How then shall we live? – Mary-Anne Rulfs

While the official period of mourning for Queen Elizabeth draws to a close, it seems we are left with much to ponder, should we choose. It would be very easy to move on too quickly and shift our attention to the next big thing in world news or return to the minutiae of life without engaging more deeply with the gift of this unique time in our personal and national life.

As a woman, I have been particularly impacted by the way this quietly spoken, quite small-in-stature and, of recent times, elderly woman has commanded such enormous respect. She has demonstrated to the world how a follower of Christ might conduct themselves through the full spectrum of life experiences encompassing everything from the darkest and most heart-breaking of times to the most joy-filled and celebratory.

Faith. Generosity of spirit. Servant-hearted leadership. Family. Friendship. Forgiveness. Respect.

So as with any fleeting window of opportunity, how can we help make this unparalleled response of gratitude from so many people around the people be more than simply a moment in time? Authentically. Without idolising the queen in unrealistic ways, nor underestimating our own potential to influence the lives of others for good.

We often say to ourselves, “if only there was more media coverage of good news!”. Queen Elizabeth’s death, while sad, has brought so much that is good into the limelight.

          • The real possibility that as human beings we have far more in common with each other than those things that divide us.
          • What duty with compassion can look like
          • What drawing from a deep reservoir of strength and faith can look like in the midst of real tragedy and complexity, in personal as well as in public life.
          • What authentic servant leadership can look like – setting an example of living for and serving something/someone greater than oneself.

It’s been so refreshing to give our attention to someone who has captured the world’s attention by living from a code of decency, respect and service, rather than sensationally appalling behaviour driven by greed, unrestrained ego and disregard for others!

Many have said that Queen Elizabeth’s life of service wasn’t an act – it was who she was. And she has given us reason to pause and take stock.
(As a side note, I loved that you could tell the presiders at the various services in St Giles Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor were more than simply officiating clergy at a state funeral – they were Queen Elizabeth’s friends and spiritual counsellors, as had generations of deans, ministers and bishops before them.)

Our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, noted in his speech on Thursday’s National Memorial Service from Parliament House that Queen Elizabeth held to ‘timeless qualities’ and not ‘fashionable fads’ – decency, patience, service above self and respect for all. He said the greatest tribute to her memory and legacy that we can offer is not another plaque or statue, but rather to live our lives in like manner – through service to community and with respect for all people.

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbour as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10, 25-28

I was moved by Anthony Albanese’s reflection that when Queen Elizabeth first visited Australia she visited “a different nation in a different world”. She was a new queen of an empire in decline and nations were searching for meaning. She was committed to her reign being grounded on a monarch serving the people, not an empire serving the monarch. To achieve that, rather than resisting change, Queen Elizabeth observed and acknowledged change, decade by decade. She celebrated the evolution in Australia’s development. It seems she always wanted the best for the people of Australia.

In other words, while her reign was characterised by constant change in the world around her, Queen Elizabeth was able to navigate and embrace change by drawing on the timeless values that have characterised her life.

There’s something in that for those of us in the church, I believe. The church itself needn’t be the constant in our changing world – expressions of the church need to change to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world. What remains constant is God’s grace. God’s ever-presentness and never-giving-up, never-ending loving-kindness. From that solid grounding we can build our lives and the church for a new time in history.

Our role is to meet people where they are and help them give voice to their expression of faith in something greater than themselves. To make God possible, here and now amidst change and uncertainty, by reflecting the life of Christ in our own. To anchor the church in the goodness and mercy of God and invite people to share in God’s community of love.
At our Service of Prayer and Reflection last Monday we thought about these questions:

          • What stands out in your memory about The Queen?
          • What will you always remember about her?
          • What did you learn through her life and death, including about God in Jesus Christ?

As Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary life made visible the most extraordinary life of all – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who held power only through the rule of love and servant-hearted compassion – we can be encouraged to do the same in our own sphere of influence. And wait to be surprised by the ways that God’s life and love become accessible others.

Truly we are living in a season of grace.

God bless,