The Rt. Revd. Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark

Recent events in the United Kingdom following the death of our much-loved Queen have brought to mind that, like the Kings of Judah of old, she sleeps with her fathers, and like some of the more notable of those Kings, her people lament their loss.

Even a passing acquaintance with the Holy Land yields an obvious connection with Kingship. The land we revere was a thoroughfare for armies in antiquity, and some of their rulers projected their power on an epic scale. In the Bible Nebuchadnezzar carries Judah into exile in the epitome of imperial power, and Babylon - his capital city - is a synonym of earthly power. The Kings of Persia styled themselves the ‘King of Kings’, with Alexander the Great bent on conquering the known world and founding cities in his own name. The Roman emperors came to call themselves ‘the saviour of the world’. But when Christ came as King to Jerusalem he came on a donkey, for Christ is a King who comes in peace.

 ‘Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

   humble, and mounted on a donkey,

       and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (Matthew 21. 5)

 He came in this way because, as Our Lord says in Mark’s Gospel, ‘the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10. 45).

 Her Late Majesty The Queen in her Christmas broadcast in the year 2000 said that Christ’s death ‘might have been the end of the story, but then came the resurrection and with it the foundation of the Christian faith … For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example’. Hers was a life of service and duty to her peoples shaped by the very faith she quietly but resolutely professed – a model of Kingship based on service to a Kingdom which in its recent grief knows that it had been served.

 A life which is both poured out in service and yet demands a response will ultimately prove an affront. And so Christ’s service became a ransom paid for those unable to free themselves. Our love for him compels us to speak of this. Such a life, and such a Kingdom, is one which we may access or journey to through many of the great sites of the Holy Land. Pilgrims stand or sit or gaze across with a tangible sense of where Jesus was born, or walked, or taught, was baptized, stood before Pilate, bled, was laid down, and rose again - a rare privilege. For the Christian communities of the Holy Land it is for them to abide in the places hallowed by Our Lord’s life and ministry and it is a costly witness from which we have much to learn. Great powers are again on the move, including in the Middle East and, armies are engaged in Europe. But all must eventually own the Prince of Peace, be subject to his judgment, and learn that his way is justice and peace. For that we must model this in our lives for his Kingdom, and find him in our hearts wherever we may be.