We at St Andrew’s were honoured to hold a Service of Commemoration for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday evening. Thank you to our special guests, members of the church, and visitors for attending this service, which was conducted by our Assistant Chaplain, the Revd Jackie Sellin.
Our choir, led by Director of Music Shaun Yong, sang beautifully as ever. Choral music included Edgar Bainton’s And I saw a new heaven and William Croft’s Burial service.
For those that were unable to attend the service, here is the text of Jackie’s Sermon, which accompanies the the readings Revelation 21:1-7 and John 14:1-6
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
There is a sense that something has happened that will change our world, that will mean change for the United Kingdom and for the Commonwealth nations. Something has gone which was a point of focus, of stability for us. The fixed point which enabled us to keep our balance, even when the world seemed to be spinning out of control. When change seemed to overtake and transform what we knew and how we lived, there was something steadying the path, the ship… This is what I have picked up from the immense coverage of the events in Britain and overseas over the past week. People needing to be there, to see for themselves, to be with others and share the moment, what it means to them. To be community with others. Because of course, for many, this is a huge change: the Queen has been the only Monarch of the United Kingdom I and many others have known. She has been there when politicians have changed, and through all the changes in society and how we live: there would have been no need to ask people to turn their mobile phones off at her father’s memorial services, and there would have been no wall-to-wall tv coverage of the events. And so in the days following Queen Elizabeth’s death we have a sense of continuity, change and community.
Continuity and change go hand in hand. In our first reading, God says: “see I am making all things new”. There is a new heaven and earth, and these are an offer of hope to us, in our daily life and in our days of mourning. Because God offers the hope that we do not need to be afraid of change, even big change. Throughout the stories of the incarnation, the nativity, we hear the same words over and over again: do not be afraid. The message may be one of great change – the coming of the Son of God and the beginning of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth – but God is with us. God is there already, all is prepared. God will dwell with his peoples: God himself will be with them. God is a constant, and change is held in his hands.
And the death of the Queen is unsettling, heralding changes we can neither control nor see clearly, and this causes us to fear for the future. But her life and her faith show that change is not to be feared. She lived through momentous times: the second world war and its ending which established peace in Europe. Changes in technology – humans reaching beyond earth and into the heavens themselves; developing vaccines and medicines that have virtually eradicated diseases, such as polio and measles, that in previous centuries were deadly. Her reign has encompassed great social changes within and among our communities. And she and the monarchy have adapted to new ways of reaching out to her subjects.
And now something else has changed. The Queen has died. The face that was so familiar from coins, notes and stamps, will change to another monarch, and the national anthem for the United Kingdom will be God save the King for King Charles III. And this change brings us together, into community. To mourn someone whose life inspired others, whose charity work and visits encouraged others to give and share. It brings us together to stop, and reflect, on her life, the example she set of duty, service, and of faithfulness. An example of how to live which she drew from her own faith. Service, serving others, was central to her. In her Christmas Messages she spoke of Christ’s example:
Jesus, “makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.”
Her Christmas Messages were full of references to her faith and how it influenced her,
“Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel.”
God was her help, in ages past and throughout her life. The Lord of all hopefulness offering peace, calm, strength and love to her, and to all. The Lord who protects, who cares, leading us by still waters and taking away our fears. A God who would guide us through barren lands to land safe in Canaan. In her own words,
“For me, the teachings of Christ and my personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid. There is change. There is always change. But Queen Elizabeth walked through years of change with dignity, facing all events with strength, an example of duty to others, and service for others. That duty and service was mirrored in the vows she would have taken as a girl-guide: I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God, to serve the King, to help other people and to keep the guide law. She was an example of how to look forward, to see a new heaven and a new earth. To work for a world where all are reconciled, accepting, respectful of others and valuing all people. Qualities she found in the message of Jesus who for her was,
“a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness (who) stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing (and) taught (her) to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith, or none.”
But today, we need to hear the words of peace: do not let your hearts be troubled, for God will wipe away all tears. There is hope, and I pray that the Lord of all gentleness, whose voice is contentment and presence is balm, will give us all peace in our hearts, and in the hearts of the Royal family, as we mourn the passing of a lady whose life was well-lived and well-led. And that the same Lord will give us strength in our hearts to face the future with confidence, praying for the new king as he faces the great change in his life.
I will leave the last words to Elizabeth herself from her Christmas broadcast in 2020.
“Draw comfort from the hope that, even on the darkest nights, there is hope in the new dawn” and her hope that “the spirit of selflessness, love and, above all, hope (will) guide us in the times ahead.”
God bless Queen Elizabeth, may she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.