‘In the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Amen’. So ended the Bishop of London’s prayer for the married couple during the wedding of Prince William and Catherine. Not ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’, but just ‘Spirit’. It might have been the biggest gospel opportunity the world has ever known, but failing in his brief message to preach the gospel of grace and set forth the Lord’s power to save from sin, Dr Richard Chartres missed a golden opportunity to witness properly to Jesus Christ before his huge audience.
But, throughout the service — for those with eyes and ears to discern — there were things that pointed to the King of kings. The Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for the couple, without reading from notes, and at least acknowledged the kingship of Christ. The hymns spoke of God as the Great Redeemer and warned the congregation that Britain is in a war against spiritual powers, in the rousing (albeit, misleading and ambiguous) words of Jerusalem. But while guests andmillions outside Westminster Abbey joined in, did any of the witnesses — known atheists, agnostics and those of other religions, as well celebrity gays Elton
John and David Furnish — understand what they were singing and reading? During the ceremony, the possible future king of England knelt before Archbishop Rowan Williams. The visual imagery was clear — state and monarchy alike must bow in the presence of God. Yet such apparent subservience represents little more than a dim echo from the past. We have seen time and again, in the UK, state and monarchy push through and sign laws that erode the rights of Christians to uphold gospel truths and live in accordance with God’s commandments. James Middleton, brother of the bride, provided a highlight as he read, unabashed and with conviction, Romans 12:1-2, 9-21: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God … ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…’
That our gracious God might bless the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with salvation remains a matter for prayer. Such an outcome would have significant ramifications for this country. The popularity of this young couple and their obvious love for each other is commendable and, in that at least, sets a good example to other couples. But imagine the future impact it would have ifthey were to declare themselves, above all, ‘married to Christ’? It is right to pray for them, that they will remain married and have a happy and influential life together as representatives of the nation’s royal family. But let’s not forget that the work of salvation comes neither by the state nor by the church in itself, but by Christ Jesus alone. The true proclamation of that ‘Name’ was missing from the ceremony on 29 April, but the reading of the Word of God was heard by billions. And God has promised that his Word will never return to him void. ‘God save the Queen — and her family’ are fortrue Christians not merely words of formality and pomp.