Reflections on the occasion of the Royal Jubilee.
Back in February I was privileged to go to Buckingham Palace, part if a Free Churches delegation, to offer a Loyal Address to her Majesty the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee.
Some twenty or so Privileged Bodies each presented an address which acknowledged the Queen’s faithfulness to her duty as Monarch as well as offering the loyalty of her people.
More recently I was reading the recollection of someone who had witnessed the Coronation, who had been most struck by the young lady who in a simple white shift-dress was then gradually adorned with all the symbols of Monarchy, increasingly weighing her down with responsibility and, in some senses, overcoming this young person. The Queen’s duty to her people was accepted and has been fulfilled ever since with unwavering loyalty.
Listening to the Loyal Addresses I could not help but reflect that the loyalty had not been unwavering in the other direction! How sincere were the sentiments being expressed on this very formal occasion?Was this all a big charade for the sake of history? After all there have been periods when the Monarchy has not been ‘flavour of the month’ and the loyalty of the people has not been solid.
A significant element of the Queen’s faithfulness to her duty has been her belief that her monarchy has been a calling of God. This leads me to further reflection on our loyalty to God and our faithfulness in our living as Christians, as people of God for whom he is the supreme and heavenly King? Are we secure in our relationship with Christ or are we rather ‘easy come – easy go’ in this, as in our attitude to the Monarchy?
One of the things that impresses most in relation to Her Majesty is that the fickle nature of the people’s loyalty has not caused her to waver. Her faithfulness to duty is dependable and a given. Similarly and thankfully, God’s faithfulness towards us, his people, is dependable and is not conditional on our response.
As John puts it in his first letter, ‘ it is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’
God is faithful to us despite our unfaithfulness and he comes to us in Jesus to demonstrate this and his forgiveness.
We are celebrating Jubilee this month. As Christians we can recall that Jubilee for God’s people was and is a time to recognise God’s forgiveness, our release from indebtedness. We may appropriately wave our Union Jacks or have a drink in honour of Her Majesty the Queen, but as we do so we might also be thankful to God for the faithfulness she reflects, which is God’s faithfulness to us in Jesus
The young baby is convulsed with crying and tears when its mother moves out of sight. We are born into relationship and it is quite natural that we find loss and separation as painful. No doubt we are sensitized to loss by the birth experience, which itself is one of separation, yet we are so dependent on relationships.
Any change or loss is then experienced as disaster. It is about survival and it is human instinct.
In childhood we lose friends, we move house, we change schools. The world and the relationships we have learned to depend upon disappear and it can be devastating and it takes time to build new relationships of confidence.
Strong emotions surface – bewilderment – a numbness when we don’t know what to do or which way to turn – a questioning of why something has happened coupled with a blaming of those we might hold responsible. Anger and frustration often explode but will move into a resigned depression and it takes some while before we can be more reasoned in our reactions.
Such experiences are not invited but are universal. They occur and recur on an almost daily basis. The seemingly trivial experience of losing door keys can find us in a panic. There is disbelief that it has happened. There is annoyance and anger as the implications rush into our thoughts. It takes time for us to calm down and begin to think straight. All these emotions well up when we experience more significant loss. It is clear that there is no easy way through.
However, is it not the very positive aspects of relationship and dependency that cause such reaction when they are lost?
When the Christian community celebrate the Ascension of Christ we can only imagine the turmoil of emotions for the first disciples. They have worked through the fact that the one on whom they depended has given himself up for crucifixion. They have somehow got their heads around his resurrection only to find that he is leaving them once more. However, the relationship is not to be broken. Jesus reminds them (John 14) ‘If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ The prospect of Jesus leaving is countered by the promise of the Holy Spirit – ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see my anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.’
It is not that Christian faith makes us immune to any sense of loss. The emotions will rise in us daily and we will find ourselves angry and disbelieving even in our relationship with God. But, that relationship itself will not disappear. We cannot mourn the loss of God, as long as we are open to his love through every eventuality that life presents.