Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant...” - Matthew 20:25-26 (NRSV)
Outside the cathedral in York, England is a statue of Constantine. He was named emperor at the Roman settlement there in the year 306.
The church, York Minster, seems built for him.
Vaulted ceilings that take me most of the way to heaven. Latin inscriptions in fresh gold leaf. Five Grisaille windows from which I cannot pull myself away.
And beside all this beauty, the trappings of national religion. Chapels dedicated to local military regiments. Statues of sword-wielding kings. The words, “God Save the Queen,” prominently displayed.
All of it built on the ruins of that Roman fortress.
It doesn’t seem quite right for the Lord we welcome, the sovereign we await. That one, we know, arrives as a vulnerable child. That one, we know, will die at the hands of the State.
That one will point to the powerful and tell his followers, “It will not be so among you.”
To underscore the point, a priest walks by me in finery fit for the place. I think something snarky.
But he starts to straighten the chairs and rearrange the prayer books one per seat. Then he gets down on hands and knees in his robes, crawling after kneeling cushions that have been flung aside thoughtlessly by tourists. He places them carefully beneath each chair.
And my snark is silenced. And I remember which sovereign I serve.
Great One, may it be so among us.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.