CHICAGO -- For the first time since his retirement last spring, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. returned to the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ on Sunday with two goals: glorifying God and vilifying the media.
In honor of Trinity's 47th anniversary, Wright preached three worship services in place of Rev. Otis Moss III, who was attending his father's farewell from the pulpit of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland.
Citing the revelation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God, Wright said Mary's disbelief was similar to the doubts some faithful shared about the future of Trinity after Wright's retirement and the possibility of a black man being elected president.
"Our legitimate questions tend to be asked from the vantage point of limited horizons," said Wright during the 7:30 a.m. service. "Mary had a limited horizon. She couldn't see how it was possible."
"In almost every instance where I have encountered this phenomenon, what I have discovered is that the limited horizons are caused by the tendency to look for a person to provide you with answers for your legitimate questions," Wright continued. "I really should say our legitimate questions, not your legitimate questions, because God knows I've got some questions myself."
Wright, Trinity's former pastor, gained prominence when President-elect Barack Obama in his memoirs cited the pastor's inspirational sermons.
But shortly after Wright's final appearance in the pulpit at Trinity last February, he became the center of controversy when segments of past sermons surfaced on the Internet and replayed on cable news programs. Pundits questioned his patriotism based on sound bites, including one where he shouted "God damn America!"
The resulting media onslaught fueled tension around an already sensitive transition and prompted Moss, Wright's hand-picked successor, to implement strict guidelines for the media, banning cameras and recording devices and instructing members not to grant interviews.
On Sunday, church officials turned reporters away from the worship service. But services were streamed live on the Internet, and audio and video recordings were sold in the church bookstore.
Wright said no amount of media coverage could dampen Trinity spirit.
"Jesus said upon this rock I will build -- listen to the promise -- my church," he said. "And the gates of Hell -- listen to the promise -- the gates of Hell -- neither ABC nor CNN -- the gates of Hell -- neither Hannity nor O'Reilly -- the gates of Hell -- neither Time, Time magazine, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune ... the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Nothing will be impossible with God."
At the 11 a.m. service, Wright belittled "baby milk believers," who, he said, suffer a delusion that politics don't belong in the pulpit. He pointed out that "Luke the evangelist, not Wright the radical" lambasted the oppressive policies of the Roman government in the Gospel story that recounts Jesus' life.
"Any preacher who dares to point out the simple ugly facts found in every field imaginable is demonized as volatile, controversial, incendiary, inflammatory, anti-American and radical," Wright said, taking time out to note the thousands of Japanese civilians who died 67 years to the day when American troops dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.
He implied that his previous use of derogatory language to describe Italians in a past sermon referred to the Roman oppression Luke condemned.
"Emperor Augustus in Rome -- that's in Italy, dizzy blond on the View," Wright said, presumably referring to conservative television personality Elisabeth Hasselback, who has railed about Wright on the ABC daytime talk show.
Wright also thanked an employee at Fox News -- "a saint in Caesar's household" -- who advised him to cancel his October speaking engagements because the network had an advance copy of his schedule.
Hundreds of Clevelanders will salute the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. tonight with a gala retirement celebration, and in his own way, artist Andre Holt is honoring the respected pastor, too.
Holt, 50, has painted a 10-foot-wide tribute to Moss, who is retiring after 33 years at the helm of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.
All 1,200 seats to the dinner at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel are sold out, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson is one of the well-known names expected to attend. During the event, Moss will receive the gift of a portrait painted by noted local watercolorist Malcolm Brown.
Holt knows he's no big name in the art world. An ex-addict, he airbrushes motorcycles at the Forever Grateful studio on Cleveland's near West Side.
Yet, he was moved to create what grew into a three-panel work of art after listening to Moss preach at a funeral earlier this year.
Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, questions media's limited horizons in sermon
Moss' inspiring eulogy focused on the greatness of past leaders, Holt recalled. "He talked about clouds of witnesses and surrounding yourself with people who will let your spirit rise," Holt said. "He said, 'Carry these people with you.' I started crying."
That day, Holt felt an urge to paint Moss, but knew that a traditional portrait wouldn't do. Over time, he created a sweeping airbrushed depiction of Moss surrounded by a dozen epic figures such as Barack Obama, slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman and Mother Teresa, an advocate for the poor and helpless.
He included some faces beloved by Moss: His personal friend Oprah Winfrey and his Morehouse College mentors, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Mays. He even obtained a photograph of Moss' father, and added his image.
Holt learned a lot while researching the people in his painting. Mother Teresa left behind an incredible legacy; her Missionaries of Charity has established hospices and other services for the poor in more than 100 countries. "She's symbolic of people who put their life on the line for others."
City motorists and pedestrians often served as Holt's audience last summer, when he and friend Mike Golden carried their canvasses outside the Pearl Road studio to work on the Moss project on the street. Lots of passers-by complimented them, including more than a few who said approvingly, "That's my pastor."
Holt, who estimates he's invested $2,000 in the paintings, said he enjoys giving back. He also established the Bessie Mae Hunger Fund, named for his daughter, to collect money to buy clothes, food and other necessities for the homeless and needy people he encounters.
Holt's motivation? "I was inspired to leave something here in Cleveland, a work of art. Something for the youth to see. Something for my daughter to be proud of."
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Posted by gcyoungrino on 12/07/08 at 8:59PM
A racist pastor is saluted with a mural depicting some of the most racially charged figures in US history.
President Elect Barack H. Obama is flat out a racist thug. He threw the race card down on the first black President, Bill Clinton, and threw it down on John McCain. He also made comments about "typical white people," etc.
MArtin luther King? Violence just followed him everywhere he went.
Jesse Jackson? Didn't he call Obama the "N-word?" He makes a living off racism.
Obama==Martin Luther King Jr.= Jesse Jackson=Otis Moss=Tubbs Jones=RACIST Biggots.