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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

2011 Queen's Birthday Sermon

It’s the Queen’s official birthday tomorrow and a lot of us here will get a day off work.  The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the occasion is marked publicly by gun salutes in central London at midday: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London.
Here’s a couple of things about the Queen you may not have known… 
She has sent around 100,000 telegrams to people turning 100.
She is the only British monarch in history properly trained to change a spark plug
On VE Day she and her sister slipped into the crowd to celebrate
She once demoted a footman for feeding her corgis whisky and she took Susan her corgi on her honeymoon.  
The Queen is the only person in Britain who can drive without a license or a registration number on her car. And she doesn't have a passport.
But I’m a little confused to why people all around the world get a day off to commemorate her birthday?  I had my birthday a couple of weeks ago and there wasn’t a public holiday to celebrate.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume that no one here gets a public holiday when they get a year older.
Why do we value her birthday more than our own?
However, in the reading from 1 Peter today it says “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.”
Sometimes it’s hard to be content isn’t it?  I find it especially hard when I am being bombarded with advertising keeps telling me that there is no way I could be truly happy without paying for health, life and funeral insurance!  The ads tell me I need a bigger, safer car and more locks for my front door.  
Yet, God tells us not to worry about tomorrow.  We heard today that we should “live carefree before God; he is most careful with you”. 
Carefree – what does that mean? 
In contrast to the media coverage of the Queen’s Birthday I saw a disturbing interview on Close Up the other night.  They were taking a break from interviewing crazy preachers predicting the end of the world and instead decided to cover the teenage vampire fad.  Three teenagers were involved in an assault on another person.  Not only did they beat him but they also bit him and were accused of drinking his blood.  The reporter interviewed a teenager who wasn’t involved in the case but who admitted that he too was involved in drinking human blood.  When asked about the hazards of this weird pastime the young man was adamant that it was a dangerous thing to do, you could get diseases and it warned everyone watching that they shouldn’t even try it.  He was quite convincing.  The reporter then repeated these dangers to the teenager and asked “so, why do you take these risks”?  The young many replied…. “well, I just don’t care”.
Is this living carefree?  I guess it is but I don’t think it’s the kind of carefree life that we heard about tonight.  Since seeing that interview I keep asking myself why this young guy didn’t care.  Did he believe his life had no value?  Therefore it didn’t matter what he did with it? 
When I first came out of the closest … as a Christian … and was more honest with my friends at the Science Museum in London why I wasn’t going to the pub on Sunday nights – I got a few strange responses.  My favourite was “but only posh people go to church Emily”.  It made me laugh a lot but on reflection it was a little sad too as my friend had a perception that only a certain group of people were welcome at church.  Hopefully I helped break that stereotype.   
It’s clear from the generations of stories in the Bible that God values each one of us.  In fact there is an argument that strongly suggests that he prefers to use people that we humans don’t value as much as we probably should. For example:
Jacob was a liar.

Miriam was a bigot and a gossip
Moses stuttered.
King David had a very loose love life.
Elijah suffered from depression.
Abraham was old as.
David was too young.
Timothy had ulcers.
Ester was a concubine.
Mary wasn’t married.
Peter was afraid of death and Lazarus … well he was dead.

In God’s eyes we are all GnTs.  At Aunty Margaret’s school that’s the term they give their Gifted and Talented kids.  And like Aunty Margaret says “what’s the point of having God-given talents if you don’t God-given do anything about them”?    
So, how did Jesus disciples cope?  Only 43 days ago they watched their beloved teacher hung to death on a cross.  Then they had to get their heads around him dying and then, even more confusingly, rising from the dead!  Now they have to watch him disappear into thin air! 
They coped as by this time they were absolutely convinced that God loved them.  They had grown a confidence that I can only wish for.  Jesus disappeared and they decided then and there that they would use their gifts for good and they went on to do amazing things.
God gave us life.  It’s a gift and it’s a pretty good one at that.  We need to value it just as much as God does.  God wants us to enjoy the gift of life that he has given us.  It’s a message lots of us have heard lots of times, but it’s still important.  And if you haven’t heard it – we are glad you have.  We might value some people more than others – but God loves us all equally. 
Let’s pray together:     Lord, help us to see life as the gift that it is.   Forgive us that sometimes we forget how valuable it is.  Help us to enjoy each day and not worry about the future.  Give us the confidence that we desperately seek, the confidence that comes from accepting your love.  Amen.  

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