In 1996, I saw the king, who was then Prince Charles. I was in the back of Westminster Abbey for a public, evensong service. When it ended, Charles, who I didn’t know was there; who was seated in the front, was the first to leave. Charles was deeply tanned and handsomely dressed in a fine, tailored suit with a silk tie and matching pocket square. I was stunned to see him and he was stunning to see.
Undoubtedly, his coronation will be stunning, too. Charles will return to Westminster Abbey to be crowned. A worldwide audience will watch him; an impressive military guard will attend him; an ancient ceremony will crown him; earthly royalty will gather to honor him; thousands will line the streets to cheer him. The occasion will be glorious.
Charles seems like a decent man. His past sins are public knowledge. But his present virtues are equally apparent and seemingly more abundant. He seems to be a devoted husband. He seems to genuinely care for his subjects. His charitable work appears to be done genuinely and generously. He has known heartache; he will now be honored as he is elevated to the position to which he was born: To rule over a kingdom. It’s hard to imagine such power and privilege; wealth and acclaim. It isn’t everyday that you get to witness the coronation and the rising of a king.
Which brings to mind another King, who was born to rule a very different kingdom. That King, our King, doesn’t rule over a diminished empire that once colonized peoples to enrich itself. Our King reigns in an everlasting kingdom to free people; to bless and enrich us all. Our King didn’t appear in majesty, but obscurity. He wasn’t born into privilege in a palace; he was born into poverty in a barn. He wasn’t something to behold – he was nothing to look at. Our King wasn’t given a golden crown to be honored on a throne. He was given a thorny crown to be humiliated on a cross. Our King wasn’t revealed in glory to live in power. Our King was revealed in suffering to die in love.
We mostly ignore, dismiss, and denigrate Jesus because it’s hard for us humanly to see what true majesty is. We think power is power over others. Jesus shows us that true power – God power – is power for others. True power – born of God and incarnate in Jesus – is non-violent love. We think that “power” is foolish and weak, but that wise Love is actually the greatest power of all. Love is the power that raised Jesus from dead. Love is the power that can raise you as well.
All of us want to be King. We all want power to make things go our way. We want control, cash, and acclaim. We want it all. The petty tyrant that wants to rule our lives and to be enthroned in our hearts is our ego.
But by trying to gain it all, we actually lose it all. Even kings like Charles; their rule always ends. All their wealth, honor, and glory – it all goes away. It doesn’t last. When we seek that crud, it doesn’t satisfy us. Those things don’t give us life because they aren’t life.
To really live you have to love. To rule you must serve. To be first, you must be willing to be last: To forgive readily, share generously, and live humbly. That’s the way of Life. That’s the Way of Jesus, whose Life can be yours today – as you give yourself away in love – not to debase yourself needlessly, but so that you can avoid the siren call of the self to have it all.
True power, real life, lasting joy: We find that as we stop pursuing that. When we start serving others, we find real power – God power – the power of Love within us. The more we give it away, the more we have. Because we aren’t caught up in possessing, controlling, and dominating, we become alive and free. We discover peace and we are filled with joy. As we follow the true King, we are given the keys to the kingdom. By following Christ in serving others, we surprisingly find ourselves blessed by love, saved by grace, and crowned with life.