A Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for HM The Queen

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Easton kicked off our celebrations for HM The Queen brilliantly with a street party on Saturday.  On Sunday 12th June we held our special service of celebration and thanksgiving for the Queen’s birthday.

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When we think about the way that the Queen inspires excellence in all things around her, her strong Christian faith and how this has guided her and others to service for others, it was striking that our service was a reflection of those three qualities.

 

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Excellence in the music – David Truslove’s scratch choir sang Psalm 150 and I Was Glad by Hubert H Parry so beautifully – in fact spine tinglingly wonderful – particularly the wonderful Vivat Regina phrase sung with gusto by the sopranos.  John Dover really got the very best out of St Mary’s organ and and led us in Immortal Invisible God only wise, The Servant King and the National Anthem.

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But also her Christian faith so beautifully described in the book the Servant Queen and the King she serves which the PCC distributed to all 500 households in our parish with an invitation to attend the service.  Rear Admiral John Lang described this beautifully in a moving tribute to the Queen – which follows below.

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And finally in service to others – a theme which recurs in her Christmas broadcasts and indeed is constantly encouraged by royal visits, awards and garden parties all the year round.  There could not be a better illustration of Jesus’ thoughts on service for others than the Parable of the Good Samaritan which Jane Anderson read beautifully and on which Revd Amanda Denniss preached (see below).  We looked at what prevents us from helping others including a fear of being overwhelmed; how a relationship with Jesus can help us overcome that fear  and how we might start to love God and love neighbour.

The theme of service was picked out by the children led by Revd Rebecca Fardell in a special session of the Ark held at Dymoke House during the service and they all joined us afterwards to show us their handiwork.

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Excellence, faith and service.  The theme which reverberated through our service today. And which raises the question – what can we do to help our neighbours?

We then had a great time drinking Prossecco – thank you to the Janssens and eating cake.  Thank you so much to all those who participated in the service, including the choir, Andrew Impey, Sonia Cragg and Beccy Clark who read the prayers and all those who worked so hard to put the service together.

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Tribute to HM the Queen by Rear Admiral John Lang

 We are here this morning to share in a national celebration of the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, and to pay tribute to a very remarkable lady.

She is, arguably, the best known and most easily recognised person in the world today and I think it probable that every one of us here will have some special memory of her.  Some may have met her personally or been honoured by her.  Others will have attended an event at which she was present and there can be few who have not seen her on television or read about her in the press.

I, for instance, recall that bitterly cold and wet day on the River Thames in June 2012 when she was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee.  There was that extraordinary moment when, in the pouring rain by Tower Bridge, the Royal College of Music’s Chamber Choir sang Land of Hope and Glory, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played the Sailors Hornpipe to which Her Majesty bobbed away in time with the music.

When she was born in London on 21st April 1926, nobody could have predicted that, one day, she would become our Queen and the longest reigning monarch of all time.  And it was only last Friday that I discovered that in addition to Her Majesty there was somebody else who celebrated two official birthdays in a year: Paddington Bear.

We look back today on her long life with awe, gratitude and admiration.

In the few moments available to me I can do no more than touch, very briefly, on one or two aspects of her 90 years.  Let me start in 1945.  On turning 18 she trained as a driver and mechanic with the Auxiliary Territorial Service.  This means she is one of the very few people still alive today who saw service in the Second World War, and one of an even smaller number who is still working.  What is especially remarkable is that she has spent her entire working life in the public eye and has never once put a foot wrong.

On her 21st Birthday, and while accompanying her parents on a tour of South Africa, she made a broadcast in which she said “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.”

69 years later on we rejoice in the knowledge that her life has, indeed, been long.  Although Empire has given way to Commonwealth and the world is very different to what it was then, she has more than fulfilled her declaration of dedicated service to her people both at home and abroad.

She is the constitutional head of 16 countries, has been served by 12 Prime Misters including Sir Winston Churchill, hosts one or two State Visits each year, is the figurehead of 53 nations around the world and has made some 300 official visits abroad.

She is the patron of some 600 charities and institutions, gets visibly excited when watching horse racing and shed a tear when saying farewell to her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997.  She nearly always wears a hat when outdoors in public during the day, is devoted to the men and women of her armed forces and personally feeds her Corgis.

Her great strengths are her sheer consistency and commitment to duty and service.   She has many, many titles, is the holder of numerous honours and awards, and performs an extraordinary wide range of functions each year.  If you are in any doubt about her versatility, stamina and commitment you only have to look at what she has been doing these past three days.

I have no idea whether any of her roles bring a smile to her face but I imagine she enjoys the name by which she is known colloquially in Papua New Guinea: “Missis Kwin,” and “Mama belong big family.”

She, like most of us here, has known moments of great joy and deep sadness.  But she has come through the good times and the bad with dignity and great fortitude, and has set an example to us all.  That she is able to do so will be due to many factors but I have no doubt she owes much to the devotion and unfailing support of her husband, Prince Philip, who celebrated his 95th birthday two days ago.

Above all, however, she draws great strength from her deep Christian faith.

She takes her position as the supreme governor of the Church of England extremely seriously and I for one have been greatly moved by reading the little booklet that Amanda and the Parish have so very kindly given us; The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to read it, I strongly commend it to you.

So in conclusion can I on behalf of you all wish her Majesty a very Happy Birthday and thank her from the bottom of our hearts for the example she sets and her devoted service to us all, and for so long.

Happy Birthday Maam. God save the Queen.

Revd Amanda Denniss’ sermon was as follows:

I had the great privilege of going to one of the Queen’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace last month.  It was great fun.  There were thousands of people there.  I’ve never actually seen the Queen in person before.  There is a point in the afternoon when the Queen first comes out on the terrace at the back of the Palace.  Everybody in the garden goes very quiet as the band plays the National Anthem.  Then the beefeaters in their wonderful uniforms make a way for the Queen through the guests.  The Queen gradually walks through this human corridor and stops to speak to groups of people on the way that are introduced to her.  I felt a bit like Zacchaeus in Jesus’ story as I tried to see the Queen through all the throngs of people desperate to get a view of her.  Instead of climbing up a tree, I thought the best thing would to be to climb on one of the tea tables.  I restrained myself!   I was struck by the things that you hear so often when people see the Queen.  She really is very small.  She has a gorgeous smile.  She is an absolutely remarkable woman who at the age of 90 can stand for long periods chatting to people as she leisurely makes her way through a crowd.

I hope that many of you will have read and enjoyed the book ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’ that we have given to the households in our local community here in Itchen Valley.  The book gives a wonderful insight into the Queen’s life.  She has led a life that is very full as not only our Queen and the Supreme Governor of our church, but also as a wife, mother and grandmother.  She has led a life of faithful service to our country and to the Commonwealth.  The book brings out in the most wonderful way the central role of the Queen’s faith in Jesus as the foundation of her life and service.

Our bible reading this morning comes from Luke’s gospel.  Luke tells us about an occasion when a teacher on the law questioned Jesus about how to inherit eternal life.  Eternal life in the bible means a full life.  It means a life that is lived in relationship with God.  It is full and satisfying and opens up the opportunity for us to have healthy relationships with other people.  It starts in this life and will continue beyond our death and last for all eternity.  This life-this eternal life-can’t be earned by our own efforts to be a good person.  Eternal life is a gift from God that we receive through faith in Jesus.

We don’t know exactly why the man in Luke’s account asked Jesus the question about eternal life. It’s possible that the man was trying to trip Jesus up.  Trying to catch him out.  But Jesus responded by asking the man a question.  He asked him what was written in the law- that is in the first five books of the bible.  The man gave a good answer.  He said, ‘’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.’’  Jesus commended him for his answer, ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

But the man pressed Jesus to explain exactly who is our neighbour.  In response, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

Most of us know this story really well.  We acted it out last week in our All Age Service.  It’s a brilliantly constructed tale that challenges us to care for and get involved in other people’s lives and not ignore their needs.

The story is of a man travelling on the lonely road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He is attacked by robbers and left half dead lying beside the road.  The first person to come along is a priest.  He didn’t want to get involved and walked by on the other side of the road.  The next man to come along was a Levite-another religious person.  He too didn’t stop and help.  Maybe these men were late for appointments.  Maybe they didn’t want to get their hands dirty.  Maybe they were frightened of getting involved.  Where would the commitment end?

Bolivia  My husband Oliver and I took a sabbatical some years ago in South America.  At one point we were in real need.  We needed someone to stop and help us and it reminded me of Jesus’ story.  We were travelling through Bolivia and were crossing the Salar de Uyuni.  It is the most incredible place.  A brilliant white salt lake which goes on for miles and miles with the occasional island formed from the tops of extinct volcanoes.  Anyway, at dusk one evening we were crossing the lake when our 4×4 blew two tyres.  We only had one spare and it was impossible to drive on.  We needed help.  Our driver and our guide were terrified because of bandits.  It was the first we’d heard of the possibility of bandits.  We didn’t feel too good.  All we could see was salt and more salt.  Nothing else.  We prayed.  After a while, in the gloomy light, we saw what looked like a mini van in the distance.  We jumped up and down.  Waved our hands and legs.  Shouted at the tops of our voices.  The van just drove on by across the salt and our hearts fell.  Then after it had gone on for several hundred metres it stopped.  Then it started to reverse towards us.  Inside were some local Bolivian families and a young Spanish woman.  The local villagers hadn’t wanted to stop.  They thought it could be an ambush and they too were frightened of bandits.  It was only the young Spanish woman pleading for us that persuaded them to stop.  I can’t tell you how thankful we were.

But then the Samaritan came along.  He was not a likely candidate to help.  The Samaritans and the Jews had a suspicion and distrust of each other going far back into their shared history.  But the Samaritan man stopped.  He bound up the man’s wounds.  Loaded him on his donkey

Took him to an inn.  Took care of him and then when he needed to go on his way, paid with his own money for the wounded man’s care.

This man was the neighbour.  The one

  • Who looked.
  • Who stopped.
  • Who got involved.
  • Who used his time and his money and resources to care for the injured man.

Jesus is challenging us to be like this.  To not be people who just look at our own interests, but who look out for the interests of other people and help out, even when it’s costly.

We explored in our All Age service last week how Jesus calls us to do this even when we find the other person difficult.  The children and youth came up with really good examples of how we can put this into practice in our own lives.

What can stop us reaching out and loving our neighbours?

There are so many needs in our world.  We can have a fear of being overwhelmed.  We can ask ourselves: What difference can I make when there are so many needs?  Even here in our local community there are so many needs.

This is where it is so important for us to remember that Jesus doesn’t start this conversation with the law teacher by saying we must love our neighbour.  He starts by saying we must love God. These two commandments belong together.  They are inseparable.

We start with God’s love.  When we have a relationship with God that is founded on Jesus-we can know and experience God’s love and care for us.  This love makes us secure.  We know we are valuable.  Our love for God is a response to his love for us.  It is from the security of this relationship with God that we are set free to love others.  We see other people with God’s eyes.  He can give us the power and strength to love even the unlovely.

We see this strong foundation of faith in the life of our Queen.  She speaks of her faith and the strength she draws from God again and again in her Christmas broadcasts.  In 2008 she said this, ‘We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.’

God will give us strength and courage to reach out and help others. We  need to trust that God will guide us as to who we are to respond to.  We are not God.  We don’t have unlimited resources of time or anything else.  If you are a Christian-you are part of a church.  A world wide church.  Each of us is called to play our part but we are not called to do everything.  We are all co-workers with Jesus.

What is important is that we don’t allow a fear of being overwhelmed to stop us getting involved at all.  God calls us to move out of our comfort zone.  To move beyond our familiar circle of family and friends and church.  To reach out to others in need.

This is about growing in a lifestyle of having a heart of compassion and doing acts of kindness.

Many things will be very small.

  • A kind word.
  • A smile.
  • Taking time to listen to someone.

Other things will be more costly.

  • It could involve our finances. The Good Samaritan paid money to the innkeeper to look after the injured traveller
  • Sometimes we might need to speak up for someone in need
  • Sometimes it might mean getting involved with a charity or ministry that helps people in need.

The Queen often speaks in her Christmas broadcasts on the theme of loving our neighbour and how we all have a part to play.  She said this in her 1975 Christmas broadcast,

‘We are all different, but each of us has his own best to offer.  The responsibility for the way we live life with all its challenges, sadness and joy is ours alone.  If we do this well it will also be good for our neighbours.  If you throw a stone in a pool, the ripples to on spreading outwards…

It does matter …what each individual does each day.  Kindness, sympathy, resolution, and courteous behavior are infectious.  Acts of courage and self-sacrifice, like those of the people who refuse to be terrorized by kidnappers or hijackers, or who diffuse bombs, are an inspiration to others.

And the combined effect can be enormous.  If enough grains of sand are dropped into one side of a pair of scales they will, in the end tip it against a lump of lead.

We may feel powerless alone but the joint efforts of individuals can defeat the evils of our time.  Together they can create a stable, free and considerate society.’

Jesus calls us to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

  • We are each made for a relationship of love and friendship with God. We are each made for the fullness of life that flows from a relationship with him.
  • Loving others is our response to God’s love. As the Queen has brought out wonderfully in many of her Christmas messages, each of us has a unique but important part to play.  The Queen herself has lived a life that is founded on her faith in Jesus and she has played her own unique part as our Queen, as the head of our Church and as a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

Today we give thanks to God for her life and her faith.  We give thanks for the way she has responded with tenacity and very much in the public eye, to the call of Jesus to love God and to love her neighbour.

I pray too that all of us will be both encouraged and challenged to reflect on our own lives and our response to the call of Jesus to both love God with all that we are and to love others as we love ourselves.

 

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