When speculation was ended and the news broke on Thursday evening I don’t mind admitting that I wept for the Queen, for her family, and myself. Regardless of her age and health it was still a shock. I have always affectionately referred to her as my boss. In the first sermon of our timely summer series when post Platinum Jubilee we began exploring further themes from ’Our Faithful Queen’ I recalled how when ordained
and subsequently when taking up a new post as priest you swear the Oath of Allegiance which includes obedience to the sovereign and their successors.
The late Queen’s remarkable sense of duty is often commented on and the fact that she still met with the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers on Tuesday now seems vaguely unbelievable as she has always represented a single distinctive force for stability in our country. Her tolerance, curiosity and capacity for forgiveness were other themes
explored recently and I don’t intend to repeat them today – we hope to combine the summer series into a booklet as a resource on the website.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the scripture passage chosen for this Thanksgiving service.
I love this pictorial passage from Revelation. It is the basis for the design on my purple stole. The New Jerusalem on this side and the trees of life with leaves for the healing of the nations on the other. The writer, believed to be St John speaks of the total transformation of all things, ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ This is beyond our understanding, just as death and eternity are and so he tries to flesh out what that might mean. As I re-read these words with the death of the late Queen Elizabeth in
mind my attention was caught by the phrase, ‘the home of God is among mortals’, and I was reminded of the divine right to rule referred to at a Coronation. That holy moment when the Queen stripped of the outward vessels of power and authority sat simply in her white dress and was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a similar concept to priesthood, the representative nature of God channelled through humans set apart for a specific purpose.
In her prayer book she wrote, “By the anointing God makes, blesses, and consecrates me Queen: and I am till my dying day ‘his anointed servant’. In the anointing God creates
a new relationship between himself and me, giving me for my use in this office those resources of his divine grace which I need to dispose hands and heart and mind to do his will.
In answer to his call and consecration, I dare to breathe the Virgin Mary’s words; ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it unto me according to thy word.’
Unlike her son, now King Charles III it wasn’t Elizabeth’s birth right to rule. She gained this responsibility on the abdication of her uncle, yet she bore it with amazing dignity and has impressed upon her heirs the servant nature of the monarchy. She had a huge sense of vocation which was the driving force of her life. She took on the mantle of
sovereignty in a manner of something profoundly Christ like.
Of course, St John is referring to Jesus who dwelt among humans as Immanuel, the word made flesh and I am comforted by the knowledge of my God with me in the midst of this momentous occasion. Jesus promises, ‘I am with you always.’ I have these words engraved on this little cross thought I bought nearly 3 years ago when my own father died. Many people have commented to me how personal the death of the Queen feels to them – she is the matriarchal figure of our nation as well for her own family. We all feel we have lost someone special and feel like we know her even if we have never met her.
Yet God promises more than just presence. This passage promises transformation, ‘the wiping away of tears’ and I know many have been shed in the last few days and will continue to be as we express our grief and sense of loss. Tears are natural and healthy but more significant is this bold statement, ‘Death will be no more: mourning and crying and pain will be no more.’ As I watched our new King arriving at Buckingham Palace and addressing the nation I immediately felt sorry for him that he’s not been allowed to grieve, but then I reminded myself of who He is now, Head of State and defender of faith. The Christian hope is that death is no more. This is what happened on the cross as we commemorate at the Source this afternoon. The cross that signifies self-crossed out as I spoke about just 3 weeks ago at the end of that poignant summer series exploring the Queen’s values – the humility that she has exemplified through her life of witness and service. The cross that says death is defeated. No more mourning, no more crying, no more pain and allows us as we express hope, to give thanks alongside our sadness today.
‘For the first things have passed away.’
We don’t know what comes after this life, but I want to believe that the Queen is reunited with her beloved husband and pets as one charming cartoon portrayed. I want to believe that Diana Tear is dancing her heart out at the greatest Greenbelt ever. I want to believe that my dad is chewing the fat with Colin Taylor, Desmond Tutu, and other great men of faith. For they are all at rest, in those eternal arms that will catch each of
us too when all things will be made new for us.
This passage is so bold, so confident that I want to say thank you Your Majesty for selecting it. Like the faith the Queen proclaimed in life these words are trustworthy and true. Jesus is Lord! Alleluia! The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the First and Last. And to those who seek him, ‘the thirsty’ another promise, ‘I will give water as a gift from the Spring of the water of the life’. This is the living well that we have staked our colours to the mast on at Christ Church – the deep roots of faith that remind us of who is on the throne and that’s not King Charles III, nor Elizabeth II, but Jesus Christ. When we accept this we can conquer all things including life and death. God will adopt us
and cherish us as his beloved.
This is an amazing truth – it almost takes my breath away. Thank you Queen Elizabeth for choosing this incredible scripture as a gift to your people who are sad. The late Queen has been an iconic gift to us through her we have glimpsed the nature of God. She upheld the Gospel frequently in her Christmas addresses and invited others to participate in it. And now it is done. Her life is over, but it is not the end, all will be well,
as she continues to inspire us with her living faith. Our eternal life is a living pattern of love, and we can be confident that God welcomes Her Majesty home with him.
I want to finish by giving Her Majesty the final word. She is reported to have helped her late Father HM George VI with his first ever Christmas address by suggesting the famous poem by Mary Louise Haskins, I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light and safer than a known way!”
So, I went forth and finding the Hand of God trod gladly into the night.
The Queen put her hand into the hand of God on her Christian journey,
and she exhorts us to do the same. Amen.