Sermon given on 10th September 2022 at an ecumenical Special Commemoration Service for our Sovereign Lady, the Late Queen Elizabeth II. St Mary the Virgin, Boston Spa – service led by The Reverend Steve Jakeman (Presbyter, Boston Spa Methodist Church), The Reverend Nick Morgan (Vicar, St Mary’s) and The Reverend Glenda Webb (Associate Priest, St Mary’s)
Bible Reading: Revelation 21.1-7
The New Heaven and the New Earth
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
What an amazing vision from St John the Divine: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth…. the holy city (a vision of peace) coming down from heaven to be among humanity… see, God is making all things new”
This vision of God’s Kingdom at the end of time is a reality into which our late Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, has a clearer glimpse then we. By the grace of Jesus her Lord and Saviour, she is welcomed among the saints in heaven, the limitations of age, time and mortality lifted.
But God’s Kingdom is not merely a distant vision. In Jesus, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated and made a reality on earth as it is in heaven – it is the now and future Kingdom. The home of God is among mortals, God will dwell with them and they will be God’s people: that is our vision for the here and now, as well as for eternity. This means that our lives are not mere preludes to the hereafter, but they matter: they are part and parcel of God’s business here on earth. In our earthly lives, we are called to be citizens of heaven, not exiles – but ambassadors. Queen Elizabeth certainly embraced that calling in her unique calling as monarch, supreme governor of the Church of England, head of the commonwealth and the myriad other roles she undertook. She was an amazing ambassador of the Kingdom of God.
Many people have reacted more strongly, more emotionally, than they thought they would to the death of our Queen. There is a sense of the end of an era, not merely because the crown passes to a new King, but because Her Majesty’s life was so bound up with our personal, as well as national, history. Few of us can remember a time when she was not there as part of our life, often in the background rather than the foreground on a day-to-day basis, but always there. Her speech to the nation during the Covid lockdown was such a comfort to so many people because it was as though we suddenly saw a true leader, the head of our national family, talking to us to strengthen our resolve, offer comfort to the bereaved and fearful, and assure us of better times ahead. For some, even though she was old and frail, her death was a huge shock as she was the nation’s rock – always there, especially in times of uncertainty. But death is a universal reality, and one which our queen did not fear because, like her son King Charles, she had a strong, personal faith in Jesus and was assured of her salvation. But this personal faith was not something she kept to herself. She attended worship faithfully, and often publicly; she was constant in daily prayer; and she brought her faith to bear on her role. Her annual Christmas speech often drew on this faith, and her very natural way of expressing this and linking it to our national life, and the life of the Commonwealth, stemmed from her faith being a lived reality. She lived in the now and future Kingdom of heaven, lived out that reality of God being at home here and now in the world we live in through the person of Jesus, and through the presence of God’s Church enlivened by the Holy Spirit right here, right now, across the world.
We are rightly saddened by Queen Elizabeth’s death. Death is no matter to be brushed off or belittled. Indeed, death is such a serious matter that God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to take death upon himself and defeat it on the cross. That resurrection faith was Her Majesty’s faith, and so in the light of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter day, we can rejoice amid our sadness that she has a clearer vision of that eternal new heaven and new earth which St John the Divine wrote about.
We thank God for calling Queen Elizabeth to her role on earth, for sustaining her in that role, and for empowering her to be such a wonderful ambassador for God’s Kingdom. More than that, we thank Jesus for his presence in her life and work, and for the example that gives: how a life of faith can make a difference. That example has certainly given comfort and strength to King Charles as he begins this new chapter of his own calling as a servant of God, and I am glad that he, too, is a prayerful person of strong faith.
Today we say “Thank God for Elizabeth, the servant queen, ambassador of Christ.” And as we look ahead to an unknown future, we remember that God alone is Sovereign, Jesus alone is Head of the Church, but we pray that King Charles III might like his mother, be a true ambassador for God’s Kingdom and, not only for the Church of England, but for all followers of Christ in our nation and Commonwealth, our partner in the Gospel. God save the King. Amen.