This morning, at the funeral of a widowed great-grandmother in London, more people heard the preaching of Christ than at any time in human history.
As the world’s largest religion contracts in the face of a secular and faithless world, this morning a small group of believers gave cause for the hope that lies within them. In the pomp and ceremony of the British lay the plain and simple assertion of the Christian – that Jesus lived, that he died, and that he rose again, that all might rise again, saved not only from physical death but, if they willed, too from spiritual death.
In a masterful reading from First Corinthians, a black immigrant girl rising to title and power in England, the Baroness Scotland of Asthal, proclaimed the eternal truth that death is conquered in Christ and that its sting too – the pain of sin – in it the sacrifice of the Son of God is defeated.
As the world looked in on this historic farewell, and hoped perhaps for the spectacle of all things royal, the dominant spirit was spirit, an aura not of the royal but of the divine. In the days of empty churches, some four billion people gathered around the world to hear, see, and feel the testimony of Jesus Christ proclaimed in word and song and of the long life of “our sister Elizabeth.”
It wasn’t a tradition of faith, it was the gospel of God, His plan for our salvation, the absolute truth upon which our lives, this world and the eternities are built. The entire service revolved around Jesus’ unflinching declaration that he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that in his unflinching words, “no one comes to the Father except through me.”
That testimony resonated in the ears and hearts of more people than ever before.
This fact can be seen as a novelty or as an opportunity.
An opportunity to reflect on faith in our own lives and an opportunity to share faith with those around us.
Elizabeth and her speakers at her funeral believe in the historical reality and eternal necessity of Jesus Christ. They believe that he was born in Bethlehem, crucified in Jerusalem, taught a saving gospel for three years, and rose from a garden tomb on the third day, that he alone holds the keys of our salvation, and that by faith in him, as The Funeral Sermon said here life is found in abundance and in the hereafter eternal life.
Four billion people have heard these words, four billion people must consider these truths.
They have the opportunity to learn and reflect, to search their hearts and to draw closer to God in prayer and to find out for themselves if they can believe in Jesus. When they can believe enough to want to believe, to feel the first flicker of faith and make them a guiding light for their lives.
It can mean turning to a Christian friend with questions or for an explanation. It may involve finding the New Testament online and starting to read the book of Matthew. It can mean contemplating the warmth and emotions felt during the funeral, as sacred words were spoken, as the Spirit told us in its quiet way that what we heard was true.
This shared sacred experience is also an opportunity to share our faith and to heed the Savior’s great commission to bring the truth and testimony of His saving mission to all people in the world. This includes people across the street as well as people across the ocean, the people of our families, workplaces and communities.
Almost everyone knows about the funeral, a large percentage of people will hear or see at least parts of it. It’s something most of us have been through together and can talk about. Including the way it made us feel, how it touched our hearts, how it relates to our faith.
The funeral boldly declared faith in Jesus Christ and implicitly invited all to come to Him.
Those who know him now have an opportunity to boldly profess their faith, and those who have not met him have an opportunity to respond to his invitation.
This morning there was a sermon on the greatest mountain ever.
A sermon meant to honor a woman and save a world.