Many years ago, when Hitler's forces occupied Denmark, the order came that all Jews in Denmark were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars of David. The Danes had seen the extermination of Jews in other countries and guessed that this was the first step in that process in their countries. The King did not defy the orders. He had every Jew wear the star and he himself wore the Star of David. He told his people that he expected every loyal Dane to do the same. The King said, "We are all Danes. One Danish person is the same as the next." He wore his yellow star when going into Copenhagen every day in order to encourage his people.
The King of Denmark identified with his people, even to the point of putting his own life on the line. It's a wonderful story with a powerful point. The only problem is it isn't true. It's an urban legend. It's been around for a long time and told thousands of times over. And now with the internet we are getting a lot of these legendary stories retold. It’s a shame! What an image for a king, identifying with his people.
Our image of royalty is very different, isn’t it? I have a great respect for Elizabeth our Queen, but she’s hardly one of us, is she? She hardly identifies with her people. She lives in palaces and castles, eats sumptuously at banquets, even though she may well be fed up with them and would prefer a bacon roll from time to time.
She has the best instant medical care that money can buy, she has much wealth, and will never know what it’s like to sign on, or visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. She talks in a very posh accent, and has people on hand to cater for her every need. And good luck to her! I wouldn’t have her life for the world!
On the other hand, many of her subjects live in great poverty. We are being asked to set up a food bank in the town because some of our people do not have enough to feed themselves or their family. Unemployment and poverty is rife in our town. The NHS is wonderful, but there are still long waiting lists for those who cannot afford to go private.
Today we proclaim Christ as King, but his Kingship is obviously very different from the sort of image and example we have of royalty today. His Kingdom is very different, it is a spiritual Kingdom where love and care for the outcast is paramount. It is a Kingdom where the humble and meek are exalted, and the mighty are cast down.
So when we look after the lepers of our world, we take part in Kingdom stuff, the spiritual kingdom that is. When we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, serve the downtrodden and the marginalised, we are doing Kingdom stuff, the spiritual Kingdom that is. And we DO this sort of ministry in St Augustine’s and in Drumchapel where I celebrated the Eucharist earlier today. In our ministries we get down to the stuff where our hands get dirty, and we become servants of God’s little folk.
Our hall is full every day of people who are being accepted and cared for and loved. Our doors are open for the distressed and needy, and we identify with them and walk beside them on their journey. We kiss lepers here, you know.
I have heard it said this week that we are not a spiritual parish. How much more spiritual do you want? We walk with the poor, the anxious, those with mental health problems and support women in prison and through their time of release. That is a very deep and meaningful way of working out a practical spirituality…. And it is underpinned by our prayer, here at the Sunday Eucharist and in our daily lives.
I know that people in this parish pray because I can see it in their eyes.
We follow the King of Kings and identify with His people as he showed us to, as he commanded us to do. Our King came to earth and identified totally with his people and we are asked to follow his example.
Some will pray in a more organised way than others, and sometimes will pray in groups. Some of us will study our faith in a deeper way than others, but we have a deep spirituality here which is rooted in the practical. It is the sort of spirituality which Mother Teresa showed the world, and although we might not be quite as good as her, we can see that it is the way of the Kingdom, the spiritual Kingdom which Jesus taught us about.
And it is deeply rooted in this Eucharistic celebration which goes on week by week, where in the ordinariness of bread and wine, Our Lord takes us blesses us and breaks us, then feeds us to strengthen that ministry and commitment. What is more spiritual than kneeling at this altar with your hands out to receive Jesus, to be fed, so that you are strengthened to go on into this week to carry on this work of the Spiritual Kingdom? It is deeply rooted in our Taize Services and our Remembrance Services where this place is lit up with candles lit for the dead who died as a result of addiction.
And we are a part of a different kind of Kingdom, with a different kind of king … a King whose glory shone from the cross with love in his eyes, as he loves us to the end.
That makes me want to fall down and worship and give thanks that indeed I am part of that spiritual Kingdom with every one of you here today.