HIS Majesty King George V was once attending a service in the church of St. Martin’s in the Fields, located close to London’s Trafalgar Square.
The preacher was the rector, the controversial Dick Sheppard. Somehow, Sheppard mislaid the notes for his address, and discovered, to his consternation, that they had fallen from the pulpit right in front of the King.
Mercifully, his handwriting was poor, and the King could scarcely have read what he had written; “Loyal and sincere gratitude to H.M., but no soap”.
It is difficult at a time such as the current Jubilee celebrations marking 60 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, to avoid the soft soap.
But one must try; for while the Bible tells us to pray for kings and all those in authority (1 Timothy 2;1); and to “fear God, honour the king” (1 Peter 2;17), it also reminds us that for Christians, there is “another king, one called Jesus” (Acts 17;7).
All monarchs have a loyal following. Despite the turmoil the Royal family has experienced, polls suggest that The Queen is more popular that ever.
King Jesus has a loyal following too. While Christian churches may seem to be in decline in Britain, the church expands elsewhere.
At the time of the famous Edinburgh missionary conference in 1910, there were about six million Christians in sub-Saharan Africa, today there are more than 600 million; and during the same century, the number of Chinese Christians has risen from three million to 100 million.
And those followers are loyal to king Jesus. Indeed, it has been estimated that every three minutes, somewhere in the world, a Christian dies for his or her faith.
All monarchs have dignity. The poet Marvell said of King Charles I that on the day of his execution, “he nothing common did or mean”.
Likewise Queen Elizabeth II. From her accession, after the premature death of her father (a man himself unexpectedly thrust into prominence), her life has been one of service.
And service marked the even greater monarch, Jesus Christ. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20; 25-28).
All monarchs have authority. Behind Her Majesty are all the traditions and trappings of the British nation, developed over centuries.
The solitary figure who stood before Pilate, the representative of all-conquering Rome, stood One with an even greater authority. He once disclosed that authority to his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4;34).
In whatever way you spend the Jubilee Bank Holiday - whether celebrating sixty glorious years of a remarkable reign or watching the Olympic flame pass through the ‘Triangle’ area - take time to bend the knee before that “other King, one called Jesus”.