|Funeral procession for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II|
In the middle of September in 2022, much of the world focused on the funeral rites of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, rites that brought formality and pageantry to center stage for many days. As a Christian and an educator, I could not help considering formality and pageantry with regard to the life of faith and the life of learning and have begun discussing this with friends. What follows are some early thoughts.
Except in the areas of sport and entertainment, we in the 21st century United States seem generally opposed to any kind of formality and pageantry. Perhaps it smacks too much of hierarchy, which in turn recalls images of oppression. Yet the bland landscape of the lowest common denominator, while, perhaps, providing some corrective to the abuses of hierarchy, has led to its own, sad effects. At this point in history, misuse and abuse of formality and pageantry hardly need to be described, nor do the benefits of level, egalitarian approaches to just about everything. The former are simply accepted de facto as bad and the latter as good. And yet, a garden hoe is a wonderful tool when it is used in planting vegetables. It is horrible weapon when it is used in committing murder. So it is with most things, most events, most systems, and most people. Almost everything has its good and bad aspects. In the course of this piece I want to examine the benefits of formality and pageantry and the less desirable consequences of the bland and the level.
The Text That Started It All
What follows is part of a text thread among some close friends and me.
Friend: For what it’s worth, I wanted to share with you guys some thoughts I had while watching the Royals funeral yesterday. Typically, I’m totally not into any of that stuff. For the longest time, I ridiculed the monarchy, and questioned its relevance. Nevertheless, the pageantry and reverential respect I saw yesterday really moved me. My main impression was that God had somehow written royalty on our hearts. All throughout Scripture, from beginning to end, we see images of royalty. There are thrones, a Royal Court, crowns, scepters, etc. There are subjects who bow and lie prostrate before the King. God refers to us as “a royal priesthood.” In the Lord’s Prayer, there’s the line, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.“ It seems to me that there are components in heaven that are duplicated here on earth. I believe the monarchy is one of those elements. I believe God has allowed it to continue even in our time as a reminder of our eventual home and eternal reality. It really moved me unexpectedly yesterday. The longing God has placed in our hearts is real and palpable in every way. May we be found worthy to be in the King’s Court!
Me: My brother, I heartily concur. In fact, those very thoughts had been going through my mind. I’m so glad you gave voice to them. And when I saw them returning her crown, scepter, and orb to the altar at St. George’s Chapel, I was struck by how that symbolized that all authority comes from God, just as Jesus said said to Pilate in John 19. That authority may exercised in accordance with or in opposition to His will, but it originates with Him. Thank you so much for saying this.
And, I would add, that the loss of such pageantry and majesty in our social and religious life has contributed to the results of that survey about evangelicals not believing Jesus is God. Yes, such pageantry can become empty of meaning and constricting of life, just as it did with the Israelites and has in many high church expressions through the ages. But swinging the pendulum to the far extreme of pole barn churches with everything sung and taught in the lowest common denominator has brought forth its own sad effects along with any restorative work it may have done to counteract the former.
Friend: Amen, brother. The days are dark and the time is short. This is the church’s last shot at impacting the world. Orthodoxy is dying. We need to stay connected and stand firm. Blessed to be doing it with you guys!
Pole Barns and Cathedrals
|Temple of Saint Sava, Belgrade, Serbia (photo credit: Brad Mitchell)*|