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Exclusive: Archbishop of York dishes on giving last minute sermon at Jubilee Thanksgiving Service, dubs it his ‘biggest preaching gig’

by Tola Mbakwe

The Archbishop of York has told Premier he was “terrified” when he was told he had quickly prepare a sermon to give at the Platinum Jubilee Thanksgiving service.

A few days before the service at St Paul’s Cathedral earlier this month, he was told he had to step in to replace the Archbishop of Canterbury who contracted Covid and had mild pneumonia.

He told Premier: “It was completely terrifying. But also, at the same time, it was an honour to be part of such an occasion in the history of our nation, and also a joy because although it was the biggest gig I think I've ever had in terms of preaching, I did say to myself, and I only had a few days to prepare... But I said to myself, Stephen, it's just another sermon. And what's the purpose of a sermon? Well, it's to declare something of the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.”

He explained that he didn’t want the sermon to focus on the queen, but on God. He believes that’s also what the queen would have wanted.

“I think, as most people have become more aware of in recent weeks, for the queen, her Christian faith is really important to her. And so when she goes to church she wants a sermon and that's about the Christian faith, not about herself. So that's what I tried to give”.

His sermon opened with a Bible verse, Philippians 4.6,7 & 9 which focuses on thanksgiving. His message gained great attention as it was quoted heavily in the media around the Jubilee bank holiday.

Reflecting on how well the sermon went, he said: “I was overjoyed and honoured that because… I'm not suggesting that isn't what's happened on other occasions like this, but I did see it as an opportunity to say something of the goodness, the peace, the joy of Christian faith into the life of our nation.

“I know that the queen herself, that's her motivation. That's certainly my motivation. And I wanted to share that with others. So it was a great opportunity. I'm humbled to think that somehow God was able to use my words, to speak to many, many people.”

The queen was not in attendance at the service as also missed many other Jubilee celebrations. More recently, this weekend she also missed all of Royal Ascot for the first time during her reign.

Archbishop Stephen encouraged Christian to pray for the queen’s health just like they would for one of their loved ones.

“What impresses me about the queen is that she knows to whom she must bend the knee, which is our Lord Jesus Christ. And in that sense, we pray for her like we pray for anybody else that we know and love. We pray for God's blessing upon them, and we pray that they will know the presence of Christ with them.

“I've been on pilgrimage this week, and my prayer for myself this week is that I will know the presence of God in every footstep, in every heartbeat, in every moment. And that should be our prayer for the queen as it is for all those we love, and particularly those who are in need and sickness.”

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