West Columbia, SC

Good afternoon. Greetings in the name of God our Father, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

I’m honored to be with you today to celebrate 50 years of Pastor Jackson’s leadership here at Brookland. It’s an incredible milestone—in a career that has had immeasurable influence on this city, this state, and even our country.  

But to begin, I’d like to tell you a story—a testimony of sorts—about a different leader in this church: First Lady Jackson. Many of you have heard it before, but it’s shaped me and it’s why this community means so much to me, so I’d like to share it once again.   

I’m not very public about my faith, but it’s always been an important part of who I am. I chose it as a teenager—when I fell in love with the peace of a quiet wooden pew, the joy of a choir, and the deep wisdom of the gospels. Prayers, especially, are a part of how I connect to the people I love and the world around me.  

But in 2015, my faith was shaken. For over a year, I watched my brave, strong, funny, bright young son fight brain cancer. Chemotherapy, operation after operation, weight loss—still, I never gave up hope.  

As a mother, you can’t. I had to be strong for my children and my husband—but most of all for my son, Beau. I had to be strong for him because, in the middle of it all, he was being strong for us.  

So, I kept going. Every day, I put one foot in front of the other. Despite what the doctors said, I believed he would make it. In those final days, I made one last desperate prayer. And it went unanswered.  

After Beau died, I felt betrayed by my faith. Broken. My pastor wrote me emails occasionally, checking in and inviting me back to service—I just couldn’t go. I couldn’t even pray. I wondered if I would ever feel joy again. 

But in the summer of 2019, Joe and I came to worship here, at Brookland Baptist. And something felt different that morning. While we were worshipping, Robin came up to me and said, “Dr. Biden, I would like to be your prayer partner.”  

I don’t know if she sensed how moved I had been by the service. I don’t know if she could see the grief that still hides behind my smile. But I do know that when she spoke, it was as if God was saying to me, “Okay Jill, you’ve had long enough. It’s time to come home.”  

And in that moment, I felt for the first time that there was a path to recovering my faith.  

The book of Hebrews says: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

In the depths of our brokenness, we can start to believe that healing ourselves will never be possible. And the truth is, we’re right—we can’t heal ourselves alone. But with God, all things are possible.  

Robin’s kindness—her mercy and grace—pushed past the callouses on my heart. And like a mustard seed, my faith was able to grow once again. It brought me comfort in the long, hard days of the campaign trail. It brought me joy when I saw how strangers could sacrifice for each other. It reminded me of what was at stake: not an election, not a partisan battle, but a country in need of healing.  

Families that were torn apart by the pandemic. Communities wrestling with the evils of racism and discrimination. A nation in search of hope.  

This church changed my life—and it helped shape the course of our journey to the White House.  

Robin’s kindness, Pastor Jackson’s leadership, and the work of each member of this congregation, speaking out for justice, compassion, and unity—it has grown into something so much bigger than any of us. And as we work to vaccinate more people, support working families, and create opportunities for all Americans—all of you are with us.  

If one Sunday could mean so much to Joe and me—imagine the ripples that your career has created in our world, Pastor Jackson.  

For fifty years, you have led this community with vision. Under your leadership, Brookland has become a hub of caring for God’s children. With a food bank that has kept families from going hungry. An academy that invests in children. Scholarships that have made college possible. A health and wellness program that has enriched lives. You’ve mentored the next generation of pastors and lay leaders. And you’ve brought countless people to God’s grace.  

You remind us that we are the body of Christ. His hands to build a better world. His feet to seek out justice. His voice to comfort the broken.  

When we come boldly to the throne of grace, we not only find mercy. We find each other. We find the love of a community that will carry us through the darkest of times. And we find joy.  

That’s what I see here today—a legacy of love that goes on and on. And I’m reminded of the lyrics to the “Hymn of Joy:”  

Loving Father, Christ our Brother, 

Let Your light upon us shine; 

Teach us how to love each other, 

Lift us to the joy divine. 

Pastor Jackson—and Robin—thank you for leading so many to grace.  

Thank you for helping us learn to love each other.  

Thank you for helping us find “joy divine.” 

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