Seventy years ago, the young Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, her beloved husband, were in Kenya on a tour of Commonwealth countries.
I was three years old in neighboring Uganda when the BBC World Service broadcast to the world the sad news of the death of King George VI and the accession of his daughter.
Prior to becoming Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty had already made the remarkable public declaration that “all of her life, whether long or short, will be devoted to our service”.
So for 70 years, the Queen modeled her reign on the One who said, “He who is great among you will be your servant. And whoever wants to be the first will be a slave of all. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).
This is how Jesus of Nazareth defined his leadership: service, self-denial and sacrifice – dying to effect the salvation of all mankind.
The way up is down on our knees – the amazing paradox of service. Remember that the King of kings was the servant of servants “He who is greatest among you will be the servant of all” (Mark 10:44).
This is an amazing reference! It’s counter-cultural in a world that can’t tell service from servility and measures power in megatons.
At this very moment, Ukraine is in danger of being pulverized.
This is not the first time that force has demanded to be right.
My prayer for Ukraine – inspired by Psalm 72 – is that the Savior King, true channel of heavenly justice, defend the poor and vulnerable and bring harmony of nature, health and abundance.
How blessed we are in our Sovereign. “Keeping herself in the love of God” (Jude 21a), the virtues of the Christian ideals of love of neighbor and compassion shaped the Queen’s leadership.
Conforming his life to the example of Jesus Christ; his insight into God, the world, self and others; his wisdom to know that his continued servitude to the people of the Commonwealth depends on God alone; his companionship and friendship with Christ, in joy and desolation, is central to growing his life into Christlikeness.
The Holy Spirit working in her made service and duty her daily way of life.
Our Commonwealth needs people whose ideal is service – people who have realized the common sense of Jesus.
Her Majesty is the head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.
The word – Commonwealth – may be more vision than reality, but it still holds immeasurable value.
Not a ruling bloc, a political or military confederation, but a prototype of countries working together for the common good.
Our nations share a turbulent history with scars yet to be healed.
We are a work in progress with a common service and God is pushing us towards the future horizon of hope.
Without denying the past, we focus on what could still be – making the remarkable choice to belong together.
Old dependencies are now interdependent.
Voluntarily. Commonwealth, offer this concept, as a gift, to a world that calls for a common ideal.
At the end of the New Testament there is a marvelous vision of a new Heavenly City filled with Servants of God, nations with their achievements of culture and civilization, redeemed from all imperfections.
The faithful leaders of history are those who have glimpsed the world as it could be.
Although they did not see it happen in their lifetime, they died full of faith. This is hope: to live now as if something glorious yet to come were already true.
To live with such hope is to be a pioneer, to work tirelessly to make the vision a reality.
The pessimists regard this world as a depleted force; others are waiting for a divine airlift to transport them safely to another planet called “paradise”. Big mistake. God is not done with us. God’s plan is to transform his creation, not to destroy it. Resurrection, not extinction.
The Almighty continues to serve us and invites us to serve Him and each other. Inspired by Her Majesty, let us strive to leave the world a better, holier, joyful and friendly place than it was when we were born. Long live the queen. Amen.
Lord Sentamu of Lindisfarne is the former Archbishop of York.
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