I’ve come to a rather slow realisation of the importance of the concept of Kingship in my own faith and the life of the Church. Some Old Testament study at school began to broaden my horizons. For the first time at A level I was being introduced to the role that archaeology plays in understanding ancient texts. It was here that I learned of the Mesopotamian King, Hammurabi, and his law codes.
Carved in stone and displayed for all to see was his code of practice in the form of legal rulings. It is thought that the concept of equal retribution originates here. From this we learnt that the king’s role is fundamentally one of ensuring justice for all of his subjects. It is his job to promote peace and the well-being of his people. So, in a sense, the quality of his kingship is seen in the lives of his subjects.
The history of Israelites and their experience of kingship is chequered to say the least. Dissasatified with life in their 12 tribe system they looked to the surrounding nations and wanted to be like them. This is so understandable. Very few kings really made the grade and most were considered to have done ‘what was displeasing to the Lord’.
Once we enter the world of the New Testament writers there is more to be grappled with. The power and influence of the Roman Empire weighs heavy and the Evangelists craft narratives which seek to tell the important truth that it is Jesus who is Lord of all and not Caesar. When the Emperor has his good deeds and prowess announced as ‘euangelion’ (good news) the Evangelists counter this with the good news that is Jesus Christ. Chapter by chapter the story is told of Jesus who, in his very being, heralds a new order. In his every word and action Jesus reveals that the new order has begun, the kingdom is in our midst. Every value is upturned. It’s very easy to lose sight of the primacy of this message when we look at the Church today. The human desire for power is never far from the surface.
Pope Francis leaves us in little doubt of his vision of a ‘poor Church’. This is the Church of the servant-king where the poor show us the face of Christ. This is the Church where serving the poor is not an optional extra but a mark of our authenticity. Are we ready to recognise Christ? Are we ready to hear our king calling?
Christ the King
Mathew 25: 31-46
Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King.