The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II was the largest public Scripture event in history, with millions of people around the world hearing words of Scripture said and sung. The coronation of King Charles III may well be the second largest.
While leaders of different faiths will be part of the procession into Westminster Abbey and will join in greeting the King at the end of the service, it will be a thoroughly Christian event, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and with Bible words threaded through it from beginning to end.
Here are some of the Bible highlights:
The King is greeted by a young Chapel Royal chorister, who welcomes him 'in the name of the King of Kings'. The King replies, 'In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.' The expression 'King of Kings' is used several times of Jesus in the Bible, for instance in Revelation 19.16. Jesus says he 'did not come to be served, but to serve' in Matthew 20.28.
A new setting of the 'Kyrie', 'Lord, have mercy' in Welsh is sung. It reminds the congregation that 'all have sinned', as Paul says in Romans 3.23.
The first of several gifts presented to the King is a Bible. The Moderator of the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland says: 'Sir: to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively Oracles of God.' As the notes to the coronation liturgy explain, this sets the word of God above all human laws – and they remind us that 'This service is full of Scripture. This presentation, and the beautiful language which accompanies it, is a reminder that careful and prayerful attention to the Bible is at the heart of Christian worship and devotion, as well as being the historical foundation of so much of Britain's culture and ethics.'
The Archbishop explains that the Church of England 'will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely'. The King takes an oath to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion and the settlement of the Church of England.
For probably the first time at a British coronation, the King prays a personal prayer. It reflects the theme of service, and uses the language of Galatians 5 and Proverbs 3.17.
A 'Gloria' by William Byrd is sung; it is based on the song of the angels in Luke 2.14.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, reads Colossians 1.9–17, in which Paul prays that the Colossians will be 'strengthened with all might' and speaks of the supremacy of Christ.
A new setting of Psalm 47.1–2 ('O clap your hands together ...') is sung; the Lord 'is the great King upon all the earth'.
The Gospel reading is from Luke 4.16–21, where Jesus stands up to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth about healing for the broken-hearted and freedom for the captives.
The 'Veni Creator', known in English as 'Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire' is sung in English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. It refers to the 'sevenfold gifts' of the Spirit found in Isaiah 11.2.
The anthem 'Zadok the priest' is sung, with the words taken from 1 Kings 1; the Archbishop says, 'And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so may you be anointed, blessed, and consecrated King over the peoples, whom the Lord your God has given you to rule and govern; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.'
A blessing from the Archbishop includes references to Psalm 45.7, Psalm 90.17and 2 Peter 1.11.
The King is presented with the Royal Regalia. As the sword is presented – a symbol of justice – The Greek Choir sing Psalm 72, a prayer for the King; Romans 13.4 and Hebrews 4.12 are quoted. The sword is also compared in Ephesians 6.17to the word of God. The robe is presented, with a reference to Isaiah 61.10. The orb, a representation of the world under the dominion of Christ, is presented with a reference to Revelation 11.15. The sceptre and rod, symbols of power and justice, are presented with a prayer that the Spirit will anoint the King as Jesus was anointed at his baptism.
Blessings are given including words from Numbers 6.24–26 ('The LORD bless you and keep you ...').
An anthem by Thomas Weelkes is sung, using verses from Psalm 61 ('O grant the king a long life ...')
As the King is crowned, the Archbishop says, 'May that same God, whose throne endures for ever, establish your throne in righteousness, that it may stand fast for evermore' – a reference to Psalm 89.14.
After the King's coronation, an anthem from 1 Kings 2.2 is sung ('Be strong, and show thy worth ...').
After Queen Camilla is presented with her regalia, an anthem from Psalm 98 in a setting by Andrew Lloyd-Webber is sung ('Make a joyful noise unto the LORD ...').
The service draws to a close with the Eucharist, beginning with the hymn 'Christ is made the sure foundation'. The traditional liturgy has lots of Bible references, including 1 Corinthians 11, Revelation 4, and the Lord's Prayer from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.9–13. It concludes with the hymn 'Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven', based on Psalm 103; an anthem from Psalm 21; and the Te Deum, an ancient Christian prayer.
May you have found a renewal of faith and a call to service as you have joined in with the Coronation celebrations. You will remember where you were and who you were with, God calls us into community. May this rich time of national importance be a blessing.
love and prayers Revd Sara