The Queen's funeral, a short sermon, and a lesson for all sharing faith in public life

Justin Welby delivering the sermon at the Queen's state funeral.(Photo: BBC)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest yesterday. Her funeral was watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world who were brought together irrespective of their background or belief for this unifying event.

Many watched the ceremony in churches, parks or town centres; many watched with family and friends; many watched alone.

It was a solemn and awesome occasion. The contrast of the pomp and ceremony that Britain does so well, alongside the raw sadness of people grieving a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother.

The country as a whole feels a sense of loss – we no longer have a monarch who lived and served during the Second World War. For many of us it feels like we have lost a reassuring link with the past – a connection with our parents' or grandparents' generations who have now gone. Yesterday marked the end of an era.

But for one man, yesterday was an opportunity - a God-given opportunity. And I believe that he took it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had a short sermon to deliver.

Just moments earlier new Prime Minister Liz Truss had read from John 14 – most strikingly perhaps verse 6, 'I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me."

This is an unmistakeable claim from the carpenter of Nazareth. We cannot read those words and conclude that Jesus was misunderstood – that he was just a good teacher, merely a wise philosopher.

If Jesus said those words, then CS Lewis's trilemma stands: he can only be a liar, or a lunatic or else the Lord of all. There is no other credible alternative.

The content of the Queen's funeral yesterday was surely directed by the will of the late Queen herself. She believed what Jesus says in those words.

As Welby said yesterday, 'Jesus does not tell his disciples how to follow but who to follow...'

This Jesus who on the one hand was so humble and tender, makes these earth shattering, universe-creating claims about himself.

This majesty and humility that we see in Jesus – was reflected albeit dimly - in the life of the Queen. She was the most famous woman on the planet, yet she was gracious and humble in her service well beyond the call of duty, well beyond what any of us would consider a reasonable retirement age.

The Archbishop went on to say that we will all face God's merciful judgement, that Christ rose from the dead and offers hope for us all – and not the 'wishful hope' that we so often speak of but 'certain expectation of something not yet seen'.

Like many of us, I prayed that Justin Welby would use his sermon to preach the gospel – and I feel hugely encouraged by a prayer answered.

Let us now pray that the Holy Spirit will open the eyes, ears and hearts of many who would turn to Jesus as their saviour. Let us also pray for King Charles – that when we sing God Save the King, this too would be a prayer answered.

And let's thank God for Justin Welby's words yesterday and for the millions who heard them.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us, 'But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.'

Be prepared, says Peter, which means that we should prepare. Justin Welby had 4 minutes yesterday, but I am certain that he took many hours in preparation.

We probably won't get an opportunity to share the gospel with hundreds of millions of people at once. But we will get the chance to share the gospel with people maybe one at a time. One lesson we can learn from yesterday is to make sure we are ready, praying and preparing for what we shall say.

Finally, this makes me consider anew our calling as Christians in politics and public life. It is surely to be servant-hearted and faithful as the Queen was, and to use whatever profile we may have to point people to Jesus when the opportunity arises as the Queen also did, and like Justin Welby did yesterday.

For those who responded to the gospel message having heard it yesterday and received Jesus as their saviour, those were 4 minutes that changed the world.

You never know when your 4 minute - or 10 second - opportunity may come. Be prepared.

Tim Farron has been the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and served as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015 to 2017.Tim is also the host of Premier's 'A Mucky Business' podcast. His new book A Mucky Business: Why Christians should get involved in politics is published in November.