A Quiet Day
Monday the 19th of September, 2022, was a silent day. Nature was still, at least in Worcester; the air was calm. The nation ceased from her labours and there was a hush across the whole land. Streets were empty, reminiscent of the strange days of lock-down.
Depending on who you read, some 29 million people in the UK and half the world's population watched the state funeral of the Queen.
And wow, no-one in the world does pageantry quite like the Brits.
As we reflect on that Monday and the long symbolic reign of the monarch we may learn, in no particular order, but starting with the mundane...
Practice makes Perfect
In the deep dark of night soldiers were practising the route they would follow the next day. The rehearsal, we read, took place before sunrise on Thursday morning, and saw the State Gun Carriage, towed by almost 100 naval personnel and bearing a black coffin, travel from Westminster Hall, on to Westminster Abbey, and then through central London. The procession looked perfect, but behind the scenes much work had been done.
A time to weep... a time to mourn
According to the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, there is a time to weep as well as a time to laugh, a time to mourn as well as a time to dance. A balanced personal life - and a balanced national life too - makes room for both. To collectively pause and mourn is not only cathartic, it helps us to remember that this life is temporary, fleeting, and that death is the certain lot of every son and daughter of Adam.
What must have struck every attentive listener was the way Scripture permeated all the formal ceremonies. (If there was a disappointment, it was that those inspired words were sometimes obscured by an ancient translation, rather than using a modern version in language a ploughboy could grasp).
And then there was the sermon of Justin Welby. Many had prayed that the only human sermon ever preached to 4 billion people would not be wasted.
"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," said the Archbishop.
And then he explained the fount of the Queen's lifestyle: "Jesus," he said, "who does not tell his disciples how to follow, but who to follow – 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.'"
Most heart-warming of all, Welby shared the Gospel with the world, "Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity. As the Christmas carol says “where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Prayers were answered in that shortest of sermons.
Copy My Example (as I copy Jesus Christ)
The archbishop reminded his audience that the Queen's "service to so many people in this nation, the Commonwealth and the world, had its foundation in her following Christ – God himself."
The Queen's life is worth copying only in so much as she copied Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul set up this discipleship paradigm when he urged his readers to follow his example, as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
A Life of Service
It has been said many times in recent days, that though the Queen enjoyed hobbies (horses and dogs) and holidays, she was a tireless worker. The Son of Man, said Jesus, "Came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many..." (Matthew 20:28). A life of service to others is a trademark of every genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
"Don't explain, don't complain"
Unlike some Royals and others in authority, the Queen did not return fire for fire or seek to justify herself. When misunderstood or criticised she remained silent. This is not only wisdom, for responding simply sets one on a spiral of infinite tit for tat, it is also Christlike for "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23)
Service to the End
The Queen is a rebuke to our "take it easy in retirement" culture, serving well into her 90s, and just days before her death appointing the latest Prime Minister, Liz Truss. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race" were among Paul's last words, and our Saviour gave his best to the end.
Retirement as an opportunity to turn selfishly inwards is unknown in Scripture and stands against the example of Christ.
Faith in Jesus Christ
Above all else, the Queen's faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as her Saviour is the supreme facet of her life. To die without fear of death and to die with hope is only possible when we know our sins have been forgiven, and we have peace with God. Only, in other words, when we have faith in Jesus Christ.
"God (please) Save the King"
On the first Sunday after the Queen's death, the Christian brother who led morning worship at our church encouraged us to make the new proclamation "God save the King" into a prayer. For while we are quite sure the late Queen was a believer, we have no present assurance that King Charles is.
May the Lord answer our prayers.