We were reminded of the Queen’s pledge as she turned 21, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
In promising that, the young princess, herself surrounded by privilege and patronage reflected a deep biblical understanding of what it means to be a monarch. From start to finish the Bible insists that those who carry the most power also carry the greatest responsibility. Jesus Christ is described in the Bible as the ‘King of Kings’, yet he modelled a sacrificial life by dying on a cross for the sins of very messed-up people like me and you, and teaching that “the greatest among you must be your servant” (Matthew’s gospel chapter 23).
The Queen is famous for her attitude towards service, which is driven by her sincere faith in God. Our nation lit many beacons last week and our queen has maintained a beacon of faith through the changing decades. In every ‘Queen’s Speech’ at Christmas she encourages each person to reach out in love to God, and service to our neighbours.
In fact, the whole of society hangs on service. All around us, everyday, people are performing little acts of service. From holding a shop door open for the next person to enter, to sticking up for the rights of workers or immigrants. We choose to obey laws and even little gestures, like stopping our cars at zebra crossings, out of service to others. The alternative, which is selfish anarchy, might make you happy for a moment, but will undoubtedly destroy other’s lives.
Every Jubilee street party was also an act of service – somebody bought and hung up those meters of bunting, laid the trestle tables or baked those cakes! Much of our society hangs on the selfless work of volunteers. Churches in the Sheffield region are no exception. Every week we host loads of free events for the benefit of our communities, from youth clubs to drop-in spiritual experiences.
Life in South Yorkshire is better when we serve each other. This is a great time to recognise and celebrate it.