Exodus 32.7-14 & Luke 15.1-10
Following her death on Thursday 8 September, we all mourn the loss of the Queen who meant so much to so many. She has been a presence in our lives, and for many this has been for our whole lives. She was the Servant Queen who put her service in the hands of God.
In a radio address in 1947 on the occasion of her 21st birthday she said “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share it.”
In this declaration she conveyed her steadfast intention for her reign to be selfless and one of faithfulness to her vocation as monarch. She showed in this declaration that she would be empowering others, listening to others and respectful to others. This she did throughout her whole reign, keeping true to her declaration.
This servant Queen was also a devout witness through her leadership of this country to the King that she served, Jesus Christ. She often expressed in words and action that this was the way she chose to live her life. In 2002 she said “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”
She was someone who was virtuous. She was also a faithful witness who expressed the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in her faith which she expressed in 2011 saying “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”
She was challenged in her faith though, as all of us are, but she remained devoted to God, as she was devoted to this nation. In 1980 she said “In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christ stands for the opposite... we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.”
In our Gospel reading we hear of Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them. The principal message of this reading is not about the meal itself but rather the profligate love that Jesus expresses. This notion of profligate love is rejected by the Rabbis and in fact sits in contradiction to a prayer of first century Rabbis which said “I thank the Lord my God, that you have set my portion with those who sit in the sanctuary and not those who sit on the street corners. I rise to attend to the torah, and they rise to futile things.” And the prayer goes on, with continuing derogatory comments about the poor. What Jesus calls us to is to love our neighbour, not shun them. Not to think ourselves better or act with indifference and disregard.
This was not the way the Queen lived out her vocation as monarch to the nation. She was selfless, respectful, virtuous, steadfast, faithful, empowering, devoted, committed, hardworking, loyal and a Servant Queen. She also, let us not forget, had a great sense of humour. From James Bond at the Olympics to Paddington Bear at the Jubilee, from off-mic quips to an outburst of hysterical giggles when a swarm of bees disrupted a military review at Windsor Castle in 2003. She was a steadfast witness to the work of God in her life and is an example to us all of what it means to be a ‘good and faithful servant’ of our Lord Jesus Christ.
With the Queens passing something that we all now must adjust to is that we have a new monarch, his most gracious Sovereign Lord, King Charles III. His reign will not be the same. For each monarch brings their own uniqueness, so it will be different. For we are all uniquely made in the image of God with our own gifts. We also must relearn the national anthem, which we will sing for the first time at the end of the service with the words ‘God save our gracious King, long live our noble King.’ This is because as our King begins his duty, we should commit ourselves to support him as we did Queen Elizabeth. Praying for his vocation as monarch. That he be imbued with wisdom, knowledge and understanding to govern well.
Equally over the coming days we should all be surrounding the whole of the Royal Family with our love and prayers as they mourn the loss of their mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. As we ourselves mourn the loss of our Queen in our own way. Moses said to God in our reading from Exodus “God, remember those who served you” to which we ask God the same “O God, remember our monarch who served you”. We have prayed all our lives: God save the Queen. So now we entrust Her Majesty to her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Gracious God, we give thanks for the life of your servant Queen Elizabeth, for her faith and her dedication to duty. Bless our nation as we mourn her death and may her example continue to inspire us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Revd Gareth Morley, Curate