At the age of 74, King Charles III is the oldest monarch to be crowned in this country. But as part of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation of the Post World War years, the King is truly representative of the ageing population of his realm as it is today. A population whose median age has been increasing steadily for many years as the positive result of a Welfare State that was instituted after World War Two.
Not simply due to the long legacy of his mother’s reign, the King faces some major challenges in his mid-seventies. Some of which he predicted himself over 50 years ago when he was mocked by the press and politicians alike for being a ‘tree hugger’, when expressing his personal concerns for the environment and the damaging effects of industrial farming methods. After all, who said the word ‘organic’ very much back then?
But there is also the issue of a Welfare State that has been so successful that we are witnessing, some argue, its steadily increasing collapse. What is the answer?
Charles reigns over a kingdom that voted for Brexit in 2016, little expecting the unforeseeable political and economic consequences of the Covid Pandemic and a war again in Europe that followed in Ukraine. What is the answer?
And in this same week of the King’s Coronation, we have heard the disturbing news of the resignation of Geoffrey Hinton, called the ‘Godfather of Artificial Intelligence’. Hinton left his role at Google to speak out about the “dangers” of the technology he helped to develop. This sounds no less ominous to me than the regret expressed by J. Robert Oppenheimer after creating the world’s first atomic bomb. What is the answer?
Of course, we do not expect the King to have all the answers, but the reigning monarch is expected to give a moral and ethical lead – an expectation very much cultivated by his mother, earning her the respect of citizens and world leaders of all sorts, over seven decades. Now Charles will be judged, fairly and unfairly, for the role he was born to inherit from his mother 74 years ago. I wonder what that means to each of us?
Whatever our political persuasion, we are all subjects to King Charles III. And as Christians we are subjects and subject to Jesus as our King. The very first statement of Christian identity was, “Jesus is Lord.” At the crucifixion, “King of the Jews” was fixed firmly to the Cross, by the Romans, but not as an affirmation. Rather, as an act of mockery and a warning for all the world to see. The idea of the Jews having a king must have seemed ridiculous to them. But even folly can be challenging. Jesus rules a Kingdom with no borders to defend, no soldiers to defend it, and no weapons for the soldiers to use. It is a kingdom that inverts our very understanding of power. But it’s no joke.
Jesus wears a Crown of Thorns with scars that are, as the Celtic Daily Prayer book says, ‘the only human-made things in heaven.’ His wounds have forever transformed all that brings chaos in our lives, into hope. Every time we witness a baptism, receive communion, or celebrate resurrection at a funeral, we remember his scars and the hope they bring. And today – every time we read or hear of Climate Change, or the war in Europe raging in Ukraine, or anything else that leads us to despair – we should remember the criminal on the Cross, who knew he had made a mess of his life and simply pleads in repentance and faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
During this Coronation Weekend, we are all reminded – that our labour’s for God’s Kingdom are not over and neither are they lost. Even the smallest pebble makes ripples in the largest pond, as Charles’s mother, Elizabeth, said in more than one public speech. And as Christians, we should never lose sight that there is One who has gone before us. The First and the Last. Who sits on the Throne of the Universe, wearing a Crown of Thorns. He is our hope, our new beginning, and not simply at Coronations. But every day that we choose to be subject to Him and to His Kingdom. Every day that we find the faith, the courage, and the humility to say to the Servant King, “Jesus, remember me…” Amen.
College Chaplain – Rev Derek Chandler
Coronation Day – Saturday 6th May 2023