Address for the Service of Thanksgiving & Remembrance for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

Sermon for The Service of Thanksgiving & Remembrance for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

Paul, in his letter to Philippians (4:8) says “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”

This was quoted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the service of thanksgiving in St. Pauls following our Queen’s death.

I want to suggest that this is exactly what our late Queen did during her life, doing her best to follow the example and teaching of her Saviour and His word.

At her coronation she was handed the Bible with the words that this was the most valuable thing this world has to offer – being God’s word – and she took this seriously.

Earlier in The same letter to the church in Philippi, Paul tells them that “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,…” (3:8)

The bottom line was, he put Christ and serving Christ above all things.

It’s not really too great a stretch from what we’ve heard over the years and especially in these last few days, to understand that similarly this is what Queen Elizabeth did.

For example we have the broadcast she made from Cape Town, as Princess Elizabeth to celebrate her 21st birthday. She promised to dedicate her life to the people of the Commonwealth.

And in later times, especially in her televised speeches as Queen, she expressed both the story and gospel of Jesus (2000) and her own commitment and faith in Jesus (2021).

This commitment to Christ and to duty and service to the Nation and Commonwealth for whom she was Head of State, was her raison d’être.

Earlier this year, the documentary “Elizabeth, the Unseen Queen” has her saying that “faith, family and friendship” were a huge source of comfort and reassurance, but like many of us also know, she has experienced on numerous occasions how family and friends are not always easy.

As mentioned before; over the years and maybe more so in recent times, Queen Elizabeth was very open about the importance of her faith as a Christian and how it very much strengthened her.

Whilst being our Queen and Head of State, she very much saw her role as one of service, not unlike Jesus, who, through the washing of his disciples feet demonstrated how we were to live as Christians.

There has been so much written and said over the past 10 days that whatever I say here is definitely not going to be original, so I’m going to borrow some ideas from something I read just after she died, by the author and evangelist Rev Canon J. John.

He suggests that there are three words that we can use to describe our reaction to Queen Elizabeth’s life 

notice I use the word ‘life’ not ‘death’. I think it’s fair to say we have all been largely shocked at her death, and although logic dictates that it was going to happen at some point, it seemed she would keep going. But although she has died, we gather to give thanks and celebrate her life –

The first word is ‘appreciation’

We are reflecting on, and are grateful for, all the service she gave to our nation and the Commonwealth. Although her reign was the longest in British history, length is no guarantee of greatness, but her reign was great. Made even more so by the fact that it wasn’t the easiest of times.

Unlike her namesake, Elizabeth the first or Queen Victoria, it was not our Queen’s privilege to reign during a time of national glory or imperial splendour. She was to witness the end of the British Empire and the emergence of a new, maybe confused Britain, increasingly adrift from its traditional ideas and values. Just think of what has happened in the last 70 years in terms of culture, fashions, attitudes, etc.

Yet amidst all this change, which has definitely not been always easy, the Monarchy and our Queen have remained a source of steadfastness and stability.

At her coronation Queen Elizabeth promised to defend the nation and the church. Now 70+ years on, I think we can safely say with appreciation that she did what she promised and kept the faith.
Thank you, Ma’am

The second word is ‘acknowledgement’

Not so different maybe from ‘appreciation’, but let’s reflect for a moment on what she achieved. 

Remember she was only 10 years old when her uncle, Edward VIII abdicated, making her father George VI king and the young Elizabeth heir apparent. Events that no one had anticipated.

Even from those early days, as I understand it, she took her responsibility seriously and dedicated her life, as already mentioned, to service of Country, Nation & Commonwealth, but what enabled her to do this was also her service to her own King – Jesus.

It would seem she recognised her own frailty and weakness (human just like all of us) and unlike many people in power had the gift of humility and was wise enough to realise that to reign well would require more than human skills and strength.

She needed God to give her the strength and the wisdom that she would need to be the great Queen she became. As our Majesty said in her Christmas address last December,  her faith was the bedrock of her life.

We definitely could do well to acknowledge that and put it into practice in our own lives.

You only have to see some of the picture of her with Prince Phillip and others of her family to recognise that Queen Elizabeth was not tallest woman, and maybe not the physical image that the the word ‘majesty’ conjures up, yet it was a title very appropriate for her. She may have been a small in stature, but she has a very big God.

The third and final word I want to use is ‘assurance’.

In these last few days a shadow has fallen across our nation and indeed parts of our world. For many of us, we have only ever known Queen Elizabeth as our Monarch and in her own quiet way, she has defined what it is to be British, she is part of our national identity.

A sad time and we feel for both her family, but also ourselves. However, as the Queen herself no doubt would wish, those of us who are Christians can lift our eyes heavenward and be assured. Assured that she has been taken to be with her heavenly King, but also that God can be with us here and now, just as he was and is with her.

In our service this morning we sang;
“God is our strength and refuge
our present help in trouble
and we therefore will not fear
though the earth should change.”

Our hymns this evening also remind of these truths and assurances as well;
“All my hope on God is founded”
“Before the throne of God above”
“I vow to thee my country” (duty to nation & to God)
“In Christ alone”
“He who would valiant be” (The Christian journey)

We may have lost our Queen and we pray for our new King, but we also remember that we have a heavenly King, the Lord of lords and eternal God who is with us always.