TEAM RECTOR’S NEWSLETTER for SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2022: We pray “Your Kingdom come”

One of the things that really struck me in the State Funeral was that it was necessary to “separate” the Crown Jewels from the deceased monarch, and this was done with great solemnity, just before the committal. The Crown Jewels are the symbol of active monarchy, especially the State Crown, the sceptre and the orb, and they are seldom seen in public, but they were on display for all to see in Westminster Hall, and they remained on the coffin throughout until the last moment.

They were placed in her hands and on her head at the Coronation and they were returned to the altar in Windsor, and in due course they will be given to Charles by the Archbishop (God’s representative) at the Coronation Service. The insignia of State remain but human life is more transient, even the longest of reigns comes to an end. And even monarchies and kingdoms and republics come to an end.

In the Old Testament there are three categories of leader for the nation who are entwined, each with different roles, and none perfect, and more importantly, no one can fulfil all three; there are the kings, the High Priests and the prophets. The prophets have the least statutory power but they speak truth to power, both to commend what is good and to challenge what is not. The priests ensure that the rhythm and priority of worship and prayer happen, and the king is, in different senses, subject to both, though politically more powerful.

In the New Testament these three roles come together in the person of Jesus, who is our High Priest, the one who intercedes for us, who is our Prophet, speaking to us of how we should live and speaking against the tyrannies of sin and injustice; he is also the King of kings, the Lord of lords, to whom allegiance is due, even before that due to the Emperor or to the Herods of this world.

As we begin a new era, with a new King and a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, we pray for them to be guided by God through the “priests” and by the “prophets”. The old Book of Common Prayer is very Royalist (as you would expect after the chaos of the period without a king), but it is also very clear that the king is only there under God. We live in a less stratified world, where even the idea of being “subjects” of the king is deemed problematic by many; we have learnt (and it is good) to empower people not to restrict; we value our freedom to vote, freedom to gather express ourselves, the independence of the judiciary, the freedom of the Press, and we need to be aware that none of these can be taken for granted. The Kingdom of God is a phrase taken from a time when Kingdoms and Empires were the norm, and now our knowledge of history is such that we see their oppressive sides as well, but God’s Kingdom has always been contrasted with as well as understood in terms of other kingdoms.

In God’s Kingdom, where righteousness and justice abound, where life flourishes and all are free, there will be joyous worship, with the angels, but no priests will be needed, and because truth and integrity flow there will be no need for prophets. The King will not have bodyguards and all are invited to the banquets. We pray for our leaders today; we pray “Your Kingdom come”.