Bishop Paul’s Sermon given for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at St Mary’s in the Lace Market, Nottingham
In a special Jubilee message on Wednesday, the Queen spoke about ‘looking to the future with confidence and enthusiasm’.
Once more the Queen spoke with resilient hope not based on wishful thinking but inspired by her faith in God before whom, seventy years ago, she dedicated her life to the service of nation and Commonwealth.
Living with many fears about the future, God spoke to his people through his prophet Isaiah saying:
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…he will come to save you.’”
There are plenty of fears that threaten the peace of our world at the moment as well as the fragile hopes for future generations still emerging from a pandemic with a burgeoning cost of living crisis.
This Jubilee can be more than a mid-summer respite from our worse fears. And while Forest’s promotion has also given our city and county a welcome boost we know it is never wise to tie your sense of optimism to closely to temporary sporting success.
So how do we address our worries and fears to ensure this Jubilee can be a signpost to a future filled with confidence and enthusiasm? It may seem predictable for a bishop to respond by saying the answer is the renewal of personal faith in God.
But the truth is commentators of every kind have found it impossible to sum up the Queen’s long reign without putting her faith somewhere in the centre of it all. Only a few weeks ago in the BBC broadcast of ‘Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen’, she said, “Faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.”
In the relationship between personal faith and a life of service to others, duty becomes a joy when you see it through the lens of a divine calling.
We too easily fall into a contemporary pattern of life that is marked by continual consumption, ever present anxiety, and self-focus – which is a wholly unsustainable pattern for our lives, our relationships or our planet.
God has put within us a deep longing which can only be satisfied by his amazing presence with us and for us. People are most alive and filled with courage when they know they are dearly loved, above all by God. That is why no one should be fooled into thinking that the church is only a few steps away from extinction. New spiritual seeds are being planted every day in our city and county. From Daybrook to Lady Bay, from Sneinton to Basford, from Wilford to Lenton, just in the past six months, churches are being renewed to serve their community, inspired by the love of Christ. And I am thankful St Mary’s itself has been nurturing a refreshed vision for its God-given role in this city.
St John wrote ‘only perfect love can drive out fear’. This is so important to the future health of our nation. Because fear is the silent destroyer of dreams, in that it replaces the dream with a preoccupation with self. The only defence is to fortify our interior in stillness before God; learning to allow our deepest fears to surface before the One who on the Cross overcame darkness with light, and hatred with love, and on the resurrection morning triumphed over despair with a bright eternal hope.
On this Pentecost Sunday we celebrate that the Holy Spirit sets people free to live and serve with renewed vigour and a calm perseverance. This is what the Queen has exemplified throughout her long reign.
As we heard earlier in the service back in 1947 age 21, she said, ‘If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall (by God’s grace) have a more powerful influence for good in the world.’
Here is a worthy vision for every 21-year-old living in the city and county today, whatever their particular talents or prospects. Through our prayers and vital encouragement to a new generation, we can play a part in creating a society where greatness is not measured by financial wealth, social media following or false notions of beauty. Becoming instead society where to serve is perfect freedom and caring deeply for others, without fear or favour, is honoured as the truest form of what it is to be noble.
For Christians, it is in such sacrificial service that Jesus himself reveals the glory of God and brings salvation and hope to our world. It is why the Queen’s own faith has been such a personal source of help and hope in every circumstance and season of life.
And so today, my Jubilee message for Nottingham is simply this: “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…he will come to save you.’”
For our dear Queen, and for our nation and commonwealth, here in Christ is our reason for confidence and the inspiration to renew our enthusiasm for life and service to others, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father. Amen.