Jubilee is an ancient Jewish principle, originally found in Leviticus, and was celebrated every 50 years. In that year, all debts were forgiven, and slaves were freed, and property was returned to its original owner – well, that’s the simple version. Scholars also suggest that the use of 50 years (ie the year after the end of seven sevens) is done to parallel the fifty days between Passover and the Feast of Shavuot, which marks the revelation of the Torah to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.
Which brings me to our own Jubilee year, celebrating the fact that Queen Elizabeth has reigned over us for seventy years – longer than any other monarch in these isles. She is very nearly the longest reigning monarch in recorded history, bested only by Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and Louis XIV of France, but as Louis was not yet five when he became king of France in 1643, I think he had something of an advantage!!
Whilst sadly the prospect of a global debt jubilee is extremely unlikely, or indeed any of the other aspects of biblical Jubilee, jubilees are important celebrations. They are moments of reviewing all that went before, and starting a new chapter. In the case of Queen Elizabeth, given her position as Head of the Church of England, and her own deep personal and staunch Christian faith, the biblical aspect seems worth pointing out. Whilst it is another year to the 70th anniversary of her coronation (2nd June 1953), in that year Pentecost had fallen the previous day, on Sunday 1st June. Given her faith, I wonder if the date of her coronation was chosen to fall at Pentecost. And it seems a wonderful and beautiful coincidence that the celebration of her Platinum Jubilee as monarch also falls on this significant biblical festival, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the first disciples whilst they were in the Temple, and they spoke in every language. That festival – Shavuot for the Jews – became Pentecost for the Christians, and is usually considered the birthday of the Church. On the festival of the day that the Torah (or Old Covenant) was given to Moses, the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit was poured out, as Jesus had promised.
I was reflecting on all this in the context of Queens and Kings, and thinking also of the fact that Queens and Kings have traditionally been seen as anointed by God to take on the task and responsibility of rule. Our Queen has taken that duty so very seriously, every day of her life. In April 1947, she said “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service… But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.“
At her accession, she swore faithfully to uphold the duty which had been laid upon her. At her coronation, she was anointed with holy oil, she was blessed by God through the Archbishops, given the grace of the Holy Spirit in a new way, and formally given this holy task. And she has stood firm through seventy years, seeing almost unimaginable changes and developments, holding strong through it all.
All of us are called and anointed by God to a particular task, and that is unique to each one of us. Most of us do not have to carry that task for seventy years! But may God give us grace and strength to carry our tasks and callings for as long as they are ours to bear. And may God give to the Queen peace and blessing as she celebrates this incredible milestone. For her wisdom, care, duty, and faithfulness, thanks be to God.
Gracious God, we give you thanks
for the reign of your servant Elizabeth our Queen,
and for the example of loving and faithful service
which she has shown among us.
Help us to follow her example of dedication
and to commit our lives to you and to one another,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.