The most-watched funeral in the world will take place on Monday. Phil Knox says he’s praying the Archbishop of Canterbury’s message will be as Jesus-centred as the late Queen’s life was
I am hurtling through middle age and I am sorry to say that I have been to more funerals than I would have wished. I have sobbed through packs of tissues, sung with wobbling voice through favourite hymns, comforted and been consoled by extended family members I wished I saw in ‘happier circumstances.’ One headline observation resounds above them all: There is a cavernous difference between a funeral where the celebrated life knew Jesus and one where they didn’t.
On Monday, the most watched funeral in human history will take place for a woman who didn’t just call herself a Christian, but a Queen whose relationship with Jesus was the hope of her life and the foundation of her service.
We know this from her own words: ”I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to do what is right, to take the long view, to give my best in all the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
Funerals are an opportunity to treasure and celebrate the life of the dead, but Christian funerals are also a moment to rejoice that death has lost its sting and, through tears, rejoice in the absolute assurance that because the saviour defeated the grave, so can we.
As we are all confronted with the statistical certainty that one day we will be the subject of the eulogies, I have witnessed first-hand previously hopeless people choosing to follow Jesus as they desire the same hope for themselves. As friends walked out of my father’s funeral who died when I was 21, they were overheard saying, “I will live differently as a result of today.”
But opportunities must be taken.
In terms of pure numbers, Monday holds arguably the greatest evangelistic opportunity in history. I am praying that the impact is seismic, because this is an open goal for the church. This is a moment that I pray our Archbishop of Canterbury grasps wholeheartedly.
There are many disadvantages to the church’s complicated relationship with political power, but this is a chance that would be utterly tragic to not make the most of. Colossians 4 encourages us to pray that a door may be opened for the good news and to make the most of every opportunity. The Talking Jesus research has recently shown just how open people are to the gospel. Last weekend I was with old friends from university and witnessed in them an openness to talk about faith, partly enabled by the news of the death of Her Majesty.
I am praying that the impact is seismic, because this is an open goal for the church
During Covid, my mum died from cancer. Always determined to have the last word, before she died she recorded a message for her friends, which was played at her funeral, explaining how her faith gave her the assurance of heaven. I led a prayer of response and at least one of her friends responded and trusted Jesus. I am hoping Her Majesty has recorded a similar video, but if she hasn’t, I am praying for Archbishop Justin and his team, that they do justice to the Queen’s love of Jesus and the good news of the King of Kings.
Interestingly, the Colossians 4 passage also encourages us to share good news in a way that’s full of gentleness and respect. So often Her Majesty’s Christmas messages embodied this winsome, assured confidence in Jesus and serve as an example that it can be done in a brave, yet compassionate way.
We are all mourning and yet we need not grieve like those who have no hope. This is the moment for Archbishop Justin to deliver a powerful and timely message of good news in a bad news world.
I pray that Archbishop Justin knows we as the Church are roaring him on and that his message, delivered with sensitivity, grace and boldness may impact the lives of millions. I hope every listener moves forward on their journey of faith. I pray heaven will be rejoicing on Monday evening as many hear how good God is and choose to follow him.
Go for it Archbishop, I am cheering you on heart and soul!