A pause in the continuing posts about aspects of current Anglicanism ... back next week with a fascinating set of to and fro re ... our neighbouring diocese!
So, our Queen - the Sovereign of New Zealand as well as of the United Kingdom - died on 9 September 2022. Today (Monday 26 September) we have a national memorial service at 2 pm in Wellington Cathedral. Yesterday, at 5 pm we had a Christchurch civic thanksgiving service, well reported in our local paper here.
The full text of my sermon is reproduced here:
Sermon on the Occasion of the Christchurch Civic Service of Thanksgiving for the Late Queen Elizabeth (25 September 2022)
READINGS: Psalm 23; Ecclesiastes 3:1-14; John 10:11-16
Gracious God, may we this night be illuminated by the light of the same Christ who our Late Queen Elizabeth followed so faithfully. Amen.
I never met the Queen, so I was somewhat surprised on the morning her death was announced and in subsequent days to find myself in a state of grief.
Something was lost from my life and I had not expected to grieved by that loss.
As best I can tell, I have not been alone in this experience.
Since Queen Elizabeth died, 16 days ago, many, many things have been written and said about her.
Some of what has been articulated helps us make sense of the experience of grieving for the loss of someone we may never have met.
For example, Ben Okri, British poet and novelist, writing inthe Guardian, said,
“[Queen Elizabeth II] ”
Ben is putting his insightful finger on something in that paragraph: a remote person who is nevertheless familiar, a long constant presence in the life of people, someone whose penetration of our subconscious means we feel we knew her, and she knew us.
Our grief is all too real because the mystery of monarchy is that we feel the Queen has shared our lives with intimacy and familiarity, and now the lives we live are diminished by her departure in death.
Tonight, we are gathered here in Christchurch not only to mourn the loss of our Queen, but also to give thanks for the life she has lived and the conduct of her rule as our Sovereign.
To slightly rephrase something from our Ecclesiastes reading, this is both a “time to mourn” and also a “time to heal” by focusing thankfully on all that has blessed us through the Queen’s reign.
As we give thanks for the Queen’s life and rule, we also remember with appreciation her visits to our city and to our region.
Perhaps the happiest of her ten visits to our city and region was the 1974 visit when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne were here for the Commonwealth Games.
I suggest we can thank God for three characteristics of the Queen’s life and reign:
Service before self
There was never any question with the Queen that she put service before self. Her adult life was committed, from a public broadcast when she was just 21 and not yet Queen, to the service of the realms over which she was destined to be Sovereign.
Amazingly, it turned out that the Queen died only a short while after performing one last act of service for the United Kingdom, at the age of 96, ushering in a new Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
She was working to the end, service being placed before self. For that we give thanks.
Words Archbishop Justin Welby said at the Queen’s funeral last Monday bear repeating as we reflect on the Queen’s service as a kind and benevolent leader:
“People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.”
A second outstanding reason for giving thanks to God for the Queen is this: the Queen exhibited
Faithful duty grounded in faith
++Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York said this in a sermon two days after the Queen died:
“And where did this come from? This way of being a monarch that was more about service than rule?
At her Coronation, …, in perhaps one of the most poignant moments of the service, she steadfastly walked past the throne upon which she would sit and knelt at the altar, giving her allegiance to God before anyone else gave their allegiance to her.”
This sense of the faithful duty of the Queen being grounded in faith in Jesus Christ is further probed by ++Rowan Williams, when he recently wrote about that part of the coronation service in which the Queen was anointedwith oil by the then Archbishop of Canterbury:
“And this is what the royal anointing means at its most important level—a gift of the Holy Spirit to hold a fragile human person in faithfulness to this place where community can gather for restoration and renewal. There is no doubt at all that this was exactly what Queen Elizabeth believed about her role. It was a vocation for which she had been blessed and graced, and the anointing was at the heart of it.”
Whatever we make of the role Christian faith played in the life of the Queen,
whether we personally identify with that faith or simply acknowledge and respect it, as many religious leaders of other faiths have done,
we can be thankful that the duties performed faithfully by the Queen, every day of her reign, flowed out of a deep conviction that hers was a divine calling and that she was accountable to God for how she fulfilled that calling.
Finally, we can also be thankful for the Queen’s
Aura imbued with aroha.
In an age of celebrity, the Queen was the greatest celebrity of them all.
There was an aura to the Queen which set her apart, not only from us ordinary people but even from the anointed kings and queens of popular culture.
Yet the Queen’s aura, her ability to inspire everyone’s respect and devotion, and to make even celebrities nervous about meeting her, was imbued with aroha, with love.
Perhaps only the Pope and the Dalai Lama express within our contemporary culture a similar sense of an aura imbued with aroha.
For the Queen, as she increasingly made clear through her annual Christmas broadcasts, that aroha, that love for her people was a love flowing from the very heart of God.
The Queen knew who her good shepherd was, and like the good shepherd she sought to care for her people.
For her aura imbued with aroha, we also give thanks to God.
In conclusion, using apt words from ++Justin Welby’s funeral sermon,
Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity. …
We will all face the merciful judgement of God: we can all share the Queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership.
Service in life, hope in death. All who follow the Queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: “We will meet again.”