The camera panned away, the music stopped, the family were left in peace – for a few moments at least. The State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II has engaged us all.
The Pageantry was superlative and although echoes will sound for a while, soon it will be ‘business as normal’. The problems we faced, the celebrations we planned; all will reassert themselves. Yet, at the same time, we are all deeply aware that something has changed. Tomorrow will be the same, only different.
A funeral marks a moment; letting go and moving on. Queen Elizabeth II will remain a part of our lives, her legacy will live on, but that relationship changes. We have a new king now. Old certainties pass, new ones have yet to be established. In these dangerous and uncertain times, we wonder where this may lead. After 70 years, it is easy to forget that the young Queen Elizabeth faced just the same uncertainties when her father died.
As I watched the guardsmen carefully remove the Queen’s coffin from the hearse, I realised that here is a scene I have watched many times before. Stripped of the State Pageantry, here was ‘everyperson’. Perhaps that is why we have all been affected in some way by the events of the last few days. Death is one of the few experiences common to all. Grief and shock, busyness and emptiness; come to us all in some measure.
Even If we had somehow missed it before, the tributes of this last few days have made clear the strength of our Late Queen’s faith in God. For 70 years she relied on God’s help to fulfil her calling. The result is clear for us all to see. The manner of her passing, and the message of her funeral testify to a life lived to the full, and a confidence in the Lord’s promise I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).
Sooner or later, we must all stand at the graveside and contemplate both a future without someone we relied on, and our own mortality. If we take just one lesson from Her Late Majesty, let it be to place our lives in the hand of God. Then Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Ps23).
Rev’d Philip Payne
The Notice Sheet for 25 September can be found here