Today I enjoyed lunch with Houston City Council Member David Robinson, who is also a member of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. He had invited me to offer a prayer before the City Council meeting this afternoon — an invitation that rotates among the members of City Council throughout the year. So I got to wear this visitor badge inside City Hall and hear a wonderful introduction and welcome to Houston from Council Member Robinson not only for me but also for my family.
THE PEOPLE ARE THE CITY — those words, in an art deco style, appear inside the Council Chamber, above the doors that let me and others into that room. If that’s true, Houston was well represented today because the room was overflowing with citizens at a session dedicated to public comment. Needless to say, there are lots of opinions about prayers offered in official settings of that kind. Nevertheless, I was invited to stand before the men and women gathered there and, essentially, to make the first public comment. So I reminded them that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which I am a part, God said that the creation was “very good” in the beginning. Then I shared these words of the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, which come from his collection of sermons and prayers entitled Inscribing the Text:
You are the God from whom no secret can be hid.
You are the God of truth
to whom the truth must be told.
And so we bring to you
the truth of the world:
the truth of hunger and poverty,
the truth of need and abandonment and anxiety,
the truth of hurt and dying,
the truth of violence and war.
All these truths we submit to your more
powerful life-giving truth.
So we bid you, truth-doing God,
veto the hunger and poverty in our world,
override the need and abandonment and anxiety
so palpable among us,
cancel out the hurt and the dying
so pervasive in our world,
move peaceably against violence
and enact your shalom
in the face of our threats of war.
We do not hold back from you
the truth of our need.
Do not hold back from us
the gospel truth of your mercy,
Sway us from our deep distortion
into your deep goodness
that we and our world may again,
by your verdict,
be “Very good.” Amen.