In his first sermon days after defeating Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a closely contested runoff election in Georgia, Rev. Raphael Warnock called his election as the southern state's first black senator on Sunday “a glimpse of God’s vision of a more inclusive humanity.”
The longtime civil rights activist and pastor emerged victorious with fellow Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff over Republican Sens. Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia's hotly contested Senate runoff elections last week.
Their victories came two months after President-elect Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
“Whoever would have thought that in the state of Georgia we would see the people of Georgia rise up and send an African American man who grew up in public housing, the pastor of this Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King preached and a Jewish young man, the son of an immigrant to the United States Senate,” he said in a recording of the sermon shared on his church’s website.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. If you look at that, it doesn’t matter about your politics and your ideology. If you look with an honest eye at the history of this country and see this moment, you must know that this is a glimpse of God’s vision of a more inclusive humanity that embraces all of God’s children."
Warnock, 51, is the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. both served as pastors.
And now that he’s elected, the church leader says he wants God’s glory to “shine through me.”
“I’m just grateful to be a part of this. I’m just grateful because I just want to serve. I just want to be a vessel," he explained. "I just want to be a prism of God’s glory so that God’s glory might shine through me and that’s what you should want for your own life — that God’s glory might shine through your gifts, through your opportunities to share and to serve."
Before preaching his sermon based on Matthew 11: 7-15 and titled “God’s Victory Over Violence,” the congregation also shared how happy its members are with their pastor’s election to Congress.
“We rejoice with the state of Georgia, the nation and the people around the world as we congratulate our senior pastor the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock on his historic election to the United States Senate," the church said in a statement.
"In this pioneering moment, we are proud that Pastor Warnock has been elected as Georgia’s first black U.S. senator and the 11th African American senator in our country’s history. And as a congregation, we pray that God will continue to guide and protect our pastor as he embarks on this historic journey."
In his sermon, Warnock highlighted from the Scripture John the Baptist’s work during a time of political and cultural transition. He compared it with present-day America.
“With the coming of John the Baptist on the scene, there was this sense that something new and something special was emerging in the world. The sense that God was up to something,” he said.
“This was no ordinary time. It was a time of transition, inflection, a turning point, read this Gospel passage and know that this was no ordinary time and John is no ordinary man. He was a preacher to be sure but a different kind of preacher — truth-telling trouble maker was he,” Warnock said.
The Senator-elect also highlighted the tension created by John the Baptist’s activism that led him to be jailed by Herod.
“He is an inmate in Herod’s prison industrial complex. He is a brother in jail. He is a brother in jail there because he is violently resisted. But the reverberations of his ministry still resound with meaning and power throughout the whole land," the preacher stated. "John the Baptist, by the time we bump into him in this text, he is already in jail. He has been caged, but the truth of his gospel cannot be caged."
Warnock shared how the celebration of his victory in Georgia was interrupted by the attack on the Capitol.
“Georgia had elected its first black senator and it’s first Jewish senator. And then as we were basking in the glory of all that represented, [it seemed] like we could only have a few hours to celebrate," he recalled. "Just as we were trying to put on our celebration shoes, the ugly side of our story, our great and grand American story began to emerge as we saw the crude and the angry, disrespectful and the violent break their way into the People’s House."
Warnock added that some who stormed the Capitol were carrying confederate flags along with "signs and symbols of an old world order passing away."
“I asked myself, 'Lord, why could we not have a few hours to bask in the glory of what God is doing?'" the pastor said.
“Here it is, the old world order is surely passing away and those on the underside of history [are] arising to take their place as equal members in the human family. That’s what God intends for all of us. And if you’re looking at it right, one people’s emergence ought not be a threat to your own somebodiness."
Warnock compared the response of law enforcement to protesters marching against racial injustice and police brutality over the summer and the Capitol rioters last week. He then called “on all of us to recognize our common humanity.”
“The violence in this world is real yet violence does not have the last word. God is still up to something in this world and so don’t give in to cynicism. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t give in to hatred. Don’t give in to bigotry. Don’t give in to xenophobia because violence will never have the last word," he assured. "Yes, John spoke up, and they beheaded John. But his voice crying out in the wilderness had already prepared the way of the Lord by the power of his moral voice. He had already paved a highway in the desert for our God."
Warnock went on to state that Jesus was crucified "in order to crush his movement."
“But he got off the cross and got in our hearts," he continued. "That’s why nobody sings songs to Caesar. But all over the world right now in churches and cathedrals from the east to the west, from the north and the south in diverse languages and tribes, all are singing 'all hail the power of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall…"