It was not until last Saturday night that I realised we were about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the accession of the Queen to the throne. I suspect that whatever anyone thinks about the role of the monarchy as an institution, they would have to respect the Queen for the way she has conducted herself over her reign. At the very beginning, she promised that she would serve us, her subjects. In her most recent message to mark the jubilee, she signed herself “your servant”, in her letter to the nation. Together with her Christian faith, perhaps because of it, service has been central to her life. It was also something that her late husband, Philip understood, as became apparent in the tributes paid to him at his funeral a few months ago.
Ideas of service and duty can be misused; they can be part of a structure to hold individuals down. But Jesus himself took on the role of a servant; indeed, in the account of how he washed his disciples’ feet, he identifies himself not just as a servant but, in the Greek used by the Apostle John to describe the event, as a slave. Perhaps that is a shocking thought, but elsewhere, the service taught by Jesus, that of living in total mutual love, is described as liberation, “perfect freedom” from the self-interest of the world. That I think is a quality the Queen seeks to model in her life; it is also something we can also aspire to. The servant may be the one who is truly free.