“I have been – and remain – very grateful to ... God for His steadfast love.
I have seen his faithfulness,“
These were the words spoken by Queen Elizabeth on her 90th birthday. Words that pointed, not to her, or her reign, or even her country or commonwealth or kingdom – but that pointed to a King whose reign will never end, and whose throne will never pass away, and whose Kingdom will never be shaken – a God who is steadfast, and faithful. Whose word is true, and whose word is enough.
As we gather this morning, after what has been a surreal few days, we’ve gathered, probably, for different reasons and with different emotions. For some, it’ll be because we want to pay our respects to one who served her country so diligently. For others, maybe it’s a sense of sadness and empathy with those children and grandchildren who have lost their mother and grandmother. Maybe even some of us have a bit of anger – after all that this year is throwing at us, now this? Maybe it’s a bit of all these and something more.
However we feel, and whatever we bring this morning, these words from Revelation encourage and challenge us. They point to a time when The home of God is among mortals
He will dwell with them;
They will be his peoples,
And God himself will be with them;
He will wipe every tear from their eyes
Death will be no more;
Mourning and crying and pain will be no more
These words are from the book of Revelation, written probably by John in around the year 70AD, at a time when persecution was on the rise and the Roman Empire are getting more and more angry towards this growing group of people who follow some so-called resurrected Christ. The anger is leading to unfair treatment of Christians, and a level of persecution which is ‘worship the roman emperor or face the beasts in the Colosseum’ style persecution
I mention this context, because it’s important. Because it reminds us that it’s probably not just us today that we read these words and think – great – but why do we have to wait? Why can’t we have it NOW?’
We’re not the only ones that gather with questions, with anger, with upset- this has been something believers have held and gathered with since the church began
Today, however we are, whatever our life is carrying at the moment – we’re allowed to be honest with God. He knows it all anyway, so we come as we are – with our questions, with our ‘why do we have to wait for all to be perfect’ questions, with our doubts
The next part of the reading says
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new’ Also he said, ‘Write this for the words are trustworthy and true.
Right at the beginning of this reflection, I read the words of the late Queen – who said ‘I have indeed seen his faithfulness’.
We worship, and Her Majesty worshipped, a faithful God who speaks words of faithfulness. Whose voice at creation boomed ‘Let there be light’ – and there was light – and Christ’s whose bloodstained mouth croaked ‘it is finished’ at the cross – and it was.
God is faithful. We see this through the whole story of the Bible – God tells people to do something, they ignore him, and he still faithfully bears with them. We see it right back in creation, when Adam and Eve choose to do the one thing they are told not to do – and God still chooses to lovingly clothe them before they leave the garden. We see it when the people of God are walking around the desert – despite being saved from slavery they’re still moaning, but God sticks with them till they reach the promised land.
There are so many other stories – but let me tell you of one.
I don’t know if you remember something that happened at the same time the death of the Queen was announced. A stunning clear rainbow, stretching over both Windsor and Buckingham palaces, just as millions of people were hearing of the Queen’s death for the first time.
Now some might write this off as coincidence. But I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m pretty sceptical. You know what they say about coincidences – the more you pray, the more they happen – but actually, why wouldn’t God speak through a rainbow? In the Bible we see God speaking through fire, a blinding light, and even a donkey – so why not a natural event like this?
You see rainbows are a symbol of God’s faithfulness. Years ago, God had flooded the world to get rid of sin, and started again with Noah – and he said this ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I made between me and you and every living creature that is with you for future generations………. I have my bow in the clouds
I believe that God, the one who will wipe every tear from every eye one day, gave us a foretaste of that by sending that rainbow. A rainbow to remind us that, whatever happens, whatever life throws at us or how uprooted we may be – that his steadfast love won’t depart from us, and his peace won’t be removed – and his compassion will rest on us.
We may feel today that the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death has uprooted us. It may have dug up old memories of hurt and loss – or revealed worries or fears we might have about our future or families’ future.
Her Majesty trusted in Jesus. She was grateful for his love, and she had seen his faithfulness.
My prayer for all of us is that we might know, - might truly know, that lifechanging love, and hell bursting faithfulness of Jesus for ourselves, and that we might follow the Queen’s example in following and confessing the King of Kings.
The one whose throne is eternal, and whose reign was, - and is, - and is to come.