A King, Anyone?
Addressing Americans displeased by our election results, the British-Russian writer Nikolai Tolstoy suggested in the New York Times that maybe it is time for America to consider a (constitutional) monarchy – a very stable form of government, perhaps more so than a republic. Americans “have only to direct their gaze toward their northern neighbor to find…contented Canada…,” he opined.
A King, Anyone?
But alas, these United States have a sour history with kings, going back to George III of “Tea Party” days. So severe was the early-American allergy to kings, that our fledgling Episcopal Church (the Church of England in the U.S.) removed all trappings of royalty from its own bishops, and left them with relatively little power in the church hierarchy. (Much of the power was devolved to the people in congregations, who were given the vote to elect their own clergy leaders.)
Our own bishop, Mariann Edgar Budde, presides ceremonially over the great Washington National Cathedral and a diocese of 88 congregations. She chairs the Cathedral Foundation, which governs the Cathedral and its several schools and institutions. She has great responsibility. Yet her authority flows not downward from an archbishop (much less a pope), but upward from the churchmembers in our diocese. It is an unwieldy system, as, I suppose, most democracies are. Bp. Budde uses her authority as a teacher and prophet with great care and skill. I hope you all receive and read her communications through the diocesan newsletter and website www.EDOW.org. If you are not already subscribed, you may do so here.
This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday – the last in the church year. We all love singing the great coronation hymns: ‘Crown him Lord of all!’ But Jesus is the most unlikely king you’ll find. He has no use for trappings, he covets no political power. And yet he seeks to rule in the hearts of all of us follow him. Some might say, judging from his followers, that Jesus is a poor – or at least ineffective – king. We Christians are a motley bunch, lacking in many virtues, subject to grievous faults. Like an Episcopal bishop, Jesus is a king who rules through persuasion, gentle leading, and sacrificial love. In this, Jesus is a master. We, as his subjects, are the ones lacking in devotion, in courage, and in compassion, to follow him.
But I think it’s good to sing those glorious coronation choruses to remind ourselves that, whatever happens here on earth, one thing never changes: Jesus is the true king, ruling through the greatest power there is, the power of love. Never forget that. It’s a lifetime project for us, his people, to become his worthy subjects.