Reading(s): 1 Timothy 1:12-17. This sermon was given by Vanessa Lawrence at All Saints and St Mark.
‘I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service’ powerful words from Paul in the letter to Timothy, Paul, who even by his own standards, was the foremost of persecutors, and a man of violence.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was by all accounts kind, patient and self controlled – and so too was she strengthened through her faith over constant years.
On Christmas Day 1952 the new, 26 year-old monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth nations, spoke for the first time to the world in what was to become her annual Christmas broadcast: ‘Pray for me,’ she asked, ‘that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.’
It was a prayer God answered. Elizabeth would make a series of solemn promises six months later at her coronation, which she kept faithfully for the next seventy years. The newly crowned Queen promised three things: to govern appropriately, to maintain justice, and to profess the gospel of Christ.
All this she surely did until her final breath. In her Christmas broadcast of 2000, the Queen reflected on the millennium year with complete candour about the importance of her own personal faith: ‘For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I wonder how many of you remember that 1952 Christmas broadcast?
We forget – certainly I forget! – in these days of constand rolling news, how rare images of the Queen were. My dad was telling me last night about watching her coronation, squashed into a neighbours sitting room with countless other families.
What does the Queen mean to you? Why has her reign been important to you? Have a think about this.
I think many of us have expressed surprise at the emotions that have been evoked in us in recent days, and how shaken we have been by the loss of that constant presence. But despite the confusion and complications over flags, and when the need to be up or down, or somewhere in between, there has been at least something calming and reassuring about the pomp and ceremony that we have been watching unfold before us. A sense of history, of timelessness, of continuation. There is something restabilising about watching the ceremonials taking place in their ordered way, and somehow through them the constancy of the Queen is reestablished in the monarchy. We are given time and space to grieve held safe in the boundaries of order and ceremony.
Grief reaches out to grief, Beth said in a facebook post this week, and that is so true. The grief of a nation opens up our own personal wounds, and touches those parts of us that are painful. We join our own personal grief with the national grief. That’s all normal and right and human.
But at the same time, we know, just as the Queen knew, there we have a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. We know that through the communion we receive today, the body of Christ broken for our healing and restpration, Christ Jesus strengthens us, judges us faithful, and appoints us to his service. And so we can go out, renewed, restored and ready to live the risen life.
To the king of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever Amen