Trusting God in the Face of Death – A Reflection on the Queen’s Funeral
Few will forget the proud pall bearers straining muscle, sinew and nerve to bear her late majesty’s coffin through the great west door of Westminster Abbey and later in the day up the steps to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Fewer still the exquisite beauty of the Abbey choir singing the Sentences from Scripture which declare the great undoing of death, whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. The words of the Archbishop’s sermon will and should live long in the memory as over 500 heads of state and world leaders were told that those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten. None will forget the pain etched into the faces of King Charles and the Royal Family as they, like us all, stared death in the face. It was an occasion like no other. And yet, as Huw Edwards, Fergal Keane and Kirsty Young held our hands through this monumental and beautiful moment in our world’s history, we were wonderfully and creatively given the message of the good news of Jesus at every turn.
The late Queen’s life of faith has been much remarked upon. Every choice of text, hymn, anthem, and prayer brought her trust in the everlasting God, to bear. As her coffin was carried down the aisle, the choir sang 1 Timothy 6:7 For we bought nothing into the world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The anthem, ‘My Soul, there is a Country’ closed with these words:
Leave then thy foolish ranges, For none can thee secure, But One who never changes, Thy God, thy Life, thy Cure.
After the prayers, the choir sang a setting of Psalm 34:8: Taste and see how gracious the Lord is: blest is the man that trusteth in him – the setting incidentally was composed for the Queen’s Coronation. Blest is the man that trusteth in Him - in the everlasting God.
We must pray that the reported 5.1 billion (63% of the world’s population!) who watched this service encountered that same everlasting God and put their trust entirely in Him. Perhaps particularly those with wealth for whom it is hard to trust in anything else. I suspect many reading this are among the world’s richest. To us, God in his Word could not be clearer. We, like the late monarch, are to put our hope in God not money (1 Timothy 6:17).
It is stupid to trust ultimately in great human beings because they like us end up in the grave. The Queen had her symbols of rule returned to God: the orb, sceptre, and crown taken from her coffin and put on the altar at St. George’s. She had great wealth and power and now it has been taken away.
And yet. And yet, her earthly power was only ever a faint flicker, a tiny, imperceptible reflection of the power of God. Which is why Elizabeth our Queen was given the exact same commendation as you or I would receive in a Church of England funeral. Our sister Elizabeth.
When we trust in Jesus we can have sure and certain hope in the face of death. Whoever we are. Simply because, as the Archbishop put it succinctly: Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity. Or as Baroness Scotland read from 1 Corinthians 15: O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This confidence of life beyond death is only found in Jesus whose kingdom never ends. And it is why before the National Anthem the service did not end simply with the Last Post and silence, but the silence was broken by the Reveille – the wake up call. Queen Elizabeth is not dead but alive; as Christ is not dead but alive, and as you and I will one day be alive though we have died – if our confidence is in the One who has the victory.
The question for each of us to consider then is simply this: Do we trust in the everlasting God, and as a consequence do we face the reality of our own death with confidence?