The Bishop of Oxford gave the sermon at the Coronation Service of Celebration at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday 5 May 2023.
In a few hours time, at the very beginning of the Coronation service, King Charles will come to his Chair of Estate on the pavement of Westminster Abbey. He will be surrounded by world leaders and dignitaries. The event will be watched live across the entire globe.
The opening words of the service will be spoken not by a Dean or Archbishop but by a child: Your majesty, as children of the Kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of Kings.
The King will reply, quoting the very words of Jesus: In his name and after his example, I come not to be served but to serve. The whole Coronation and, we pray, the King’s life and reign will flow from that promise.
St Paul encourages us today to pay attention, to reflect, to think deeply in these moments in these words from our second reading: “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”
I wonder where your mind will be tomorrow as the nation pauses in this moment. There will be much in the Coronation which encourages us to look back, I am sure. The pageantry and processions, the costume, the Abbey itself. We will look back over a thousand years of our own history. We will look back further to the sacred kings of ancient Israel, celebrated in the Psalms, anointed with oil at the beginning of their reign: to Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. The Coronation distils deep seams of divine and human wisdom on leadership in communities into simple acts of consent, disrobing, of anointing and prayer, of kneeling, of acclamation, of the acknowledging and the balancing of power. The words of the service reminds us of the blessings of stability and order and rule mediated through a person as well as an institution: a deep humanising of authority and justice.
There will be much which encourages us to reflect on the present. The service will be a testimony to a mature, multicultural, diverse United Kingdom: a unique moment in history. Different faith leaders and cultures will play their part as the monarch seeks to bind us together in humility and a generous inclusion. The different nations of these islands will each play their part, countering the forces of separation and division which have marked this last decade. The whole nation is invited to the party not only tomorrow but in the local celebrations which will follow in towns and villages celebrating volunteering for the common good, making memories and binding communities together.
There will be much, finally which helps us to reflect on the future. The words of the service paint a picture of a still better kingdom. A kingdom of healing and renewal in the natural world. The world faces environmental catastrophe in our own generation. Surely Charles is king for such a time as this. A kingdom of justice as inequalities grow wider. A kingdom of peace in a world at war, forging alliances across the world. A kingdom of welcome and a friend in need to the many who are in distress.
King Charles has prepared for all of his life for this moment. He is and will be a rich blessing to our nation and Commonwealth and the world. We know him better than any previous monarch because of the age in which we live. We know he will have a strong support and stay in Queen Camilla.
Whatever is good and honourable, think about these things says Paul. We will reflect on the past, the present and the future as the great liturgy enfolds us. We will reflect too, I hope on our own lives, on our own faith, on the part we have to play in building this nation and in building God’s kingdom.
In his name and after his example, let each of us come not to be served but to serve.
God Save the King.