Apparently, something big has been happening in Britain over the past few days. Read certain papers (The Telegraph, the tabloids) or watch the BBC and you’ll pick up on it. The UK are celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with street parties and pageants, festooning their houses and neighbourhoods with bunting and Union Jack flags. Those who are able to are streaming into London to join the celebrations. I know some people who have done that.
However, for a lot of people life is continuing as normal. One newspaper, the Guardian, apparently avoided all mention of the Queen on its front page yesterday. For us, life has gone on pretty much as normal. We are mid move and for both of us, an additional bank holiday isn’t making much difference, except that it has shortened the number of “working days” to prepare for completion and notify relevant organisations.
I don’t think we’re alone in that. Whilst I hear stories of some communities -especially village communities where there has been great interest in celebrations providing gospel opportunities, the opposite is true here. Yes, there are a few Union Jack flags draped from windows, but a lot less than you would see St George’s flags for an England game and only a few more than there are Ukrainian flags around.
The reality for a lot of people, is that this will be just another holiday. An opportunity to get to the seaside or to do some DIY. For a lot, there will also be a sense of inconvenience. Very few people will be particularly celebrating the reason for the holiday. In many ways, this will be a lot like Christmas and Easter.
This leads me to a few reflections.
First, we should be careful about our presumptions. For some churches, the Jubilee celebrations will offer a great opportunity for evangelism but for many – probably the majority, it won’t. Context and contextualisation matter. We shouldn’t become legalistic or judgemental in our response to how different people respond in their context.
Second, apologetically, it shows how Jesus could have been so popular and famous, drawing huge crowds, whilst most of the Roman Empire remained uninterested in and unaware of him.
Third, it is fascinating then that perhaps one of my most polarising and controversial posts this year was my article suggesting that we might want an hour off from Jubilee celebrations to focus on the Holy Spirit on Sunday. The strongest responses came interestingly from non- Anglicans with a heavy emphasis on the Gospel opportunity. I wonder if this actually reflects some of the awkwardness. That is assuming of course that you think the Monarchy represents those things and if you don’t, then you shouldn’t be under compulsion to celebrate.
It seems that we have to find an evangelistic reason for things because we are scared of saying something like *actually I’m a bit patriotic and I quite like the Queen so I would like to take time to recognise her life work and for our community to enjoy ourselves. So instead we attempt to co-opt things into our style of evangelism and at times it feels like we are force fitting them. It only works slightly better than when the vicar attempted to do “The Gospel according to Bart Simpson.”
You see, as I said the other day, I don’t know the Queen’s heart, so I can’t comment on if she is born again. I appreciate the things she has said on Jesus but that doesn’t mean that a few quotes from her equate to clear apologetics and I don’t think anyone will become a Christian because the Queen might be one. But in the end the common grace things of good stable governance and public service or just celebrating the life of someone who seems a kindly old lady are worth enjoying and honouring in their own right.
My fourth and main reflection is that this is perhaps sobering for us as Christians. The reality is that each week, we are caught up in celebrating with joy, the Jubilee reign of our king. However, the majority of our friends and neighbours are neither interested or particularly aware of the celebrations for this king.
We might think that this is okay for an earthly monarch’s celebrations but is it okay for the King of Kings? If not, then what should we do about it?