King of the Fisherfolk
Words for the Feast of Christ the King – 22 November 2020 – A cyber sermon from the Vicarage
Text: Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” (Matthews 25.44)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
In the movie ‘The Fisher King’ Parry the apparent tramp, played by Robin Williams, tells the Shock Jock Jack Lucas, played by Jeff Bridges, of the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King and his quest for the Holy Grail when meeting a Fool;
A Fool asks the King why he suffers, and when the King says he is thirsty, the Fool gives him a cup of water to drink. The King realizes the cup is the Grail and asks, “How did you find what my brightest and bravest could not?” The Fool said “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”
Tales of the quest for the Holy Grail, beginning with Arthurian legend roll down the years and cover much ground from the comedic Monty Python, to the Boy’s Own Indiana Jones and the heart-achingly poignant Fisher King, do try and watch it if you haven’t already done so.
A common theme that runs through all the tales is a quest for power which often fails as the genesis of the Holy Grail is not power but the epitome of service. Thought to be the cup that our Lord used at the Last Supper and in which Joseph of Arimathea supposedly gathered the Blood of Christ from the cross it is shrouded in a complex dance of paradox and double meaning. If the Grail did hold both the wine of the Last Supper and the actual blood of our dying Lord it should give us deep pause for thought of the consequences for all those who choose to sup at the Lord’s Table…
What does this have to do with the feast of Christ the King? It is easy to shroud this Sunday in the glory that is to come and forget that Jesus is not so much a ‘Fisher King’ but a ‘King of the Fisherfolk’. From the bottom of the heap of humanity and, in much the same way that the tramp Parry provides a way to redemption for Shock Jock Jack Lucas, Christ rescues us not by reaching down from heaven but, as our Gospel reading reminds us, reaching up to us from amongst the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.
The problem with King Jesus is that (as the Magi will soon discover in our Christmas readings) he is not to be found in King’s Palaces but in a stable. His court is not made up of Princesses and Counts but overflowing with fisherfolk and turncoats, prostitutes and the demon possessed, the rejected and the foreigner. Worse than that, Jesus does not come amongst the poor and the oppressed of this world distributing largesse and then leaving them to their lot; he joins them as one of their own.
‘How is this a problem?’ We may ask. Because our King identifies with those on the margins of life it is difficult to know where he is to be found. This is the source of, what I call the Goaty People’s complaint. I can hear them protest, ‘but if we had only known it was you of course we would have seen you fed and clothed in the finest raiment’, ‘Why didn’t you tell us it was you hanging out with those Samaritans? If you had we would never have run you out of town’.
Our problem is this – our King goes about in disguise. He does not only hang out with the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, he is the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. If we insist on judging by outward appearance we will never ever get to truly meet him nor ever be truly able to serve him. We need to hear this message, whenever we meet another human being – and especially when we see any who have been forced to the margins of society. If we do not we will be joining in singing the age-old theme song of Goaty People the world over ‘If Only We Had Known’.
How do we stop ourselves from going Full Goat? We ask Jesus for a miracle, a miracle that he is quite used to performing. We must pray that each day we are healed from our blindness and see that the incarnation is nothing less than God’s proclamation that every single human being, whatever case or condition they may find themselves in, carries the Imago Dei and brings Christ to us as much we bring Christ to them.
When William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for the ‘crime’ of wanting to have a version of the Holy Scriptures in his mother tongue he pleaded ‘Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes’. Our prayer must be the reverse ‘Lord! Open our eyes that we may see the King!’
Remember the answer the Fool made to the Fisher King about the Holy Grail at the beginning of these words:
“I only knew that you were thirsty.”
This is all we have to do, recognise a need in another and do all we can to slake their thirst, satisfy their hunger and clothe their nakedness.
It is so heartening to see, even during Lockdown, the steady stream of people coming through our the doors of St John’s to collect food and clothing, books and baby kit, without cost and without condition from the Parish Pantry and Pushchair Pitstop.
Each time we leave an item on the table to be taken away by another, who may very well be a homeless hungry thirsty stranger, we invite Jesus to come into our place of worship and make his home amongst us. And as we do he turns to us and says, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’.
May we always be people whose hearts are overflowing with love for others and whose hands have been emptied in our service of them. As our eyes are opened and we learn to do this we will discover that the Holy Grail is not so much a cup of wine but a glass of cold water offered in his name, and our worship is not so much Songs of Praise but the whispered thanks of the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.
[This blog ‘The King of the Fisherfolk’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]