On Sunday 30th April, Bishop David joined other faith leaders at All Saints Church in Northampton for Choral Evensong to celebrate the coronation. The acting Bishop of Peterborough delivered the blessing, whilst Bishop David preached.
Bishop David preached the following homily:
The Christian Faith takes the long-view about things. Most of us are able to know something of our past family story. Discovering one’s ancestry has become quite an industry. And of course, we know the joys and hopes, the trials and tribulations of life in this present generation. But many in the world around us are unable to imagine what happens next, the world beyond this mortal life.
Every religious tradition seeks to help us out here. So forgive me for reflecting a brief moment on the Christian understanding of things. It builds upon the wisdom of the Jewish scriptures. And, as we heard earlier, in a somewhat tantalising manner, speaks of things we know and things which may seem slightly beyond our reach.
Take the book of Proverbs we listened to a few moments ago. This speaks of kings and princes, nobles and judges. Every nation has some version of these things. But here in our own land, many are gathering at this time, as we are this evening, not just to think about a national leader, a president of some kind, but to reflect upon a king, not only the idea of sovereignty, but dominion in the form of a real person, King Charles III. The United Kingdom is relatively unusual in this regard. We have a King who will be anointed with sacred chrism within a rite of ancient antecedent. But can we also say, in the language of the ancient biblical text, our nation seeks the instruction and knowledge of the wise man in the scriptures, rather than the material things which seem so immediate? I happen to believe, our new King does indeed strive for such wisdom. He wants to be a defender of faith and drink from the words of those voices which are indeed speaking of excellent things. And this is why we gather to pray for King Charles. That this man will be strengthened in these matters at the outset of his reign.
Our faith in Christ is founded upon a fundamental truth. That He came amongst us to establish the reign of God. This kingdom is deeply inclusive. All are invited to eat and drink of the table in the Kingdom of heaven. And as we turn the pages of the Gospel, we enter an upside down world. There is no entitlement other than those who heed the Master’s word. And this is a servant king who teaches by example. This king is quite content to bend the knee and wash the feet of his friends. And so must we. After many centuries, this is still a strange idea. It is those who serve the ones sitting at the table of need who will inherit the heavenly kingdom with its fruits. The others did not recognise Christ in their midst either, but as they did not serve, they are unable to share in the heavenly banquet.
Earlier this year, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, was able to offer King Charles III a Loyal Address on behalf of the Catholic communities of England and Wales. I make my own, the words of Cardinal Vincent on that occasion, knowing these sentiments will find some echo in each heart here this evening. This is what he said, ‘Your Majesty, we rejoice in your Accession. For so many years we have observed your desire and unstinting efforts to explore and enhance the well-being of the entire human family, through your commitment to religious faith, to the protection of the environment, to the relief of poverty, to the promotion of beauty in architecture and living conditions, and your steadfast opposition to religious persecution.
Your Majesty, at this solemn moment I wish to assure you that the Catholic community is profoundly supportive of these fundamental concerns. We strive to offer to our society, Your Kingdom, an education to young people that is rooted in faith and its consequent commitment to human dignity, expressive of service to those most in need and inspired by a vocational call to contribute to the common good and a shared prosperity…’ The Cardinal went on to say,
‘Our faith demands that we have a particular concern for the fate and future of those fleeing violence and poverty, for those trapped in human trafficking and modern slavery, for those dedicated by their profession to the service of the sick and poor.’
And so to us here this evening, gathered together in the presence of His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire. We have come to do what a people of faith does at such times. To intercede the King of Kings, that He would bless this moment in our national history. We recognise the significance of this hour, the coronation of a new King. Such a role is not the same as in those days when kings came to Northampton and dwelt awhile in the castle here. But this is still an important event for the sense of well-being in the countries of the United Kingdom and beyond. The Coronation of King Charles reminds us of the true nature of sovereign governance. It is a sharing in the kingship of one, who in the words we sang earlier, is a ‘Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour’ though veiled in lowliest form whilst on earth, and became a paschal lamb who offered himself for our sakes.
And this is why we are praying this evening, in word and song, for our Sovereign, King Charles III. Every true king must share in some manner in these attributes of the King who is now enthroned in heavenly glory. What burdens are in store for the soul of King Charles? We cannot know. We do not then simply pray for an office or an institution, we pray for a man, who needs the support and encouragement of our prayers at this time.
And so we may proclaim with a faith-filled emphasis on each word,
God save the King! God save the King!