As I sit down to write, the news is dominated by the death of Baroness Thatcher, the UK's only lady Prime Minister and the longest serving in modern history. Even in death the 'Iron Lady' divides opinion; loathed and lauded in equal measure. "The witch is dead" parties have been going on this week in various parts of the country, including here in Belfast. I think it's the magnitude of hate in some quarters which has shocked and saddened me. Compare this to the grief her family must be feeling right now. This lack of respect for the dead seems to be a new low for the country!
I can't help but compare the funeral of Margaret Thatcher to that of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. For 'Lady Di' the outpouring of shock and then public grief at her loss was unseen in this country. Certainly no hate here! I remember being amazed at how many were crying publically at her funeral. Of course, the wedding of Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in 1981 had brought such a sense of optimism to the whole country. A beautiful young girl, from a non-royal background, was marrying the future King of England and she certainly did seem to mould herself into that "Queen of Hearts" title.
Funerals are times of such personal grief. For the family of the bereaved grief can be devastating. For those who have lost mothers or fathers, wives, husbands, children, good friends… life will never be the same again.
The Lord Jesus attended a number of funerals. In Bethany, Jesus grieved at the funeral of His friend Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha). But this was a funeral with a difference! Even though Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father and then called out for Lazarus to "come forth" from the tomb. When he did, what a change in emotions!
Grief was turned into happiness, loss into togetherness and unbelief into belief.
The last funeral I thought about was that of the Lord Jesus. Hardly a funeral at all! After the crucifixion, most of His disciples and followers had fled the scene. Only His mother Mary and a few close friends accompanied the body of Jesus to the new garden tomb. Not many mourners - but what grief, loneliness and the death of their dreams. The Saviour of the world was no more - or so they thought! But mourning, loneliness and disappointment were turned into elation, fellowship and hope!
Jesus rose from the dead and promises that all who trust Him will live even though they die.
For the child of God who leaves this scene of time, funerals aren't the end, merely a valley of the shadow of death.
So many emotions considered in this Thought, but I want to end on the best one, LOVE. And love doesn't get any higher than the love God has for us. A love that sent Jesus to die 'in our place' and 'in our stead'.
And speaking about the love of God, I will end this month with a quote from Lady Thatcher, taken from her speech at the Church of Scotland Assembly in 1988 and also a verse from one of the hymns sung at her funeral…
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when faced with His terrible choice and lonely vigil chose to lay down His life that our sins may be forgiven." (Margaret Thatcher)
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.
May our emotions be a combination of humble repentance of personal sin in our lives and heartfelt thanksgiving to God for His saving and healing love!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Until next month then (DV)…
(All Bible quotations are from the NASB)
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!