Bishop Paul, preaches in Durham Cathedral

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, praised the Queen’s dedication to duty and service to our Country at a special service in Durham Cathedral to mark the Queens’s 90th Birthday.

Bishop Paul praises Her Majesty The Queen
Bishop Paul praises Her Majesty The Queen

Bishop Paul, gave the sermon at the Cathedral Even Song Service on Sunday 12th June 2016. 

The service was to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, recognising Her Majesty’s unwavering commitment to a lifetime of service as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Bishop Paul said: “On this weekend of celebrations for our gracious Queen may we all commit ourselves afresh to do our duty as citizens of this nation, as citizens of the world and above all as citizens of heaven, recognising that Jesus Christ is ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one that is to come.'”

The full transcript of the service is presented here.

 

INTRODUCTION

“Fear God, and keep his commandments, that is the whole duty of everyone.”

On her 21st birthday Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, then still Princess Elizabeth, made an historic broadcast to the whole of what was then known as the British Empire. In this she said

“But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.

 

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.

 

But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

Her life, and reign, have proved to be long and she has steadfastly and determinedly kept her promise; her vow and dedication. She has served and kept on serving. She has truly been a Servant Queen.

She has herself made clear time and again that she fulfils this service as her calling under God. She serves because of her love for Jesus Christ, and for the nation and commonwealth whom she has been called to serve.

Alongside her for 69 years of marriage and 64 years of reign has been her loving, faithful husband, Prince Philip. He too has served the nation phenomenally well. Today we give thanks to God for them both. We celebrate this extraordinary service done in the name of Christ, rooted in a life of prayer.

 

DUTY

Prince William has commented on his grandmother’s reign and how he sees the role of the monarch, which God willing he will one day become. He said this, “It’s about setting examples. It’s about doing one’s duty as she would say. It’s about using your position for good.”

Doing one’s duty. This is not a terribly popular notion in many ways today. We extol rights rather than responsibilities. We seek freedom rather than service. Yet freedom is no freedom at all unless we are clear what freedom is for. Our language tends to be about freedom from, or to, things; freedom from restraint; freedom from rules and conventions and traditions. Freedom to do what I want. Yet freedom from and to just leaves us flailing without direction. It becomes self serving and self seeking and we find a new bondage. True freedom is freedom for – for wellbeing, for others, for the planet, for discovery.

In the old prayer, the collect for peace, we pray, “O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom stand etc our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom …” We actually find freedom in service. We discover fulfilment in duty. Fearing God is not about cowering in a corner trying to hide from a vengeful God, it is about recognising his awesome love and responding to it by living in the ways that he designed us to be. It is as we dutifully live in such ways we find that it is the whole fulfilment of our calling to be those made in the divine image. It is this ‘fear of the Lord’ and in it performing duty that Her Majesty has exercised her whole life and reign.

The monarch has very few rights; 3 are commonly identified:

To be consulted by the Prime Minister

To encourage certain courses of action

To warn against others

 

Yet her responsibilities are very many including being Head of the Armed Forces, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Head of the Commonwealth, Signing Laws and the intangibles of stability, continuity, recognising people’s achievements, being a focus of allegiance, offering moral leadership and model behaviour. It is a life of apparent privilege yet held bound by the constant call to serve. A life lived both very privately in grand palaces and stately homes, yet lived ever increasingly throughout her reign under the spotlight of the world’s media. The Queen is a very private person; she holds her counsel remarkably. Yet she is then exposed to the cameras and microphones of the world seeking to pick up any hint, inflection or slip. Her calm is outstanding.

 

UNDER GOD

In concluding though I want to turn to our New Testament reading. Here we find a prayer for the whole people of God which we can and should continue to pray for Her Majesty, and the entire Royal Family; a prayer for wisdom and revelation; a prayer for enlightenment and hope; a prayer for divine power and strength. The sovereign needs this to continue to fulfil her duty; Princes Charles, William and George need it in their current lives and as they prepare, and are prepared, for their future role as King. The nation needs this prayer. It is a prayer that acknowledges that over and above all human governments and nations is the living God made known in Jesus Christ. This is a prayer that places us all under God’s rule and reign; a position Queen Elizabeth not only recognises but seeks to live by.

On this weekend of celebrations for our gracious Queen may we all commit ourselves afresh to do our duty as citizens of this nation, as citizens of the world and above all as citizens of heaven, recognising that Jesus Christ is ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one that is to come.’

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