Parish Mass of Remembrance of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Sunday 11 September 2022
2 Corinthians 4. 16—5. 4
John 6. 35 – 40
I’ve been really rocked over the last few days. I always knew I’d be terribly cut up when our beloved Queen died; but I’ve been really surprised at the depth of emotion I’ve felt since we heard the awful news.
I feel like so much more than just a monarch has been taken from us. I feel like part of my history, part of myself, is missing.
As the Prime Minister said, the Queen has been ‘the rock upon which this country has been built, for the last seventy years.’
But I I’ve been so hopeful too. To see the incredible warmth of the tributes pouring in from all around the world – even from the most surprising places. To see people of all political stripes and bitter divisions, coming together in grief… but in love and in humour, too, to remember the Queen.
To hear the deeply comforting words of her son, our new King, as he carries on her legacy. And to witness the outpouring of support and goodwill as he takes on his new role.
After our joyful service of thanksgiving for the Queen’s Jubilee, I wrote to Her Majesty on behalf of the parish to share news of the service, and to assure her of our prayers and well wishes.
Just last week we received a reply from Balmoral. Her Lady-in-Waiting relayed the Queen’s interest in our service, and said that photos of our church were ‘delightful.’ (Well, we knew the Queen had excellent taste!) She said that the Queen was ‘most grateful’ that we had written to her.
I know the Queen took a personal interest in all her correspondence. It’s so moving to think that – even in a very small way – our parish was in her thoughts in her final weeks. It was probably one of the last letters she sent.
And this is just a tiny example of the unfailing care and kindness – and love – with which she has served her people for so many years. All the tributes we’ve heard have drawn our attention to her embodiment of the ideal of service. She is one of the greatest leaders the modern world has known.
On her twenty-first birthday, as you know, she made this promise to our nation: “I declare before you that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” Was ever a promise so well kept?
But she wasn’t able to do all of this because of her identity as a Queen. Her coronation equipped her with particular gifts of the Spirit, but it didn’t make her superhuman.
She only achieved all of this because of her identity in Christ. She knew, deeply, who she was in Christ – a sinful, mortal human being. Utterly dependant on the God she loved for strength to carry out the great demands of her calling; and utterly trusting in the truth of his promises.
And she knew, in that calling, that it wasn’t just the crown she received at her coronation that empowered her to live this great life of service – it was the crown she received at her baptism, when she was anointed as one of Christ’s beloved.
There’s a tradition in the funerals of the old Austrian royal family. When the procession arrives at the gates of the burial place, a herald knocks on the door, and a priest asks ‘Who demands entry?’
The herald responds with the name and long list of titles held by the deceased. But the priest responds, ‘We do not know him.’
Again the herald knocks, and gives the same response to the priest; and the doors remain closed.
The herald knocks a third time; but this time, when the priest asks ‘Who demands entry?’ the herald responds simply with the words: ‘a sinful, mortal human being.’ Only now are the gates opened, and the body admitted into the crypt.
Jesus says that in his Father’s house are many dwelling places – an eternal house, not made with hands. Today we pray our loving Father to receive our beloved Queen into his eternal kingdom – into the place prepared for her in his house.
But we don’t do it just because of her status as an earthly ruler – we don’t expect her to gain admission because of her long list of titles and achievements. We pray him to accept simply Elizabeth; a sinful, mortal human being, known and loved by God.
And because we received the same crown at our own baptisms, and that same anointing, we have the great hope that we too will be accepted into that house, and take the room prepared for each one of us.
Not because of anything we’ve achieved here on earth. But simply because we are loved; and because we have loved. Because we have served one another, as Christ came to serve us.
In her long and selfless life of service, the Queen has shown us not just how to be a wonderful Queen. (And she has been a wonderful Queen.) She has shown us how to be a Christian; and how to be a human being.
And she has shown it all to us in love: in love for her family, love for her people, and most of all, in love for her God.
The tributes will continue to flow in over the coming days and weeks. But the best possible tribute we can give, is simply to do as she did: to love, and to serve, and to do it with joy.
Your Majesty: may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. Amen.