Until the Sunday before preaching at Crathie Kirk, in The Queen’s presence, my own mother didn’t even know it was happening, such is the strict protocol. And what an honour it was, to be weekend guest of Her Majesty at Balmoral Castle and to share Sunday morning services with my good friend Rev Ken MacKenzie.

Several friends, who’ve had the same privilege, told me how readily Her Majesty puts people at ease. Indeed, she is delightful! I chat daily with The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, so sitting next to The Queen on numerous occasions was not so daunting. It was humbling to spend time with someone with such responsibility, authority and world esteem, genuinely interested in me, my parish, family, interests and insights.

Lectionary Bible passages helped me prepare a sermon on God’s Astonishing Grace in Christ. Oscar, my puppet dog, accompanied me to Braemar for the earlier service and charmed everyone with his precocious sniffing and whispering in my ear. Later at Crathie there was a priceless moment when Oscar, sniffing and scanning the congregation, dropped his jaw on seeing Her Majesty and quickly whispered in my ear, to which I said, “I know.” I was highlighting how calm Oscar was because he was with me, his master, and how calm we can be when we stop pretending to be God and allow God to be in charge.

And that was my experience throughout the weekend; knowing the constant, calming presence of Master Jesus made all the difference and allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience. People had joked about taking a ‘selfie’ (photo) with The Queen. Might an opportunity arise? Once in The Queen’s company selfish thoughts of the attention a ‘selfie’ would get ‘me’ quickly vanished.

The weekend at Balmoral and preaching at Braemar / Crathie was not about me. Being chaplain to The Queen for a few days and sharing God’s Word at church was a privilege. Exiting the Crathie service, a lady warmly shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “I was full of anger and bitterness towards someone who hurt me badly; I wanted revenge… All of that is now GONE!”

This lady’s experience may be the main reason God wanted me at Crathie on Sunday. As for being at Balmoral, I’m sure my presence made very little difference, but The Queen’s grace, keen humour and generosity truly inspired me! On Sunday afternoon I was shown round part of the vast Balmoral Estate. I felt tiny in the vast landscape of mountains, rocks, rivulets, heather and Caledonian forest, but not insignificant. Personally knowing that Creator God Almighty intimately cares for you, allows one to feel ‘preciously small’, able to stand tall in God’s awesome presence.

It was a wonderful weekend, which deepened my respect for royalty and heightened my praise for King Jesus who makes Almighty God personal and approachable. As the hymn puts it,

“Meekness & majesty, Manhood and Deity, In perfect harmony, The Man who is God. Lord of eternity Dwells in humanity, Kneels in humility And washes our feet. O what a mystery, Meekness and majesty. Bow down and worship For this is your God.”