Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sermon on the Sunday after the Death of Her Late Majesty the Queen

 What can I say about Her Late Majesty the Queen that has not already been said in 24 hour news-coverage and the saturated internet?  What superlatives can I employ which have not already been ascribed to her (more eloquently than I ever could) especially by those who knew her well?  

Whatever we think, for example, about our late Prime Minister, he can certainly craft a phrase!  In his tribute to the Queen, reflecting on the national sense of loss, he said that she was “a changeless human reference point in British life…so unvarying in her Pole Star radiance that we have perhaps been lulled into thinking that she might be in some way, eternal.”

In a similarly eloquent phrase, our new Prime Minister described the Queen as “the rock on which modern Britain was built” and “the very spirit of Great Britain”.  The Leader of the Opposition described Her Late Majesty as “the heart of this nation’s life”.  He praised “her deep devotion to the country, the Commonwealth and the people she loved.  In return for that,” he said, “we loved her”.

From His Majesty the King, we have glimpsed a more personal perspective.  He spoke of her as “my beloved Mother” who, he said, was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family….Queen Elizabeth”, he went on, “was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept, and she is mourned most deeply in her passing.”

But this speech of mine is billed as a Sermon, not so much a tribute.  So permit me to focus on another important aspect of the Late Queen’s character and life – specifically, her faith.  Allow me to do so, in her own words.

In her Christmas broadcast of 2017, she said this:

“Jesus Christ lived obscurely most of his life and never travelled far.  He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong.  And yet billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives.  I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love”.

I find that notion of ‘doing small things with great love’ utterly inspirational.  It is estimated that during her long reign, the Queen met directly some 3 million people (to say nothing of the billions who have glimpsed her over the years).  That is 3 million people who have had the privilege of shaking her hand, and exchanging a small (and always-interested word).  3 million small acts of great love from someone whose faith inspired her to a lifetime of duty and service.  This is of course to say nothing as well of the immeasurable number of letters, telegrams and condolences and sound advice which have flowed unceasing from the Queen’s desk, throughout her reign.  Paul Keating, the former Australian Prime Minister, put it so well when he said:

“The Queen understood and attached herself to the public good against what she recognised as a tidal wave of private interest and private reward - and she did it for a lifetime.”

The phrase “Jesus Christ: the man for others” is one ascribed to Jesus by theologians like Dietrich Bonhoffer and Paul Tillich.  It condenses, rather beautifully, the idea that Jesus lived only to serve humanity.  His entire life was poured out in the service of others – and this is the example which inspired the Queen.  And it inspired our new King to say that her “promise of lifetime service I renew to you all today”. 

I pray that, whatever our personal views about the institution of monarchy may be, we can all draw from the example of our Late Queen, and from the promise, made on Friday, by her heir the King.  We are ALL capable of performing ‘small acts with great love’ – to one another, to our neighbours, by our gifts of charity, and by living (as Christ modelled) for others. 

Let us imagine, for moment, a society in which ‘living for others’ was our primary driver, and primary goal.  Let us contemplate what our world would be like if private interest and private reward could be turned towards the benefit of others.  Can we imagine a world in which Dictators and grubby warlords no longer seek to possess the lands of others?  Can we imagine a world in which billionaires use their resources to benefit all humankind?  Can we imagine a world in which the swords of the nations are beaten into ploughshares to feed and heal the world?  On a more parochial level, can we imagine a world in which foodbanks were made unnecessary, and in which every homeless person had a warm bed.  Can we imagine a world in which every human being, of every nation, of every economic background, is valued and enabled to become all they can become as a loved child of God.  These concepts are at the heart of the Christian faith, the Hebrew Bible, and the faith of Her Late Majesty the Queen.  Let them be our guiding concepts too.

It is also worth reflecting for a moment on the great burden that our new King, Prime Minister and Government are forced to bear.  Just at the point in which a major economic intervention was required in our Nation’s life, the Queen’s death has inevitably placed much on hold.    This will undoubtedly cause worry and concern among the millions who find themselves in fuel poverty, and who are battling for higher wages to meet the challenges of rampant inflation.  We do well to hold our King, Prime Minister, Government and Parliament in our prayers as they navigate the difficulties of the economic challenges, while at the same time performing their duties to the Late Queen’s memory.

But, finally, as we mourn the passing of Her Late Majesty, and welcome the accession of the King, let us hold fast to the faith they both have professed, in Jesus Christ: the man for others.  And let us pray, in the opening line of the National Anthem we will sing at the end of the service, those prayerful and heartfelt words, “God save the King”.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! Thanx Tom! So pleased you're back.