(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
President Barack Obama hosted religious leaders from various denominations on Monday for the fifth annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, taking time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the "glory of the resurrection."
"We're reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him. And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection – all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life," Obama said.
His Easter reflection came after he made a few remarks about Sunday's shooting at two Jewish facilities in Kansas. Three people were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at a Jewish assisted-living facility nearby. The suspect was identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, a white supremacist. Overland Park authorities have classified the shooting as a hate crime.
"This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park," Obama said. "That this occurred now – as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday – makes this tragedy all the more painful. And today, as Passover begins, we're seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray."
The president urged people of all faiths to join in combating intolerance, including anti-Semitism, "because we're all children of God."
Continuing his reflection on Easter, Obama said though they recognize that there's "a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world," "we're also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God."
"We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us. And of course, we're always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example. And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us."
Participants included Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed, who delivered the opening prayer at the prayer breakfast; the Rev. Otis Moss of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, who delivered the sermon; Christian singer/songwriter Carlos Whittaker; Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who led the closing prayer; civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton; civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery; Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Obama thanked the Christian leaders for their work throughout the year, affirming that they "don't remain on the sidelines."
"I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education," he said. "You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well."