The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave a strong challenge to the ‘great and good’ gathered for the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey.
By Andrew Halloway
He was uncompromising in acknowledging Jesus as God and the way to salvation, in front of around 100 world leaders of all faiths and none, and representatives from a range of Christian denominations.
He also made it clear that truly great leaders follow the Queen’s example of servant leadership, while she in turn was able to serve her people for decades because she followed Christ. Her famous prayer at the age of just 21 in which she pledged herself to serve her people all her life has been repeated frequently on the airwaves since her death on 8 September.
“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’…
“Her late Majesty’s broadcast during Covid lockdown ended with: ‘We will meet again’ – words of hope from a song of Vera Lynn. Christian hope means certain expectation of something not yet seen. Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity.”
The Archbishop had begun by saying: “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…”
“Christ rose from the dead and offers life to all, abundant life now and life with God in eternity”
He also declared that the new King had the same faith as his mother, although some dispute this in the light of some of the former Prince’s declarations.
But the Archbishop said: “Jesus – who in our reading 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. I know his Majesty shares the same faith and hope in Jesus Christ as his mother; the same sense of service and duty.”
“We will all face the merciful judgment of God: we can all share the Queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. Service in life, hope in death. All who follow the Queen’s example, and inspiration of trust and faith in God, can with her say: ‘We will meet again.’”
Undoubtedly, the Queen herself aided and abetted Welby in his desire to share some of the Gospel; some commentators have pointed out that the Archbishop did not explain that Jesus died for our sins, was crucified and rose from the dead. Nonetheless, the Queen’s own confidence in Christ’s provision of safe passage to heaven was clear as the choir sang, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, before the Prime Minister’s Bible reading from John chapter 14: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
Then in ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ came the words: “Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise!”
Another reading, from 1 Corinthians 15, asked: “O death, where is thy sting?”
No one can have been in doubt that the Queen was sharing the Christian hope with her nation and the world through her death, just as she had through her life.