What a life; what an example; what a witness. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II yesterday (Thursday 8th September 2022) brings an end to a remarkable life, lived as an example to so many in gracious wisdom; a life inspired by a profound and deep Christian faith. Her broadcasts have been some of the best evangelistic statements available, all the more so for coming from the heart.
In 2002 she said
“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God… I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
Her mischief and playful side came out with either a twinkle in her eye or the high-profile performances – skydiving with James Bond for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics and of course afternoon tea with Paddington Bear earlier this year, revealing finally exactly what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, for emergencies. Two much-loved national icons sharing tea, well Paddington drank all the tea.
More words have been printed and said over the past 24 hours than I can really add to in tribute to her. Her death ends an era, more than an era – it’s an age which has itself seen many eras within it. She noted herself on her 90th birthday that “the extent and pace of change has been truly remarkable”, on one occasion she said it can leave you feeling dizzy. She was born before mass car and TV ownership. She lived through the major developments of the Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-first, and embraced them herself. “Our world”, she said, “has enjoyed great advances in science and technology, but it has also endured war, conflict and terrible suffering on an unprecedented scale”. She knew the good times and bad that her faith sustained her through; the darkness that the light of Christ shines to dispel as well as the great joys.
This evening we gather to mark her life, her death and do so in the profound faith and hope that she held so dear. Our second reading came from the Book of Revelation (7:9-end), the last book in the Bible. It is a book with rich symbolism and sometimes strange illustrations, but above all it is a book of profound hope. The great hope in it is that God is the beginning and ending of all things, holds life as if in the palm of a hand, and treasures it. The life we receive as a gift is taken and kept in the heart of God. The life of Queen Elizabeth is now in the care of God who is her source and goal and final destination.
When someone who has always been there dies, there is a profound shock. All of a sudden the anchors that hold life steady move and a new secure point is needed. It’s a moment to make the strongest wobble. That is the same for a nation as it is for families. We now enter a new epoch, one which brings us into unfamiliar territory, if only singing ‘God save the King’ rather than the Queen; that will take some getting used to.
It’s at times like this that faith, the deep faith attested to so often by the late Queen, is so important to us. It is the bedrock of life and so means that moments of grief are not of despair but can find hope. Tonight, we give thanks for the Queen’s long reign, her long years of service and dedication to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. As we give thanks, we commend her to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom she trusted all her days.
May Christ gather her with all the saints and faithful departed into the great household of heaven and bring her to the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
Sermon in Commemoration of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Newport Cathedral, Friday 9th September 2022