Romans 8.28-39 God’s love in Christ Jesus
Proverbs 8.1-16 The gifts of wisdom
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
This evening we have gathered from across this Borough of Croydon to commemorate and give thanks, before God, for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Tomorrow the whole world gathers, virtually, with our United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for Her Late Majesty’s funeral service in Westminster Abbey.
The intention of services like this one, taking place in Cathedrals and Civic Churches throughout the land, is to enable communities to come together to pray, reflect, mourn and gives thanks for our Late Queen before tomorrow.
This was always a hope of the Queen in the plans for the events that would mark her death.
In death, as in life, she is a focal point for bringing disparate people together, which was surely part of her genius as our Queen.
In a richly diverse Borough such as ours we know just how important it is that people come together, trust one another, celebrate all that builds up the Common Good: the Queen embodied just that.
These last 10 days have been a most remarkable time.
We have been mourning the death of our Queen, sometimes surprised just how raw it has felt; we have been acclaiming the Accession of our new King; we have been acutely aware of the sadness of the Royal Family - she was their mother and grandmother –and many have queued to file past her body lying in state.
That is an emotional roller coaster for us, and how much more for King Charles and the Royal Family.
We must keep him and them all in our prayers.
The words of the scriptures this evening speak of ancient and enduring wisdom – ever old and ever new - and the conviction of the power of God’s love.
The first reading was from the book of Proverbs, a text of Hebrew wisdom literature shared by Jews and Christians.
The passage praises wisdom as ‘better than jewels’, as the key to a good life, truthful living, prudent decision making and resilience, and states,
By me [wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me [wisdom] rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly.
The Bible is consistent in saying that however bejewelled a crown; the monarch is nothing unless crowned with the wisdom that flows from God.
In challenging times, at all times, wisdom is profoundly needed in public and personal life.
That’s what we saw our late Queen who lived a life of wise insight.
The second reading was from a letter St Paul wrote to the earliest Christians in Rome.
It reflects on God’s purpose in human lives and our trials and tribulations.
‘Who will separate us from the love of Christ?’ he asks.
He concludes, in beautiful terms, that nothing in all creation ‘will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
This springs from St Paul’s conviction, shared by Christians to this day, of the deep hope of the resurrection: the conviction that life triumphs over death: light overcomes darkness: hope transforms despair; that death has lost its sting.
Her Late Majesty, a Christian, shared this faith and hope that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the definitive statement of God’s boundless love and salvation.
It was for her the rock and inspiration of her life; something of which she spoke so powerfully in her Christmas broadcasts.
In an Easter message during Covid she said: ‘"As dark as death can be - particularly for those suffering with grief - light and life are greater."
That sprang from her Christian hope.
The Queen’s Christian faith was serious, committed and sincere and the deep roots of her faith gave her the grace to be hospitable and always open to those who faith or belief was other than hers.
As a Borough, in all our richness, we commemorate her and give thanks for her.
Tonight, books of condolence have been placed before the altar and, in a few moments, candles will be lit, prayers offered and then the Bishop of Croydon will commend the Late Queen to God and we pray her on her way.
The evening comes: the evening of the day, the evening of life: tomorrow a new day dawns.
Tomorrow the mortal remains of our beloved Late Queen will be brought to a holy place; prayer will be offered and then she will be committed, beyond our sight, into the hands of the Eternal God, her maker and redeemer, and ours, before whom we all fall silent.
Support us, O Lord,
all the day long of this troublous life,
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging,
a holy rest, and peace at the last;
through Christ our Lord.