HRH Prince Philip - Sermon by Fr Jeremy
Sermon preached at All Saints, Boyne Hill in thanksgiving for the Life of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
11th April 2021
Doubting Thomas, a week after the other disciples, sees the Risen Lord. He responds with the words, My Lord and my God.’ He see’s Jesus as a friend and as God his Saviour. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Two people who believed and offered service, duty and loyalty to this country, the Commonwealth and the world over 69 years are Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip who on Friday died at the age of 99 and who Prince Charles spoke of yesterday as his ‘dear Pa Pa who will be missed enormously by his family and by so many from this country and from around the world.’ The Duke of Edinburgh served Queen, Country and Commonwealth following their marriage in 1947 and the Coronation in 1953 when 20,000,000 watched television sets to see the service from Westminster Abbey. The Queen made vows to serve her people in all her actions, with all her heart and all of her mind. She asked that she would be devoted to God’s service and would need the support of her people. The first person following the Bishops, to pledge loyalty to the Queen was Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.
The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest serving consort in British history who put his Naval career aside to become as The Queen described at their Golden Wedding Anniversary ‘Mt strength and stay.’ The Duke of Edinburgh’s support to the Queen during 73 years of Christian marriage and nearly 70 years as consort was remarkable and has helped the Queen in her resilience and sense of duty.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday on the BBC that Jesus said ‘ If anyone would be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me. Philip did this said Justin Welby by following Christ and the Queen. The Archbishop went on to say ‘that this is Eastertime, a time when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not the end and in remembering Philip we celebrate a life well lived, who died well.’
The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, spoke emotionally yesterday and said, ‘His presence (The Duke of Edinburgh) has been a reassurance, a reminder of the stability we so often need to a world that can be so uncertain.’
His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh as well as being a ‘Strength and stay’ to the Queen and indeed to this country and the Commonwealth also contributed significantly within a number of areas of life that are crucial at anytime in history but perhaps even more so during the Pandemic.
The Environment – Prince Philip became a conservationist before it became fashionable. One of his great passions in life was wildlife and he became International President to the Worldwide Fund for Nature. On it’s 25th anniversary he arranged for it to be held in Assisi the home of St Francis, patron Saint of birds and animals to forge a permanent alliance between conservation and religion. Philip said about man’s relationship to the natural world (Which finds echo’s in what James Martin has shared with us as a Jesuit view of praying through nature) ‘if God in is in nature, nature itself becomes divine, and from that point it becomes reasonable to argue that reverence for God and for nature implies a responsibility not to harm it, not just for our own selfish interests, but also as a duty to a creator.’
Young people – At a time when we need to support young people all the more, we find inspiration from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme set up in 1956. The creator was Kurt Hahn, Philip’s headmaster at Gordonstoun school and was viewed as a way of complimenting academic study. The award is now operating in 141 countries and more than two and half million young people have received awards in the UK alone. I found my personal ‘Duke of Edinburgh’s Award record Book’ for the silver award. It has written inside the words of the Duke of Edinburgh.
‘I hope that in taking part in the award scheme you will discover fresh interests and make new friends, and find satisfaction in giving service to others.
There are so many worthwhile activities from which you can make a choice and I hope that those which you decide to do will give you pleasure and increase your knowledge of the world and of yourself.’
The award enabled young people to discover new skills and interests and to make friends. My own book which I discovered over the weekend shows Police service, an expedition in the Black Mountains and a survey of historic buildings on Offers Dyke as well as service to the church of St John’s in Rogerstone, South Wales. So many people have been speaking on radio and television about their positive experiences of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. One man interviewed on BBC1 on the day of Philip’s death said that the award saved his life not just changed it. He had been serving time in prison when offered the chance to partake in the award and he is now a chef.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh’s faith – Philip supported clergy that had been struggling with fatigue in ministry, but he also possessed a committed faith in terms of his knowledge of the scriptures and his thoughtful questions of faith. Both John Sentamu and Justin Welby spoke of experiences when they had preached in front of Philip and he had asked deep and thought-provoking questions to their texts. ‘You had to be on your top game’, said Welby.
Let us return not Thomas. In chapter 11 of John’s gospel Jesus is called to return to the dangers of Bethany near to Jerusalem to help Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Thomas is frightened, but loyal and says, ‘let us also go that we may die with him.’ Note that the other disciples have said ‘Lord if he has fallen asleep, he will be alright.’ Fearing that they are entering danger by returning.
The second time Thomas is with the other disciples and Jesus in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday at the Last Supper. Thomas asks the piercing questions of faith. ‘Lord we do not know where you are going how will we know the way?’ This gives Jesus the opportunity to reply ‘ I am the way, the truth and the life, he who follows me will know the way to the Kingdom.’
The third occasion we hear of Thomas is at the time when he was not present at the resurrection of Jesus. In my humble opinion he desires what the other disciples have experienced. A week later and Jesus does appear, and Thomas says ‘My Lord and My God, yes he sees his friend and he sees his God. Let us pray that the loyal, supportive, deep thinker, the questioner and the man who had deep faith, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh sees his Lord and God, his friend and God.
As we think of the Queen having lost her husband of 73 years, we return to Scott Morrison the Australian Prime Minister. ‘You will find comfort in your faith and through your family. But we also your majesty, say to you as a Commonwealth, let us also now be your strength and stay, as you continue to endure, as you continue to serve so loyally and so faithfully, as you have done so over so many generations.’
In the Name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.’ Amen