Sermons from St Faith's     


Fr Steve Holt, (Grimsby Minster), June 3rd, 2012 

I have spent this last week at the Lincoln Diocesan Clergy Conference in Derbyshire. The theme for the week was a Passion for Priesthood and the conference symbol was a clerical collar. One of the things we discussed and reflected on was the call to Priesthood – and this comes at a very important time for me as I prepare to be ordained to the priesthood in just 27 days’ time – indeed my first mass will be 4 weeks today in Grimsby Minster and I am delighted that Fr Neil has accepted my invitation to preach for me on that occasion and any of you who would like to attend would be very welcome. 
The call to priesthood then – we reflected on what as a priest we are called to Be and called to Do. The interesting thing for me already was to notice the fine balancing act that seems to take place between Doing and Being. Ordination gives those being ordained deacon or priest a sort of mandate. These are just some of the words spoken by the Bishop at the Ordination of Priests.

With all God's people, they are to tell the story of God's love. They are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and to walk with them in the way of Christ, nurturing them in the faith.
That if you like is the mandate for a priest – but listen to part of that again, “With all God's people, they are to tell the story of God's love. They are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Those words are given to the disciples by Jesus in this morning’s gospel story – a mandate for the disciples so that they may carry on the work of Christ after he has left them and ascended to the Father. This mandate is for all Christian people, ordained or not as we are all Disciples of Christ. Living your life completely abiding by a mandate or living your life within a promise made – especially in this ever changing world may be a tall order. You might even be tempted to say that it is not possible. It has to be possible otherwise there is no point. Many people throughout history have lived lives in that way – believing in the promises they have made and giving their life to others – look at people like Mother Theresa, a life lived in total service to God and fellow men, women and children.

And now, this very weekend we as a nation celebrate 60 years of our Queens reign – 60 years of faithful dedicated service to God and her fellow men, women and children.

Her Majesty is of course many things to many people but she is also the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  It is a role that she has taken with the utmost seriousness and considerable insight and depth.  Her Christmas broadcasts are amongst the most spiritually sensitive and uplifting messages of the Season.  She does not mind sharing her faith because that is what has inspired her service, and sustained it for 60 years.  She knows that ‘without a vision the people perish’, and that faith, religion, spirituality – however you want to describe it – is an indispensable engine of that vision.  Being faithful to Christ for her is not about brow-beating the world into seeing things from her own perspective.  It is about seeking to generate an environment in which people thrive because justice and mercy thrive.  It is because ‘whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure’ makes for abundance of human life.

After the death of her father and before her accession to the throne – barely an adult at the time – Princess Elizabeth gave her first radio broadcast, solemnly saying to her future people: ‘I declare before you that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great [Imperial] Commonwealth to which we all belong’.

As Andrew Marr in his recent biography of Her Majesty notes, it was as if ‘she was offering herself as some kind of living human sacrifice’. There is some truth in this. The Princess was offering herself for a life of service on the altar of her love for nation and commonwealth, and for God who had laid this mantle of responsibility upon her.

Many of you may have watched the Coronation, maybe it was the first time you owned a TV, It’s an enormously complex, varied ceremony – not only the placing of the crown on the monarch’s head, but also the anointing of the new King or Queen with consecrated oil. That’s a very significant part of the ceremony, and it looks back to biblical antecedents, to the stories in the Bible of prophets and priests anointing the kings of Israel in ancient times. It also relates to the fact that priests and bishops are anointed with holy oil at their ordination or consecration. When the coronation was televised in 1953, the Queen was very unwilling to have the cameras on her at that moment of anointing, because that was somehow the central moment for her.  It’s not only about the calling and the consecration of an individual, it’s also about that individual making promises to the whole community. It’s a covenant occasion, if you like – an occasion when people make a promise to each other.

I hope that it is not presumptuous of me to wonder what has sustained The Queen over these sixty years and kept her sacrifice of service for love of God, country and commonwealth so vibrant.
I will not speculate on her personal life, on the great love that she received from her parents and continues to receive from her husband and family. I will simply focus on four factors that can be documented.
The first is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was much invoked during Her Majesty’s coronation.

There is a great deal of evidence over sixty years that The Queen has been ready to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and to live and reign in the power of God’s love.

The second is the Bible. At her Coronation the Archbishop gave her a Bible.

We know that The Queen has been ready to quote the Bible to her people and to seek to live by its teaching.

The third is worship. The Queen is regular and committed in her worship of God.

The fourth is prayer.

Clearly The Queen who has had twelve Prime Ministers, known every US President since Eisenhower, and seen tyrants come and go, thinks that God’s way for the world as taught by Jesus Christ is the safest foundation for life: ‘For me the teaching of Christ’, she said, ‘and my personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to live my life’.

Maybe that’s the thing we remember and take away as we celebrate the diamond jubilee this weekend – we try to live our lives within a framework – and what better way to start afresh than today, Trinity Sunday by taking on the mandate Christ gave to us this morning; The Trinity is regarded by some preachers as a tricky subject to preach on, a day when the Curate maybe gets the pulpit but it means more than what we can’t say. This ‘more’ is about what we can do, indeed must do, if we are to live as Christians. In the Trinity, we see a pattern of relation­ship that speaks of how we are to be towards others and towards the world. The threeness of Trinity means community, a society of persons moving constant­ly out towards one another in self-giving, living and being in that perfect oneness we call by the name of ‘love’ and as we raise our glass to the her Majesty the Queen this weekend, we do so recognizing that she, this woman of faith has done just that and we are all called to do exactly the same.

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