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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Seeking the rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good

Today's Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook celebrated the Queen's 90th birthday and was followed by a celebratory afternoon tea. The music used in the service was:

  • Introit: Oh taste and see - Vaughan Williams. Composed for the coronation, first performance there.
  • Hymn: The Old Hundredth. The only congregational hymn at the coronation. This was an innovation, there not having been one before (only for the choir).
  • Anthem: Rejoice in the Lord alway. Sung at the Queen's coronation - and others before.
In my sermon, I said the following:

One regular topic of press debate in relation to the Monarchy is around who has been responsible for modernising the Monarchy during the reign Queen Elizabeth II. In a profile piece I read this week the Duke of Edinburgh was acclaimed in that role, it is a role which has, of course, been claimed for Princess Diana, and, now, is often assigned to her children. I want to suggest that the person who most fundamentally redefined Monarchy was Jesus Christ and that our own monarch, as Head of the Church of England and because of her own personal faith, understands and seeks to apply this in her life and reign.

Jesus entered Jerusalem in the role of a Old Testament King, fulfilling prophecy about the Messiah by doing so, yet humble, riding on a donkey. At the Last Supper he washed the feet of his disciples and taught that now I, your Master, have washed your feet, you should wash the feet of others. He then took this teaching to its logical end and laid down his own life for all people everywhere, through his death on the cross. His followers took this teaching to heart and it characterised all that they did and said. So, we heard the writer of the first letter of John state that we know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3.16). Jesus told many stories of Messianic banquets, which depict the coming kingdom of God, in which all are welcome at the banquet, particularly the poor and marginalised. The only ones to miss out are those who actively reject the invitation to come (Luke 14. 16 – 24).

The Queen’s personal commitment to her role as monarch, and her service to the people of the United Kingdom, are grounded in a deep faith in Jesus Christ which is an inspiration to countless citizens of nation and Commonwealth. She has said that, for her, “the teachings of Christ” and her “own personal accountability before God provide a framework” in which she tries to lead her life. (Queen and Country BBC1 08.05.02)

The new Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, in her 21st birthday broadcast from Capetown, on April 21, 1947, gave this message to the Empire:

“There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, ‘I serve.’

Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the throne.

I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now; it is very simple.

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 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 in it.”

Her prayer was that God would help her to make good that vow and it is to God that she turns for inspiration as she has sought to fulfil it. She has said that: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness. He stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

In his sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral for the service celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Queen “has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others” and “has responded with … generosity …showing honour to countless local communities and individuals of every background and class and race.”

There can, therefore, be no better way for the Christian Churches to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday than to take the opportunity to dedicate ourselves anew to the service of God, and to seek the common good through love for our neighbours near and far. As the Archbishop suggested in his Diamond Jubilee sermon, we should seek “the rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good and the public service, the rebirth of the recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good.”


Ralph Vaughan Williams - O Taste And See.

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