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Communion (1995 Series)

The Death Of Richard Lionheart

Scheduled for June 1

If you are like I am, there is nothing quite so entertaining to watch as a good swashbuckler.  Recall if you can all those pictures you saw about Robin Hood.  It’s a story that’s been used many times in Hollywood.  We forget that while Robin Hood is a bit shadowy as a historical figure, “good King Richard” was not. 

King Richard, the Lionheart.  As Winston Churchill said, “When Richard’s contemporaries called him ‘Couer de Lion” they paid a lasting compliment to the king of beasts.  Little did the English people owe him for his services, and heavily did they pay for his adventures.  He was in England only twice for a few short months in his ten years’ reign; yet his memory has always stirred English hearts,...”

My concern here is not for his life, but the manner of his dying.  In 1199, in a dispute over treasure, he laid siege to a castle in Chaluz, France.  He was wounded in the shoulder by an arrow.  Gangrene set in, and he knew that death was at hand.  He arranged matters in accordance with the principles by which he had lived, dividing his belongings among friends and charity.  The archer who shot him was now a prisoner, and Richard pardoned him, and gave him a gift of money.

The thing that interests me most is this:  for seven years prior to his death, Richard had not been to confession (he was a Catholic, as were all Christians in Western Europe at that time) nor taken communion for that seven years.  Why?  Because he knew that at confession he would be obliged to admit his hatred for Philip, the King of France -- and would then be compelled by his faith to be reconciled to his mortal enemy.


In a great man’s life we may see a mirror of our own.  How many of us approach communion hoping that God will let sleeping worms lie?  Wanting so much not to be reminded of the grudge we hold, or the vengeance we want to take, or the secret sin that lies hidden in our minds -- known only to God and to ourselves.  We mutter a prayer, hoping that God will let us by one more week without having to face ourselves as He sees us.  Gradually, we hope, the nerve endings will become numb, and we will no longer hear the still small voice telling us, “Confess your sins to me, and be clean.”

Richard at least played the man.  He put it off as long as he could, but when the time came, he took it with calm courage -- and reconciliation.  He forgave Philip;  indeed he even forgave the archer who had shot the bolt that was to kill him.  I wonder how many of us could forgive our killer.

If there is something in your life this morning that stands between you and God, get it out.  Richard knew the hour of his death;  you and I do not.  Would you walk from his house without reconciliation and forgiveness?

Richard, at his death, forgave even the man who killed him.  His knights were not so charitable after his death.  The archer was flayed alive.  Choose you this day whom you will serve.


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