A few thoughts on Queen Elizabeth’s funeral:
Over the past few hours I have been watching the Queen’s funeral, as have so many millions of others all over the globe. A little while ago I posted words like this on the social media: ‘This may be the last time a large portion of the world’s population tunes in to a service where great old hymns are sung and vital passages of Scripture are read out, along with moving prayers in a beautiful cathedral. For the West at least this may mark the end of an age.’
All the pomp and ceremony, the stirring music, the colourful uniforms, and precision marching, the solemnity – it was all done in accord with the Queen’s wishes. And the massive crowds in London, along with an estimated television audience of some four billion people, made this among the most significant public events of this century.
As to the actual funeral service, the sacred nature of it has impressed many, including myself. The hymns heard were: The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended; The Lord’s My Shepherd; and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. We heard various portions of Scripture during the service.
We heard the new Prime Minister Liz Truss recite the words from John 14: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” And we heard the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby say these words:
The pattern for many leaders is to be exalted in life and forgotten after death. The pattern for all who serve God – famous or obscure, respected or ignored – is that death is the door to glory. Her Late Majesty famously declared in a 21st birthday broadcast that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the Nation and Commonwealth. Rarely has such a promise been so well kept! Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen. Jesus – who in our reading does not tell his disciples how to follow, but who – said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Her Late Majesty’s example was not set through her position or her ambition, but through whom she followed. I know His Majesty shares the same faith and hope in Jesus Christ as his mother; the same sense of service and duty. In 1953 the Queen began her Coronation with silent prayer, just there at the High Altar. Her allegiance to God was given before any person gave allegiance to her. Her service to so many people in this nation, the Commonwealth and the world had its foundation in her following Christ – God himself – who said that he “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
We may never again see anything quite like it. Certainly not the unashamed Christian elements. What modern ruler would have so many people come out to view his funeral? What leader would have so many gospel elements present? Who could elicit such a response as the Queen did? There was not just royal pageantry on display but a very real element of the sacred here.
Yes, the Queen was simply a human being like you and I, but she took seriously her role of serving the people. She did so without arrogance or condescension. And often the words of Christ were heard in her Christmas messages and other addresses. One would get none of this from a Biden or a Trudeau or a Macron or an Ardern. But they are few and far between.
So things may have shifted big time in the West, with one era passing as another takes its place. The secularisation process has taken its toll, at least among our leaders and elites. Few come to mind today who will ever be anywhere near as outspoken about matters of faith – at least the Christian faith.
The new King has long told us how much he admires Islam, and how he wants to be known as a ‘defender of faith’ and not the ‘defender of the faith’. England will certainly be quite different. But most of the rest of the West is in the same boat. Sure, we can find a few leaders who are still up front about their faith, such as Ted Cruz in America or former leaders in Australia such as John Anderson or Tony Abbott.
So this may well spell the end of Christendom as we know it. Yes, it has been on wobbly legs for quite some time now. In the West a new, dark, secular era seems to be upon us. Everywhere we see the retreat of the Christian faith and the rise of secular humanism, along with forces quite hostile to Christianity.
Thankfully the church is strong and growing elsewhere: Africa, Asia, Latin America. God never leaves himself without a witness. But is the West now at the end of such a long period of the Christian faith, at least in the public, and amongst our ruling elites? It is certainly looking that way.
One might ask why a Yank such as myself is even writing this way. Sure, I was never a Royal watcher. But marrying an Australian and living in a Commonwealth country for over three decades has changed this somewhat. And as a student of church history one cannot overlook how Christianity came to England and developed there.
Indeed, during the past few years I have been reading quite a lot on things like the English Reformation, the Puritans, the Pilgrims, and so on. So much amazing history. So many great Christians. But now it seems like this chapter might be coming to an end, not just in the UK but all over the Western world.
That is why this funeral seems like such a crucial event – a hinge of history. The end of the old and the beginning of what many of us fear to see. Yes, knowing that God is on the throne and has no plans of getting off it is certainly reassuring.
But just as so many millions of Brits really do miss their beloved Queen, many of us can miss what she represented. The future looks rather bleak. The way ahead seems uncertain. But as we heard at the funeral, the Christian has hope. The resurrection of Jesus proves that and provides that.
Whether Europe and the West will again experience resurrection power in a major way is a moot point. But all those who love Christ and eagerly await his coming certainly do have that hope. And that is enough. God bless you QEII.