'whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant' Mark 10:43
What a memorable day it has been. We have literally entered into a new age this day. Decades from now people will look back on Elizabethan England and we will seem like ancients, remembering a time before King Charles; though perhaps some of you still remember a time before her Late Majesty was queen? It’s amazing how much can change in a day. There must be a lot of pressure on him right now, after all, heavy is the head that wears the crown, indeed many of us know from our own small responsibilities that it is hard to lead and even harder to lead a divided people. But there is one place that we can look for answers for a way forward over the weeks and months ahead.Let me tell you about another couple of Kings from whom King Charles the 3rd, or indeed any of us could learn today. If the King is the leader of our Church, then what does the bible say about how we should lead?
If I were to ask you to shout out the name of a biblical king the first one most of you would probably shout out, if I was that foolish enough to ask, would probably be King David. David is one of the great heroes of the faith. He trusted in God when his own leaders betrayed him, he when up against a giant, armed with a pebble, and he won. David saw war and death take away his family, and yet, through all of the hardships, he believed, he had faith in God. In fact, I’d suggest that that is the most stark contrast between Christian leaders and the leaders of the world, you see the most important factor to leading as one of God’s people isn’t management training, it isn’t a Cambridge degree or a big salary. The most essential thing you need, to be a Christian leader is to trust in God. If you have that, there’s not a giant in the world that can get in your way if God’s on your side. Yet King David also made mistakes. He put his own will before God’s and his own interest before others, even intentionally getting someone killed so he could marry the dead man’s wife. He trusted God but he was still human, and put his own will first.
Then there was David’s son, Solomon. If you were picking skills to be a leader super God-given wisdom would be alright on the CV. Solomon was so wise that the Kingdom prospered and the beautiful temple of Solomon was built. This was the financial high-point for the kingdom. Though interestingly, this wisdom is always given to Solomon as God’s gift. He is wise, because he listens to God. This is just as important for any Christian leader, to listen to God. Without that you’re only ever actually ruling in your own right in the name of God. So as leaders we must listen to God, as King Charles swore to do this day, but, although Solomon had God’s wisdom, he didn’t have the deep-rooted trust in God, so he fell away too towards the end of his life.
So the bare essentials to be a Christian leader are to trust in God and to listen to God (which we can do through prayer and reading the Bible), but there’s something that even the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets didn’t understand about being a leader of God’s people. Something that Jesus said when two of his disciples asked him who was ought to be the most important disciples, Jesus said something really important for us:
“You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”
You want to know about Christian ideas of kingship, then you must learn about servant-hood. The perfect king would serve his people. The perfect king would sacrifice for his people. That is what we saw in Christ and that is, I hope, what we shall see in the life of King Charles, as we saw in his mother’s reign. To be a king who follows Christ, means to put yourself last, it means to take up your cross and follow him. That would be a king in the likeness of Christ. Can we imagine the day of the final coronation, when the true and perfect king returns once more? The book of Revelation paints the picture of that servant king returning, it says:
"He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and be their God; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. He will say “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
So Christ is humble, yet when he returns he will make all things new. He will bring water to the thirsty, he will wipe away tears, he will bring life to the faithful. This, too, is something we must always seek to do as Christian leaders, simply we must love. Our. People. I have known many a Christian leader and heard of many kings who only see people as figures on a spreadsheet. They may have faith, they may listen to God, but they aren’t humble, they don’t put others first and they certainly don’t love them. You cannot lead another person as a Christian, unless you love that person.
Today we have started a new age with another imperfect King who, we hope, will follow in the example of Christ. Yet we also look forward to the return of the perfect King, who we follow in our own areas of responsibility. So let us not seek after our own desires, but let us have a deep rooted trust in God, let us listen to God’s wisdom in all of our decisions, and let us be selfless and humble, always putting others first and loving those whom we lead. We celebrate this day and pray for Charles, for wisdom and peace, but we also can learn from these rulers to, ourselves, trust in God and put his will first, to have wisdom but also faith, and also to sacrifice for those whom we lead, to lead through servanthood. Amen (from Fr Jordan).