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So Help Me God – Second Sunday after Epiphany

Text (Psalm 139:9-10) If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (New International Version)

Thought starters
This Tuesday most of you will witness history as the United States holds the ceremony to install its 44th President, Senator Obama. Some of you will watch it later on the news at home. Do you know the Presidential Oath of Office?

In The United States Constitution it states:

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Before he enters on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

(Repeat the Oath above) What is missing from the Constitution? “So Help Me God” is missing. It seems those words are a part of the Oath. I wonder who was the President who added it? All we know is that every President has said it since.

(You may either make this very short and tell the children that George Washington was the first President who said it, or have the children guess and use the “artist rendering” to show what the event might have looked like, or you may play the video listed below and let them see how it might have happened.)

(After one of the options above)
George Washington was the first President to say “So Help Me God.” People who were there say that he bent down and kissed the Bible that was open to the book of Deuteronomy.

Every President has said the words, “So Help Me God.” Only President Franklin D. Roosevelt left it out 76 years ago. People said he was in a hurry to get to his speech. He was elected three more times and each time thereafter he said it loudly and clearly.

“So Help Me God” has been part of each President’s promise to do a good job since the establishment of our Country. There are many great stories of faith from George Washington and other presidents since the inception of our great country. This is one story you can tell your friends this week as you witness another chapter in the history of this country and the faith on which it was founded.

Prayer-Dear God, Thank you for giving us leaders through history who put their faith in you. Open their hearts to you. Amen

Prop-Oath of Office from the United States Constitution. Artist rendering of the event.

Video/Computer-see PowerPoint Link

Note– (I will actually pick out a child and after finding out their middle name, open the Bible and practice swearing him or her in as President. At the end I will pause and wait for the congregation to add, “So Help Me God.”)

Only President Franklin Roosevelt left it out since (Once in 1933-by mistake-Presidential Inaugurations-Paul F. Boller, Jr.). You may tell the children, show them an artist rendering of that ceremony or do what I did, play from the HBO John Adams miniseries the 1:45 scene showing how it might have happened. (Part IV “Reunion” scene 6, at exactly the 1:00:00 (One-hour mark and it can be faded out at 1:01:45). It’s also available in a longer scene at YouTube.com.

This quote has been disputed and in the news lately. Washington Irving, the first Washington biographer was in the inauguration crowd as a child and reports the oath George Washington gave.

The following was my response to the story disputing the phrase in USA Today from January 8th, 2009:

There isn’t any proof Washington didn’t say it either. Only one President has ever omitted it in history and it was FDR in 1933 and it was a mistake. He never omitted it again. (“Presidential Inaugurations”-Paul F. Boller, JR.)

I believe that all the research David McCullough did in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography, “John Adams”, not leaving any stone unturned, including the letters between John and Abigail. I can’t imagine John Adams missed it when he stood only feet away from Washington at the time of the Oath.

John Adams also thought Washington a great leader. When it came time to take the Oath himself as the second President. He was likely to say exactly what he heard from the lips of Washington. That by the way is well documented.

William Bode, Director of Children’s Ministries

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