There are few things as powerful as praying and worshiping with those who have experienced great loss.
It's my final morning in New Orleans, where I've been getting footage for the annual Sovereign Grace Ministries mission video. Our church here, Lakeview Christian Center, has to meet on Saturday mornings in a borrowed church building because they can't inhabit their flooded, molding facility. (First Baptist Church of Kenner is graciously allowing Lakeview to share their facility.) Customarily, an hour before their corporate meeting, Lakeview members meet to pray. The focus of this morning's corporate meeting was for members of the government and the opening exhortation was from 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
For 50 minutes, these men and women--some living in FEMA trailers, many still displaced from their homes, all affected economically and relationally--prayed for their governor, mayor, and other civil servants. They prayed that God would purge the injustice, greed, and dishonesty that have long been associated with New Orleans politics. They prayed for the salvation of these men and women in government, even when they didn't vote for them. They celebrated God's sovereignty in the midst of their troubles.
Earlier this week, a friend and I were talking about the blessings that come with submitting to the authority that God has set over us and this same passage had come to mind. In these discussions, we were focused more on what it means for a godly man to submit to other men in authority over him at work and in the church, and what it means for a godly woman to cultivate and practice the respect, honor, and submission that comes with the gift of a husband. So I had already been pondering this passage. But as I listened to the men and women praying this morning, it broadened my understanding of Godward trust. Before the group began to pray, the man leading the meeting gave a bit of historical background to the passage. He said that when the apostle Peter was writing this letter, the Roman emperor Nero was torturing Christians. So from outright persecution to loss compounded by government incompetence to the minor irritations that arise from our pride in following others, God's Word unequivocably calls us to submit to authority. How can we do this? By following our Lord's example, who "entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (verse 23).
After prayer, the "Sunday" worship service started. I've been sick the entire trip (probably compounded by all the mold here) so I've been suffering a bad cough and minor laryngitis. Thus I couldn't sing, but I could mouth the powerful lyrics of trust and praise. I couldn't keep my composure, however, when the congregation began to sing Matt Redman's song, "Blessed Be the Name." I burst into tears as I looked down upon these people raising their voices and hands in joy before the Lord as they sang, "You give and take away, you give and take away; my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name." They didn't just sing--they loudly exclaimed God's praises. From my vantage point, I could see many of those we've interviewed over the past few days, people who have lost homes, possessions, jobs. Not a one was standing sullenly before the Lord.
What a privilege to behold this sight: a redeemed people who have entrusted themselves to Him who judges justly. It was an honor to be with them today.