A piece of heaven has traveled to my home, or wherever my laptop computer can travel. I have the internet. I have Google. God bless Google! It’s amazing the things I can find and how quickly I can find it. A question comes to me, I put in a few words and – voila! – there is the information I want to know.
This week, because Sunday is the Church’s celebration of Jesus Christ as King of the Universe, I was curious about royalty.
Back in the day, if a subject such as that would have come up at school, I would have gone straight to the large volume of the World Book Encyclopedia on the shelves of my childhood home’s family room. I loved reading them just for fun. In 1969, when I was eight, my parents bought me the huge first edition of MacMillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia – the first modern sports encyclopedia. As much as anything, all those books led me to a lifetime love of history, especially baseball history.
When I got older, I discovered microfilm. I considered it “research heaven” and could lose myself in hours reading old newspapers and magazines at the St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch library.
Now, I can satisfy my insatiable desire for research and trivia without leaving my recliner. Here are some things I learned about kings, queens and monarchy:
From www.ask.com: There are currently 29 people in the world who are both the internationally recognized heads of sovereign nations and hold the title of king, queen or the equivalent. There are hundreds of other individuals throughout the world who are considered to be part of subnational monarchies but are not necessarily recognized beyond their own areas of influence. These are locally accepted leaders of a community, state or tribe that are not associated with the government of the larger country in which they reside. Kings and queens such as these are common throughout Africa, where kings like King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu, current king of the Zulu Tribe, are recognized by others of their cultural group as being monarchs but lack any kind of authority or influence in government.
From www.answers.com, I found some answers to the question: How does a person become a king or queen? Buy a huge land, declare its ownership, build it up and import people to live in. Do a law for the land that all people would respect and follow in addition to declaring citizens rights. You need to be very wealthy and most important you need to get the people’s love.
Another website said that a king-wannabe could claim a throne via “warmongering:” The simplest plan is “to conquer everything like Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, The Bush family …”
That one made me chuckle. But my real laughter came from my next search. You see, when I think of kings, my thoughts go directly to a bizarre place: Monty Python. More specifically, I think about one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” when King Arthur (played by Graham Chapman) encounter and “old woman” working in the mud (played by Terry Jones) and “Dennis” (played by Michael Palin) working alongside her. Joyfully, I found the dialogue online. From the screenplay of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1974:
ARTHUR: I am your king!
OLD WOMAN: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don’t vote for kings.
OLD WOMAN: Well, how did you become king, then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held Excalibur aloft from the bosom of the water to signify by Divine Providence … that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur … That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen — strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin’ I was an empereror just because some moistened (lady) had lobbed a scimitar at me they’d put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
In a really odd way, all of that came to my mind during my prayer time this week with those Scriptures for what the Church officially calls the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, Christ the King of the Universe. If you would like to read those Scriptures, click here: Sunday, November 22
After spending all of that time in “research,” I came to understand why the thought of kingship is so unusual to me and my fellow 21st-century Americans. We really have no frame of reference for royalty beyond “King” Lebron James in the NBA and the British Royal Family that is little more than a bunch of powerless rich people who spend a lot of time on the covers of gossip magazines.
What we know of kingship in the United States is that our forefathers considered one king to be a tyrant and revolted against him in a war that secured our freedom. World leadership now tends to incline in different directions – democracy and republic, terroristic groups fueled by hatred, individuals who gain control and hold on by force.
We don’t know about royal families who inspire unfettered loyalty because of their benevolence. We know more about politics than we do about monarchy. We don’t love our leaders as much as we tolerate their necessity, no matter how incompetent or selfish.
The “monarchy” and rule of Jesus is part of the nature of creation, not something he seized or into which he was born. We will hear from the Book of Revelations: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” He is king in large part because he is superior to all of creation.
And we can be forgiven somewhat if we don’t understand his brand of rule, because it’s not within our earthly knowledge. In the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus respond to Pontius Pilate, who asks if he is a king:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
The phrase “kingdom of God” was a frequent subject of the preaching of Jesus; it occurs more than 60 times in Scripture, most in the Gospels. Even though Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God was at hand, that remains a concept that eludes our temporal minds. As we try, though, please ponder these two points in prayer:
- A king is someone who has authority to rule and reign over a group of people.
- That Jesus is “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” means that there is no higher authority. His reign over all things is absolute and inviolable.
His reign is over more than territory and people. Jesus is king of our hearts. After dying on the cross, he reigns over sin. And after rising, he reigns over death. Unlike any other king in history, Jesus Christ is a monarch motivated by love.
There’s no need to revolt against his rule. Instead, we should embrace him with joy.