The Rev. Raphael Warnock said Sunday his election victory was a “glimpse of God’s vision” as he delivered his first sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church since he and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff won Georgia’s Senate runoff elections.
“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 US Senate?” Warnock said.
The church’s services were delivered without an in-person audience and posted online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Warnock, the senior pastor at the church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, was projected early Wednesday to win Georgia’s Senate runoff election against incumbent Kelly Loeffler, who conceded the race. The election results are expected to be officially certified later this month.
His win, combined with Ossoff’s projected victory, means the US Senate will be split 50-50 between the two parties, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote giving Democrats control of the chamber.
“You must know that this is a glimpse of God’s vision of a more inclusive humanity that embraces all of God’s children. 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, I just want to be an instrument, I just want to be a prism of God’s glory so that God’s glory can shine through me,” Warnock said.
Warnock grew up in Savannah, Georgia, in public housing, the 11th out of 12 children. He’s the first college graduate in his family, having attended Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta.
Warnock centered his sermon on the story of John the Baptist, the “truth-telling troublemaker” who was beheaded for speaking out against the powerful ruler Herod.
“He created a lot of trouble for himself in the process. Telling the truth will get you in trouble, yet there can be no transformation without truth,” Warnock said. “We cannot and we will not change until we confront or are confronted by the sickness of our own situation. That applies to individuals, that applies to institutions, that applies to nations.”
Warnock also quoted from the Book of Matthew, which says: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence.”
He said the tensions in that verse — that something as holy as heaven still suffers violence — were similarly seen on Wednesday when a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol hours after Warnock’s election win.
“We witnessed that tension in such a powerful and such a tragic way,” he said. “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. We saw the crude and the angry and the disrespectful and the violent break their way into the people’s house.”
When the old order slips away, people sometimes respond violently and desperately, he said.
“So there is victory in this moment, there is violence in this moment, there is fantastic opportunity and fierce opposition, and it reminds us that there is still a whole lot of work to do,” he said.
He called on listeners to combat the violence of prejudice and fear, the violence of poverty, and the violence of our politics.
“The violence in this world is real, don’t be dishonest about that, yet violence does not have the last word,” he said. “God is still up to something in this world. 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 see the xenophobia because violence will never have the last word.”
Senator-elect Warnock contrasts his election with the Capitol attack in sermon The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ CNN.