The Today Newspaper’s take from the Queen’s funeral service, was this quotation from Archbishop Justin Welby, “…People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.”
We are asking leaders in Ghana – religious, business, political, society, young, old, will you be remembered?
First, the funeral service was notable in the precise, organized and efficient way it was done. It took about one hour from the beginning to the end. Second, the presiding priest was remarkably brief and to the point. Third, the message sent throughout the world was quite clear – service matters.
In Ghana, we would have organized a one week “celebration” with its attendant loss of time and productivity and huge cost for something that traditionally was an occasion to make sure the person was really dead and then for the family to plan the burial. The funeral would have attracted tremendous cost for custom made cloth, “gifts” and a long time spent by the dead in a freezer.
The “humbling” of selected world leaders also made quite a statement seeing them stripped of private jets and seated in busses.
Leaders of all types in our part of the world, tend to use their privilege to “show people where power lies”. Forgetting always that their authority has a beginning and an ending and that decisions they make while on top, can be reversed when they come down.
Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon:
Come Holy Spirit, fill us with the balm of your healing love. Amen.
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.
Her Late Majesty famously declared on a 21st birthday broadcast that her whole life would be dedicated to serving the Nation and Commonwealth.
Rarely has such a promise been so well kept! Few leaders receive the outpouring of love that we have seen.
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.
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.” 1
People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.
The grief of this day – felt not only by the late Queen’s family but all round the nation, Commonwealth and the world – arises from her abundant life and loving service, now gone from us.
She was joyful, present to so many, touching a multitude of lives.
We pray especially for all her family, grieving as every family at a funeral – including so many families round the world who have themselves lost someone recently – but in this family’s case doing so in the brightest spotlight.
May God heal their sorrow, may the gap left in their lives be marked with memories of joy and life.
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.
As the Christmas carol says “where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.” 2
We will all face the merciful judgement 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.”
1 Matthew 20:28, NRSV
2 O Little Town of Beth