Revd Peter Cobb’s Sermon which was preached on June 5 as part of the special service for all churches in the Llantilio Group
So here I am, on this great day of anniversary, charged with the task of preaching our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It’s a great privilege; but at least I have the clout for it, for I can look back beyond these four jubilees, beyond her coronation, beyond her own father’s, way back beyond the abdication to the Silver Jubilee of her grandfather, George V. But then, because the Queen and I are much of an age, so can she; only, in all those great events she has been major performer, with the eyes of the world upon her, dissecting every facial expression, every step in a detail that only the modern media have made possible. What a life to have to lead! I’m sure she had premonition of it when she was in South Africa, and made that promise on her 21st birthday to dedicate her life, whether it be long or short, to the service of her country and the Commonwealth. I do so admire people who, when they have made a promise, keep it, though it be for seventy years.
It is thoughts of this sort that have made me choose my text for today from an obscure nook in the Old Testament – the book of Micah – What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.
To do justly : there were times when monarchs had real power to do justly, and did nothing of the sort! Witness, in their several ways King John, King Charles I.
To love mercy : there were so many times when they had every opportunity to show mercy, but chose savagery instead. Just think of some of those Tudors, with Henry VIII leading the field.
Nowadays, the monarch has no power to change history as some of them did; to the extent that some may even wonder, why bother with the monarchy at all, when it seems to have so little bearing on the way people now live. Which is all very well, until you think of the consequences when someone like Putin, or even Trump gets into the driving seat. Better by far to have a figurehead one can admire and respect, and whose principles could with advantage be imitated. What I find so admirable about our Queen is her unswerving conviction that there is duty to be done. The understanding that even the Big Chief is a servant, not a tyrant.
To me, there are two things that have gone badly wrong in my lifetime:
First : the promotion of the Gospel of Greed. Since the Thatcher years, greed has become almost a virtue;
Second : the way in which the sense of ‘my duty’ has been eroded away, and replaced by ‘my rights’.
Both of these mean that ‘you first’ has now become ‘me first’, and the outcome can only be destructive. Is there any wonder that Christian beliefs, to which, in my youth, the majority did at least give lip service, have now been relegated in the minds of most to the category of a fringe club for the eccentric few?
Make no mistake: the religious convictions of Queen Elizabeth II are no eccentric fringe activity. Her conduct throughout her reign has been that of to whom the Christian ethic is absolutely essential, whose choice it has been to walk humbly with her God. There can be few in a better position to understand what Jesus meant when he said;
‘You call me Master and Lord ; and you do right, for so l am. But I am among you as one who Serves’.
Can you imagine the Queen waking up one morning, and saying to her maid, ‘I think I’ll have the day in bed, dear. When Mr Johnson comes for his audience, send him away’.
Fifteen Prime Ministers she’s had. Goodness knows what she must thought of some of them. But whatever her personal opinion, you may be sure that she will have treated each and every one of them with the same professional concern for the good of her people, both here and in the commonwealth.
What a weekend this has been! Full of warmth and goodwill and gratitude. A bit like Christmas, really. But Christmas fades. So will this. The grubbing and the in-fighting of government will resume; so will the media’s royalty soap opera. But just reflect: today we are witness to the example of one who at the very outset divined the meaning of what God created her to do, and has done it, day and night, for the rest of her life, and always for the best, as she sees it. And if that doesn’t make us feel grateful, whatever will?