First reading 1 Corinthians 13
Second reading Luke 10:25-37
It seems strange to think, that it has only been a week since our sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth II, died. It was one of those moments, and you will know exactly what I mean, when reality, our world shifted. History profoundly changed. It was one of those rare moments, which no doubt each of us will remember exactly where we were when we heard that the Queen had died. We can rightly say without hyperbole, that it is the end of an era. Of course, we know all people die, so each of us knew that this day would come, but there was a sense for many of us, particularly those of us who have had no other monarch, that our Queen was a constant presence and would continue to be a constant presence. There have been huge outpourings of grief, not just here in our country but all around the world. A phrase I have heard often from people this week has been ‘I am surprised by how upset I am’. The death of this 96-year-old lady has hit many us harder than we expected and affected us more than we know. You can see it visibly in the demeanour and the tears of the mourners going past the Queen’s coffin at the Palace of Westminster. It was seen in people’s faces as the hearse drove from Balmoral. It was seen on the faces of the MPs as they found out during a parliamentary debate. Many of us can feel it in our hearts. There are hundreds of millions of people all around our globe, who are looking at our sceptred isles and sharing in our grief. It is not just we who have lost the Queen it feels like the world has lost their Queen too.
Why is it, then, that we mourn and celebrate The Queen around the globe in a way very few people are ever remembered? Why is it that she inspired such feelings of love and devotion? Why is it that not just us her subjects but much of the world are affected by her death?
Well, it seems to me very simple. What the Queen did, which so many in positions of power fail to do, was simple. She simply gave all of herself to all of us, in service. In love, in faith and in hope. Many of us here gathered, who have sworn allegiance to the Queen in our lives, have given of ourselves too in whatever capacity we were asked to do so. Some swore service to the crown as part of the military. Others as part of the emergency services. Some of us at our ordinations. However, few of us have given of ourselves as well as her majesty has. Her service, as she testified often throughout her life was born out of her deep faith in her King, in her faith in Christ.
True service comes from sacrifice and sacrifice is always a requirement of love. At the centre of our faith is God the Son, sacrificing Himself upon the cross for the sins of the whole world. All for love. It is only through love that true service comes. You can tell the difference, can’t you when you see those who serve for their own ambition and those who serve out of love. As our first reading put it, love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It seems to me, that these same things can be said for our Queen’s service to us and are reflected in all that is good and true in this world.
In our second reading, we hear that fascinating parable all about loving our neighbour. In the story Jesus tells, we hear of a man robbed and beaten, in need of help on the side of a dusty desert road. The first two people, both respectable, both well thought of and successful, pass by on the other side of the road. The last, a Samaritan, stops, forgetting his own needs, forgetting his own danger in the bandit country, using the little he has, stops and helps the beaten man. The Samaritan then carries the man on his donkey, to the nearest inn paying for his care and more besides. He never complains. He simply does what is right does his loving duty to someone in need. At the end of the parable, it is clear, who the true neighbour is. It isn’t those with high status, it isn’t those with the best education, it is the one who puts others before themselves. True love of neighbour, true service, often makes us uncomfortable, often creates inconvenience, often costs much. The Queens vow of service cost her so much, throughout her life, and she carried that service unflinchingly. We have all heard love your neighbour as yourself. The Queen lived that in a life of service right up to the end of her life.
It is that sacrificial service that we mourn and celebrate in equal measure tonight and this week. The Queen understood this sacrificial service in a way many of her contemporary world leaders cannot understand. They often choose to make themselves grand. Our Queen chose to make herself a servant. It is love, not power that makes one great. It is love, not money that makes one great. It is love, only love, that sets us and others free. Her example of faithful, loving service has inspired us in Cleveleys and across the country for 70 years, and it is that faithful loving service that has made her one of the greatest monarchs in our history. Her values of loving service to God and neighbour are our values as a nation. Are the values many of our service people signed up to when we swore our oaths of allegiance. They are our values and with the Queen gone, what are we to do? Are the days of these values of service and love over?
I want to give the last word to her Majesty. On her 21st birthday she said this:
If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world - than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers.
To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, "I serve". Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood… I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
Are the days of these values of service over? No they are not, not as long as we, led by our new King and together led by the King of Kings, Jesus Christ are inspired to carry on Her Majesty’s legacy of service and loving our neighbours as ourselves. We have seen the Queens example of how to be a good neighbour and of a life of loving service. Just like Jesus said about the good Samaritan let us go and do likewise.
God bless you Queen Elizabeth, thank you for your long life of service. May God save the King and may we serve each other in love today and always. Amen.