What should we make of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address at the Queen’s funeral?

As I write this, I have one eye on the funeral. My wife (not a monarchist) appreciates the historic value of the occasion. Like a lot of non-communicants of the Anglican church in England, she likes the bells and whistles if not what lies behind them.

I, however, am broadly interested in what is going on. Mainly because so many people will be watching. Just as I was not particularly interested in the wedding of William & Kate years ago, I was willing the occasion to be used as a platform for some gospel clarity. If we are going to have an established church – which I would much rather we did not have – the least we can hope is that the gospel might be proclaimed on the rare occasions millions of people might be paying attention. Sadly, at the last such opportunity, they fell somewhat short.

So, I largely ignored the pomp and ceremony. I find most of it grating. But I did pay attention when the Archbishop of Canterbury stood up to give his address. Whatever my feelings toward his church and towards its role in the affairs of state, or towards the institution that has led to this event, I recognise a massive platform is afforded for the gospel and I hoped, genuinely, that it would be taken and best used to that end. Whilst there is much we might want to say about it, I was encouraged by what was said in those few brief minutes.

I was encouraged, for example, that we were pointed to the fact that Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ He noted that the disciples were not told ‘how to follow, but who to follow’. The Queen’s example we were instructed to consider was about ‘who she followed’. All of that was encouraging. Clearly Jesus was being shown to at least have something to do with matters. We were, encouragingly, reminded that Jesus came ‘to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Referencing the Queen’s address during covid, the Archbishop referenced her comments that ‘we will meet again’. These were words of hope, and he pointed to the greater hope offered in Christ. He stated:

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 enter in”. 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 [whom he earlier pointed out, Jesus Christ is very God] can with her say, “we will meet again”.

You can watch the full address here:

As gospel comments go in 5 minutes, we have to be fairly pleased with what was said. In the short time given, and with such large numbers watching, I think key gospel truths were stated. Jesus is the way, truth and life. Jesus is the one in whom our faith must be put. Jesus is the means by which we can stand before the judgement seat of Christ. As an essentialist gospel goes, in the space of 5 minutes at a funeral, that is pretty clear and helpful.

So, I am really grateful that the opportunity afforded was taken in that way. Those of us who really do believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ can be pleased that around 4 billion people from around the globe heard the essence of the gospel of salvation. That though we will die, there is life and hope to be found by faith in the person of Jesus Christ. For that, I think, we can give thanks.