Just before the final committal of the Queen’s coffin to the vaults of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, the great imperial symbols of monarchy were removed. The crown, orb and sceptre that had been bestowed on the young Sovereign at her coronation were placed on the high altar to be kept in safety by the nation for a royal successor. Not that the removal of these precious emblems in any way diminished the reverence in which the Queen had been held, nor did it lessen the gratitude felt for her unlimited dedication. From her own testimony, we know that the Queen had already received a crown more durable and indestructible, the Crown of Righteousness. Above all other treasures, the Queen rested on the confidence that this crown was gained not by merit, nor through dynastic line, but by the grace of God in response to her sincere commitment to faith in Christ Jesus as her substitute and living advocate.
Nearing the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul explained to young Timothy, his expectation in these terms. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4v7,8)
Adopted into the family of God, his children know that regardless of status, wealth or achievement, their greatest riches are the riches they have in Christ, and the promise of heaven is their eternal hope. Eternally connected to that great event of salvation, they were redeemed from death to life. Now they carry the honour of speaking for the King of Kings as ambassadors. This great privilege brings sacred responsibility and guidance, especially perhaps for a monarch, who must live under the spotlight and constant scrutiny of the watching world.
Yet monarchs, like all of us, experience the whole gamut of emotions that humanity confronts. Some have sought power, some have come with trepidation to wear the mantle placed around their shoulders. Others have stepped up with a sense of destiny that will require courage, dedication and personal discipline to stand as a rallying point and curator of national identity with all ethnicities nestling under one banner of unity. In tribute to the Queen, the great Commonwealth of Nations, displaying the colours and uniforms of their own ancient lines of origin, joined together to create a visual demonstration of mutual bonds.
Long ago, we abandoned the principle of the Divine Right of Kings which had given an excess of unquestioned power into the hands of one individual. Thereafter, the crown was worn by the consent of the people. The monarch, like all citizens was accountable to God for mode of conduct. Rather than issuing decrees, they embraced servant-hood. Queen Elizabeth said, “I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can give you my heart and devotion to these old islands and to all the people of our brotherhood of nations.” In the servant-hood of Jesus, she found her perfect example.
When a dispute arose amongst the disciples regarding status, Jesus taught them by saying, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20v25-28) True greatness comes with humility and service.
From that perspective, Charles Wesley wrote his great hymn of worship, Love Divine all Loves Excelling. It ends with words that every disciple may echo.
“Changed from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place
Till we cast our crowns before you
Lost in wonder, love and praise.”