“I lift up my eyes… from where is my help to come?”

A homily preached by Revd Dr Beth Cope, Pioneer Minister for Northstowe, at our Parish Church of All Saints' Longstanton on 11th September 2022

“I lift up my eyes… from where is my help to come?”

Poignant words as a nation grieves.
In these last few days, thanks to TV and social media, we have kept watch,  with our own eyes,  as history has unfolded.
On Thursday afternoon, many of us sat glued to the rolling news coverage – or sneaked glances of the news websites on our phones between our workday tasks – as cars and planes rushed members of the Royal family to the Queen’s bedside. Royal commentators strained to see who was arriving.
The speculation kept us glancing down, again and again…
Until we saw our screens turn grey.
I was watching the BBC, when Huw Edwards came on screen, eyes downcast.
Then he looked straight at us and spoke: “Buckingham Palace has announced the death of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.”
And, around the country, Flags were lowered.
Heads were lowered
Hope seemed gone.
I’ve spoken to many in the past few days who describe that moment as one of disorientation, confusion… the sense of the end of an era.
And perhaps a reminder, too, of more personal moments of loss we have had in our own lives, when our loved ones have died.
When we’ve known loss close to home, perhaps we are more inclined to want to look down, so as not to witness and feel it all again.
And yet… at Windsor, one of her majesty’s favourite places, eyes were being drawn upward again.
In what is to me perhaps one of the most iconic images of the last few days,  a rainbow appeared behind the flag that fluttered at half mast.
The ancient biblical symbol of hope in the unending covenant of love between God and all of his created beings…
In that moment, as the Psalmist had written many generations before, we  were reminded that, for Her Majesty the Queen… and so too for us:
“I lift up my eyes… from where is my help to come?”
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…
The Lord himself… who watches over us.
The Lord who keeps your soul”
As I looked at the rainbow, I knew I could say with confidence
"She WILL rest in peace and rise in Glory"

As will all those who look to God for help.

What's more, 
When I look at this rainbow, I am reminded of how
God said to Noah,
“This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
Genesis 9:17

All life.
Not just Royal Life.
Not just British Life.
Not just the lives of those we like…or who like us!
Such a rainbow reminds us not to lose heart – or to lose our hearts.
It is a temporary sign of that eternal truth that Paul spoke of in our reading from Corinthians. The never ending truth that God loves ALL LIFE so profoundly that, as we heard in our Gospel reading , He chose to break out of heaven into what can sometimes be a  broken, grey, and downcast world… to  becoming the very bread of life. To provide all those who believe in him with the sustenance they need to live lives that point to him.  
And, as I’ve watched the ongoing news reports; and listened to the tributes of those who knew and worked with The Queen, that’s what I see.
A life that pointed to Jesus, for those who have eyes to see.
A life dedicated to generosity, justive, peace, and reconciliation, seeking – albeit with human frailties!  -  to honour God’s covenant with ALL LIVES.
In her 2014 Christmas broadcast she put it this way:
‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.’
As Mark Greene, co-author of The Servant Queen and the King she serves, has celebrated:  
“Her approach was testimonial, not argumentative. She told the world the inspiration that Jesus had been in her own life and left the world to decide if they were interested in being inspired themselves:”
Perhaps we could say, she looked up to the heavens, where her help came from, and pointed… inviting others to look up too.
She said:
‘I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served. We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.’
Today, as we mourn the death of our Queen, there is a danger that we could idolize her. Look to her example… and then be disappointed when we spot the times she, like all of us, fell short.
But that’s not where we should be looking.
As this iconic picture reminds us, we should look up from the black edged newspapers; look up from the damp flag fluttering at half mast; and look up to the rainbow.. the brief glimpse of the eternal promise of covenant love between God and ALL LIFE.
And then, dare to act.
Dare to lift up YOUR  eyes… to  where your help is to come?”
Your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven, who watches over you, and sustains your soul.
So today, at our communion, I invite you to take the bread, receive God’s substance, and then walk out from here, eyes open, ready to love and serve.

Commemorating her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

Read about how we, in Northstowe, are marking this season of National Mourning.



A reading from the book of Lamentations. (3.22-26, 31-33)


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’


The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

For the Lord will not reject for ever.

Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict

or grieve anyone.



Psalm 121


I lift up my eyes to the hills; * from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, * the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not suffer your foot to stumble; * he who watches over you will not sleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel * shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you; *

the Lord is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, * neither the moon by night.

The Lord shall keep you from all evil; *

it is he who shall keep your soul.

The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, *

from this time forth for evermore.


A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians. (4.16-5.4)


So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.


For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.



The  Gospel  according to John. (6.35-40)


Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’