The Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany

On this day in 1952 Princess Elizabeth, in Kenya at the time, acceded the throne upon the
death of her father, King George VI, and so began the longest reign of a British monarch – a
second Elizabethan age so to speak. Today the Platinum Anniversary of Her Majesty’s reign
begins and we still say, ‘God save the Queen!’.

I expect even those who want a republic will still say, ‘God save the Queen!’ or similar senti-
ment and make a distinction between the type of gov-
ernment they’d prefer and this monarch in a parlia-
mentary constitutional monarchy. After the fall of nu-
merous royal houses at the beginning of last century,

through all the changes in society these past 70
years, against all the discussion of privilege and the
rise of and increasing fragmentation of the ‘general
public’, my view is that no one denies Her Majesty’s
work ethic, sense of duty, and, more than that, her
desire to serve – and the service she has undertaken
– in the role in which she has found herself. Her place
and behaviour can help us think through the ‘body
politic’ – us in the society in which we find ourselves.
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy that Christians should pray for all people in our society
and particularly for “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1,2). This was in the
time of Emperor Nero who was not renowned as a friend of Christians or a good and stable
Emperor. Paul was calling for prayer for rulers so that everyone may live peacefully, quietly,
and in good order (with laws and justice) and the head of state is a key component of society.
I recall in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ when the rabbi is asked whether there is a proper prayer for
the Tsar, he replies, “May God bless and keep the Tsar … far away from us!”. I think we want
those in leadership to serve for the good of all – also called the ‘common good’ which doesn’t
mean we fawn over them in our prayers as if they are perfect nor do we want them so far
removed from us that they are despised.
In our liberal democratic society with its parliamentary system, I think we recognise that what
binds us together politically are trust, accountability, and character (in ancient times these
might have been called virtues). It is a three legged stool on which society rests. The less we
see of any of the legs or if the legs are fragile, the outcome is the same – it is not stable –
and people revert to power and alliances, greed and dominance. Laws or rules, by the way,
are not enough for our social well-being and they can never be the only source of cohesion of
any group whether that be a clan, congregation, classroom, company, even country. They

may set the parameters of behaviour and consequences, reflect common values and out-
comes but they cannot be the source of well-being.

I believe that our well-being – our meaning and purpose – are found in relationships. And this
is true for this world and for eternity. For eternity, Christians have found in Jesus who points
us to the Triune Mystery that God is trustworthy and faithful, that God takes accountability
seriously while at the same time rescuing us from the world we have made which reveals his
gracious character. Through Jesus we are given a new life and we follow him in this world to
live as people who are trustworthy, take responsibility for our behaviour, and desire to be
shaped by Jesus and we know we reveal a very imperfect picture of God’s character.
It also means that we seek trustworthiness, accountability, and character in all who have
any leadership among us because then they are best equipped to do what leadership is
always supposed to do – serve others.
And that is why, I think, people today still say, ‘God save the Queen!’. What they say about
other leaders is another question! GS