"I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing!"
"Please Arthur, I can't forgive myself," a shamed and broken servant girl, says to her former fiancée and the current King of Camelot.
This weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to watch two dear friends watch the final the series four finale of Merlin for the first time. The two part finale titled "The Sword in the Stone Parts I and II", in epic Merlin style, had a disheartened Arthur in a fight to win back his kingdom from his bitter and wounded half-sister. During the episodes, we are given a brilliant glimpse into some of the Arthurian legends’ most iconic scenes. When Arthur loses hope that he is meant to be king, Merlin must encourage his friend with the help of a certain familiar enchanted sword molded into a rock. You know the story.
When Arthur's confidence is restored, he heads into battle to take back the citadel in Camelot and reclaim his title as king. Ever present by his side is his former fiancée, the servant girl, Guinevere. I call her his former fiancée because only a few episodes before Arthur called off their wedding after discovering Guinevere alone with Lancelot, the king's most noble and trusted knight. Miscommunication took place, as did treachery, and much wounded pride. When Guinevere comes back into Arthur’s life, after being banished from the kingdom, the two share a strained relationship.
Guinevere understands Arthur’s continued wariness of her. After all, she is merely a servant girl. She is the daughter of a falsely accused and convicted black smith. She is a woman who unintentionally betrayed the love of her life the day before their wedding. In the beginning of the episode, Arthur unfortunately treats Guinevere badly, to which she accepts full of guilt. Yet in the end of "The Sword in the Stone Part II", Arthur is the initiator of, what I think is, the most clear, prominent, and beautiful reference to Christ's forgiving, uplifting love. Arthur, with the help of his loyal subjects, courageous knights, and of course, his manservant turned best friend, Merlin, is able to take back his kingdom and defeat the cruel and destructive rule of his half-sister.
Yet, his struggles are not over. Arthur has a decision to make. Guinevere had been banished, she betrayed him not just as a man, but also as her king. In terms of the law, it is not a crime to be taken lightly. However, as seen in the clip below, when Guinevere offers to leave, Arthur asks her to stay. Guinevere immediately puts up a barrier saying, "You don't have to say anything. Please Arthur, I can't forgive myself..." She feels unworthy of any kindness or absolution from him. I don’t know about you all, but I know I find myself so often saying the same thing to God. We feel we are not deserving of his relentless love, grace, and devotion. Yet, Arthur cuts her off saying with sincerity, "I don't care. I just don't ever want to lose you." All I could think watching that scene was how Christ has done the same thing for us. We are broken sinners. We are lost poor peasants; we have nothing to offer a king. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet he welcomes us to him with open arms. He forgives us of all our betrayal and failure.
Arthur asks Guinevere to marry him, and in the next scene we see her coronation. She becomes heir to the throne. Yesterday in church we sang the song, "How Can I Keep from Singing" and one of the lines says, "I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing." Seeing Guinevere's face when Arthur asks her to marry him takes me back to those lines. Can we even comprehend that we are loved by the king? I am loved by the King of Kings! Me? I am a wretched soul, who has betrayed this glorious king's most sacred trust, yet he longs to bring me into complete unity and fulfillment with him. It doesn’t make any sense. Nevertheless it is truth.
Paul writes in Romans 8, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [. . . .] The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” Romans 8:1, 16-17). It is through Christ’s accepting us that we are made glorious with him. Scripture makes multiple references to how we, the church, are the bride of Christ. My favorite imagery in this episode is when Guinevere kneels before Arthur as he pronounces her queen. Then he takes her hands and lifts her up to stand beside him. That is exactly what Jesus has done for us. When he died on the cross He lifted us up out of despair and loneliness. In Psalms it reads, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, / out of the mud and mire; / he set my feet on a rock / and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:20). Standing beside a king seems like a rather secure place if you ask me. By taking our failures and sins upon himself he is now able to lift us up to be with him, no longer living in shame or guilt over our past failures. We are given a new life, a new title, we are made whole because we are loved, saved, and blessed by the King of Kings. Remind yourself today of what you have in common with Guinevere. No one among us is perfect. You and I have made mistakes. Despite that though, all our sin and deficiency is washed away because we are loved by the King.