King Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication
Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said,
‘O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, ‘Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name — for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and love you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built – 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth the Second received her Coronation, and amongst the roles she assumed was that of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Having served her office, full-time, for longer than any bishop, priest or deacon, I think it may be said of Her Majesty that she has fulfilled her royal task with a wisdom and grace comparable to that of the great King Solomon. That great King had a concern that human persons all over the earth should come to know the greatness of one God. What a marvellous, extraordinary and gracious prayer:
then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and love you
Queen Elizabeth’s Address at Lambeth Palace
And at Lambeth Palace, on the 15th February 2012, our own great Queen addressed her Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders thus:
Prince Philip and I are delighted to be with you today to pay tribute to the particular mission of Christianity and the general value of faith in this country. This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here. They are sources of a rich cultural heritage and have given rise to beautiful sacred objects and holy texts, as we have seen today.
Yet these traditions are also contemporary families of faith. Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives, and for the way in which we treat each other. Many of the values and ideas we take for granted in this and other countries originate in the ancient wisdom of our traditions. Even the concept of a Jubilee is rooted in the Bible.
Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.
This occasion is thus an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom. Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.
Your Grace, the presence of your fellow distinguished religious leaders and the objects on display demonstrate how each of these traditions has contributed distinctively to the history and development of the United Kingdom. Prince Philip and I wish to send our good wishes, through you, to each of your communities, in the hope that – with the assurance of the protection of our established Church – you will continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society.
Wisdom is to be found in the heart, at the very centre, of the lives of every child, woman and man upon earth. But it’s a Wisdom that need uncovering. It’s a Wisdom that requires stillness. It’s a Wisdom that requires a silencing of our little thoughts – in order that we may recognise the presence of something far, far greater than we ourselves at the heart of every living thing.
This is the Wisdom Solomon celebrated in his life and royal task:
when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you
This is the Wisdom that was in Jesus of Nazareth and is in Jesus, and will forever be in Jesus. Having heard the prayer of a centurion who humbly sought healing for his slave Jesus was amazed and said:
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
This is the Wisdom Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second has celebrated in her royal task and witness across these past sixty years:
may you continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society
This is the Wisdom that you and I must look to and gladly call upon, and it is a Wisdom, THE WISDOM, that reminds us all of our smallness in the scheme of all Creation – even whilst giving us cause for the most profound joy – for along with King Solomon, with Jesus Christ and with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, we, all humankind, are called to turn, to recognise with delight that we’re each and every one called and made to be vessels of the immortal, the invisible, the only Wise God: to whom we ascribe all glory and majesty – together with most marvellous and promise-filled Creativity, now and for ever. Amen.