Over the years kings have not been very good to us. George IV spent more money on decorating his Brighton Pavillion and wining and dining his friends than the whole of Brighton spent in a decade. Victoria was grumpy and miserable for about half her reign, Edward VII and Charles II had endless mistresses, and then there were the really bad ones like Henry VIII who was just a nasty selfish piece of work.
But none of that is new – King Herod the Great was a cruel tyrant and his son King Herod was a floozy. Throughout the Old Testament most of the kings of Israel and Judah get a pretty bad press – and even the good ones like King Solomon – who had 1000 concubines – and King David, who had his best general Uriah murdered so that he could carry on an affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, were not all that great either.
In fact way back in the book of Samuel when the people of Israel ask God to give them a king, the prophet Samuel does his level best to put them off – a king will take your money in taxes to pay for his palaces and his wars, .. he says … a king will take your daughters and put them in his harem .. he says … a king will take your sons and force them to be his soldiers .. he says … you only need one King, and that’s God – he says … but the people don’t take any notice of him and they choose a king.
Which all goes to point out how remarkable our own Queen actually is. Her great grandfather – Edward VII was just a playboy who lived the high life – her grandfather and grandmother lived through the first world war and realised that everything had to change – they were the first ones to take visiting the ordinary people and shaking hands seriously. her father and mother – King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother were even more serious about visiting the masses during the second world war – although even these lived in a weird world where servants held ashtrays and put on their clothes for them. And this is the palace world Princess Elizabeth was born into – it is of course still priviledged and strange – and yet, somehow, she and the royal family are more human thanks to her extraordinary 67 year reign.
Part of that is of course that she never has an opinion. . which means that we never really know what she thinks. So I often wonder what’s going through her head as she settles down with her ovaltine to watch News at Ten at night. In one way she’s seen it all before : wayward children, scandalous royals, divorces, bad photographs, ill-judged television interviews, car crashes, racist comments and more and more and more…. as she flicks on the switch I wonder if she is thinking … I wonder what they’re going to say tonight!
And then she has had all those Prime-ministers and Government ministers and ambassadors to deal with – I can’t imagine what she makes of Boris Johnson- I rather hope she makes mincemeat of him. And then she has to shake hands with crooks and criminals and murderers and tyrants and lyers and creeps and all the rest …. and all that with a royal smile on her face.
But, whatever you make of her majesty – and I know that some here are more republican than others – I think that we can agree that she has at least stuck the course. For people like me who has lived there whole life with Queen Elizabeth on the money and on the stamps, there is a sort of permanence about her… Prime ministers and governments come and go, other world leaders come and go, even popes come and go, – she has shaken the hand of every one since Pius XII – and somehow her majesty just carries on for ever. A symbol of solid permanence in an ever-changing world. Even with all the current mess around Brexit and elections – whatever happens – the Queen will – I hope – still be there afterwards, and that is a comfort.
Which is not what we can say for the alternative. Whatever the problems are with having a royal family – and there are many – in my humble opinion the alternative is worse, especially if the alternative looks like Donald Trump. I mean, I ask you, who in their right might would want a president when you can have a queen. And I don’t even like the reasonably good ones like Emmanuel Macron… the wonderful thing about the queen, for me, is that she doesn’t deserve it, she hasn’t been elected, therefore she has no reason to think herself any better than anyone else – whereas elected presidents get funny ideas that the people agree with what they say and do and think…. to me that is far far worse than a hereditary monarchy, but I am Church of England after all.
So what has all this monarchist stuff got to do with Jesus and the feast of Christ the King? Well I think it’s exactly the same. I imagine each evening Jesus does the heavenly equivalent of sipping his ovaltine and turning on News at Ten and then groans in dispair at what his children are up to now. I imagine that Jesus looks at his leaders, bishops, priests and deacons – and thinks what a dreadful lot of self-interested timewasters. I imagine Jesus – Christ the King – sits back in the royal palace wishing that his people, his leaders, his family, could all just get their acts together and start to behave …………. but here are the two wonderful points for this mornings sermon – Good News – the first is that like Queen Elizabeth, God is always there – solid, constant, reliable… It doesn’t matter what mess we make of our lives, the church, the world, politics and all the rest – God will always still be there. That’s a comfort.. And the second thing – for all those people who are not in this church this morning – is that the alternative is so much worse. The alternative to a loving, generous, creator God is just setting some tyrant up in his place … some loudmouthed human being who thinks they’re god…. and that is so so much worse.
So on this feast of Christ the King, let’s sing an alleluia that the really good news is that God is always there … come what may. Presidents come and go, Prime Ministers come and go, Referendums come and go, even great nations and civilisations come and go, but God just is. Amen.