Every inch a King
www.papalencyclicals.net may not be one of your regular online haunts, but, believe you me, it’s fascinating. Here is the place to find many a good read, not least Quas Primas, the encyclical which established the Feast of Christ the King, which we will celebrate on Sunday. The encyclical is rooted in the Biblical material which speaks so eloquently about the Kingship of Christ, and also of the importance of acknowledging his Kingship in a world of political instability and questioning of true authority. Canon Angela Tilby has described the Feast of Christ the King as ‘a counterblast to secularism and fascism. It was meant to bring confidence to a Church that was beleaguered, and to send a signal to aspiring European politicians that the Church was still a forceful presence in society’.
We might quite like the idea of bringing confidence to a beleaguered church, no matter how unbeleaguered we might be feeling at Great St Mary’s. But there is a long discussion to be had, I think, about what we might mean by hoping for a confident church. Confident in our message, confident in our mission, confident in the way we worship? – yes, I hope so; yes, please. But confident in what the church has to say about sexuality, about gender, about the climate, about money … these things are trickier.
We don’t spend much time, perhaps, thinking about Christ as King – I hope that many of you will find my sermon on Sunday morning useful in this regard! But in the meantime, enjoy meditating on an extract from the sermon preached by a man whose Archiepiscopate should, I believe, be more celebrated than it often is. As we come to remember the composition of Christ’s crown, and the nature of his throne, it is worth hearing the words of Robert Runcie, preached at his enthronement sermon in Canterbury Cathedral in 1980:
This way of living and sharing, admitting our own failings and our longings, is not what people expect from those who sit on thrones. “Speak out, condemn, denounce”, is what is expected. But the throne of Jesus is a mercy seat. It stands firm against all the vileness of the world but it stands also for compassion. The way of Jesus means reverencing people whether they belong to our party or not. The strategy of Jesus means changing lives with love.
The strategy of Jesus means changing lives with love. Nothing beleaguered about that; for it is the rule – in every sense – of Christ the King.