Posted on September 5th, 2012
The names of the streets in Old Town are rather quaint, aren’t they? Duke, Prince, King, Queen, Princess. I’ve always found theses vestiges of colonialism amusing, because we don’t like kings in America. In fact, our nation was born out of rebellion to a king. Intersecting those monarchical streets are the names of patriots Washington (I presume for George), and Rt. 1 N & S Patrick & Henry, and as cars jam those intersections day by day I imagine the American Revolution played out over and over again in our traffic patterns.
A certain other clergyperson whom I will not name has a fascination for the British royalty, but for most in America, the only kings of interest are the Burger King and LeBron “King” James. Wealthy politicians across the political spectrum feign interest in the middle class, lest they appear as royals: out-of-touch with the hoi polloi.
The worship of the church, in general, has become far less like we are in the presence of the king, and much more like we are in a nightclub, coffee house, or theater. The great confession of the New Testament is Jesus is Lord; but the American church has demoted Him to co-pilot. “Hail, King of the Jews!”, the soldiers mocked, Whom the crowds had hailed the previous Sunday: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD, even the King of Israel!” Frequently, those seeking help from Jesus entreated Him as “Son of David,” the great king of Jewish antiquity.
We are products of our culture, and that’s not entirely bad. We are shaped more than we even realize by all the things around us: the word associations and nuances of the English language, the government school systems in which many of us were reared, the representative democracy of our government, the secular holidays taking precedence over the church’s holy days, the foods that are available to us, and on and on. We are products of this culture, and there are many things about it to love and be grateful for.
But one thing we must cast aside, and that is our aversion to kings. For tonight’s psalm, Ps. 72, announces to us the coronation of the King. It was written by Solomon, and possibly references the transfer of rule from David to Solomon in the opening verses: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!”
This concern for justice is nothing other than the wisdom for which Solomon prayed: wisdom to rule the people fairly, equitably, with justice. Solomon above all things asked God to make him a righteous king.
Solomon was a great king, but he also failed in many respects. The analysis of that failure is recorded in Ecclesiastes, which also reflects the failure of our human race, our sullying of the royal crown given to Adam as steward, vice-regent of the world acting on behalf of YHWH Sabaoth, King of angels, Emperor of the Universe.
Solomon’s son Rehoboam presided over the division of the kingdom, and the pious pray for its restoration. This will not come through waging war in the middle east, but will only come to pass when New Jerusalem descends from the heavens, dressed as a bride prepared for her Groom.
The inauguration of that kingdom, the coronation of the king began when the sages from the East came and bowed down before our Lord Jesus Christ, as was prophesied in tonight’s psalm: “May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!” Behold its fulfillment when the Magi came first to Jerusalem, and Herod trembled at the news of a newborn King. But behold, His royal throne was in His mother Mary’s arms, and in a feeding trough in Bethlehem.
Later Pilate, the proxy for the Roman Emperor, unwittingly preached the truth when He said, “Behold, your King!” and wrote the title, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Placing the title on the cross, that tree became the throne, and we there see what kind of King Jesus is: “For he delivers the needy when he calls; the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”
Therefore do we Christians set aside our horror at monarchy, and worship Jesus as King. The liturgy of the church therefore cannot ever be as a rock concert or a stage production, a lounge act or a therapy session. No, coming before the altar and receiving Him in His sacramental gifts is to come before the real presence of the King, and we as the Magi bow before Him, genuflect with reverence, and humbly petition His pardon. He is loving, He is merciful, He is kind, He is even friendly, but He is ever King. As kings from the East prostrated themselves even before an infant, so do we bow down even at the seemingly lowly incarnation of our Lord and King Jesus in the eucharist.
And there, on our knees, we hear His kind words ring out again, “Fear not, your sins are forgiven,” and we reply with gratitude, “Blessed be his glorious name forever, may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”