“All the saints greet you. But especially those who are of Caesar’s household.”
Our United States Senate – the upper house of Congress, first described in our Constitution in 1787 and convened in 1789. From the beginning, they added the role of Chaplain to minister to the Senators, their staffs, and their families, to oversee Bible studies and the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, to lead funerals and memorial services, and to offer the opening prayer for every session of the House and the Senate.
Whose idea was it, to open every session with prayer? None other than Benjamin Franklin, on June 28, 1787: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel . . . I therefore beg leave to move - that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.” Hmmm – Franklin makes many direct references to the Bible. Sure doesn’t sound like what you would expect a nonbeliever to be promoting. Maybe we did have, as our verse for this week says, “saints in Caesar’s house”.
But what about today? Is our government filled with saints? It doesn’t seem like it. Every year since 1973, Gallup has asked Americans to rank the institutions they most trust. Our military, at 78%, is always at the top. Small business is second at 64%, then our police force at 54%, then the church at 48%. Who comes in last in the polls? Congress, at 6%. If there are saints in government, it must be a well-kept secret!
But if there are encouraging words to give us on the state of our government today, you need to go listen to this year’s National Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker, current US Senate Chaplain Barry Black, the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate and its first (after 228 years) black Chaplain, holding this position since 2003. Before that, he was Chief of Chaplains of the US Navy, holding the rank of Rear Admiral.
Here are selections from Chaplain Black’s speech, which I am sure will inspire many believers: “You probably did not know that Republic, Democrat and Independent lawmakers get together each week for a prayer breakfast, and at the end we stand and join hands and pray together. I find myself wondering where are the CSPAN cameras when you need them? Few of you know that the next day, in one of the hideaways, Senators from both sides of the aisle meet for a Bible Study. That Bible Study begins and ends with a prayer, again both sides praying with and for one another. You also may not know that every Wednesday the Chiefs of Staff get together for a Bible Study that begins and ends with a prayer. Some of you may not know that every Friday over 100 staffers, police officers, janitors, waiters, waitresses come together for a Bible Study. And that Bible Study begins and ends with a prayer.
Paul had it right in Philippians 4:22, There are ‘saints in Caesar’s household.’ And I am encouraged by the robust spirituality of so many who work on Capitol Hill. We have Senators under the radar who are ordained ministers. We also have Senators whose spirituality dwarfs my own. Now we work hard to make our voices heard on earth. But when I see a group of people of faith of this size, I get an adrenaline rush. Because I know God is in the midst when we get this many people gathered together in His name. I can feel the palpable presence of God here in this place. Far more important than making our voices heard here on earth is the opportunity to make our voices heard in heaven.
Mr. President, you may be familiar with this Scripture verse, because it was read at your Inauguration. 1Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge you first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them. We need to pray for everyone – for all people. Ask God to help them. Intercede on their behalf. Pray this way for kings, and all that are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants – now hear this – everyone to be saved and know the truth.”
Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, written while Nero’s prisoner in Rome, is a letter of triumph, using the words “joy” and “rejoice” to describe the believers’ life. Paul and Chaplain Black know that regardless of our circumstances, each day of our lives is a day we can lift our voices to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.