Bible readings & sermon delivered on 11 September 2022, by The Revd Karen Charman, following the death of Mer Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


Almighty God,

who called your Church to bear witness

that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:

help us to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be drawn to you;

through him who was lifted up on the cross,

and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion

God our creator,

you feed your children with the true manna,

the living bread from heaven:

let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage

until we come to that place

where hunger and thirst are no more;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


1 Timothy 1.12-17

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Luke 15.1-10

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’                                                             

 So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.                                                                                              

‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. …

How do you begin a sermon, on the Sunday after the death of Britain’s longest-reigning – and probably most-loved – monarch?  What can I possibly say, that hasn’t already been said far more eloquently by someone else?

These were the questions which vexed me for much of yesterday … until, in the evening, sitting in the dark in church, near the memorial space so lovingly set up by volunteers, and praying, again, for inspiration, I felt that I was being guided towards the Post Communion prayer.

So, let’s start there, with the Post Communion prayer.  It’s inside your pew sheet, just after the Gospel reading, which we’ve just heard:

Let’s pray:

God our creator,

you feed your children with the true manna,

the living bread from heaven:

let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage

until we come to that place

where hunger and thirst are no more;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christians believe – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II believed – that Jesus Christ is the true manna, the living bread from heaven.  Jesus is the holy food who sustains us, and who sustained our beloved Queen through the 96 years of her earthly pilgrimage, until she came – on Thursday afternoon – “to that place where hunger and thirst are no more”: our eternal resting place and heavenly home.

His Majesty King Charles III ended his first address to the nation, on Friday evening, with the beautiful and moving words: “May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.”

A lovely, apt quotation, as many of you will perhaps know, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.[1]

And I believe that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is now at rest – though whether flights of angels sang her there, or not, I cannot tell.  Though I am certain that our courageous Queen will have feared no ill, as she walked through death’s dark vale, with her dear Lord beside her – and perhaps she did hear the angels singing as she completed her earthly pilgrimage.

We gather here today at a time of national mourning, and the two Bible readings we’ve just heard may strike you as rather strange for a service to which many of you, I expect, have come to remember, and to pay your respects to our Queen, to give thanks for her life, and, perhaps, to express your own grief or great sadness at her death. 

Perhaps you’re feeling anxious or troubled.  Perhaps the Queen’s death has re-awoken memories of your own losses, or brought a sharpened realisation that your own loved ones will one day come to the end of their earthly pilgrimage.  Perhaps you feel a little lost, or numb, or just felt that you had to come to church today, without quite knowing why. 

And that’s fine – all are welcome here, whether you come most weeks, or just for funerals and Christmas, or even if you haven’t been for many, many years.  You are welcome here, and I hope you’ll find some peace and healing, or whatever you’re hoping for, and know that you are abundantly and unconditionally loved.

Let’s look quickly at those readings. 

The letter to Timothy begins well enough, and those opening words seem highly appropriate as we remember Her Majesty our Queen: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service …”  Those words could almost have been written by our Queen herself; for she often spoke – in her annual Christmas Day speech, and on other occasions – of her own faith in the Jesus who strengthened and inspired her throughout her long reign.  But I expect many of us are a little less comfortable with the focus on sinfulness and sin which follows, both in the letter to Timothy and in the Gospel reading, with its Parable of the Lost Sheep.

It might seem rather disrespectful … disloyal even … to speak of our beloved Queen as a sinner or, even, as a lost sheep.  In times of mourning, we prefer to dwell on virtues, and to overlook vices.  We deliver eulogies, or tributes – speaking well of those who have died and, often, failing to acknowledge their vices or flaws.  And it is rather difficult to imagine that our much-loved Queen had many failings.

Her Majesty the Queen though, as a committed Christian, and faithful and humble servant, would be one of the first to recognise that we are all sinners.  We all, occasionally, fall short of our true potential as beloved children, created in the image of God, and created for loving relationships, with God and with our neighbours.  But our Queen also understood – through her faith – that we aren’t defined by our sin.  We are defined by God’s unconditional love for us, and by his abundant mercy and grace.  Our Queen knew herself to be reconciled and forgiven,[2] through Jesus, and through his death and resurrection – and that forgiveness and reconciliation was offered once, for all of us, upon the cross.  God offers that same love, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation to all of us – and invites each one of us to turn away from sin and to turn to Christ – the true manna and living bread.

It’s hard to think of our Queen as a lost sheep … though I imagine, after the death last year of her beloved husband, Prince Philip, there will have been times when Queen Elizabeth felt a little lost and abandoned – as many of us feel when we have been bereaved.  Remember her sitting all alone, socially distancing, at Philip’s funeral last March, and how vulnerable and isolated she appeared.

Jesus, though, is the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for all the sheep of his fold – and who has a special concern for the lost and the broken.

If you can’t see Her Majesty our Queen as a lost sheep, then perhaps you could imagine yourself as that sheep: a sheep so precious to our Lord Jesus Christ that he will readily leave the 99 to search for you, and will continue calling, and searching, and seeking until he finds you, and brings you home rejoicing. 

Can you see yourself as that precious sheep, loved so much by God that he sends his only Son to search for you, and save you? 

Her Majesty our Queen knew herself to be loved by the Good Shepherd.  I Imagine that, as she walked the green hills and purple moorlands around her beloved Balmoral Estate, accompanied by black labs and corgis, she often sang to herself one of her favourite hymns – The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want –  and thought of the Lord who leads us beside the still waters.

Whatever – or whoever – might have led you to church today – whether you come most weeks, or haven’t been for years – I pray that you will draw inspiration, comfort and strength from the example and faith of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and from her Lord Jesus Christ, who appointed her to his service, and who strengthened her throughout her 70 years as our monarch.

Your Majesty – our much-loved Queen – may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, and may there be great joy in heaven, as you take your place among all the saints and sinners who worship at the throne of the King.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the ages – immortal, invisible, the only God – to whom be honour and glory, for ever and ever.


[1] Hamlet Act 5

[2] Queen’s Speech 2014