I was 1 of the 4.1 billion people that watched the funeral service of the late Queens Elizabeth II on Monday of this past week. According to Newsweek, the viewership surpassed even past royal weddings and would make it the most watched broadcast of all time. The second largest royals-related broadcast event was the funeral of princes Dianna in 1997, which drew around 2.5 billion viewers.
The pageantry was striking – and fitting – for this queen who served as the longest reigning British monarch and the longest reigning female monarch in world history. Her 70-year reign began when Sir Winston Church was still England’s prime minister! Some 750,000 grateful citizens waited hours in long lines to view her casket elegantly draped with the Royal Standard. Her funeral service was attended by a select group of 2000, including presidents, kings, and other dignitaries.
For me, the display of regal magnificence was enjoyable. As a kid I had imagined what kings, castles and courtyards of the past were like, and anything broadcast from England was a welcome window into that world. But I suppose that as a pastor even more so, looking forward to the reign of Jesus Christ and His coming kingdom, the earthly comparison is a helpful illustration. And that is what astonished me the most – the sheer volume of scripture, song and sermons that exalted Jesus Christ and highlighted the Queen’s personal faith.
I had always known that she made a profession of faith in Christ and that she had a warm and respectful relationship with the late Dr. Billy Graham and that she oved to discuss various scriptures and biblical topics. But her death brought to the forefront just how significant and deeply personal her relationship to God was. The Times of London asserted that this funeral took 20 years to plan, and the queen was consulted on every aspect. It became, in effect, her chance to speak one last time to her own countrymen and the whole world!
On Monday, I heard more scripture from the ceremonies at Westminster Abbey and thereafter at Saint George’s Chapel in Windsor castle where her majesty was interred than I’ve heard in many sermons preached from pulpits by pastors. Texts were from both the Old and New Testaments and included John 11:25-26, Job 19:25-27, 1 Timothy 6:7, Job 1:21, Revelation 14:13, 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 53-58, Psalm 42: 1-17, Job 14:1-9, Psalm 34:8, Matthew 6:9-13, Romans 8:35, 38-39, all of Psalm 121, Revelation 21:1-7, and Psalm 103:13-17.
Far from being scripture-shy or trying to appear “seeker-friendly” to the many divergent worldviews of the throngs of onlookers and media viewers, the gospel was front and center. This service was absolutely soaked in Bible verses and Christian theology. And because of that it was also filled with an abundance of hope.
Besides the copious Bible readings were Christian hymns – songs that highlighted the queens faith in Christ, including, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” a favorite of the late monarch. The sentiments of those who officiated clearly indicated that the queen didn’t just identify as a Christian but lived a Christian life. Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster acknowledged, “With thanksgiving we praise God for her constant example of Christian faith and devotion,” and expressed thanksgiving, “for her unswerving devotion to the Gospel.” And one of the most poignant moments in the State Funeral service was the declaration, “Go forth, O Christian soul, from this world, in the name of God the Father almighty, who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon thee and anointed thee.”
While the queen was alive, on many occasions she pointed to Christ. In 2012 queen Elizabeth stated, “God sent his only Son not to be served but to serve; He restored love & service to the center of out lives in the person of JC. It is my prayer…that His example…will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves…”
Two years later she asserted her personal faith in Jesus saying, “For me the life of Jesus Christ is an inspiration and an anchor in my life…Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people.” Again in 2016 she confessed that, “Billions of people follow [Jesus’] teaching and find in Him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them.”
The 10-day long grand ceremonies that followed the death of this queen were not just pious accoutrement tacked onto the life of a 96-year-old monarch to scratch the spiritual itch of the state-run Anglican church. These formalities simply served as the punctuation of her entire life of service to God and country. It was the queen’s way of giving one last message to the world, and in grandest and classiest way possible, to point to another Monarch, King Jesus, the one she trusted and worshipped. Elizabeth could relate to her predecessor, Queen Victoria, who once stated that she, “so longed to lay her crown down at the feet of Christ.”
The writer of Hebrews referencing the biblical character, Abel, said, “he being dead yet speaketh.” (Hebrews 11:4).
I felt that way about queen Elizabeth’s funeral services. It was more than pageantry. It was more than tradition and ceremony. It was her way of eloquently, beautifully and powerfully speaking to me and 4.1 billion other people of her Christian faith.
Thank you, ma’am, for a life well-lived. You inspire me to finish well.