Living God's Love Values - Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage
Living God's Love Values - Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage

The Bishop of St Albans’ sermon at Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
St Albans Cathedral

Ecclesiastes 12. 1-8 and 1 Thessalonians 4. 13 – 18

We have lost the mother of our nation. And and we mourn.

The Queen is no longer with us. And we grieve.

What it is about this most noble of women
which has brought millions of people out onto our streets
to watch her coffin make its final journey
or to queue throughout the night for the Lying in State?

What is it about this woman
…which has made young children in Barbados cry?
…and which has made old people in Brisbane weep?

Is it not because in the midst of an ever-changing world, she has remained constant and steadfast?

In many and different ways she has touched our lives and made them a little bit better.

At her 21st birthday the future queen made a solemn vow:

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 the strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in 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 in it.

What an extraordinary contrast with so many politicians and celebrities who are blown about by every wind and fashion in order to gain a few moments of publicity or fame. Here is a woman who made a solemn declaration and who stuck to it, unwavering, for the next 75 years in service of her nation and the commonwealth;

She stuck at it through the dull days of the 1950s when the country was slowly being rebuilt after the devastation of the war;

She stuck at it when she went to Aberfan in 1966 to visit the bereaved after the tragedy that claimed 144 lives;

She stuck at it in 1979 when the IRA assassinated her uncle, Lord Mountbatten and was not deterred from doing her duty.

She stuck at it when fire devastated part of Windsor Castle in 1992;

She stuck at it when Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, died in April last year.

Quietly, patiently, persistently sticking to the promise she made on her 21st birthday; nothing has diverted her from her avowed commitment to serve ‘A promise made and kept for life’.

But hers was not simply steadfastness in public service.

Perhaps one of the reasons we admired her so much is that in many ways she and her family were like our families. If the lives of the royal family had been nothing more than fairy tale stories of romantic love which ended up ‘happily ever after’, we might not be able to relate to them.

But we know that the Queen was all too aware of the complexities of family life. In the full glare of the world’s media, we’ve seen their pain and sadness. Indeed, it was so painful that she spoke publicly of her annus horribilis. Yet, throughout it all, the Queen,

with the love that only a mother can really know,

held firm and kept her family together – as any good mother would try to do.

So what was the source of this constancy and faithfulness? Well, her Majesty has told us in her own words in her Christmas Broadcast in 2014:

I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served. We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.

But now, for a moment, think back to the last photograph taken of her Her Majesty, just two days before she died, at her beloved Balmoral, which had been a refuge for her throughout her life. The occasion was the arrival of the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, who had come to pay homage and kiss hands.

No longer in the prime of life, we now see our Queen standing alone, slightly stooped with age. Unlike her early days she holds no orb and sceptre in her hand but instead leans on a stick to steady herself. Looking up, she stretches out a bruised hand to greet and welcome. Her face is alight with a beaming smile.

This is the picture of someone who has learnt one of the greatest lessons any of us can ever learn – how to grow old gracefully. In that moment, perhaps above all other moments in her life, her humanity shines through. This was someone who wore her faith in her heart, not on her sleeve.

In an age which celebrates and lauds strong macho leaders, this photograph gives us a different take on greatness and leadership, rooted in fragility and vulnerability. It is a picture of hope for all of us who are growing old and reminds us that it is our shared humanity which is the one thing we have in common. She revealed a new beauty, flowing out of a long, fruitful life lived to the full, a duty well discharged and a lifelong vow of service which was finally complete.

We have lost the mother of our nation. And and we mourn.

The Queen is no longer with us. And we grieve.

Except, our reading this evening tells us that we are not to ‘grieve as those without hope’ – and I have no doubt if her Majesty were still with us, she would be the first one to echo the words of St Paul in this evening’s reading – ‘For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died’.

In our sadness, this evening, we commit Her Majesty into the hands of Almighty God and in faith we celebrate that she has now returned home. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

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