Easter was an emotional time for the first disciples. First came the crash landing of the crucifixion. Then there was the shock, disbelief, wonder, amazement and sheer joy of the resurrection, a joy greater than anything produced by songs or flowers, a joy springing from new life in the midst of death.
During his time with the disciples, Jesus had tried to prepare them for his death. And in both Mark and Matthew we read that he gave them this special promise: “After I have risen I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Again according to Mark and Matthew, that promise is repeated by the messenger waiting by the empty tomb: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.”
Galilee is home. Galilee is the place where the disciples can take up their normal life again, their daily rhythm, go fishing, think about what has happened, prepare for what is to come.
We too have been busy and will be busy. Busy worshipping, busy doing church, busy helping others. We need occasionally to be kind to ourselves. We need for a little while to find our own quiet Galilee, where we can relax in God’s love and let him point the way for us.
As I write to you this month our Queen celebrates her 90th birthday. She has served as head of state since 6th February 1952: 64 years. A lady born on the day our Queen became Head of State would have started claiming her pension two years ago, but not our Queen. Whether you, dear Reader, are a Royalist or Republican, I think you have to admit she has done, and continues to do, a great job to front our country to the world. She undertakes several hundred functions per year at home and tens of functions abroad. She is a patron of over 600 charities.
She has had her ups and downs, good times and bad, has been both feted and criticised and coped with it all. Much of this she has had to do in the public eye. If we have a down time we can usually do it fairly privately! She has been wise in knowing when to speak and when not to speak and has kept out of controversy (she has left that to the rest of her family!).
For me, one of the things that makes her great is her constant faith. She is open about her faith and takes her responsibilities seriously. In the foreword to the book ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’, published by the Bible Society, London Institute of Contemporary Christianity and HOPE (an ecumenical organisation) she writes:
In my first Christmas broadcast in 1952, I asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation. I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness.
I grew up with the Frost Report and a famous sketch is John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet about class: I look up to him…but down to him (etc). You can find it on YouTube if you don’t know it.
Our Queen is head of state and we look up to her. Whether she looks down on us isn’t for me to say! But she looks up to God, she recognises she is in the middle. I am reminded of the story of Jesus encountering a Centurion at Capernaum. The soldier’s servant was ill and he asked Jesus to heal the servant. The soldier comments he is under orders, but he gives order too. Jesus remarks on just how profound that statement is. Read the story in Matthew 8.5-13. Our Queen takes her example from the Roman centurion.
Some heads of state see themselves as gods or are treated as gods; they recognise no power outside of themselves and live as though they were above the law. Historically some cultures have treated their head of state as a god. That is not a danger here: our Queen knows that despite all the grandeur in which she lives despite all the power she exerts at home and in the commonwealth, she is under the authority of God, that is where true majesty lies, and from whence she receives wisdom and other gifts to fulfil her role.
We are able as a nation to celebrate 64 years of unstinting service and take that service as our example. Strength and wisdom come from God and we can use that to drive our words and deeds in the ordinary world in which we live.