The Bible, the coronation and Washington’s kiss

By Jerry Newcombe

Millions worldwide tuned into the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.

The full name of Westminster Abbey, where kings and queens of England have been crowned since 1066, is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster.

When St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in the 1600s, they ran out of funds. So bells were taken from St. Peter’s and given to St. Paul’s, and thus reportedly was born the phrase, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The important aspect of the coronation is how much the Christian faith is infused in the ceremony. For example, the anointing by oil goes back to the Bible. The kings were anointed, in the same way King David and King Solomon were anointed by oil.

As Charles was anointed Saturday behind discreet screens, the choir beautifully sang a number by George Friedrich Handel, “Zadok the Priest” (1727), celebrating Solomon’s anointing as king 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, Handel is buried and memorialized with a statue in that very building.

The ultimate “anointed one” is Jesus Christ. Even His title, Christ, is derived from the Greek, and it means “Anointed One.” When He was baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit came upon Him, and thus He was anointed. Later He was anointed for His soon-to-come burial by Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.

After His death on behalf of sinners, His burial and His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, and He sits at the right hand of God. Even now He intercedes for His people. One day He will return and will be recognized by all for what He truly is – the King of kings and Lord of lords.

As the archbishop of Canterbury noted in his sermon for the coronation ceremony, the crown Jesus wore when He was on earth was one made of thorns.

But now Jesus wears a crown of gold. By Him, kings on earth rule. They rule in His place. They are vice-regents for the King of kings. In fact, King Charles was handed a reminder of that fact, the Sovereign’s Orb, on Saturday.

The orb (created in 1661) is one of the crown jewels, a golden ball symbolizing the earth, with a jeweled cross of Jesus atop it. The monarch rules, in principle, on behalf of Christ the King.

In America, we decidedly traded in a monarchy for the Constitution. “We the people” are the ones, theoretically, with the power in this country. We rule through our elected representatives. Yet the principle of rule under God remains.

The Constitution was ratified in 1788. It went into effect on April 30, 1789, in New York City (then the capital of the United States).

George Washington was sworn in on the Holy Bible and gave the standard oath (in the Anglican tradition) “So help me God.” He even leaned over and kissed the Bible. Dr. D. James Kennedy, once remarked, “Why, that’s enough to give the ACLU apoplexy.”

Then, Washington led the new government, including the Cabinet members and House members and senators and their wives over to St. Paul’s Chapel, which still stands today. Even now, George Washington’s pew remains in that church, which is near Wall Street.

Then they participated in a two hour service of Christian prayer and celebrated the Lord’s Table. Eyewitnesses say the president received communion.

Soon after this, the Congress asked George Washington to declare a Day of Thanksgiving as a nation to thank the Lord for the freedom we enjoyed to peaceably create our own system of government under God. He complied.

On Oct. 3, 1789, Washington issued our first national day of Thanksgiving as a new nation under the Constitution. He began, “Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon Almighty God.”

In that document, he encouraged the new nation to offer “supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” Here is a petition for forgiveness of sins from Jesus, who is described in Revelation 12 as the one “to rule all nations.”

A lot of people on either side of the Atlantic are quick to discount any of the pageantry celebrating “God and country” as in the coronation of King Charles III or the inauguration of George Washington.

But those who put together the substance of these various services demonstrate a greater understanding of the need to humbly serve the Lord God, in whatever station of life He has placed us, with whatever tasks He has set before us. This is something that Peter and Paul and Christians throughout the ages have recognized, and we forget it to our peril.

As God’s Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8 declares, “By me, kings reign.”

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