In our readings from scripture we find two polar opposite images which seem to give us a contrasting insight into God. The first image of is of God referred to in the old Testament understood through the prophetic literature of Isaiah. Isaiah sees God wholly set apart and separated from all things ‘I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple’ a hem which was if anything like mine.. is rather a long way from the beating heart of God. Yet it is in the Temple that we find we have access to the divine at least to touching the hem of his cloak. Do we not see this image in the Gospels in another place.. where someone touches the hem of Jesus’ gown and is healed. So there is access to a healing relationship with God in the Old Testament which is joined up to an image we have of God in the Gospel in the person of Jesus.
The other image we are given is in Luke’s Gospel and is of Jesus standing beside the lake and the crowd pressing in on him. A crowd eager to get close to be able to hear the word of God and to come close to the Kingdom.
We know that God is the Mountain Top God who comes close, who travels with his people in the wilderness, who meets with his people in the temple – and then in the incarnation lives amongst his people so close that they cradle the infant God in their arms, and in his later years, press in on him to hear him, before pressing in on him to crucify him…
He is the God of nearness and care and affection in the Garden of Eden rather than the aloof God of distance and disquiet.
We know that no Sovereign is God. But there are traits to our Queen’s reign which imitate our understanding of God. First of all, the historic nature of Kingship has been to be distant towards us but to be seen. Yet the advent of the Wireless and something called television allowed the Sovereign to come close and even to cross the threshold of our homes as if she were talking to us in our sitting rooms. In 1932 King George V broadcast his first Christmas speech into the homes of the Commonwealth Nations; and each year, including this last Christmas The Queen has spoken to each of us in our homes on Christmas Day at 3pm just before the Christmas Pudding!
We have not needed to press in on her to hear the word of God. But what is most clear about her fireside chats with us on Christmas Day and at other times, is that she is to the people of this nation and beyond these shores, preaching the good news of the Incarnation and of the Kingdom of God to those who would otherwise in our Gospel press in on Jesus to hear the word of God. And does she not in her broadcast invite us continually to contemplate being members of God’s Kingdom? Are we not invited to love God and our neighbour year in and year out?
The catch of the day in our Gospel is the call to the fishermen to leave everything and follow Christ. From now on you will be catching people…
Yet when we think of kingship, or monarchy in this nation we too readily think of an individual having everything rather than abandoning everything. We think of privilege rather than the catch of the day for us.
But I fear our understanding is obscured by the standards of this age and what we think of as beneficial privilege. St Paul writes in another part of Corinthians, ‘If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’
Yet we have come to understand Monarchy because of their historic actions as being a culmination of possessions, money, property, wealth and so on. Our media ask us to be scandalised when the Queen is number 250 of the Times Rich list. As if we are diminished by her dwindling millions. We know that her homes might be nice, but they don’t belong to Elizabeth Windsor, they belong to the crown. And just as we are subjects to that crown – moreso is she! Yes we have the law to encourage us to abide by civil decency, but we can put a foot wrong, we can make mistakes, say the foolish and inconsiderate thing.
She… for 70 years has lived with the trappings of not needing to worry about the phone bill or the neighbours. Yes there is wealth and privilege – but other than expressing her faith in Christ – she has few public freedoms that most of us enjoy.
But the freedom she has embraced is that of her Christian faith. There is no Bishop compelling her, neither is there a parish priest saying, come along your Majesty. But what she brings to us is that same thing that those who followed Christ bring to the world: Christian discipleship. To willingly and proudly boast of Christ and to proclaim him in her broadcasts, not with words which are inconsistent with her status, but with words which reflect the true humility of the person upon whose head sits the crown.
I recall years ago when I lived at Windsor a colleague getting in a bit of a pickle. She found him one day.. sat him down and said… tell me the truth. Let us help you and restore you into our community. He was liberated and she was faithful to this one person who she cared for – someone who had a domestic job in the Royal Household.
This is the Sovereign who every Sunday afternoon visits those who live on her estates and who are in need of a little company who in her own way brings healing and joy to them. This is the Sovereign who feeds the poor, and is concerned for them. The Queen who through her companionship and late husband does what she can to fights climate change and safeguard the integrity of creation – turning off the lights when she leaves a room and she is also the mother who though having family troubles of her own, still serves still preservers at 95 to do what she can in service of this nation, the commonwealth and God.
We celebrate today the reign of a person who caged in a gilt fortress is still able to reach out to us, and we are able to come close to her through our shared baptismal life and faith in Jesus.
70 years we have enjoyed her Christian Reign and one day we know – sooner perhaps than we would like, she will be fully liberated to rejoice in the nearer presence of the God who she serves and loves so dearly. But until then let us join with her in being disciples of Christ who whenever we have opportunity – confess Christ, remember Christ in our conversations and in the words we want to be heard in the world. And in acts of service and kindness let us like her be faithful to Christ our whole life whether it be long or short and be devoted to His service and with one voice on this special day say thanking God for HM the Queen.
“God Save the Queen”.