I’m writing this Pastor’s Pen on July 29th, before leaving for vacation. It’s the 11th hour with the debt crisis and it’s not clear what will hap-pen: default, a “compromise” that will cripple the country, or an agreement that will allow us to go forward, albeit with the poor or struggling being asked to make the greater sacrifice. I’m reminded of one of our readings this summer, when King Solomon asks God for wisdom: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to gov-ern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
Indeed, discerning between good and evil is the heart of wisdom: one can be an expert in the math, a political acrobat or an accomplished legislator, but without the abil-ity to discern the good and the courage to act upon it, all is foolishness. We can see that in our own lives as well as those of our leaders.
In a recent conversation with Mary Stoddart, she mentioned that she found inspiration in the writings of Peter Marshall. Dr. Marshall was a Presbyterian minister originally from Scotland who was Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from 1947 until his sudden death a few years later at age 46. Her comment led me to pull from my shelf a book of his prayers, prayers that are both eloquent and refreshingly blunt. One day he opened the Senate with this one: “If there be any here sulking as children will, deal with and enlighten him.”
I thought the prayer below especially timely. I’ve retained the original language, when elected leaders were all men:
Our Father, bless, we pray Thee, the leaders of this nation. Strengthen the cour-age of the representatives in congress assembled – sincere men who want to do the right, if only they can be sure what is right. Make it plain to them, O Lord. And then wilt Thou start them out on the right way, for Thou knowest that we are hard to turn.
Forgive them for the blunders they have committed, the compromises they have made. Give to them the courage to admit mistakes. Take away from us as a nation and as individuals that stubborn pride which, followed by conceit, imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism.
Save our leaders, O God, from themselves and from their friends – even as Thou hast saved them from their enemies. Let no personal ambition blind them to their oppor-tunities. Help them to give battle to hypocrisy wherever they find it. Give them divine common sense and a selflessness that shall make them think of service and not of gain. May they have the courage to lead the people of this Republic, considering unworthy the expediency of following the people.
Wishing you a restful end of the summer and save travel.
Grace and Peace,