Today we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although I have not endured the intense suffering of African Americans, I resonate deeply with King as a pastoral theologian. His vision for the human race, I am realizing, has shaped my vision for the church and world in significant ways. I realized his influence upon my life when several years ago I was invited to open the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Meeting with prayer. Here I was in the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA with the opportunity to offer a bipartisan prayer in the name of the bipartisan Christ. As you read below the prayer I offered at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, you will note the prominence of themes such as liberation and selfless service, themes that intersect the Gospel and the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Almighty and loving Lord, we thank you for the freedom we so thoroughly enjoy, the freedom that crosses party lines and is the foundation of this great country we live in. We thank you for the pursuit of freedom that drove our mothers and fathers to this land, a pursuit that even hundreds of years later sustains us still. We thank you for the ultimate liberation that you, according to your Word, offer to every person regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, and political party. There, in Your word, we read that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free” and “the one who the Son of God sets free is free indeed” and the words from Jesus that are written on the ceiling above us “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
Lord, from every mountainside let your freedom ring in our hearts; and may freedom ring in this place as these representatives seek to make decisions that will preserve and prolong the freedom we so deeply crave and appreciate. Lord, would you ignite a fire in the hearts of these public servants so that they remember why they began to serve in the first place and so they continue to serve the public called the great state ofPennsylvania. As our State Representatives meet would You give them the wisdom they need to discern your good, pleasing and perfect will and then would You give them the courage and fortitude to pursue your will with passionate persistence for the good of all the people who live in this keystone state.
Might our eyes see your glory today as these public servants follow the ultimate example of public service- Jesus Christ. Christ is the epitome of selfless service for, in his own words, he came “not to be served but to serve” by laying down His life for all. Lord, your son’s selfless service was fueled by his deep down desire to see people set free from the things in life that bind us. May these servants of the people be driven by the same compassion that was in Christ, so that decisions about finances and policies today will enable people to be even more free tomorrow. We know it’s a tall order, a sobering responsibility, but to borrow from the Battle Hymn we pray that “As Christ died to make people holy, let these [Representatives] live to make people free, while God is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah.” Amen.”