St. John Lutheran Church
Come & See, Serve & Grow
The Unnoticed Prayer
The following is a article I wrote for our church newsletter for August of 2016:
Some may have figured out by now that I like to talk about religion and politics. The fact that I have any friends at all is a miracle that is underreported. So naturally my ears perk up, and I put on my theological lens whenever faith and politics become intertwined, for better or for worse.
Before I go any further, rest assured I am not going to make any political endorsements via our church newsletter or in using my pastoral office. My commentary is purely a theological one. However, my pastoral office does give me the responsibility and authority to preach and teach.
When following the Republican National Convention on the first day I was struck by what turned out to be a controversial prayer offered by Pastor Mark Burns. I won’t go into detail about his prayer; both the media and social media have seemed to have covered it quite a bit. Needless to say, I found his prayer troubling to say the least. You can look up his prayer, and decide if he broke the second commandment or any of Jesus’ teachings for yourself.
What I want to focus on is a prayer that was offered in the evening on the first day of the convention. I found this prayer by Monsignor Kieran Harrington to be 180 degrees different from Pastor Burns, and also a clear articulation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in an extremely polarized society.
Monsignor Kieran Harrington:
Heavenly Father, we ask that you bless and inspire these delegates, that their deliberations over these next four days might be earnest and fruitful. Our forefathers recognized in your divine plan the freedom you intended for all men and women. We stand before you, contrite for those times in our history when we failed to be the shining city on a hill for which you destined our great land. We humbly give you thanks, most especially for those who bravely wear the uniform, here at home and abroad. Truly, there is no greater love than to lay one’s life for a friend. Bless those who endured torture or sacrificed themselves for the freedom of our fellow countrymen, and those in far flung places around the world. Inspire us to build a more noble society, that reflects your divine image to a world that is broken and brought low by sin.
You have endowed our many peoples and nations with the gift of charity. May we be mindful of those who suffer here and abroad. Father, we know that our true citizenship is in your kingdom. You remind us that to inherit eternal life, we must love the Lord the God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And to love you neighbor as yourself. Your son instructs us with the parable of the Good Samaritan as to who is our neighbor. May we defend life when most vulnerable in the womb or in old age. And let us not forget our obligations to the poor and the sick, the prisoner, and the alien in our midst.
We make this prayer in your holy name. Amen.
I wasn’t surprised to see that secular media and those, like myself, who are interested in religion and politics would be fixated on what was perceived as the controversial prayer offered by Pastor Burns.
When doing a simple google news search on Pastor Mark Burns I got 19,100 results. When doing a google news search on Msgr. Kieran Harrington I received 160 results. It is worth noting that Msgr. Harrington is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, so most of that 160 are in connection with his job in communications! There are a few Roman Catholic publications that made mention of Msgr. Harrington praying at the RNC, other than that it has virtually gone unnoticed.
It made me realize that the Good News of Jesus Christ really goes unnoticed, and THE Good News isn’t something that our news media is really interested in. Especially in an age of ratings, clicks, likes, and retweets.
I have been very concerned by the divisiveness in our country and the dials haven’t even been turned all the way up yet in this election cycle.
Living in a democratic republic our votes are important and it is important that we participate in the process, but let us remember that our hope and faith are in God first and foremost. To quote Psalm 146:3-4 : “Do not put your trust in rulers, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.”
The psalmist goes onto say in verse five, “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God...”
Msgr. Harrington’s prayer reminds all of us that as Christians, whose“citizenship is in heaven”, we have a call from God to be a light in this nation that could also be a light to other nations. The world will ignore the Gospel when it is proclaimed and lived. Like Msgr. Harrington’s prayer it will go virtually unnoticed.
But the light that shines in the darkness cannot be ignored for long. We know when reading John’s gospel that the “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Let us embody our calling from God and be the light that cannot be ignored for long.
Let us not be paralyzed by fear, but rejoice in what makes us free.
Let us not be vicious to one another, but love our neighbors, our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Msgr. Harrington’s prayer is a prayer that has virtually gone unnoticed. Yet I firmly believe that when we embody the Christian principles and practices in caring for our neighbor and shaping our society, the light that he proclaims, that I hope we continue to pray and embody, will be light that is scattered in the darkness and will shine even brighter.
People of faith, do not be afraid. Let your light shine!
Pastor Adam Sornchai
Pastor Adam Sornchai