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For the long haul1 year ago
As her 71st year on the throne continues, Queen Elizabeth has told us that she remains committed to serving us to the best of her ability. In this week’s Blog Kevin Roberts, our former Director, reflects upon the example of the Queen’s “long obedience in the same direction” and the gospel invitation to each of us to live out God’s call on our lives wholeheartedly and for as long as God calls us.
“Now the big clear up begins.” So said one of the royal correspondents on the Sunday evening news as the final event of this remarkable Platinum Jubilee Weekend came to a close. Indeed, as the clear up begins in central London the bunting and banners are being taken down from homes and public buildings around the country and the Commonwealth.
As I walked out this morning, I couldn’t help but see the number of empty wine bottles and other reminders of the weekend’s celebrations overflowing my neighbours’ recycling bins! This has been a remarkable weekend, a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, and one that has left us with some enduring memories of our sovereign Queen and the events held in her honour. Who will ever forget the Jubilee concert and light show? Or the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s?
What will perhaps go unnoticed today is the Queen, at her remarkable age, and despite her increasing infirmity, still getting on with the job.
Still in the saddle
After all the celebrations for her 70 years on the throne, the Queen will today be getting on with her 71st year; at the age of 96 still opening her red box of government papers and, by all accounts working a 40-hour week. She is quite sensibly devolving some of her responsibilities to the Prince of Wales and other members of her family, but there is no indication that she is intending to step down or stop working. Infact, in her final message at the conclusion of this weekend’s celebrations she said “I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family”. In effect. I’m going nowhere! I may need a bit of help, but, to quote the Archbishop of York in his sermon at the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s, I’m “still in the saddle”.
The Queen is being utterly true to the public promise she made on her 21st birthday that her “whole life whether it be long or short will be devoted to (our) service”. I can well see the bunting coming out again when in 2 years’ time she surpasses Louis XIV of France’s record of 72 years, as the longest ever reigning monarch. And, in the meantime, she will be getting on with the job!
For the long haul
It is this faithfulness for the long haul and this whole-life inhabiting of her calling that I think we can learn from for our own discipleship.
It seems to me that this is utterly gospel. It is the way of Jesus Himself. And it is what He asks of us as His disciples. When He calls us to something He asks us to step into it fully, wholeheartedly, and whatever the costs and inconveniences might be. Not hankering after someone else’s calling. Not wishing constantly that He had called us to something different. Not dipping our toes into our calling and hedging our bets. But inhabiting our calling, whatever that might be. Stepping right in. Giving ourselves to it with a full heart and unyielding commitment. And keeping on, until the One who called us tells us that our job is done.
In a culture where short-termism and life-on-my-terms can wash over into our outlook as Christian disciples, our Queen has set what can feel like a counter-cultural challenge to us in our discipleship, a deeply gospel challenge, to be those who inhabit our calling for the long haul; to be those who keep going in the commission God has given us, however hard it may be at times, until God tells us that our work is done.
I’m not saying that all our commissions and callings are for the long term, but maybe there is a challenge today to some of us listening to this message, to keep going for the long journey; to commit ourselves afresh to a long obedience in the same direction.
The Spirit of Pentecost
And to find God’s grace, provision and power for such a journey in the grace, provision and power of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Day of Pentecost, as we have also been celebrating this last weekend.
Keeping going can be hard at times. It was for Queen Elizabeth through her ‘annus horribilis’ in 1992 and she has had plenty of years since when the challenges, private and public, have mounted up.
Saying ‘Yes’ to God’s call on our life can at times seems to ask too much of us and we begin to hanker after an easier way, a less demanding calling. But the Spirit given to us in Christ is the Spirit “with us and in us” for the difficult demands of our life’s calling as well as for the easy and invigorating stretches. The Spirit is given to us for the long haul out of Jerusalem and into Judea and on to Samaria and on to the ends of the earth. Wherever God calls us, for however long He gives us His commission and whatever may be asked of us along the way the Holy Spirit is counsellor and comforter and advocate and friend, right alongside us.
So, today the Queen is getting on with her 71st year on the throne. Still “in the saddle”. May she know the grace and help of the paraclete in such a long and costly journey of obedience. And in whatever God has asked of us today, may we know that same power and provision of the Holy Spirit wherever God has called us to a long obedience in the same direction.