July 14, 2014
“The King Has Returned!”
The sentiment was sincere, on the placard held over the head of a celebrating fan in Cleveland, to the news that LeBron James was “coming home,” to the Cavaliers. The photo ran on Section 1/page 1 of the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, so the neighborhood buzz received national attention…
James is leaving the Miami Heat, after four seasons. I’m writing from Miami (here to preach for a friend while he vacations with his family, in Southern California) and the people on the streets of South Florida this Summer Sunday aren’t giving any thought to basketball: sports fans here are whooping over Germany’s victory over Argentina – just now – in the World Cup finale, in Brazil.
James isn’t royalty, but his $42 million contract for his next two years of play could buy a closet full of crowns. In Washington, one house of Congress is complaining about what they view as a regal presidency; in Eastern Europe, the President of Russia is acting like a monarch as he endorses and supports actions that expand his jurisdiction toward the old borders of the USSR. In Iraq, a new face on the world scene – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – has declared himself Caliph over all Muslims, everywhere – in the line of Muhammad, and the leader of a new Sharia-law national entity.
America is an anomaly: a country with a durable constitution instead of a sovereign leader. Despite a plan – played out over 238 years – to limit leadership to less-than-a-decade, there’s something in many that longs for a king to follow. Solomon observes that God “has put eternity in their hearts…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11); a wisp of connection to the divine that influences human passion without being able to explain the source, or the yearning.
God always planned to be the King of His People, the Jews… but, the family line that remembered their King’s victory over Pharaoh – and his provision to them through His mystical faithfulness – came to envy the other nations who had kings. Never mind the abysmal batting average of kings – through the ages, and across all cultures – the failure rate of royalty never seems to diminish their perceived value.
I’ll confess: something in me tires of the incessant campaigning for prominence, and the recurrent headlines announcing yet another feet-of-clay revelation confirming that all human leaders seem to succumb to self-aggrandizing arrogance, making way for the next candidate to prove that fallacy is universal.
One day – soon? – the placards will be in Cleveland, and in Copenhagen; the news will be front-page in Moscow, Russia and Moscow, Idaho. “The King has Returned” will be tweeted and blogged, bull-horned and headlined; every eye will see Him, and the innermost longing of the redeemed will finally be realized.
His Kingdom. I talk about it, write about it, ponder it, dream about it: it’s where my mind goes when nothing demands my current full attention. Some conceive it as a mystical, current reality; my theology anticipates a reality that will see a glorified, flesh-and-blood King of Kings establishing His Righteous Reign, and showing what good leadership always aspired to be, but could never match.
Sorry, LeBron: I’m not satisfied with substitutes. He’s worth waiting for…