Come holy spirit and may the word of God dwell in us richly. Amen.

It’s a joy and a privilege to be with you. Thank you to the dean and the leadership team for making space for me to participate this morning. I couldn’t help but smile a little at the theme of Christ the King, because you’ve invited someone here in the midst of Washington, D.C., a Brit, to talk about monarchy and kingship. I think we had a little falling out about this about 250 years ago. And I’m reminded of that great anthem. Let me read you the words. “You say, the price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay. You cry in your tea, which you hurl in the sea, when you see me go by. Why so sad? Remember we made an arrangement when you went away. Now you’re making me mad. Remember, despite our estrangement, I’m your man. You’ll be back. Soon. You’ll see. You’ll remember you belong to me. You’ll be back. Time will tell. You’ll remember that I served you well. Oceans rise, empires fall. We’ve seen each other through it all. And when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love. Da da da da da da”, et cetera. King George singing in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s amazing musical, Hamilton.

And there is a problematic issue to monarchy. Because even in the Bible, when the people of Israel asked for a king, Samuel, the prophet, looked at them and said, “Really? Are you sure?” I can see him almost hanging his head thinking, “Do you know what’s going to come?” The resigned look of Jim, Michael Scott and Dwight, in The Office, go off on one more crazy adventure. And within the Bible itself, in Kings and Chronicles, the kings are chronicled, with one or two exceptions, “but most of them did evil in the sight of the Lord”.

And after the Bible, history continues the story, with one or two exceptions. But in Europe, we’ve not had a good time with monarchs. Monarchs have often been characterized by the abuse of power, by insecurity, by bad decisions. Indeed, history is filled with mad kings and queens who made their subjects miserable with cruelty, poor governance, and a detachment from reality. George III, him of the song, was derided by the poet, Shelley, as an “old, mad, blind, despised and dying king”. William IV, the English king during the Reform Crisis of the 1830s, the political diarist, Charles Greville said, “The government and their people have now found out what a fool the king is. They find him exceedingly silly”. And as Jennifer Donnelly in the book, Revolution, said, “Most of the mess that is called history comes about because Kings and presidents cannot be satisfied with a nice chicken and a good loaf of bread”.

Why is this a good image on this day for Christ the King? Why is this service led with music and reading all about images of kingship? Well, the kingship of Christ is not meant to be seen through the lens of our human experience of kings and queens. Rather the other way round. We should see ourselves and the use of power in this world through the lens of the kingship of Christ. And a couple of things, particularly from the readings this morning, strike me. The first is this, kingship is a picture of God’s sovereignty in both creation and new creation. Kingship is a picture of God’s sovereignty, both in creation and new creation. This is a kind of sovereignty, which is unlike human sovereignty. Psalm 93, As we sang, the Lord is king. He made the world.

And then we went onto the Daniel reading. And the Daniel reading is apocalyptic literature. It’s very difficult. It’s about a dream that Daniel had. Even Daniel who had the dream was terrified by it, says the book of Daniel. But there in the midst of a people who are in exile under various kings, Daniel has a vision of one who is far greater than this world, the ancient one who took his throne. And then a vision of one like a human being, who came to the ancient one and who had all authority and dominion. Christians, of course, see in that picture a picture of the Lord Jesus, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.

And then the book of Revelation, which is also a difficult book to interpret. You gave me some difficult passages this morning to preach on. This again is apocalyptic literature. It talks about the truth of God, perhaps in the context of the oppression of the Roman empire. And in the midst of this, the vision is of Jesus Christ, the ruler of all the kings of the earth. And then it goes on to say, and this Jesus “loves us and has freed us”. Isn’t that remarkable? Jesus is the king of both the universe creation and new creation. There is someone greater than all human authorities. There is someone greater than human history. There is someone greater than the universe itself.

And just a few days ago here in this cathedral at the Ignatius forum, we were talking about space in the light of the space window. And space is a pretty big place. Do you know that we are one star in our Milky Way galaxy of a hundred billion stars? And that’s one galaxy of a hundred billion galaxies. So how many stars are there in the universe? I know it’s early on a Sunday morning, but it’s fairly easy maths. You just multiply 100 billion by a hundred billion. And the answer is: a lot. That’s something like the grains of sand on the beaches of the world. And this is the universe that the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul would say, brought into existence and is preeminent, supreme in the whole of creation.

The naturalist William Beebe used to tell this story about Theodore Roosevelt. They would often have a conversation about environmental sustainability, and then they would repeat an informal ceremony, which they did many times over the years. They would go outside and look up at the night sky. They’d find a faint spot of life light, below the left-hand corner of the great square of Pegasus. Then one of them would say, “that’s the spiral galaxy Andromeda. It’s as large as our own Milky way. It’s one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of a hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun”. Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we feel small enough. Let’s go to bed”. There’s something about the kingship of Christ, which reminds us that we are not masters of this world. As that great Christian prophet James Bond says in, No Time To Die, “History is not kind to men who play God”.

We live in the light of a higher power and higher authority. But that’s also an encouraging thing for us, because as that beautiful music at the start of the service reminded us, in the name of Jesus we have the victory.

When I was a young Christian, and that was back in the last century, we didn’t have terribly good imaginative music. But one of my favorite songs was a little chorus from east Africa where we’d march around the room singing, “What a mighty God we serve. What a mighty God we serve. What a mighty God we serve. What a mighty God we serve”. There wasn’t a lot of subtlety to those lyrics, but it’s a truth that stayed with me in the midst of the wars and evils and hardships of this world. What a mighty God we serve. That’s the first point. Let me move quickly to the second point.

And that is that this is a kingship, which is given a different picture in the ministry of Jesus. In the ministry of Jesus, the power of kingship is subverted in a different way. And that’s the importance of the gospel reading from John. Did you pick up in the reading from the New Testament, this theme of the kingship of Jesus as a different kingship to that of Pilate? Pilate goes into that headquarters, the symbol of power. And there he talks with Jesus about two different kingdoms.

And in fact, in John’s gospel that runs all the way through. And in this conversation, it’s not being a king in the sense of this world. Because what John will develop in his account is that this title, King of the Jews, will move through the betrayals, and the tortures and then the crucifixion of Jesus. Eventually when Jesus is put to death on the cross, above the cross is written, The King of the Jews.

They’re all in the context of suffering and self-giving, of rejection, humiliation, and death. You see the kingship of Jesus is seen precisely in the cross. The cross is the center of exaltation and glorification. F.F. Bruce, the New Testament scholar, said, “The crucified one is the true king, the kingliest king of all, because it is he who stretched on the cross. He turns an obscene instrument of torture into a throne of glory and reigns from the tree. This is the essence of the kingship of Jesus. It doesn’t come from this world. It’s not maintained by force or violence. It’s a kingship of truth. And it’s a kingship of self-giving.

The world is driven by many who attempt to be king, to use power for our own ends. In dictatorships, or in racism, or in sexism, or in domestic tyranny to get the money, to get the power to use others. The nature of God is not like that. The nature of being truly human is not like that. True kingdom is built on principles of love and truth. Violence cannot win. And the king whose throne is the cross invites all of us to walk the same way. Only in giving do you receive. Only in loving do you find fulfillment. Only in the cross do you find resurrection.

And that’s why at the heart of this service, Christ the King presides at a eucharist, a thanksgiving, inviting us to take bread and wine. To remember his body broken for us, his blood shed for us, because he loves us and he wants to free us. And that’s the example, the inspiration and the heavenly power that is given to us to follow him.

And so, sisters and brothers in Christ, here in the midst of Washington, D.C., may I ask us all: who is our king? I’m a great fan of Queen Elizabeth, our English monarch. Wonderful person of faith. But in her whole reign, she hasn’t made political decisions. The government do all of that. I wonder how many times there have been in my life when I’ve proclaimed the kingship of Christ, but I’ve run my own life in my own way. God will not send a battalion to invite us to share our lives with him. God dies on a cross because in that we have the victory.

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