Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Lord's Prayer and Emperor Jesus.

Two things have come to pass of late. We recently celebrated the the final Sunday in Ordinary time which is commonly called the feast of Christ the King (which has no place in Classical Anglicanism but is common practice today and harmless enough).    In the ‘real world’ the Church of England launched a campaign promoting prayer across the nation.  This campaign was to involve the playing of a short video during the adverts played before the screening of the new Star Wars film.  Cinema goers would have seen a simple video of different people from different walks of life simply reciting the Lord’s Prayer: .  This was deemed appropriate for all audiences by the Cinema Advertising Agency and the British Board of Film Classification.  Nonetheless, the main cinema chains in a huge reversal decided to stop it being shown for fear it might offend audiences (which they supported by saying it broke their policy… which only existed after they decided against showing it).  Is the Lord’s Prayer really offensive?


There are a lot of reasons why, but let us consider one simple thing:  Jesus is a King with a Kingdom.  

Jesus is King
He makes all the rules

Anyone who knows me and has been to services I lead, or a prayer group I am in, will have heard me say, over and over and over again “King Jesus”.   For me, the fact that Jesus is King is one of the most fundamental and life changing truths imaginable.  Increasingly, the notion of total sovereign Lordship over this universe and everything in it has transformed my heart and mind.  It started three years ago when reading Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle.  I have never  doubted the existence of Hell, nor that it is a place of conscious eternal torment.  Whilst I have never doubted it I have hated it.  Hell leaves a feeling of sickness in my throat and a bad taste in my mouth.  I want to cry out that eternal conscious torment is not fair, is not just, is not loving.  But it is.  It is because God says it is.  Because King Jesus says it is.  Because He is King and I am not, He is creator and I am creature.  He makes the rules and I follow.  What He says is good is good. What He says is fair is fair. What He says is loving is loving.  I don’t get to decide what loving is and is not.  I only know what love is because He loved me first (1 John 4.10).  It is my understanding of love and goodness that needs to change not His.  

Jesus is King and He makes all the rules.

This has massive ramifications.  Predestination?  I am clay and He is the Potter.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement?  I am the slave He is the Master.  Sex between members of the same sex being sin?  I am the creature and He is the Creator.  

So, when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”  We are saying something radical.  If we don’t like the clear will of God.  If we don’t like what the King says His Kingdom is to be like, we really should not be praying these words.  

Many people find the reality of the Kingdom to be unpalatable.  They find the reality of what holiness means to be offensive because it says clearly that they are wrong and what they long for and yearn for in their deepest desires in not holy, is not of God, is sin.  Sadly, it is not just non-Christians who find reality unpalatable.  If the Church is supposed to be the Kingdom of Jesus breaking out into the world today in the here and now it has to be said that we are doing an increasingly poor job of it by our constant compromise and syncretism.  The breaking out of the Kingdom into the world should not look anything like the world because the world is antithetical to the Kingdom, it is the anti-Kingdom.   Citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus are not citizens of this world, we cannot be part of this world and part of His Kingdom.  The blurring of the clear line between world and Kingdom is a sickening thing and can only lead to Christ vomiting large parts of the church up in disgust at the last judgement.

If we don’t like what the King says about His Kingdom
we really should not be praying these words.  

As the Church compromises more and more and decides to image the world instead of Heaven yet further we need desperately to recognise just how radical it is to say that Jesus is King and we long for His Kingdom.

It is interesting, on a side note, to consider how best to translate the phrase ‘King’ and especially ‘King of Kings’.  In the Western world of the 21st century the phrases King and Kingdom have lost some of their power - we are too used to constitutional monarchies with their kingly power castrated by democracy.  It is my belief that it is worth considering what it means for Jesus to be Emperor.  Emperor is a word which immediately has a different taste to ‘king’.  Emperor evokes power, domination, might, a rule under an iron fist.  Strictly speaking, the difference between a King and an Emperor is that an Emperor can be above kings - they are a king of kings.  An Empire, traditionally speaking, can contain many different Kingdoms all of whom rule and exist only under the authority and mercy of the Emperor.  The Holy Roman Empire was made up of a number of independent city states.  The Roman Emperor ruled over local kings such as Herod.  The British Empire didn’t always follow this logic but when India was taken the Monarch took the title Emperor.  An Empire inspires a much more military feel than a kingdom which can seem quite innocuous.  

And let us face it, Jesus is the King of Kings - the Emperor - to whom all the kings of the earth will bow down and worship and bring tribute into the capital of the New Earth.  Our King of Kings - Emperor - is a warrior who rides on a warhorse before a mighty world ending apocalyptic host.  Our King of Kings - Emperor - cuts such a bloody swathe through His enemies that their blood pools up so high as He tramples them underfoot that it stains his cloak whilst he is mounted on a horse.  Our King of Kings, Lord of Lords - Emperor - sits upon the White Throne and judges everyone and everything sending each one to either eternal torment of eternal paradise.  Our King of Kings, Lord of Lords, is an Emperor - a Caesar above all Caesars.  His Empire is not part of this world and we cannot by force bring His Empire into this world, but when He returns He will do so in power and glory and He will remake this world from the foundations up.  Yes, Jesus is an Emperor, and the Kingdom of God is an Empire wherein each local church is a kingdom under His rule doing His will for His glory.

And let us face it, Jesus is the King of Kings
Jesus is the Emperor

Emperor Jesus, however, is unique.  His robe is not just stained with the blood of His enemies but with His own blood shed for us who were His enemies.  Our Emperor came first of all not in power riding a glorious heavenly chariot whilst throwing lightening bolts to smite the heathen, but as a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling bands and not purple velvet.  The festival of Christ the Emperor, I mean Christ the King, comes just before advent where we look to the humble first coming of Jesus.  This is a powerful reminder we must take to heart - even as we remember Christ as Emperor of All, we must remember and temper this by remembering Christ the Servant of All.  Oddly enough,  the humble love of Jesus which speaks of grace and mercy we neither deserve nor can earn is even more offensive than Jesus as King.  The only thing more offensive in the Lord’s Prayer than “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done” is “forgive us our sins.”

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