We’ve not done this before, have we?
I’m guessing that none of us preaching this Sunday were doing so more than 70 years ago when George VI died (though I’m happy to be corrected). Certainly, none of us have ever preached (or will ever again preach) following the death of the longest serving UK monarch.
The circumstances are unique this weekend. But two things can help us out as we prepare.
Firstly, we’re not short of material to draw upon. Everywhere you look online there are words, stories, and tributes. From LICC, I would particularly recommend Mark Greene’s touching obituary. I have also posted some suggested prayers on social media.
Secondly, if we follow the principals we would apply to any thanksgiving service – I suspect we won’t go far wrong. When leading services of thanksgiving, we know we need to:
1. Take time to reflect on a life well lived. Even in grief, there’s a lot to be thankful for.
2. Navigate the sensitivities that arise from differing opinions about the person being remembered. The fact that a constitutional monarch generates differences of opinion can be acknowledged – without letting it dominate.
3. Recognise there’s no contradiction in both giving thanks and mourning within a single sermon – or sometimes within a single sentence.
4. Convey the many positive characteristics of the person we’re remembering – without falling into the trap of portraying them as perfection.
5. Draw on a particular story or stories that have touched us personally. These often help others to connect more deeply with the words they’re hearing.
6. Acknowledge that we all experience loss differently – and that those who grieve from a public place face particular challenges.
7. Pray for those closest to the person we’re remembering – particularly given we have the additional biblical instruction to pray for ‘for kings and all those in authority’ in this case (1 Tim 2:2).
8. Encourage others to continue the legacy of all that was good in the life of the person we’re remembering, taking inspiration from their Christlike attributes. Paul’s teaching in Philippians 3 is helpful here: ‘Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.’ (Philippians 3:17).
9. Celebrate and give thanks whenever someone has carried out their job with, wisdom, integrity and devotion. We join God’s work through our daily tasks – something the Queen exemplified.
10. Point others to the eternal hope we have based on the person’s faith in Jesus. For them, death is not the end. And for us, hope is not forlorn.
I’m praying for all those seeking to find the right words this Sunday. May God speak comfort and wisdom clearly through you.
Director of Church Relationships, LICC