Protestors and Politicians and Police, Oh News!

Every now and again Facebook decides to remind me of some quote or picture I shared years before. I’m always intrigued by this because it gives me a window into my past. Recently I’ve been reminded of all the Martin Franzmann quotes I shared a few years ago as I was researching for my STM thesis. I’ll always be grateful for that time when I was able to drink deep from the pen of Franzmann. Every time I read him, not matter how many times I’ve read the piece before, he speaks to me in ways other theologians don’t. I’ve come to call him the most important Martin since Luther and, in actuality, my favorite Martin. I hope that I never lose the wonder, awe, and humility I feel when I read him. He really has formed and shaped me in ways I can’t begin to express. 

Often, people ask me why I appreciate him so much. My response is typically the same, “just go read him.” I know that sounds less than helpful but there is no substitute for sitting down and reading his stuff. It isn’t just that he can teach complex truths in poetic ways, he speaks to the moment like no one else. One of his books that has been personally formative for me as a Christian and a pastor is Pray for Joy. The book is a collection of prayers written as poetry. The prayers touch on everything from rainy days to being in an art gallery to sharing a glass of wine. The depth of his wisdom and humility of his heart are on full display every single page. If you can find a copy, buy it. Use it. Pray the prayers as if they were your own. I’ve used them publicly and privately, to open up congregational meetings and in my own devotional life. 

Four prayers[1] I have found myself gravitating to these many months focus on protestors, politicians, police, and reading the news. These prayers were published fifty years ago, as some of the gendered language betrays. They may not have been written for today, but they speak to our moment. They may have been Franzmann’s prayers, but they are mine and, I hope, yours too. 

For Men In Protest

O furious Cleanser of the house of God, O Blaster of the fruitless tree, look in mercy on those men whose love compels them to spell out in act their anguished impatience at the sloth of law, their no to legal illegalities, their militant compassion for the wronged and all the nameless, faceless poor and dispossessed. Keep them from intoxication with their rightness. Give them charity toward those who cannot be as militant as they, who walk down other, longer roads toward the same goal. Preserve them from driving the wedge of power so deep into the grain of structured equity that all goes crashing. Bid them guard with care the flame that breaks so quickly into a fire that makes an indifferent holocaust of all works of Your judicial hand. Lord, give us all a heart of quick compassion, wisdom to plan and execute before the too-late of our action breeds the swarms of scorpions whose sting shall make us all long for death we cannot find. 

For Charity Toward Men in Office

Almighty God, You have ordained the authorities that are; You have clothed them in a majesty that is higher and stronger than the given facts of their history, a majesty that wakens fear in us and claims honor from us. O God, remember in Your mercy the men who bear the burden of this majesty, men like us, easily bent by the pressure of temptation, by the impact of expediency. Remember them and strengthen them when they are moved to shade the truth to their own ends, to withhold what should be told, to distort what must be told, to disclose what does not serve our common weal. Keep intact their honor and their credibility. Purge us, O God, of cynical distrust, of party passion, of the deafness of our rebellious bent. Teach us, O Lord, the meekness that would rather be deceived than be encrusted with perpetual distrust. Teach the charity that will interpret all uncertainties toward the side of goodness. Create in our world an air of which the truth can freely breathe, a sea on which the ships of truth can sail, an earth on which the feet of truth can walk unhurt. Your Son, our Lord, would not speak ill of Caesar even when Caesar’s power nailed Him to the cross. Give us the Spirit of Your Son. 

For the Police

O Lord, I thank you for the mighty and intricate machine of justice Your Law has fashioned for my good, the elaborate and vigilant network of men and instruments that think and prowl and click and calculate that I may move, secure and peaceable, on pleasant paths of ordered decency. Remember in mercy, O Lord, the men who stand between me and the chaos of bestial lawlessness. Give them, O Lord, awareness of the high majesty of the law which clothes their work and them with awesome dignity; patience to bear the conspicuous loneliness of men in uniform and to endure the slick disdain that falls on all embodiments of rectitude; strength to resist the corrosive wash of the temptations that are peculiarly theirs: to grow harsh in the face of brutality, vindictive in the face of endless malice; to make the easy, cynical, venal compromise with small-scale wrong that does not seem to matter much; to settle into dark contempt of the mankind whose unlovely features are continually before their eyes. O Lord, let all good men hear ever and again the thundering voice of unendurable Sinai, and let them look with new, respectful eyes, ever and again, on the men, the plain, frail men, whose daily work articulates for us the far-off voice of Sinai. 

While Reading the News

O God Almighty, I thank you for this net that sweeps all waters and brings me news of all the daily life of all my neighbors everywhere in the world. Make me compassionate, O God of all mercies, with my neighbors’ sufferings. Teach me to know and feel that distant anguish is as aching as my own. Teach me to pray “Thy kingdom come!” as widely as Your Son has willed and meant it. Teach me to do what I can and must do for all men. Teach me long-reaching charity. Give me faith to know, when news is as black as ink, that your hand is guiding all, obscurely and unfathomably but surely, surely toward your goal; that when the world shakes and Satan triumphs with short certainty, Your Son, Jesus Christ, is Lord of all, that He, the Lamb slain for our sins, is opening the seals of Your book and is working out Your good and holy will. Remember in Your mercy the gatherers and disseminators of the news. Protect them from all harm. Keep them from cynical and cheap success, from a single taste for disaster, from unconsidered and deliberate distortion of the sad and wondrous face of man. 

[1] The prayers below have been reformatted from the original printed text though the capitalization and punctuation remain as published. They are all from: Martin H. Franzmann, Pray for Joy (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970) 53–54, 57–62. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s