A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley by Andrew McKearney on 5 June 2022
What a blessing to have someone at the heart of our nation with the faith and integrity of Her Majesty the Queen.
It was in her famous speech given in 1947 on the occasion of her 21st birthday that she said:
‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether
it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.’
And she concluded:
‘God help me to make good my vow.’
God has helped her make good her vow.
Some of us may have been married for 30, 40 even 50 years. Others of us have been ordained for a similar length of time. But these years are dwarfed by the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. And it’s not just the quantity that’s so impressive, but the quality of her as a person that she brings to her role as our Queen.
There’s a lovely book on the Psalms by Eugene Peterson with the title:
‘A long obedience in the same direction.’
One of the things that Peterson does in that book is extol the virtue of these long covenant relationships – whether they be marriage, ordination, coronation or friendship.
Peterson suggests that a wise and discerning mind, as we heard King Solomon ask God for, is often the fruit of ‘a long obedience in the same direction’. And it’s counter-cultural.
I was brought up abroad. My father was a diplomat working for the Foreign Office in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. One of the things I remember was the importance of the Queen to our international relationships.
In the embassy it was always a picture of Her Majesty that was on display, not whoever happened to be the current Prime Minister. In our sitting room there was a signed photograph of the Queen from when she made a royal visit to the country where my father was serving. And when he was made an ambassador, my father had a private audience with the Queen before setting off to be her ambassador.
As head of state the Queen has played and still plays this significant role in representing us as a nation abroad. Prime Ministers come and go – 14 at the last count during her reign – but the Queen’s portrait has remained in our embassies for 70 years providing stability and continuity.
And in particular in those international relationships there’s been the Commonwealth and the way that as its head, she’s played a formative role. As we know many throughout the Commonwealth have joined in the celebration of this Platinum Jubilee.
Finally, amongst her many roles, is the part that she plays in the Church of England. As a vicar in the Church of England, I’ve sworn by Almighty God that:
‘I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and
successors, according to law. So help me God.’
The Queen is Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
All these different aspects to her role and many more she’s taken immensely seriously – and it’s been important. Because at the heart of the monarchy is a monarch, not an institution but a person. It’s been said that while institutions can have principles and standards, only people have souls.
In her Christmas broadcast at the Millenium our Queen said:
‘For me the teachings of Christ and my personal
accountability before God provide a framework in
which I try to lead my life.’
Queen Elizabeth has been shaped by the teachings of Christ whom we heard say: ‘I am among you as one who serves’.
That’s what’s inspired her sense of duty, her commitment to public service and the integrity that she’s brought to her multi-faceted role as our Queen.
We know the importance of those at the top setting the tone and leading by example – it may be a hospital ward, a classroom, a business, or a government.
And because of this the Church has always prayed for those in authority and the influence that they exercise.
I want to conclude with a prayer from 2,000 years ago, from the first century by Clement of Rome in which he says:
‘Give those in authority Lord,
health, peace, concord and stability,
that they may exercise without offence
the rule you have entrusted to them.’
Elizabeth our Queen has done just that: she has exercised without offence the rule entrusted to her.
We thank God for her.