Wednesday, February 23, 2022

St Luke's Kingston honours the beginning of HM The Queen's Platinum Jubliee

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Father Martin Hislop, Vicar of St Luke’s Kington reports:  Choral Evensong on Thursday 10th February for the start of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was a splendid occasion. A well attended congregation was treated to magnificent music and singing from the Tiffin School choirs and a superb sermon by the Bishop of Fulham. The service was honoured with the presence of the Mayor of the Royal Borough and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London who both read Lessons. 

Here is the sermon preached by the Bishop of Fulham:

I wonder, is there anybody present this evening who remembers Accession Day, 6th February 1952? If so, you have been truly blessed to have a conscious memory of such an historic date. 

Seventy years is a long time. It is, of course, the span of a human life, according to the psalmist. I found it helpful, following a prompt by the writer of an article in one of our newspapers, to think back to a time seventy years before the Queen’s accession. 6th February 1882. 1882 to 1952. If we work our way in our minds through that seventy-year period, we cannot but be struck by how much history, local, national, international, accrues across seven decades. In terms of our monarchy, that earlier seventy-year period encompasses almost twenty years of the reign of Queen Victoria, followed by those of Kings Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, and George VI. Or let us think again about the reign of our present Queen. Those now familiar rollcalls of the holders of other public offices which have passed across the stage in front of her: 14 Prime Ministers, 14 Presidents of the United States of America, 7 Archbishops of Canterbury, 7 Bishops of Rome. 

The Queen’s reign, the longest of course of any British monarch, is now the third longest properly attested reign of any monarch in the world, ever. What a gift, what a blessing. I do however call to mind, as we enter into this, Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee year, the observation which the bishop who ordained me to the diaconate (I’ll leave you to look it up) often made when being introduced to a nonagenarian or similar at a parish function. When the parishioner said, or someone said on their behalf, ‘I’m 93 you know,’ this bishop (perhaps a tad uncharitably) liked to respond, ‘Ah, but what have you done with all those years?’ I do see the point he was trying to make, in his typically provocative fashion. Longevity might be always interesting, even noteworthy; but it is not necessarily praiseworthy. What have you done with your life, the life God has given you, is a good question, whether it is addressed to a duke or a dustman or any one of us. 

Thank God – and we really do thank God – the Queen has answered the question so admirably, every day of her seventy-year reign. What she has done is lived her life and carried out her duty in unswerving fulfilment of the vocation and calling laid upon her by God Himself, embodied in her coronation vows and captured never more simply and profoundly than in that radio address delivered on her 21st birthday which we shall rightly hear quoted many times this year:

‘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.’ 

Empire may have evolved into Commonwealth, but that commitment to service has never faltered once in Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne. Her example of service before self is simply astonishing and inspirational, though I expect, were Her Majesty to be present at this service, she would be impatient with me for choosing two such adjectives. I’m going to stand by them, however. Astonishing, because to put one’s duty ahead of personal consideration or preference consistently, day by day, year by year, is to make a choice (daily) which has become rare in our society to the point of vanishing. Inspirational, because we are blessed – those of you singing in the choir this evening, your generation especially perhaps are so blessed – to have this example set before us, daily, in a world of competing and persuasive role models, very many of them unhelpful, unreliable or positively dangerous. The Queen’s recent message to all of us, her subjects, published a few days ago, was signed, movingly but accurately, ‘Your Servant, Elizabeth R.’ We give thanks to God today for the life and example of our Servant Queen which teaches us that all human authority, no matter how exalted, comes from above: it is the authority of the One who came not to be served but to serve, even Jesus Christ. 

Let me then return to that radio broadcast delivered by the Queen on her 21st birthday. After making that undertaking that her life would be one of service, she went on to make two further points in connection with that promise. The first was to ask for the support of her people. The second was to say, or to pray, ‘God help me to make good my vow.’ If, tonight, we are giving thanks for the gift of a reign of almost unparalleled duration used in the service of all, then we can only do that by recognising, celebrating and giving thanks for the rock on which the Queen’s fulfilment of her vocation to serve rests: her faith in God, more particularly, her faith in the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ.

The Queen is rightly recognised, throughout her reign but perhaps more so than ever in recent years, as someone whose faith in Christ is integral to all that she is and all that she does. She is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and our established church could not be more blessed in the way she has carried out the duties of that office. What we can be so thankful for this evening is that the Queen communicates her faith in a way which goes far beyond the discharge of her formal duties in respect of the national Church. We know that the Queen’s annual Christmas broadcast is one of the very few occasions in the year when the Queen speaks in her own voice, personally, from the heart. Those Christmas broadcasts constitute a treasury of words which resonates in its witness to Jesus Christ and His teaching and the Gospel of salvation, and which reveal the mind and heart of a disciple. The Queen’s Christian faith is deep and it is profound, there can be no doubt that it is her walk with God which has strengthened her to fulfil her promise to serve all these years. But it is equally important to say that hers is a commitment to Christ which allows for a generous and spacious respect and care for all those who live and work in the United Kingdom and in all her realms - those of other Christian traditions, those of other faiths, and all people of good will.

If her Christian faith has sustained the Queen in fulfilling her duty and her calling all these years, then at the heart of that faith is the work of Jesus Christ in reconciling humanity with God through his saving death on the Cross and resurrection to eternal life. Back in 2011, the Queen conveyed this Gospel message when she said that ‘history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness and our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a saviour, with the power to forgive.’ In our second reading this evening from the Revelation of St John the Divine, we read of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above, where God and the Lamb are seated upon a throne. There, the servants of the Lamb worship Him. Tonight, we give thanks, and we pray God Save The Queen, and we do so in faith and trust that our servant Queen will be among those servants of the Lamb, worshipping the Lord of Lords and King of Kings for all eternity. 



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