HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Whose Coat of Arms included the words: "GOD IS MY HELP."
We were told by the media on Easter Day that Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh would be attending the morning service at Windsor to celebrate this, the most important festival in the Christian year. I have no idea whether Prince Philip was indeed able to attend, as announced, but I sincerely hope that he was. It would prove to be his last Sunday alive in this life and how better to spend it than hearing that profound passage from the scriptures read to him once again, when the Risen Christ assures humanity of the life and blessing which lays beyond the reach of suffering and death; to be reassured that all failures and sins would be forgiven; to be reminded that our creator God reaches out with healing and new life to all of His making and of His redeeming and to have a foretaste of that sense of wonder and awe in a time of worship, prayer and praise. What better Sunday to spend as one's last in this life than Easter Day, which celebrates the fact that death is not the end, but a beginning? One of you kindly forwarded a message to me from one who works regularly and closely with Her Majesty the Queen, to say that the day before he died, Prince Philip was in good spirits and died peacefully and quickly. We all give thanks for that. Yesterday, Saturday 10th April, together with so many throughout the country in their own churches and communities, I stood on your behalf between the War Memorial and our Church Tower at Noon, as a muffled bell was tolled 99 times, once for each year of the Duke's long life. I have no inside knowledge as to whether a prince of this world will automatically be given an audience with the Prince of Peace, but I can see that Prince Philip and Jesus Christ would have much to talk about if and when they meet. We are told that Philip had an enquiring mind, an asking intellect and read avidly and widely on subjects which interested him. I am sure he will have prepared an exacting list of searching questions to put to Christ and I just wish I could eavesdrop on that conversation, I am sure it would be fascinating. We know how much creation, conservation and issues relating to the climate meant to the Prince. These too I can imagine would be subjects for animated and enlightening discussion between the Prince and his Creator. Prince Philip's commitment to nurturing the young, especially through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, would be another aspect of life the Prince and the Christ would have in common. It was Jesus of Nazareth after all who chose twelve young men and moulded, encouraged and prepared them to take over the reigns when He had gone, to take on jobs, opportunities and responsibilities in ways which were far beyond what they had previously believed themselves capable of doing. Religion and conversations relating to comparative faiths, were of huge interest and importance to Prince Philip. Again something to share deeply with his Saviour. The vital connections made in significant ways by all of the major World Religions, between faith and conservationism, is again something which would unite them in passionate concern. And the whole notion of duty and service, to which both dedicated their lives, would be a source of closeness, shared interest and common purpose between the two. Both in their own ways attempted to make a creative difference to the world into which they were born, to leave it more just and fair, with people better equipped and empowered to continue the work they had, in their own respective lives, dedicated themselves to and an eco system more protected and respected, which could fruitfully contribute to the wellbeing of generations yet to come. These are but some of the ways in which the priorities of these two princes, one of this world, the other of Heaven, were in harmony and today, with so many people of good will in our community, country, Commonwealth and world, we pay tribute to one who served; who showed exemplary loyalty to the oaths which, under God, he had made; who had an acute sense of duty and whose motto was "God is my Help." And let our thoughts and prayers be with our Monarch, who is mourning. Let her occupy a special place in our prayers, not merely because she is our Head of State, but because she is also a woman, approaching her 95th birthday later this month, having been married to a man for 73 years, for whom she is now grieving, who now needs the comfort and strength of her faith, her family and her friends. We commend them all to our Lord and pray Philip, once Prince of the United Kingdom, into the presence of the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings:
Risen Lord, We give thanks for all the Blessings of this life, And for all those who have sought to serve you With loyalty and with love. Today we pray Especially for Philip, consort to our Queen, Servant of this country and of our Commonwealth. We humbly pray that the trust he placed in you, During the course of his long life, May lead him now into your nearer presence; That you would reveal and make known to him The fullness of the truth which makes us free; That you would forgive him his sins And renew him in your image; That you would share with him The power of your Risen Life And breathe the blessings of the Spirit into him. We pray too for our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, And all those of her family grieving today: Comfort and strengthen them With the reassurance of resurrection, And may your hand of blessing Rest upon each one of them today. These things we ask and pray, In the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord AMEN.
Rest Eternal grant to him O Lord And let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace and may he Rise in glory, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. AMEN.