Type your search below

Let God be your light – Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Scroll to explore

Title: Let God be your light

Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor 

Date: Sunday 11th September 4pm

Readings: Psalm 121, Isaiah 60 and John 6:51-69


In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah:

Nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your dawn.


It was just the day before yesterday, when King Charles III, in his first address as King, spoke of his mother as a light.  In our sorrow, he said, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.

Our late Queen Elizabeth, was a luminous person, giving out light and warmth, and we have perhaps seen that ever more keenly these last three days as we mourn her loss and reflect upon her life. She was a part of all of our lives, there is no-one here, who has not known her-she was a living light among us, constant, unfading, without shadow or turning.

It often seemed that this light came from within and she let this light shine through her whole being, and through her every action and word. This light was seen as she went about her official duties of state and of church, and it was seen just as clearly, as she took out a marmalade sandwich from her handbag when Paddington came to tea.  What was this light? Where did this lightness come from? How did she shine so?

The whole nation continues to give thanks for the light of her example over ninety six years, and her example as a monarch of unequalled service, for seventy years. A person of light who embodied those words from Matthew’s Gospel, which we hear in the Service of Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer, words which are said just as the table is prepared and the offering made, words I’m sure she knew very well:  ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven’.

Amongst all the good works that the Queen carried out in her life, there is one of her works we must never forget. In some ways it was the foundation of all else and intrinsic to who she was.

She was someone whose life and work pointed to God. She began, she continued and she ended her reign in Christ.  She was always sharing the light of the one who said ‘I am the light of the world’. She was an evangelist, and even in the hardest moments of her life, she turned towards the good news. She was the kind of person who, in the darkest of times, would always look to the light.

She was always honest and unashamed about her faith and why it meant so much to her, she was not afraid to say what gave her hope and strength, and what enabled her to walk in the light of the Lord.

Every Christmas, year after year, she was open hearted about the God whom she loved and wanted to share that love with others. As Queen, she knew herself to be one under authority, and so she knelt before the throne of God’s grace, and woke every morning looking to the sun of righteousness, looking to the light.

When the Queen was Princess Elizabeth, when she was just thirteen years old, she gave her Father a poem. The poem was called God knows, by Minnie Haskins, an English Poet and Academic.

And her Father, King George the Sixth, read out part of that poem on Christmas Day 1939, as this nation began to come to terms with a Second World War.

One can imagine young Elizabeth holding out a piece of paper and saying ‘read this, it might give you hope:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

It seems that even as a girl, Queen Elizabeth knew that when God was your light, all would be well and all manner of things would be well.  Putting your hand into the hand of God would be better than light, and safer than a known way.  All fears, all hopes, all longings, all sorrows, could be given to God, and through every change and every chance, God would guide everyone through the unknown and unchartered waters ahead.

In the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John that we have heard this evening, we hear that life for his followers was not always easy. Some had already fallen away and turned aside. Jesus asks them plainly ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’

When we face challenge and difficulty, sadness and sorrow, when we face change and vast oceans of unknowns, to whom can we go? Where do we turn? Where can we find the answers?  As we stand in this moment of history, where each day seems to bring change and uncertainty, to whom can we go?

A young girl from the past extends a hand of kindness to us today, and offers us some words, ‘read this, she says, it might give you hope: “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

What young Elizabeth knew, and what Queen Elizabeth knew, was that it is in God that we find hope. We are sustained by the living bread of Jesus Christ, come down from heaven, who said ‘I am the Bread of life’.

We find our hope in the light of Jesus Christ who said ‘I am the light of the world’,

It seems all we have to do is put our hand in his and take another step.

All we have to do is let Jesus Christ lead the way.


Let us pray

Merciful Father and Lord of all life, we praise you that we are made in

your image and reflect your truth and your light.  We thank you for the life of our late Sovereign Lady QUEEN ELIZABETH, for the love she received from you and showed among us.

Above all, we rejoice at your gracious promise to all your servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of Christ. And we ask that in due time we may share with your servant Elizabeth that clearer vision promised to us in the same Christ our Lord. Amen.





Share this sermon

Stay up to date with York Minster

  • Event alerts
  • Seasonal services
  • Behind the scenes features
  • Latest Minster-inspired gifts