The Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II fell on February 6th, when much was said and written about her life of devotion, service, and love; of the light within, which she radiates and confesses — “the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace”, who she said has been “an inspiration and an anchor” in her life. Her life has been all of our lives: she has simply always been there, and in the grace of her years we have laughed and cried our days and nights, but she has been our constant. And now the whole United Kingdom celebrates her magnificent longevity, along with many people in her other realms of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
And many people from all over the world will watch and wonder at the British pomp and pageantry, which is not empty ritual, as CS Lewis observed:
Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar’s head at a Christmas feast—all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual.
The ritual of jubilee has its origins in the Bible: the book of Leviticus ordains a sabbath year every seven years (25:1-7), and a jubilee year every 50 (vv8-17). In a sabbath year, the fields would lie fallow to permit them ‘rest’ and restoration. In a jubilee year, leased or mortgaged lands were returned to their original owners, and slaves and laborers were free to return to their families. It was a year of economic equity, social equality, and liberty: Israelites could not be permanently indebted to Israelites, and neither could they be enslaved in perpetuity.
Whether that economic order ever worked or not is moot, but it made and still makes sense theologically. Every 50th year of jubilee was a reminder that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; that the land belongs to God, and His people are only the stewards or caretakers, just passing through. The wealthy and powerful were not omnipotent: their duty was kindness, compassion and generosity.
When it comes to private property in the United Kingdom, there is no wealthier land-owner than the Crown, much of which was seized from the Church. Both institutions have used and abused their freedoms over the centuries to augment their wealth and amass property; and both have used and abused the poor. But in this year of jubilee, we are reminded that this Queen and this Supreme Governor has steered the United Kingdom through momentous social, economic, technological and spiritual revolution, and she has done so without using or abusing those who are less fortunate, but by releasing and reminding us all that God is on a throne far higher than hers, and she serves a greater King.
The Bible’s year of jubilee was for household and kinship: it was to help families survive hardship, and hold them together. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee occurs in a time of socioeconomic crisis, when many families are struggling with debt, if not facing calamity. Her Jubilee can’t cancel everyone’s debts or redistribute amassed wealth, and yet her Ministers have an obligation to ease people’s burdens and mitigate the negative social consequences of the current crisis. In that sense, she is still concerned with people’s spiritual health and physical wellbeing: her Ministers exist to serve, and her constitutional function is to warn.
God desires a just distribution of wealth, and the restoration of the earth’s resources. Crown land and property doesn’t belong to the Queen, but to the people. She uniquely may wear the Crown, but all the accumulated Crown Jewels are not hers to sell if or when she pleases, for they owned collectively by us all. She is simply the steward and guardian of the sceptres, gowns and orbs in her Kingdom, and in that covenant is an echo of God’s covenant with His people in His Kingdom.
We are world away from Leviticus: God no longer lives in temples of stone. And we no longer have kings and queens who lead us into battle or administer justice, but in this season of Jubilee we can thank God that we have one who is a living temple of His Spirit, who has given us her heart — Defender of the Faith.
God Save The Queen.