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Betty Jeffries' memorial service address

Betty Jeffries  13.1.14  3.00pm Memorial Service at  St Andrew’s

How are your New Year resolutions going?  I suppose it depends what there were, how hard, how much effort they require, but it is good to aim high.  In our bible reading from the Sermon on the Mount, were heard of 7 different, though related ones, but Jesus sets the bar so high no one can achieve them by themselves.  He did not do it to make people feel bad when they fail, but to marvel at the grace of God that we can, in God’s power move towards this beautiful life.

The beatitudes are counter cultural.  The recognition of our poverty, mourning our loss, seeking to be meek – these are things that will bring great reward rather than riches, consumption and power. 

To say we are poor in spirit is the beginning, not the end.  To acknowledge our poverty before God is the first step on the road to the Kingdom.  We cannot come to God in our own strength, present our own talent or wealth as if it will buy favour; we are truly rich when we know our standing before God because we can then see the grace of God.  It is not about beating ourselves up or false piety, but a simple acknowledgment that as we stand before God we have nothing of our own to bring.  God is not an Alan Sugar figure looking for the best apprentice, but God calls us out of love and it is by his grace that we know and are known.  The poor in Spirit will be best placed to see the Kingdom of heaven.

Today you mourn the loss of Betty and all that means to you.  I don’t know if you feel blessed – it would be strange if you did.  But to have lost Betty and have no concept of what you are missing, not to have loved in the first place, would be worse.  Mourning gives the opportunity to look at what we might have taken for granted or missed in the busyness of life.  Reflecting on past events gives life as we move forward; recognising mistakes can give us the chance not to repeat them if we discover forgiveness, comfort, in our reflection.  If we have no mourning for things of the past then we will find no comfort either.  Again it is not about minute enquiry and endless self-examination, but an openness and honest with the safety of the love of God that helps us learn and move on.

The final beatitude for today is the antithesis of everything we hear in society.  The meek will inherit the earth – no, it is the strongest, the most aggressive, the fastest, biggest, the risk takers.  Meekness surely has no place within the cut and thrust of life today.  Do not confuse meekness with weakness.  Meekness is an attitude of mind that will require some tough decisions and strength to see things through.  Meekness is an understanding of yourself before God that empowers you in your journey through all of life; part of a set of values that allows you to draw on the whole strength of God.

Perhaps the opposite of meekness is not strength but arrogance.  Coming to a place of meekness enables truth to flourish and people to grow. Meekness banishes fear and encourages expectation and dreams – the earth is yours for the inheriting.

God’s standards are high but God’s gift is the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us on life’s journey.  From what I know and what I have heard of Betty, her life was full of the undertones of these beatitudes which created life giving relationships, brought health and well being to many simply by being the person she was.

If we set our standards simply to be as Betty was, that would be hard, but our challenge is to be as God intends us to be, to live well in the power of the Spirit and come to this point in our own lives content as we discover the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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