15 April 2021
“He has, quite simply, been my strength and my stay all these years.” That was the touching tribute paid by Her Majesty the Queen to her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2011. They are especially touching because they are so personal, and because she always chooses her words so carefully. And bear in mind that they had been married 63 years when she said it.
It is not my place to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh. Many have already done a better job of that than I could, speaking of his devotion to his wife and family, his role and the country, of his sense of duty and of fun, and of the sacrifices that made all that possible.
Part of the sadness for me in seeing him pass is that he’s always been there – until now. He was already 40 when I was born. It’s another reminder of time passing, and the fact that none of us will always be here. In the brutal yet undeniably true comparison I read recently, this world is a “death camp.” No one gets out alive.
By the time most of you read or hear what I have written, the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh will have taken place – although, as I write, we have yet to see the order of service. It may well contain these words from the Book of Common Prayer: “Man … cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower.” As Psalm 103 says, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” No matter who we are, royalty or not.
Then comes one of the great ‘Buts’ in the Bible, and it changes everything: “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.” How can the Lord’s love be with anyone from everlasting to everlasting? Because he is from everlasting to everlasting, and he has conquered death for those who are not, those who are mortal, which is all of us – for every one of us who trusts in his Son Jesus, whom he raised from the dead.
If Her Majesty can rightly say that her husband has been her strength and her stay all these years, how much more can we say that the Lord has been – and will be – our strength and our stay all the years: the years past, the years to come, the years without end.
Father, we thank you for the life and example of the Duke of Edinburgh, and ask you to comfort all who mourn his passing, especially Her Majesty the Queen and the rest of their family. May they find you to be their strength and their stay both now and for ever. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister