hands came in all colors, all cultures, all kinds, all ecclesiastical entanglements, all philosophical viewpoints, without distinction. When America's soul was hemorrhaging, all the hands reached from everywhere in a philanthropic way.

Today, while we mourn with those that mourn, and worry with those that worry and we wait with those that wait, we do also take a moment to say thank you.

To all the many people from around this country and around the world who open up their doors and their homes and their hearts and their lives and their pocketbooks. And if we continue on that path, when the excitement diminishes, if we continue on that path to understand that our neighbors are not always the people who are nearest to us, then perhaps some good will come out of this catastrophic event.

Katrina, perhaps she has done something to this nation that we needed to have done. She has made us think, and look, and reach beyond the breach. And there to discuss the unmentionable issues that confront us on a day-to-day basis, to deal with our differences, and distinctions and perspectives and to talk about things that are not politically correct.

The third thing, you will notice is that the Good Samaritan, who came riding in on his beast, found a victim who had been victimized laying on the ground. And he learned the precious truth, the powerful elixir, that you cannot help people if you exult yourself above them. So he came down off of his beast, so that the man who was on the ground could get up.

I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, until we love enough to trade places with the poor, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised and -- yes, even minorities in this country -- then healing will not be real. And it will never be complete.

May God give us the grace to come down where pain is and poverty is and not stop until we have raised them up to an acceptable standard of living. For with such sacrifices, God is well pleased.

The fourth point I would submit to you, is that resources, not rhetoric, changed this man's life. The Good Samaritan never said a word to the victim. He simply helped him. It is not so important what we say. It is important what we do. The defining moments of history cannot be defined by rhetoric and words or anger or soliciting people to respond in a tempestuous way, but real leadership is defined by what we do.

The Good Samaritan teaches us that it will cost money to help people. Sometimes we have to love them enough to pay the bill.

The fifth point, is that relationships are productive. If the Good Samaritan had not known the inn keeper, then the victim would have suffered from the dysfunction of their relationships. I say to you, that this is a time, in spite of our distinctives (sic), that we must find a way to know each other, if we can help each other. Or the people in the Gulf will suffer from our inability to communicate over our distinctive perspectives.

Somewhere down in New Orleans between the city lights that once glimmered and shined and the skyscrapers that once pointed toward heaven, in a smaller city called Slidell, is a bridge called the Twin Span Bridge. You can't see it now because it's submerged beneath water. It has been victimized by the storm and breaking of the levee, but it will be built back again.

I say to you that as we build back that bridge, that Twin Span Bridge, perhaps God would bless us to find a way to build the bridges between us, between our perspectives and our ideas and our opinions. While we're building cities and building bridges, let's build unity.

We cannot multiply by dividing. We cannot add by subtracting. But if we would dare to build a bridge, I refuse to believe, in light of all of the talent, the intellectual properties, resources, influential people in this country, that we couldn't make a real difference if we would just try.

I'm glad to see the bridge going back up between Slidell and New Orleans, but I'll be far happier to see the bridge built up between blacks and whites, between browns and blacks, between Democrats and Republicans, between Right and Left, until we understand that the true vision is "One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

I only have five points. But those five points make up a hand that needs to stretch out and touch the hurting, and the poor and the underserved in this nation. And if we can raise our hands to touch them, then this country and this world will be the place that we were all taught that it could be. May God help us to stretch forth that helping hand. God bless you.

NGUYEN: Mr. T.D. Jakes of the Potters House in Dallas, giving the sermon today. Talking about the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, the power of the helping hand and the importance of action, not just words.

Now, we'll be listening to soprano Angela M. Brown singing "The Lord's Prayer".



NGUYEN: Another live look at the National Cathedral in Washington, where they are observing a National Day of Prayer, a service is taking place at this hour. The president will be speaking shortly. When he does, we'll bring that to you live.

We are also, we're getting reaction this morning to the president's speech and his plan to rebuild the Gulf Coast. As you might expect, Republicans are generally praising the blueprint, but some are questioning the tremendous dent is will make in the federal budget.

Democratic leaders in Congress are urging Mr. Bush to avoid what they call political opportunism. Again, they demanded an outside investigation of the government's slow response to the disaster. A Louisiana congressman says Democrats need to move on.


REP. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: You have the president this week accepting responsibility at the federal level, the governor at the state level. You have the president saying, we are going to do what it takes. We will need some follow up in terms of specific policies and actions and help for the people in St. Bernard and the greater New Orleans area.

But I think it's never too late. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We have a lot of work ahead of us. People on the ground are interested in blame, they are interested in getting on with their lives and rebuilding their future. I think the president can be a very big part of that.


NGUYEN: Now, 2004 rival, John Kerry ripped the president. The senator says the country needs leadership, not excuses.

Former President Bill Clinton says the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to undergo changes to better respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina. In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Clinton also committed (sic) President Bush for taking a stand after the federal government's initial miss steps.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the president did the right thing in taking responsibility. Clearly, the FEMA response was slow. There are lots of reasons that I think that happened. I believe that there should be some re-organization there.

LARRY KING, LARRY KING LIVE: Should FEMA not be part of national security?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm biased. I liked it the way it was. I think the most important thing is, we probably should have some sort of requirement that anybody has the job has prior experience in emergency management. It's a very serious, important job.


NGUYEN: And can you see the entire interview with Bill Clinton, that is tonight on CNN's "Larry King Live". The former president talks about the Katrina relief effort and his global initiative. That's at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

The current president, President Bush, is attending this National Day of Prayer at the National Cathedral in Washington. It's an honor and remembrance of Katrina victims. He will be speaking shortly. When it happens, we'll bring it to you live. Stay with us, there's more CNN LIVE TODAY when we come back.


NGUYEN: The hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul", being sung at the National Cathedral in Washington, on this National Day of Prayer. A service is being held as we speak, for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Next up, Luis Palau, the evangelist, will be leading the prayer for the nation. After that, President Bush will be speaking. Let's take a listen.


LUIS PALAU, EVANGELIST: Shall we stand for prayer for the nation? What wonderful words from the choir. It is well, it is well with my soul. Let us pray.

Our Father and our God, God of all mercy, it is well with my soul through your grace. Lord, you have engraved the names of your people on the palms of your hands forever, and your love is never ending. Oh, Lord in this time of tragedy, we peacefully rest in you.

Although, we recognize that death is total in every generation, sudden and dramatic death is so shocking that we are stunned. But you, oh, Lord, you know the pain of our grief. You suffered for us. Comfort oh, Lord, comfort those going through these deep afflictions of sorrow and tears and despair. We thank you our Father for the love and sacrifice shown to the hurting thousands across America. Bless the government and its staff, the relief workers and all donors and volunteers for doing their utmost, oh, Lord to respond with your love and compassion. I pray that you would impart wisdom and protection to all authorities, to military and police, firefighters and builders, doctors and nurses.

Oh, Lord help each of us so to number our days that we may make the most of them and gain a heart of wisdom as we serve you and rebuild our nation, America. Lord, respecting all people of all faith, traditions, we humbly pray this, in the name of the Lord Jesus, Amen.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this day of Prayer & Remembrance, our nation remains in the shadow of a storm that departed two weeks ago. We're humbled by the vast and indifferent might of nature, and feel small beside its power.

We commend the departed to God. We mourn with those who mourn, and we ask for strength in the work ahead.

The destruction is immense, covering a city, a coast line, a region. Yet the hurt always comes down to one life, one family. We've seen the panic of loved ones separated from each other, the lonely pain of people whose earthly possessions were swept away, and the uncertainty of men and women and children driven away from the lives they knew.

Many did not survive the fury of the storm. Many who did ask why and wonder what comes next.

In this hour of suffering, we are prayerful. In a wounded region so many placed their faith in a God who hears and helps, and so many are bringing their grief to a savior acquainted with grief.

Our nation joins with them to pray for comfort in sorrow, for the reunion of separated families and a holy rest for the ones who died.

Through prayer we look for ways to understand the arbitrary harm left by this storm and the mystery of undeserved suffering.

And in our search, we are reminded that God's purposes are sometimes impossible to know here on Earth.

Yet even as we are humbled by forces we cannot explain, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one is ever stranded beyond God's care. The creator of wind and water is also the source of even a greater power: a love that can redeem the worst tragedy, a love that is stronger than death.

In this hour of suffering, our nation is thankful. We have been inspired by acts of courage and goodness: Coast Guardsmen and military personnel reaching out of helicopters and lifting victims from rooftops; firefighters wading through mud and debris to search for victims and survivors; doctors and nurses defying danger so their patients might live.

Many of those who saved others lost their own homes and were separated from their own families. And many stories of heroism and rescue will never be told, because they are known to God alone.

We are thankful for a spirit seen across the Gulf Coast as it faces the worst and chooses to hope.

We are thankful, as well, for the many ordinary citizens who heard the cries of neighbors and answered them. Across the country, Americans say the hungry and gave them something to eat, saw the thirsty and gave them something to drink, saw strangers and invited them in.

One man who was rescued and given shelter after the storm said, "I didn't think there was so much love in the world."

In this hour of suffering, our nation is also mindful of the work ahead. Through this tragedy, great duties have come to our nation. The destruction of this hurricane was beyond any human power to control, but the restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rest in our hands. And we accept this responsibility not as a burden or a chore but as an opportunity to serve our fellow Americans as they would do for us.

This task will measure our unity as a people. Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm. Yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle. The elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor. And this poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity.

As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality. Let us deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm. As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise as a land of equality and decency. And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice.

On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we pledge ourselves to the demanding work of revival. And renew the faith and hope that will carry that work to completion.

In the worst of storms and in the rush of flood waters, even the strongest faith can be tested. Yet the scriptures assure us, many waters cannot quench love. Neither can the floods drowned it.

So now we go forward, confident in the good heart of America. And trusting that even among the ruins, the love of God remains at work. May God bless and keep the souls of the lost. May his love touch all those in need. And may he always watch over the United States of America. God bless.




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