Bishop Paul’s Sermon at the Service to Celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and Queen Camilla

Southwell Minster, Sunday 7th May 2023

One of the most moving images for me from yesterday’s Coronation was the moment when the Prince of Wales having paid homage to the King, reached forward to kiss his father. It seemed to express, ‘though you are my King you are still my father and (most importantly) you are loved.’

Whatever way we’re inspired to pray for our nation and our world on the first full day of a new Carolean era, no ambition could be higher than this: that everyone should know ‘You are loved’.

We all recognise the power of love. Love has been the inspiration for so many ancient anthems and modern songs; it has been the primary theme of many great stories and movies; so many courageous acts have been motivated by love, and plenty acts of stupidity have love at their root too.

And with the various challenges we are facing in our world and perhaps our lives at the moment, it is an extraordinary gift to know ‘you are loved’. It is our most fundamental need as a human being. Victor Hugo wrote, ‘The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.’

For children and young people growing up in Nottinghamshire and beyond, there can surely be nothing more important to their well-being now and their future flourishing than to be told and believe, ‘You are Loved’.

Of course, it’s a wonderful statement, but we also have to ask, is it actually true? What about for the person without family or friends, who lives alone or find themselves far from home as a refugee. Then there’s the person who has experienced unbearable heartbreak and rejection in a relationship, who may not feel they can ever trust in love again. Or for those who are grieving the death of someone dear to them, where the love of that person is no longer there to be experienced, it can be a very painful loss.

So, can it really be true or even kind to declare to absolutely every one: ‘You are loved’? The apostle Paul would say an unwavering ‘yes’.

In the reading (Ephesians 3:14-21) appointed for the Coronation weekend, Paul describes a love so good and strong that it surpasses and sustains all other loves. It is the love of God and this love can make us truly secure. In a few short verses he explains why.

First, because it is Personal

God’s love is not something remote, like a far-off shining galaxy you can only reach in your imagination. The love of God assures us that we can be completely known and yet also dearly loved.

Most of the time, if we are honest with ourselves, we fear that if we were truly known (every secret thought, every hidden motive) we could not be dearly loved and accepted. Yet how can you be sure that it’s the real you who is dearly loved unless you are truly known. Only the love of Jesus can do this, because the Cross embraces the reality of our fallenness and frailty, yet declares we are precious to God and can know him as our heavenly Father “from whom every family derives its name”. It is a personal love.

Then secondly, it is also Powerful

Paul tells the Ephesians that he is praying that they will be “rooted and grounded in love”. Here are the foundations we all need for life.

Jesus once told a parable about two people who both built a house, one on the rock and the other on the sand. Then along comes a storm and only the house on the rock is left standing. And the point Jesus was making is that all of us have to build our lives on something.

Life can never be about storm avoidance – no one growing up in Nottinghamshire or anywhere else in the world can do that. There are good days and bad days, highs and lows, promotions and relegations – let’s hope Forest can still avoid that. But the unfailing love of God can be a foundation that keeps us rooted and grounded whatever storms we may face. There is great power in this love.

Then finally, it is also Purposeful

This love inspires us to look to the future with confidence not in ourselves but in God, who, Paul says, is able to accomplish “abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine.”

Knowing you’re loved inspires creativity, or to try something new; to persevere when you might be tempted to give up.

Love is purposeful, not as something self-serving but in responding to the needs of others. That’s why love is the key to good leadership. Bear Grylls, the Chief Ambassador of World Scouting and Hon Colonel to the Royal Marines, said recently, ‘Nobody cares how much you know. Until they know how much you care.’

When it comes to leadership, whatever the role or responsibility, we can either lead out of love or out of fear. And when the pressure and expectation on leaders is increases fear can easily takes over. But it is really no way to lead and it’s certainly no way to live.

For newly crowned Kings and newly elected counsellors, as well as new parents, teachers, nurses, soldiers and social workers, the answer can never be to stop worrying so much, for the responsibilities are very real and much is at stake. The apostle John said only God’s “perfect love can drive out fear”.

Because no other love can provide the confidence to keep serving and caring when the personal cost may be very high and our human frailty painfully exposed. The sight of the King stripped of his robes of state kneeling in a plain white shirt brought that vulnerability home very powerfully.

Let us pray that King Charles and Queen Camilla will know they are loved, above all by God. And that in these first years of his reign – whatever challenges our world may continue to face – an emerging generation will have the confidence, creativity and hope to make a real difference, rooted and grounded in knowing how dearly they are loved by God and those around them.

We can all play our part in that from day one of the Carolean era as we continue to care for those around us, and using every opportunity given us – however well planned or spontaneous it may be – to help someone know ‘you are loved’. There may be persons that come to mind for you, even as I have been speaking, who need to know that without delay. Let this be the legacy of this coronation in our lives, our county and across the nation. Amen.   

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