The Rev. Jeremiah Wright lived up to his reputation as a fiery, inspiring and controversial speaker as a three-night revival ended at Second Baptist Church on Hampton Avenue on Wednesday. He also delivered a message of hope to the crowd that filled the sanctuary, bringing many members of the audience to their feet nearing the end of his sermon.
Using sports terms and metaphors, Wright told his listeners that “the Christian race we are running” is a long distance challenge that requires patience. Many before us, he added, have finished their runs and some made great strides. He mentioned Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and a host of other prominent figures in the black community who made significant impacts during their time on Earth.
But “we’ve still got some work to do; we’ve still got some learning to do,” Wright warned. “The race ain’t over yet.”
Wright is the pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Members of his congregation included President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
In 2008, during Obama’s first presidential campaign, Wright made headlines after ABC News reviewed dozens of his sermons and reported on their content. Further media scrutiny followed and numerous stories portrayed some of Wright’s statements as contentious and inflammatory.
Before Wright spoke on Wednesday night, Second Baptist’s senior pastor, Douglas Slaughter, introduced him as a friend and mentor.
“He is one of the ‘preachingest’ preachers that has ever preached the preach,” Slaughter declared. The local minister also described Wright as honest, truthful and consistent.
Several verses from the Bible’s book of Hebrews formed the foundation for Wright’s third and final sermon during the Second Baptist revival. Verse 1 in Chapter 12 of Hebrews includes the phrase “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
Black Christians and prominent African-Americans of the past faced many obstacles during their races, Wright said, and today’s barriers also are daunting. He made references to the “altar of white supremacy” and the “Kool-Aid of ‘Walmartization.’” He also talked about the national response of mourning to the Sandy Hook shootings, but claimed the nation “yawns and looks away’ when 300 children are killed in Chicago in a year.
“I know you get tired because as the gun sales soar in this nation and the racist rhetoric ramps up in this nation, it seems like we are losing this race, but keep on running,” Wright said.
Those who have finished their run “are anxiously waiting for us and cheering us on,” he added.
Wright also advised his listeners to look to Christ as their inspiration.
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished the race that we are in,” he concluded. “He is a winner, the thought of whom shoots some adrenaline into your soul. He is the one who can help you, help me and help us finish this race.”