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Heavy is the Head that Bears the Crown

In the play “Henry IV,” King Richard is restless, unable to sleep the night before a battle. He laments that while even the lowliest workers are able to find rest from trouble, he is denied sleep. And so he utters the famous words that have become our modern idiom, “Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.” This phrase has come to be connected with the idea that leaders bear a heavy weight of responsibility and concern. While that is certainly true, that isn’t the reason this has become one of my favorite sayings.

The reason I love this phrase is connected to an idea in the bible. In Revelation chapter four, we find an image of Christians seated around God in heaven, and they bow down before him and lay their crowns at his feet. In the bible, we regularly find descriptions of how our lives here on earth lead to a heavenly, eternal crown (Rev. 2:10, 2 Tim. 4:8, James 1:12, and more!)

Yet, so often we spend our lives chasing, or trying to hold onto, a crown we get to wear right now. We do this when we try to be the ones in charge of our own lives, when we say, “well God, that may be your plan, but I don’t like it. So I’m gonna do this instead.” We try to be the king of our world, the ruler of our circumstances.

This inevitably fails. Because I am a terrible king! We are not equipped to run our own lives, there is so much that is out of our control, so much that we don’t know about or see! When I try to run my own life, when I try to wear the crown, I can’t pull it off. Yet I do it anyway, as one book put it, “I think you underestimate the stubbornness a crown can press into the mind of the man or woman who wears it.” And so, heavy lies the head that wears the crown.

The thing is, Jesus knows this. He doesn’t want us to make him the king of our lives just for his sake. He wants us to put him on the throne because he knows that it is what’s best for us. As he said, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” He wants to give us rest, even rest from the weariness of wearing the crown.

He can do this because he already wore the crown for us. The crown of thorns. Our suffering, our weariness, our pain, our shame, he carried it all to the cross. A crown even worse than the one we try to carry ourselves when we try to be our own kings and queens. All so that we could take off our crowns and lay them at his feet, and receive in return the crown of righteousness on that last day. So we can hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Before we go, there is one crown we get to acquire and wear here on earth. Do you know what that is? It’s other people. Paul asks the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” To the Philippians he writes, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown…”

The crown we can receive and wear here on earth is other people. Those we love and care for, those we support and encourage, those to whom we carry the good news of Jesus!

So this month, let’s take a breath, and choose to stop trying to carry the crown. Let’s look for an eternal crown instead, and to the crown that is our brothers and sisters in Jesus and how we are able to encourage and support them in Christ!

God Bless, Pastor Jon

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