The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

I still am finding that the State Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen isn’t too far from general conversation. People speak well of Her Majesty and the pageantry of the day and my experience of these conversations is that people view the occasion as ‘very fitting’. While it is often unspoken, my sense is that there is also a warmth, a comfort in the hymns, readings, liturgies, and the sermon which all speak of the sure hope of the resurrection because of Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who died and was raised to new life for us all. No one really wants death to be the end.

Thank you for your kind messages following Charlotte’s mother’s death in Australia. We also watched the funeral online and it was good to see and hear what happened. The hymns, readings, liturgy, tribute, and sermon also rested in the sure hope of the resurrection from the dead because death is not the end with Jesus. 

At funerals we expect to talk about death. However, at most other times, it is very hard to talk about death. I think death is still the taboo subject of our modern society largely because we have taken death out of the home into some sort of clinical setting. Both Her Majesty’s funeral and Mother’s funeral were helped because the deceased had spoken about their funeral – hymns and readings and other things – and more importantly also about what life and death mean for them. As hard as it can be to face, dying is part of living and to live well involves dying well – surrounded by loved ones and in as good a situation as possible – and this begins with talking – hopefully a long time before death is ‘nearby’.

It is my experience – and I sense the tension in myself – that to raise the topic of dying or death is to be thought of as ‘defeatist’, ‘fatalist’, ‘a traitor to life’ especially when our families want to us to live and keep living and fight to live. Of course, we all want to live and we want our loved ones to live but what do we do when death is no longer beyond the horizon and out of sight but visible and getting closer? Too often people simply deny death is approaching. I think that is sad and unnecessary because with Jesus, death is not the end. Death’s sting of eternal separation from life and love has been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus over death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). And that means death’s power to silence us in fear is also broken and we can talk to each other about each other, about what is important to us, about our wishes as we die and for the funeral, always conscious that Jesus is with us and with our loved ones and that death is not the end after all. Dying and death are part of living and life and in Christ we can face them and not be afraid.