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A Musing on Royalty (10-12-2022)

I may have mentioned this to some of you, but I am currently trying to read some of the books that are appearing on the most challenged and banned books lists. I have several personal and professional reasons for doing so, but perhaps deep down if you tell me I cannot do something I have a tendency to try it—or at least I want to.

For example, I may or may not have a now-faded scar from touching the hot eye on the stove, even though my mother explicitly told me not to touch it.

Some of the books I have enjoyed. Some I have not. But I have always found something in them that made me think and touched my emotions. Such is the power of literature.

My current read is a book—that also became an award-winning movie I somehow missed—by author John Irving entitled The Cider House Rules.

I know some of you have seen the film (I am waiting until I finish the book before I watch it.) I also know as voracious readers as so many of you are, I am sure some of you have read the novel as well.

For those like me who missed this years ago, The Cider House Rules is a story that takes place in an orphanage in the state of Maine, in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

One of the main characters is Dr. Wilbur Larch, played by Michael Caine. Dr. Larch is an obstetrician who directs the orphanage.

Dr. Larch has many, many personal flaws — including a secret addiction to the ether he uses in his medical practice (I did not know such an addiction was possible) and he also sometimes engages in banned medical procedures (illegal abortions).

However, he also is a kind and caring man who works to provide a stable home for orphaned children, and he helps those he can find adoptive families.

Larch and his staff manage, against difficult odds, to seek to provide a home for dozens and dozens of youngsters.

Now I have discovered that Dr. Larch is a crusty, eccentric individual who has a sharp wit and is both caring and grumpy.

However, one of his eccentricities that I love is that he ends each day standing in the dormitory doorway of the orphanage and bestows upon all of his charges this unconventional blessing: “Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England!”

Of course, as wards of the state, we know they have no such birthright. In fact, in our American democracy, no such birthright exists: there are no such things as kings or princes.

Unlike the royalty lineage chart of Great Britain that we all saw when Queen Elizabeth died, we have no such chart in the US.

The birthright for these children exists only in Dr. Larch’s mind, and, by intoning those words night after night, he makes these young folks feel like royalty.

And for any child to be addressed by the royal title of king or prince gives them a profound sense of value and self-worth. And for the children who are orphans and as such have nothing—not even parents—it is indeed a powerful statement and a grand gesture.

But of course, as caring as the orphanage staff is, the large, rambling house in the beautiful New England state of Maine still has an institutional feel. The place is an orphanage, not truly a home. And the children fantasize about the day when some real parents will show up and adopt them.

The blessing that Dr. Larch shares, however, reminded me of the fact that in reality you and I own nothing. As scripture states, “for from dust, we are formed and to dust, we will return.

Yet through Jesus, we are royalty. We are assured of a promised day where the Kingdom of God awaits us all.

In the Book of Romans, Paul declares, we are children of God, and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Later in the first chapter of Ephesians, we find these words, “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

Because of the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, you and I are now royalty.

Later in 1st Peter we find these words, which my Dad always used as part of his Baptism liturgy, and which I used as well a few years ago when we baptized that beautiful baby in the Lafayette sanctuary.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people,[d] in order that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So, friends on hard days when the world or others are pushing you down and you feel worthless, remember this: you are royalty. And not just a prince of Maine (or Georgia) but a royal member of the Kingdom of God.

Thanks be to our amazing creator.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.

Clay Gunter


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