The Royal Wedding
In all the formality of Prince Harry’s wedding, the informality of the occasion was striking. The wedding guests included some that we might consider rich, but not the powerful. The guests included Hollywood and TV stars, those from the world of entertainment and music. There were sports personalities – rugby players and others from the spheres of soccer and tennis. There were former soldiers and charity workers. In all that was extraordinary there was an ordinariness that attracted one’s attention. The sun shone and the crowds gathered in excited anticipation. The atmosphere was festive and joyous. Some among the crowds were there to see Princess Diana’s youngest son marry his chosen. They thought back to the two young boys, William and Harry, that walked behind their mother’s coffin; and they watched the wedding procedure with mixed emotions because Harry’s mum was not there.
Prince Harry has captivated the nation. We have watched him grow up, and have seen something of his wild side, as well as the care, commitment, compassion and love he has shown while working in his various charities. We too can be influenced by mixed emotions when we consider the royal family. The joys they have experienced and the tragedies they have suffered. These are levellers in life and cause us to realise we are all members of the same human race. Our race relations are that we belong to one another whatever our ‘station’ in life. We all have the ability to love and to hate; to accept or to reject. It is these same abilities that separate us into the new humanity in Christ Jesus, or the lost humanity of the First Adam. If we love God and accept what He has done for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, we can be born again into the new humanity. If we hate or ignore God and reject Jesus, we remain in the First Adam, and in our sin and a world that is condemned already.
As I observed the different guests at the wedding, I saw sodomites, adulterers, atheists; there was one that has grown wealthy while promoting a false god and gospel. These were people, made in God’s image, but lost… some with lives engrossed in sin and deception. There were those that hate the Lord and hate His Church. Our emotions, if we allow them to rule over us, can separate us from reality like sin separates us from God. We would rather cover up our sin than confess it and have it covered by the Blood of Jesus. When we hide our own sin, we refuse to denounce the sin in others lest we judge ourselves. It is fashionable today to deny that there is such a thing as sin.
What some might have considered to have been a light in the dark darkness of this ancient setting was the preacher, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, and the word he brought.[i] The sermon was described in one report as, “one of the stand-out moments of Saturday’s ceremony;” and it was the most tweeted-about moment of the day, according to Twitter. Obviously someone considered him to be a fitting choice to address this particular congregation, and he must have had royal assent. Perhaps he was Megan’s choice because he was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex weddings to be performed in his diocese. Perhaps because he is a supporter of same-sex relationships, that is why his sermon didn’t go in the direction it could have...and perhaps should have, as he emphasised love and fire. His sermon lasted just under fourteen minutes; while many in the congregation shifted, laughed, rolled their eyes, some were bemused while others looked decidedly uncomfortable. In such a setting and congregation, he might have touched on the fires of judgment; but he didn’t. He might have had a ‘John the Baptist’ moment – John reproved Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis, daughter of King Aretas of Nabataea) and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I (Luke 3:19); but he didn’t. I guess that wouldn’t be ‘Christian’ today. As for a new heaven and a new earth, it is Jesus that will bring in the new earth and the new heaven, not us. He has gone to prepare a place for us, where we can go to be with Him, and receive our new bodies (John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:1). It is Jesus that makes all things new. It is Jesus that will come back to earth; and there will be a new heaven and a new earth; the old will pass away (Revelation 21:1). In all its splendour and pageantry, what we were viewing on our TV screens was a world that is going to pass away at the close of this age. Perhaps before the end of the age, we will witness the final curtain coming down on the House of Windsor.
The Sixth Seal: Terror
…The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the commanders, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and free man, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.… (Revelation 6:14-16).
We tend to forget who God is when we allow ourselves to be guided by our emotions; when we walk in the flesh rather than in His Spirit, and in obedience to His word. We overlook and excuse sin, in ourselves and in one another. Jesus died to take our sin.
We required the expertise of a locksmith some weeks ago. It was for the second time in two years. The first time we were locked out of our home, and we needed the locksmith to open the door to let us in. It reminded me that Jesus is the Door. He alone gives us access to the Father. We come to the Father through Jesus the Son. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus is The Way. It is Jesus that opens the way to eternal life and fellowship with God.
In times gone by one could change a lock without calling in the experts. Now, the locks have ‘gears’. On the second occasion, I rang the first locksmith to ask how long the gearbox he fitted was guaranteed for. He said he thought it was one year. It meant we had to pay again. The second locksmith fitted a new gearbox, taking the removed two-year-old gearbox away “so that ‘they’ could figure out what had gone wrong with it.” I expected him to get back to me but haven’t seen or heard from him since! Each repair cost almost as much as fitting a new door, lock, gears and all! The second locksmith, in conversation with us commented on our books and that we had a ‘lot on religion’. After discovering that we were of the “born-again Christian” variety, he said that he had attended a Roman Catholic school as a boy, but he was from an Anglican background. Unashamedly sharing his thoughts, he counselled how he could not understand anyone believing in God in this day and age, and that giving one’s whole life to religion was totally stupid. He stressed again and again that he just could not see it, reminding me of the worlds of our Lord, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The locksmith had given himself over completely to worldly affairs and materialism. Locked into his man-cave mentality and worldview, he refused to consider anything to do with the spiritual realm. He said he could understand someone dying might want something to hold on to, but not to give your life to it. This is a reason why there is so little wisdom in society, politics, ethics, and social issues – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). His logic sounded illogical to me, but I was interested because we have met many people that were not from Catholic families but had, for one reason or another, come under Catholicism at a young age. All of them were, as they grew up, against anything to do with religion and God. Religion without God wounds the soul, almost beyond repair. Many remain in a lost condition.
Shimon bar Yoni
There is a Rabbinic story about a Jewish rabbi named Shimon bar Yoni. It was during a time of Roman persecution. A young Jewish man of the time, named Judah ben Gerim, turned spy for the Roman authorities. He reported to them conversations he overheard taking place between the sages, including Shimon. As a result, the Romans decreed the death penalty for Shimon, forcing him to hide away. He took refuge in a cave for twelve years. Before Emperor Hadrian died, on penalty of death, it was forbidden to ordain students of the Talmud. Both the ordaining Sage and the ordained scholar were put to death if caught. The entire Jewish religious life was in danger, until the great Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba publicly ordained five famous scholars, defying Hadrian’s cruel decree. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoni was one of these five scholars. Now in hiding, he used his time of voluntary captivity in the cave, studying Torah with his son, Elazar. Sustaining themselves on carobs and water, they studied and prayed until they became the holiest sages of their day. One day he heard that the Roman decree had been lifted. Leaving his safe haven, he observed people openly living their lives, farming and dealing with every-day matters of life. He was aghast that people could possibly spend their time on such trivial matters. In each direction he looked, it is said he was consumed by fire. Then came a heavenly voice, “Did you leave the cave to destroy My world? Return to your cave!” Here was this individual that was so immersed in spiritual matters that he could not tolerate the thought that people would waste their time on earthly matters. In being a man or woman of God we can become isolationist and stop being a man or woman of the people. Jesus is God and Man; on earth He communed with God, and He tabernacle amongst men. There is a saying that we can be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. We are speaking of Roman times in the above story. Today we seem to be so earthly minded that we are no good to either heaven or earth! May God have mercy on His Church. Revive us again Lord, with repentance and the fear of the Lord.
Blessings and shalom,