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The Inauguration of Haley Barbour - God and Government

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jan 11, 2004

2 Chronicles 7:14

A WORSHIP SERVICE
of
PRAYER AND PRAISE

Preceding the Inauguration
of
HALEY REEVES BARBOUR
As
GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI

THE INAUGURAL WORSHIP SERVICE

For

HALEY REEVES BARBOUR

The First Presbyterian Church
Jackson, Mississippi
The Eleventh Day of January, Two Thousand Four
Four O’Clock

“Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord”
Psalm 33:12

THE PRELUDE–“Notturno” (Opus 61, No. 7) The Orchestra
Felix Mendelssohn

“Solemn Festival Entrance”

Richard Strauss
THE GREETINGS– The Reverand Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson

On behalf of the session and congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, I want to welcome you all to this service of divine Christian worship on the notable occasion of the inauguration of a governor of this great state. I want you to know that all the Scriptures and songs chosen and requested by our Governor-elect are specifically designed by him to point away from him and to God. We are here today to worship the almighty God and the focus will be on Him. Even some of the Scriptures we avoided reading today were designed to be omitted so that we would not give the impression that the focus was on the Governor-elect. The choir and the orchestra do not request your applause today; rather we would all deflect the praise to God Himself. I would say briefly that after the service the congregation will remain seated until the Governor-elect and his family exists. And then I will return and dismiss the congregation during the postlude from the back of the sanctuary. We especially welcome friends and family of the First Presbyterian Church of Yazoo City, the Governor-elect's home congregation, and their minister who will now begin this service with a call to worship.


THE CALL TO WORSHIP– Reverend Mr. Joe Perry Easterling
Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City

Beloved saints of the Lord Jesus Christ, may God's grace and His mercy be yours in abundance. “We lift our eyes to the hills–where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” May the name of the Triune God ever be praised.

Arise, O church, now and join your voices with the saints that have gone before us. Arise, O church, and join your voices with the angelic host of Heaven, giving praise to our Redeemer God, even to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hymn of praise is hymn #92, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” I would ask that you would stand with us as we sing and that you would remain standing for the invocation. Let's worship our God together.

THE HYMN OF PRAISE NO. 92– 		“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
THE PRAYER OF INVOCATION–  	    The Reverend Mr. Chester Berryhill
						    Minister, Rising Sun Baptist Church, Hernando

Most holy and merciful God, we offer our sincere thanks for the divine privilege of seeking Your blessings on this special occasion. We ask for Your attention to our petition for grace, mercy, and peace. Grant us the successful and enlightened experience of new leadership in the governor's office. We pray that you would grant Governor-elect, Haley Barbour, wisdom with his knowledge, integrity with his leadership, insight into the complexities of governing, compassions for the citizens so deserving, toughness for painful and difficult but necessary decisions, victory over negative obstacles and barriers, vision for a better Mississippi, success as he leads this great state. We pray for grace for the first family, and seek protection from the pressures to disrupt or divide. We ask for enough unity among the diverse constituency that differences will be less of an issue or an item than our common need to grow and be successful. Give us the ability to respect and respond to the quality of leadership that will enable all of us to do better–for our own sake, for our children's sake, for God's sake. We need Your presence. We seek Your power even as we praise Your holy name. God bless Governor-elect, Haley Barbour. Bless this assembly and this service. Bless his wife, Marcia. God bless Mississippi. God bless America. Amen

THE SOLO– “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Mr. Derrick Burt, Soloist

William M. Runyan

THE SCRIPTURE READING– The Reverend Mr. William C. Hughes
Executive Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson

Governor-elect Barbour has chosen the Scripture readings today on this special occasion. Former presidents of the United States of America have referenced some of these Scriptures in their inaugurals. I’ll only read a portion of what is listed in your bulletin. Let us give attention to the reading of God's word.

First, from II Chronicles chapter 7, verse 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And from Psalm 33, selected verses:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth- 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

And then, finally, from Proverbs 21:1, “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” Thus far the reading of God's word.

THE INAUGURAL PRAYERS–

Prayer for the State of Mississippi: Judge William H Barbour Jr., Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City: I’ll ask you to join me in praying for our state. Our God and our Father, You have made this earth and everything in it. You have ordained governments and have rested them on the shoulders of Your Son, Jesus Christ. To You we direct our prayers. We thank You for the blessings You have bestowed upon us here in Mississippi: the great natural beauty, for the friendliness of its people and their concern for each other, for the prevalence of their belief in strong family values, for our freedom, both governmentally and culturally, to publicly profess our belief in You, for godly men and women who are willing to commit themselves to participate in the affairs of government, and for the man who wishes to start his term in office with this service to worship and glorify You. But, Lord, we have so many problems in this state: poverty, crime, distrust between the races. We confess that many of these problems are caused by our failure individually and corporately to follow the tenants You have given us. We pray for our officials in all three branches of our state government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. We pray for cooperation, for compromise, and for wisdom. We also acknowledge that eventually the decisions of government reflect the beliefs, desires, and attitudes of its citizens collectively. We pray for each citizen of this state. We pray that Your Holy Spirit will move in each of us to be more understanding of others, more unselfish, and more willing to work for and to support the common good. Be merciful to us, our God and our Father. Amen

Prayer for the State Legislature: Mr. Frederick Clark, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City: As we go to the Lord in prayer, I’ll ask you to bow your heads and have a few moments of silent prayer for Haley and Marcia and Reed and Sterling, and then I will close in prayer. Our most gracious God and heavenly Father, we just praise Your holy name. We thank You that You are the sovereign God. We just thank You that You are our God, and we just thank You for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who's in the throne room now interceding for us as our Prophet and our Priest and our King. And, Father, I thank You for this inaugural worship service. I thank You that Haley wanted to begin his term in office with this worship service. And, Father, I just pray that everything we do in this hour will honor You. I pray, Father, we would truly worship You in spirit and in truth. And, Father, I do thank You for Haley, and I pray that You’d give him Your divine guidance as he will be making appointments and studying bills that have been passed and that have come before the legislature and other matters, and I pray, above all, he’ll always be in prayer to You as he considers these things. And, Father, I do pray now that You will bless the legislature. I pray for the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, the blacks, the whites. And, Father, I pray for racial harmony among the members of the legislature. I pray that in every matter that comes up before them, that they will act in the best interest of the state and not for their selfish gains. And now, Father, I pray the next four years will be the beginning of a new era in our state. May we all work together as Christians for unity and peace. And Father, may we realize that we have a state right here…we have a mission field, and let us as Christians not be ashamed to present the gospel. And I pray, Father, for a real revival within our state. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Prayer for the Governor and his Administration: The Reverend Mr. Bradford M. Stewart, Minister, Grace Presbyterian Church, Starkville: Well, let's continue to pray. Our Father in heaven, You’re the One who's the creator and sustainer of the universe. You’re the One who is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Governor of Governors. We praise You for You are the One who places kings and rulers and governors, indeed all officials, in their places. How we thank You and praise You for this occasion, knowing as Your word says that the authorities that exist have been established by God. We acknowledge as has been read even before that, “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” We ask You that the Governor-elect's heart would be tender to Your direction, that he would trust in You with all his heart and lean not on his own understanding, and as all his ways acknowledge You, that You would direct his paths. We pray for Haley's physical health. Father, keep him fit, strong, clear-headed, free from accident or injury. Give him a clear understanding of his personal priorities. Bless his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Bless his family life. Bless Marcia, Sterling, and Reese. Pour out Your Spirit upon them. Bless him as he seeks to govern. Give him the humility of a David who exclaimed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, that You have brought me thus far?” Give him Solomonic wisdom, even as Solomon asked, “Give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Grant that those surrounding Haley and his administration would support him as he seeks to serve You in the place that You have put him. And may he and his administration be used of You to unify the people of this state across racial, socioeconomic, and ethnic bounds. Be pleased to make him Your instrument to be a blessing to the people of the state of Mississippi. All to the glory of Your name and for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ in whose name that we pray. Amen.

THE SOLO– “From Sea to Shining Sea” Mr. Charles L. Graeber III, Soloist
Arranged by Whitney

THE SERMON– God and Government

Amen. If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to II Chronicles 7:14. I want to go back to the passages that have already been read today, and I want to highlight two or three things that we learn from each of those passages as we approach these years together as Christians, as fellow Mississippians praying for our state, praying for our government, praying for our governor.

One of the things that we learn from II Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” is that we are dependent upon God for blessing and guidance. We should humble ourselves before God as we seek for national mercies and state mercies. And our Governor-elect wants us to know as a people that he too looks to God for guidance in these times. As we turn forward to Psalm 33:12, again in the readings we heard these words, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” And then down in verse 18, “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” We learn a second thing from that passage: that the nation and people is blessed who trusts in God and who fears Him. And so we ought to look to God as the source of blessing and provision and protection for our land and for our state. And, again, the Governor-elect would want us to know that he recognizes from whom and from whence all blessings flow.

And then, finally, in Proverbs, the book of Proverbs 21:1, when we are told that “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases,” we're reminded that we need to pray to God to give wisdom and guidance to the Governor and for the Governor to be responsive to God's guiding. This passage reminds us that those who are rulers over the people, those who are governors, their heart is in the hand of the Lord, and they need spiritual guidance in their guiding. And the Governor-elect purposes to be like water in the Lord's hands, and He would have us to pray so as well.

But we live in a confused time. We live in a time where there is a great social and moral divide, not only in our state but all across the land, and there is confusion about how God and government mix or don't mix. There are some who want God to be out of government. There are some who want America to be declared a Christian nation, which not understandably or not surprisingly causes some consternation amongst those who are not Christians in our land. So how should Christians be involved in government? How should Christians and why should Christians want to be involved in government? How should we pray for our government? These are practical questions. And I want to give us a few brief answers to those things as we seek to uplift our new Governor and government in this state in prayer. To do this, I'd like you to turn to Matthew chapter 5 and to four small verses there. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and in verse 13 He says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

Why should a Christian be involved in society, in the culture, or in government? Jesus supplies one very important answer here. Christians are part of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy to be a blessing to the world. Jesus in this passage, teaches us that we are to live so as to be salt and light to this world, to be preservative in a hurting and decaying world. In a fallen world where there are conflicts and there are wounds, we are to be preservative, to be salt. And we are to be light. We are to let the light of God's truth and grace and love shine in a sin-weary world. And so we are to live in such a way as to be a blessing in the world. Our goal is not to control the world; our goal is not to wrest power from this world; our goal is to bless this world. One pastor has put it this way, “When God called Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees from the service of idols into the fellowship of the living God, He changed him from being a guest on this planet to being a host. In other words, Abraham's relationship to the world changed. Instead of being one of God's many guests on this planet, he suddenly accrued a responsibility to be a host to the rest of this world. And do you remember God's words to him? That he would be “a blessing to all the families of the earth.” And the Christian is involved in government, in society, and in culture precisely for the purpose of being a blessing to all the families of the earth. We are involved in a conspiracy of blessing?
Well, how are we to be involved? Does the Bible give us instruction on how the Christian is to be involved? Indeed it does. The Bible's instructions are gathered from various places. You’ll find some in Romans 13, in Titus 3, in I Peter 2, and in other places, but the basic marching orders are clear. What are we supposed to do as Christians? First of all, we are to submit to legitimate government authority. Paul stresses this in Romans 13:1. We among all people are to law-abide and show people by our respect for the law that God has done a work of grace in our hearts.

Secondly, we are to acknowledge that God ordained government. Let me ask you to look at Romans 13:1 and the second half of that verse especially. There Paul says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Christians recognize that all legitimate government authority finds its source and root in God, and it is God's transcendent law which we believe establishes all civil liberties and which establishes the rule of law in the land. And it's important for us to remember, my friends, that our founding fathers, all of them, believed the same thing–Christians and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, Deists and Rationalists–all knew that if there was no transcendent law, there could not be unalienable rights, there could not be civil liberties, because those rights and liberties, if they are not based on an unchanging law, can be changed by the tyranny of 50% + 1 margins. No, unlessthe law of this land, and unless the rights and civil liberties of this land, are grounded in an unchanging transcendent moral law, then we are at the disposal of those who would take those liberties. That's one reason our Governor-elect likes to say this, “Times change, but morals don't,” because those morals are rooted in the unchanging, transcendent law of God. That's why it's not okay to be a racist, because God in His own transcendent order has established that we would honor the image of God in all men and women. And thus, because of His transcendent order, there is equity in the way that we relate to one another. And so, Christians are to acknowledge that God ordained government.

Furthermore, Paul emphasizes in verse 7 in this passage that we are to show respect to those who govern. We live in a time in which there is very heated and often uncivilized discourse in the political sphere. Christians, of all people, should show respect to those who hold offices that deserve respect. We are, of course, also to pray for those in government–and I’ll speak to that in just a moment. And, finally, we are to serve in government if called. We remember Daniel being called into the service of three different administrations, even in a pagan kingdom. And we can think of Queen Esther and the tremendously important role that she played in a government. We think of David's call to serve the family of God. And we think of those who even served in the house of Caesar, whom Paul speaks of in Romans chapter 16. Christians are to serve if they are called to serve in government.

But how do we pray? If we are to be involved, how are we to be involved in praying for those in government? Well, again, there are various directives in the word of God, and I could summarize some of these directions in these ways. We are to pray, first of all, that our government would foster nothing against justice and truth. Just as the Hippocratic Oath asks the doctor to pledge that he will first do no harm, so also the government should take the same pledge. First, do no harm on what is done on behalf of the people. And so we would pray that the government would foster nothing against justice and truth. And we would pray that the government would make the innocent's cause its own. That government leaders would be protected against the temptations which are peculiar to their office, and that they would be given strength and wisdom for their tasks, that the government in all its branches would work in harmony, and that God would usher in a new season of blessing in our state that brings all our people together and sees the common good advanced. Our Governor-elect not only craves your prayers for him, but all our collective prayers for our President. In all these ways, we as Christians are to give of ourselves on behalf of the common good of all people in the governments of this land and of this state. May God help us to stay faithful to those unchanging norms of right and wrong, to be involved constructively in the government of this state so that all people see our goodwill towards them. And may He enable us to be fervent and faithful in prayer on behalf of our Governor, his administration, and the legislative and judicial branches of government here in the state of Mississippi. And May God indeed bless us all through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let's look to Him now in prayer.

Almighty God, ruler of all the earth, establisher of justice, freedom and government–we come before You this day humbly asking for Your presence and Your mercies and blessings on the Governor-elect and the men and women of the Mississippi House and Senate and Judiciary who will shoulder the shared burden of government with him, and to whom as been entrusted the sacred and noble and public vocation of furthering the rule of law in this great state. We acknowledge that righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, and that Your own character is the transcendent source of law, that Your law is the fountainhead of all legitimate human law and rights. Indeed, our country's founding documents themselves, The Declaration of Independence and Constitution, together our organic law, remind us that our unalienable rights come not from societal conventions, not from human tradition, or even from constitutional grant, but they are grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God. It is the Creator-God who has established justice and freedom for us. Grant our Governor-elect and those who serve with and counsel him, O Lord, the desire and the wisdom of Solomon to discern between good and evil. Make his motives to be, in all his decisions, the promotion of justice, the protection of the weak, and the advancement of the common, public good. Give to him a heart to labor on behalf of the impoverished and destitute, but to show bias neither to rich nor to poor. Teach him to love both mercy and justice. Cause him to adorn the vocation of governance and rule with his own personal character, and to raise the public estimation of his office's importance and integrity, and to assist in securing the continuation of a just and equitable society. O God, may justice role down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream. And bless us, we pray, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Let us take our hymnals in hand and turn to #710, singing to God's praise, “God of Our Fathers.”

THE HYMN OF RESPONSE NO. 710– “God of Our Fathers”
National Hymn

THE ANTHEM– “Hallelujah!” (Messiah)
George Frederick Handel
The Choirs of First PresbyterianChurch, Jackson, and Yazoo City

THE BENEDICTION– Mr. Easterling

THE POSTLUDE– “Festmarch”
Richard Strauss

© First Presbyterian Church.

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