Platinum Jubilee

7th June 2022

Luke 22:24-30

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jubilee Reflection

The Queen’s long reign includes so many memorable moments and I am sure that, if we were asked, we would all come up with our own iconic image. What would you choose if you had to select one moment? I might choose the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s acting skills and sense of humour as she joined James Bond and apparently parachuted down to the Olympic Stadium. Or, again in 2012, we might think of her graciously shaking hands with Martin McGuiness on her visit to Northern Ireland. Maybe you would think of her presenting the trophy to Bobby Moore when England won the World Cup in 1966. Or would it be the Coronation itself or the footage of her returning home after the death of her father. Or who could forget the sight of the Queen sat alone at the funeral of Prince Philip?

For an unparalleled 70 years Queen Elizabeth II has been our monarch. For most of us she has always been there, she is on our stamps, she is there every time we use cash, she is on tea towels and mugs, and we hear her anthem when we win a medal at the Olympics or play an international at Twickenham or at Wembley. Most of us have known no other king or queen for the whole of our lives.

There are of course things that would be the same whoever was on the throne. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle would be there, the golden carriage, the magnificent crown, the glittering jewels, the immaculate ceremonies.

We could have all of these things but a very different monarch. We could have endured 70 years of a king or queen who was self-indulgent, a monarch who proudly lorded it over us, a royal ruler who lacked integrity, who was remote and superior. And if that was the case, I wonder what kind of celebrations would mark 70 years of such a reign? We have been more fortunate than that.

Why is the Queen so widely admired? It is not because of the trappings of royalty, the palaces, the pomp, the prestige. Rather she is admired and celebrated because of the kind of person she is.

What is it that people say when they speak about her? They talk about her commitment to duty, her attitude of service, her calm, discreet consistency over so many years, her determination to do the right thing. This is what we value.

Baroness Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, said the other evening on TV that what is special about the Queen is that she is kind, insightful, that she hears you and she cares about every individual.

At her Coronation the Queen was anointed with oil, a custom that goes back to bible times. In the Old Testament David was anointed by Samuel to be the second King of Israel. And in that story, we hear those famous words, ‘People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’

I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s words about people not being judged by superficial appearances, but rather by the content of their character. What we are celebrating is the Queen’s heart, her character and values, not merely the length of her reign. And this is of course what matters most with all of us. It is the kind of people we are that really matters, not our status or titles or wealth. The kind of life we live matters more than the length of life we live.

Some of the Queen’s qualities are not fashionable. She has put duty first, when many seem to believe that ‘my happiness’ is what matters most.

She has taken the long view, at a time when immediate gratification is championed. She has chosen to be silent, rather than insisting on having the last word. She has adopted a servant model of leadership, rather than defining greatness in self-centred terms.

And so today we thank the Queen for her example, and we look to her as a role-model and a source of inspiration.

And we might ask, what has informed her values and shaped her character? Who has been her inspiration? There may well be more than one answer to this. But one thing is clear, that her faith is important to her and in the life and teaching of Jesus she has found inspiration and an example to follow.

She has said, ‘Christians have the compelling example of the life and teaching of Christ and, for myself, I would like nothing more than that my grandchildren should hold dear his ideals which have helped and inspired so many previous generations.

The tradition of a Christmas address to the nation and the Commonwealth began in 1932 with the Queen’s grandfather. The first one to be on TV was Christmas 1957. I was 9 months old!

It is in her Christmas addresses that the Queen has most openly referred to her faith. For example, in 2008 she said, ‘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.

In 2014 we heard this, ‘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.

On another occasion she said, ‘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 Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

Six months before her coronation she asked people, ‘to pray 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.’ A prayer that has clearly been answered. She has been prayed for and she also prays. In her Christmas address in 2011 she said, ‘It is my prayer that on this Christmas Day we might all find room in our lives … for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

What would the Queen want us to focus on today? I think she would be pleased that we read that passage from Luke’s Gospel. A passage in which Jesus tells us that greatness is defined by service.

And so today we are celebrating our Queen. A Queen who has been inspired and shaped by a King who had no palace, who owned no lands and had no armies. A King who put his duty above personal happiness and gave himself in the service of others. A servant king whose reign is eternal.