An address at a service in St Mary’s Church on Sunday 6th of February to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession
Seventy years ago, Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh had undertaken a major tour. They enjoyed a few days of peace and quiet, staying in Treetops in the Aberdare National Park, some sixty miles north of Nairobi. Each day they were surrounded by beauty and they were able to have a rest, away from the public gaze.
King George VI had waved them off from the airport and seemed well. But, at the comparative young age of 56, he died in his sleep. Queen Elizabeth II returned to the United Kingdom, grieving the death of her beloved father. It is hard for us to imagine the sense of duty now imposed on her as she began to take responsibility as Queen.
Before leaving South Africa, she spoke these words to the British people: ‘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.’ On this seventieth anniversary of The Queen’s accession, that commitment of service has been magnificently and selflessly fulfilled.
The Gospel passage read today (Luke 22:24-40) reminds us of the duty and the commitment to service which have their roots in the Christian faith. No one is to lord it over another. That, Jesus said, was the way of the kings of the Gentiles. Our Lord’s way was to be very different. He said, ‘I am among you as one who serves.’ We see Jesus serving time and again in the Gospels. He crowds press around him, many of them seeking healing. Jesus exhausts himself in his willingness to bring healing and wholeness to those who suffer.
His teaching and his preaching also require endless persuasion against almost impossible odds. The crowds mostly fail to understand him and gradually fall away. Even his closest followers, his disciples, find it hard to grasp what Jesus aims to teach them. Service is not on their agenda; James and John, you will recall, not long before the crucifixion, still expect to be given places of importance in heaven. Our Lord’s way was so different. The disciples only really grasped this great truth when they received the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.
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