This month, on the weekend of 10th-12th June, the country and Commonwealth celebrate the Queen’s Official 90th birthday. However one views the constitutional monarchy that she represents and although our own denomination proudly states that “we believe Christ gives his Church a government distinct from the state” and that the Church “must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head’, it is hard not to admire all that the Queen has brought to a difficult role. ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them’, wrote Shakespeare. Rare indeed is the person who can claim all three. Born a Princess, thrust to the throne after the early death of her father, Queen Elizabeth II is arguably the greatest monarch of the modern era.
For most of the population, like myself, we have only ever known her as monarch. The Queen has been a constant in a world of change, a pillar of stability in a world of uncertainty. Interestingly, a couple of years ago, in a YouGov survey, the nation voted the Queen as the person who provided the most moral leadership – ahead of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Even the cynical and critical media, as well as those who oppose the monarchy, have a grudging respect for her character, faithfulness and endurance.
That moral lead is deeper than modelling a life of personal discipline and duty. It flows from the values and beliefs that she publicly acknowledges. In her Christmas broadcast two years ago she said: ‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.’ Her faith is highlighted in a book published to mark her birthday, published in partnership with the Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, entitled ‘The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.’ To the surprise of many, the Queen agreed to write the forward to the book in which she thanks those who have prayed for her, as well as to God for God’s love and God’s faithfulness. She concludes by inviting readers to reflect on a poem famously quoted by her father in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939 which reminds us that putting our trust in God in a world full of uncertainty and darkness is “better than light, and safer than a known way.”
The inspiration for the Queen’s life: the supreme example of character, staying power and self-sacrifice revealed through the life, death and eternal life of Jesus will never fail to endure. ‘Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end’ (Isaiah 9:7). In the Queen’s life and in ours, through thick and thin, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
With love and prayers
Russell J Furley-Smith