The King’s palace was full of splendour and majesty: lined in the purest marble, with a throne of gold, he wore a crown was heavy with jewels. No-one came near the throne without the King’s permission, and all power rested in his hands. Wherever he went, the King was followed by a retinue of servants, ready to do his bidding at all times, and kept safe by his loyal guards. The official royal protocol controller made sure that anyone who came to see the King followed the correct procedure: a bow or a curtsey from any of the nobility, followed by sinking to their knees as they conversed with the monarch: sitting was only allowed at His Majesty’s pleasure, and the chairs were uncomfortable. Anybody not of the nobility was expected to lie on the floor at His Majesty’s feet, standing only when the King suggested it. There were a few exceptions to this, such as the King’s Council of Advisors, made up of nobility and leading citizens. Whether noble or not, these people would all bow or curtsey when meeting the King, and sitting was accepted at meetings. Even the King’s family were expected to follow this procedure when coming into the royal presence, although his immediate family were exempt when in the family apartments.
When going outside the palace, the King was surrounded by his guard in their official dress uniforms, designed more to accentuate the King’s majesty than give ease of movement in defending the King. He was preceded by the military band, blowing a fanfare to warn the public that their monarch was on his way. There, all were expected to make way for him, and sink to the ground in awe at the King’s majesty. The King had almost total power: his Council of Advisors were simply that – advisors, whose opinion he could accept or ignore, although a wiser king would listen seriously to what he was told. Being surrounded by total majesty, it was the only way he could access the lives of the people. Assuming that the advisors had the courage to give honest advice: that depended on the nature of the King. Some would be people you could be honest with, but the type of splendour surrounding the King often lead to situations where they could only really see their own needs. But most of the public adored their King: surrounded by glory and majesty as he was, they could see and honour him as someone far different from themselves, and assumed the decisions he made were correct. The kind of honour with which he lived, rubbed off on those surrounding him, and those who lived in the capital city felt proud to be associated with their King, and the splendour around him.
Then, one day, the Crown Princess disappeared. She left a note for her father saying she was going incognito to explore the lives of the common people, for she felt this would make her a better monarch when the time came. She spent many months away from the palace, and began to realise how distanced her family were from everyday life. When she returned, she found her father had disinherited her: she had proved herself unworthy of the Crown, putting in danger all the ceremony and awe which surrounded the royal family and the person of the monarch in particular. The whole nature of the way the monarchy worked was that they were distanced from ordinary life, that they were surrounded by glory, majesty and splendour, that they were a cut above the rest. They didn’t need to know how ordinary people lived: they would make the best decisions for their country based purely on the fact that they were royalty, special. The whole point was that they were majestic, seen as full of glory. It was who they were.
The King in this story is a King simply because I did not want any confusion with our Queen (which would have diverted from the point) and the Crown Princess is female because I wanted a change of gender. This has nothing to do with how men and women may or may not respond differently to glory, it is about how we see glory, whoever we are. Our daily life, our monarchy and government is not like that described above. Or is it? It’s very much an exaggeration, but I wonder if there is not a grain of truth in the way we think of the kind of glory and splendour surrounding people who are ‘special’. Maybe less the government in our times and more celebrities. Is there a feeling that people who are special in some way are somewhat removed from those of us who are more ordinary? and does this affect the way we see God?
For we talk of God as being glorious, do we not? ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ and all that. There is a sense that God is majestic, that ‘the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours’. Which is all true, totally true. But I am more interested in how we see the words, than the words themselves. That we maybe interpret the words as meaning something which they do not have, in God’s eyes. (While acknowledging that no-one can see through God’s eyes, although the Spirit is sent to help us in this). Read John 17:24, which talks of Jesus’ glory, glory given because the Father loved Jesus from the beginning of the world. Glory given not to emphasise difference, not to enforce importance, but given out of love. Stated in a passage where the emphasis is on unity: that we may have the unity that the Trinity have. It gives a sense, if we are prepared to listen, that glory for the Trinity means something far different from glory in the ways we maybe commonly interpret it.
Glory as the King in the story above viewed it can only be maintained by stepping on the necks of others; ensuring you stay ahead because others are beneath you, and there is only one way to keep others beneath you. Glory as seen in the sense of John 17 is totally different: it is a glory based on love. The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world: that is why Jesus has glory, because he is loved; because that love will never change, whatever he does or does not deserve. The Glory of our God, the whole point of the Trinity, is love; and unlike the other way of glory, this type of glory draws people in, spreads love further and further. For love is only love if it grows and spreads: and we are called to worship a God with this type of glory, to follow a God who calls us to see this type of glory – and to continue spreading word of that love, that glory as far as we can. I think that when we can eventually see the full glory of God, the glory of his total love, we will still fall to our knees in awe and wonder: the awe and wonder of a God who loves in ways that are far beyond our imagination, yet still completely connected to each one of us individually; a love which draws us in and unites us, as we cannot be united yet; a love which I cannot describe fully, for I have not yet fully experienced it. An awe and wonder at the glory of God who loves, adores creation, who calls us not to stay apart, but to follow. To follow Love as best we can, till we are drawn in to the totality of our glorious, loving God.