Not a Tame Lion!

Homily at St John Lloyd for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B – National Youth Sunday

Imagine a Kingdom not of this world.

Imagine a Kingdom where a Lion is King!

C. S. Lewis did just that. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobeand in his other Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis unfolded a vision of a great Kingdom, called into being by the song of Aslan, the Lion, where animals could speak and lived in harmony. A time came when the land was gripped by evil; it was always winter and never Christmas.

Four children from our own world were brought into that Kingdom. One of them, Edmund, chose the side of evil. Aslan, the Lion King, offered himself as a sacrifice so that Edmund could be restored to his family and to the side of Good.

At the end of the story, Edmund, with his brother and two sisters, are all installed as Kings and Queens of Narnia – not a King attended by a brother Prince and two Princesses, no, but all of them Kings and Queens. They were summoned out of our world to become a royal family in the Kingdom of the Lion.

Imagine a Kingdom not of this world.

That’s the challenge which Our Lord threw out before Pilate. Do you really want to know if I am a King? Are you interested in the answer? Because if you press me, I will admit the charge – but you must be prepared to imagine a different kind of Kingdom.

In Britain, we’ve had a Queen on the throne for sixty years, and we might feel we understand monarchy: Her Majesty launches ships, opens hospitals, and parachutes into the Olympics, accompanied by James Bond.

But our constitutional monarchy is a mere shadow of the power of kings in ages past. For much of Britain’s history, kings had power to tax the people, to declare war, and make decisions on matters of life and death. A whisper from a King might get an enemy executed; a royal pardon could spare the most wretched criminal. In Christian Europe, the King was seen as representing the authority of God Himself, just as the Kings and Queens of Narnia received their authority from Aslan.

Imagine a Kingdom not of this world.

The image on our pulpit which represents Christ in Kingship is a Lion. This represents dominance and authority. If you find yourself faced with a Lion, you will not be able to negotiate with it – you will only survive if you treat the Lion with the utmost respect.

Our Lord asks us on this day, which celebrates His Kingship, whether we are ready to accept Him as our King. If we belong to His Kingdom, we will live in this world, without sharing in its values. The blessing which we’re offered is that in God’s eyes, we are to be reckoned as Kings and Queens. The challenge is that we must exercise this God-given authority in a Christ-like way. This is the way of self-sacrifice, as Aslan gave his life for Edmund. This is the way of forgiveness, as we exercise the royal power of pardon. This is the way of using our riches to bless the poorest among us, as the sainted Queens Margaret of Scotland and Elizabeth of Hungary distributed their wealth to the poor, tending to beggars and invalids with their own hands.

Those saintly Queens were criticised by the court circles of their age for their decidedly non-royal behaviour. In the news this week, many commentators have criticised the Church of England for being “out of touch” with modern values by failing to accept women as bishops. Hardly any voices have pointed out that the mission of a Christian Church is not to follow the trends of society, but to invite that society to accept the rule of Christ as King. To be sure, there’s disagreement even among Anglicans on what they believe the King’s Command to be on such matters – but only a few voices have dared to say that any religion must have the freedom to follow its own principles, as long as non-members are not discriminated against. We must keep Anglican leaders in our prayers as they struggle to work out what it means to be part of a Kingdom “not of this world” while being the Established Church for England.

Imagine a Kingdom not of this world.

Imagine a way of living where the most important question we ask ourselves each day is: What is the command of Christ, our King?

Imagine a way of living where each one of us uses our proper authority – in the workplace, in our family home, in the voluntary groups we belong to – not for own own advantage but to favour the poorest, the most disadvantaged, to give those struggling a helping hand.

Imagine a Kingdom not based on personal advancement or shaped by our fears, but built on selfless love.

When you come to Mass and see the creatures on the front of this pulpit, remember Narnia – remember that you are part of a Kingdom not of this world. And before you leave this building at the end of Mass, look again at the pulpit and let these creatures speak to you of what they represent. These creatures are truly talking animals, for they invite you to go forth to proclaim the Gospel with your whole life!

Plaques on the Pulpit at St John Lloyd Church, Cardiff.

Go forth like the ox, willingly bearing the burdens laid upon you.

Go forth like the angel, ready to speak God’s word wherever it needs to be heard.

Go forth like the eagle, carrying your prayers to the heights of heaven.

Go forth like the lion, thinking of that other Kingdom where Christ is Lord, and where the values are not the selfish ones of the world around us. Remember that such a Kingdom will remain a fantasy, unless you choose to make it a reality.

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.