Sermon for the Coronation Evensong
May 7th, 2023
There is only one true priest in the church. I have said this many times. We have only one great high priest and that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, hear I stand and there Father Matt sits, two individuals that have been each ordained as priests to serve God and his church. But you see, our priesthood is really just a sharing in Christ’s priesthood. It is his words that we proclaim, his offering that we offer, his blessing that we share. It is his example and teaching that we each seek to follow, although perhaps feebly and falteringly at times. All the power in the ministry of the priesthood belongs to Christ, it is not our own. The same thing can be said of the glory: the fancy robes and the attention we sometimes get and the respect that is often afforded us, it doesn’t belong to us as individuals, it belongs to Christ. We don’t deserve any of this. When we are ordained we are given the opportunity to share in his priesthood, but make no mistake, it is his priesthood. We are called, ordained or set-apart for a special vocation, but it’s not because there is anything individually extraordinary about either one of us; what really matters for priests is our ability and willingness to serve the one who truly is extraordinary.
Now everything that I have just said about priests could, I think, equally be said about Kings and Queens. There is only one true King in this world. There is but one King of the Universe and that is our Lord Jesus Christ; the king of kings and lord of lords. There may be many different kings and queens that serve in his name, but kings, like priests are at their best when they are truly aware of who the real king is, and who they are truly serving. Kings, like priests don’t really deserve the honor and glory they are given, but then at the end of the day it isn’t really being given to them. It is being given to the one they serve. That is really what the pomp and circumstance is all about.
Have any of you ever been to the ordination of a priest? If you go to a priestly ordination, it more or less goes like this: the candidate is first presented, then the candidate makes solemn vows and affirmations, there are prayers and symbolic acts of humility, scripture readings and a sermon, then the candidate is touched by the bishop and anointed with holy oil. Then the priest is vested according to his or her office with fancy robes, and is often given symbolic gifts that remind them of the work that they are to do. Then the eucharist is celebrated and finally the new priest is sent out to do the work that God has called him or her to do. If this order of service sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be because this is quite similar to what you will have witnessed at yesterday’s coronation of King Charles III. For good reason.
To be an anointed king is to be set apart for a special vocation. We don’t often think of kings and queens as being ordained in the sense that priests are, but there is nonetheless something quite holy about the work that they are charged to do. Serving others is holy work. Living your life as a symbol that points people to a higher power, and sacred ideals and timeless values is holy work. Serving the king of kings, even as a king, is holy work. Which is why the coronation service only really works in the church in the context of Christian worship. Kings, like priests, need to be reminded of where their power comes from and who they truly serve. The work that they are called to do is holy work, and because it is extremely difficult work, kings and queens deserve our prayers.
There will always be those who look at all of this and say “why bother?” There are people who think that monarchy is unsuitable for the modern age and a waste of time, money and resources. Oh well. There are people that don’t see the point of kings, just like there are people that don’t see the point of priests. Often these are the same people. Some people just don’t want to believe that there is a king of kings or a great high priest, much less that he calls ordinary men and women into his service. Oh well. You can preach your best sermon, and some will still remain unconverted. Oh well. If you want to live a drab life, without glory or majesty, without spectacle or reverence, without honor and duty, without beauty and mystery, then go right ahead, but its not the life for me. And as I think we witnessed both with the spectacle of the late queen’s funeral and with the majesty of yesterday’s coronation service, it isn’t a life that many people truly want. We need the majesty and the pomp and circumstance. We need holy oils and sacred rituals. We all need to be reminded, kings, priests and lay folks too, we all need to be reminded that we serve a majestic, higher power, and that through that power we can do amazing things, not in serving ourselves, but in serving God and others. We have all been anointed by the one whose very name means “anointed”: Christ.
Today we give thanks for the coronation of King Charles III. May it be a reminder to all of us that we too have been anointed to serve the same king that he does.