April 2011

A Royal Coronation

Easter is coming.  It’s about as late as it can be (the latest possibility is April 25th).  We’ll celebrate it this year on April 24th, with a grand service of worship: all the choirs will sing, the youth will present the story of Jesus’ life and passion, and the congregation will join in on the Hallelujah Chorus.  The church will be filled with people, flowers, faith, and joy as we sing with Handel:


The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


            But it is too easy to skip directly to Easter and bypass the days that come before.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (this year on April 17th).  Sadly (to me) many churches no longer celebrate “Palm Sunday”.  They will celebrate that day as “Passion Sunday”, telling the story of all that happens from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem through His crucifixion.  They will do that because they don’t expect many congregants to be present for worship on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.  I am grateful that this is not so true in our church.

            As we move through the events of Holy Week toward Easter, we witness how the lyrics of the Hallelujah Chorus (taken from Revelation 11:15 and 17:14) became the truth.  Imagine the story set against a similar event in a modern country, like England.  Suppose Jesus arrives in London in a bulletproof limo.  Imagine him driving down the avenue to Westminster Abbey.  In your mind’s eye, picture the bejeweled crown placed on his head before an admiring crowd.  See him ascend the steps and take his seat on the gilded throne.  In my analogy, London is Jerusalem.  The limo is a beast of burden.  Westminster Abbey is the court of Pilate with a jeering crowd.  His crown is made of thorns, and his throne is a cross (made of wood not gold or silver).  Do you see how God has acted to turn the world and its view of power upside down?

            Easter, with its Hallelujah Chorus, finds its full meaning through the events that precede it: in Jesus’ life and death.  It is because Jesus was experienced as the very presence of God Incarnate, suffering and dying an ignoble death for love of the world, that Easter has the power to transform our lives.  It is because God has raised from the dead this Jesus, in whom divinity and humanity were united, that we sing “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

            Of the four, the Gospel According to John gets to the heart of this paradox.  In John’s Gospel, day of Jesus’ coronation and enthronement, the hour of Jesus’ glory, is not Easter but Good Friday.  Jesus is lifted up to reign from a cross.  For John, eternal life flows from Christ’s wounds, from the imprint of nails and spear which Thomas was invited to touch.  With Thomas, we can only fall to our knees and proclaim the Crucified One as our Lord and Our God.

            I hope you will enter into the full experience of Holy Week this year: Palm Sunday, as Jesus enters Jerusalem to cheering crowds; Maundy Thursday, as Jesus gathers his disciples around him for his last supper, a Seder anticipating his sacrifice; Good Friday, as Jesus dies at our hands; and Easter as the power of God’s love conquers fear, hate, sin, and death.  May our participation in the whole of this holy week renew and deepen our faith, our hope, and our love.  For God so loved the world…


Another side of London

I see London in a whole different light.   There will be a coronation in London some future day with cheering not jeering crowds.   First, there will be a wedding, a royal wedding. The king, or in this case, future king, still has two bodies according to a theory perhaps only eggheads at the CUNY Graduate Center still labor over.  In his temporal body, William Wales will wed his longterm, live-in girlfriend as a modern man but in his other, that is the body of the king who stands in for Christ the king in this worldy realm, he will reoresent all that we hold sacred.  "Ich Dien" will be his motto and serve he will everyone from the papparazzi to the populace and the interminable charitable events he will attend.  Satanic mills. Jerusalem upon the shores of the Thames, no matter how it can be seen, London is a sacred city where God is palpable in every other stone.  Cries will go up for country, king and God.  In William, despite his having to often comfort his own mother and his father who speaks to flowers, we trust to get it right.  God will be in him and if fate is merciful, there will not be a cross in sight.