First Anniversary of the King’s Accession

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.’ So wrote St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans (13:9 – 10).

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

I wonder, can you remember where you were when you heard the news, or when you first heard that significant news was imminent. It was one of those never-to-be forgotten moments, such as when President Kennedy (JFK) was killed, which people used to talk about when I was young. I can’t remember that, of course! A similar moment to 9:11, when the World Trade Centre was attacked. We shall be recalling that tomorrow.

Friday was the first anniversary of the King’s accession. As I wrote in this week’s Cathedral eNews, I suspect we can all remember where we were just a year ago last Friday, when we learned of the Queen’s death at Balmoral. The world was now different, and in some ways, it was difficult to take it in.

Where were you when you first heard?

I’d been at a meeting in Westminster, with our project team, securing the approval of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) for our plans to build an annexe to the north of the cathedral. I walked back through St. James’s Park and past Buckingham Palace; the media of the world were gathered in large numbers. It was clear that something momentous was happening.

And this place, like many other cathedrals, became a focus for local and regional gathering. People were sad, bereaved, wanting to give thanks for the Christian faith and unparalleled

public service of our record-breaking, beloved Queen. She was loved. And there was a very real sense that she had genuinely loved us too. Would you agree?

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

Gathering here to watch the Queen’s funeral – with hundreds of people – was like attending the service itself in an annex of Westminster Abbey.

And our new king spoke of love in his immensely impressive address to the nation and Commonwealth just the day after. How he managed it, I cannot imagine. But again, we saw profound Christian faith and genuine love in him, as we had seen in his mother. He thanked her for her love and devotion to her family and the family of nations she served; and, quoting Hamlet, he prayed, ‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ It was powerful and moving.

Did you notice how, in his speech on Friday, on the the anniversary of his accession, the King once again spoke of love – his love for us, shown, he implied, in the ways he and Queen Camilla do their best to serve us.

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

The love of a monarch for the people, the monarch’s encouragement of love between the people which is implicit in so much of the work of encouragement that the royal family do – none of this is to be taken for granted. And much of it is the blessing of the deep Christian roots which we benefit from in this country and which, as a nation, we do well to recognise and value.

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

Contrast the situation into which St. Paul was speaking in his Letter to the Romans.

‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another…’ we read in Romans 13:8. This is mutual love with which there is to be no weighing up of debts, no scoring of points.

‘Love your neighbour as yourself… Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.’ We read in Romans 13:9 – 10.

This is the agape love, the Christian love found in the fellowship of Jesus’s followers.

Paul was writing to the Christian Church in Rome. No, don’t imagine the Vatican, the great basilicas and churches which speak of a well-established and influential church. Rather imagine a small cell of disciples, a small community of followers of Jesus Christ. This letter may also have been a general letter to all those other primitive communities of faith growing up within that mighty Roman Empire.

What courage those first Christians had.

What was remarkable was that the church was spreading, people were coming to faith, within the Roman Empire. This was happening in a context in which Ceasar was regarded as Lord, in which Ceasar was held as divine, in which Ceasar was the king of all the earth, and in which Ceasar ruled by the mighty sword and the power of the incomparable imperial fighting machine – and woe betide any who would dare to contradict or oppose this world view. Caesar was Lord.

We cannot understand the remarkable nature of the spread and growth of the Church in those early decades without grasping something of this reality. Those small, faithful cells of early Christians were contradicting the greatest power on earth, and claiming that their crucified and risen saviour, a mere carpenter’s son from distant, insignificant Galilee, was in fact the Lord of all – a greater power than the mighty Ceasar. And they had the courage to claim that his reign of love was / is more complete, more real, more compelling than anything Rome or any other earthly power – or philosophy, or political system – could fashion or imagine. They were saying that the way of the cross – the way of self-sacrifice, of serving others and looking out for the poor and weak and marginalised in a spirit of mutual love – is more effective than attempting to establish world peace – Pax Romana – on the back of the dreaded imperial fighting machine. Jesus Christ is Lord

Kings and queens are not to be taken for granted when they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord; when they try by example to commend a way of mutual love, fellowship and support.

They remind us that ultimately, a loving God is king of all and that quite simply, we fulfil the laws of his kingdom by responding to his love with love for each other. This includes love for people of other faiths and none, including love for those who see things our way and those who don’t. It includes showing love towards those who are facing tragedy – such as those affected by the tragic local car accident involving a Ukrainian family, and those responding to the devastating earthquake in Morocco.

On the first anniversary of His Majesty’s accession, we pray for the king and queen. And we give thanks that we have a monarch and a monarchy which still point us back to the foundations of our faith.

Let us pray for grace, that others may see in us people who truly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. Let us pray for grace, that others may see in us people who show by how they live that they truly believe love to be the fulfilling of the law.

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

God save the King.