This week I have been reflecting on royalty and loyalty. You may have heard that I became an Episcopalian on Tuesday of this Holy Week, and in doing so I had to renounce my allegiance to any foreign ecclesiastical power. So basically I had to renounce my allegiance to the Queen, my mother was very upset!
I assured here it was only in an ecclesiastical sense, but still!
It made me reflect on whom we should have loyalty to? Is it any earthly power, or is there an allegiance we bear to another, better focus for loyalty? I have suggested I my sermons that we owe allegiance to the one who washes our feet, the one who dies for us and the one who can bring us new life rather than any human power.
But I haven't let that stop me from using stories from royalty to underpin my preaching this Holy Week!
So on Good Friday I used the Story of the Queen Mother who, after Buckingham Palace had been bombed in World War II said, "at last I can look the East End in the face!"
The East End had been bombed terribly badly, and here the monarch was sharing in the suffering with them. A curtain opened onto royal suffering and service, and on Maundy Thursday a curtain opens on divine suffering and service.
This was more pronounced in the story for Good Friday when I referenced the Queen and her speech about her "Annus Horibilis" in 1992 when all three of her children went through divorces or marriage break us and one of her homes had a terrible fire. She again opened the curtain on royal suffering and humanised the monarchy slightly – on Good Friday the cross opens a curtain on divine suffering in the form of Jesus in his death.
So what story for today? Well, I have been moving down the generations – so let us skip one and move into the future. Of course I am looking forward to the Royal Wedding on Friday. And I wanted to say, why on earth would William want to marry at all?
He comes from the most famous broken home on the planet, and his mother suffered from entering the royal family. So why would he want to subject the woman he loves to that? He has in fact said he was very cautious of marriage for this very reason. But there you have it – I said it a moment ago – he loves her, what is he to do?
Should we dwell on the darkness of the past, the suffering and the lack of love that existed before, or should we have hope for new life and new chances in the future? William and Kate marry on Friday as a sign that we should have faith in the future and faith in the possibility of new life and new starts.
New life is what we celebrate today – and Easter holds out for us new opportunities to experience the divine life in our own lives. Should we dwell on the fact that things have been tough before – or should we embrace life?
Resurrection – it is a fascinating subject. I have to say I don't quite understand it, but I know I need it!
Today we celebrate the resurrection and are open to the wave of divine life that lifts us.
As we lit the Easter Flame this morning I was reminded of the time difference between here and London – it was 8 hours before us that the dawn light rose on London and Easter fires were lit there. But it started earlier in New Zealand – just past the international date line – when Easter fires were lit there, then travelled across to Australia. Now my geography isn't good enough to go round the whole world, but the flames did. They got to England 8 hours before us, then to the Eastern Seaboard, and then they raced across the country with the dawn, reaching us and eventually going beyond us until in Hawaii they were finally lit just before the date line and the day closes.
It is like a wave a divine life sweeping across the globe. Enveloping us in the resurrection of Christ on this wonderful day of celebration.
Since I am in California I think I should consider learning to surf one day. I would love that – being able to ride a wave – waiting for the ebb and flow of the water and then popping up and balancing as the energy of the wave carries me forward. That is what we do today – we seek to ride the wave of divine life, letting it lift us.
But that wave image speaks to me further, because the wave passes and there is a dip in the ocean again. And this speaks to me of the way we should treat Easter. Easter is a moment in the church year and we should acknowledge and love it, but not try to hold on to it! It has to be allowed to pass as the wave passes, and there may be dips and there may be darkness again – but the wave will return and we will be carried on it if we are patient.
In addition to talking about Royalty – and to show you that I am embracing my new nation I have also been quoting poetry from Robert Frost this Holy Week. I pondered what to talk about today, and it came to me finally – it fits with this theme of not holding on too strongly to Easter. It is called
There is a nook among the Alders,
Still sleeping from the catbird's hush.
Above a long stone bridge is bending
Below a runnels silent rush.
A dreamer hither often wanders
And gathers many a snow white stone.
He weighs them poised upon his fingers,
Divining each ones silvery tone.
He drops them ere the stream makes music
Fair visions with its vault voice swell.
And so for us the future rises
As thought stones stir our hearts farewell.
(I wrote this out from memory – so any inaccuracy is mine)
The dreamer gathers thoughts like stones and then lets them go – not clutching on to them, but dropping them in the stream as it sings. This should be our approach to Easter – to take it in our hands – contemplate it – and then let it go – knowing it will come again and carry us when the time is right.
Another poet who gets this idea just perfect is: William Blake
Let me finish with this as a statement of how we should hold onto the delight of Easter (which is to say we should not hold on to tightly to it at all)
He who binds to himself a Joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.
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