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Sermon by the Revd Hugh Nelson at Patrick Mayhew's thanksgiving service

 

Sermon by the Revd Hugh Nelson

at Patrick Mayhew's Thanksgiving Service

2 March 2017

Readings: Matthew 5: 1-12, Galatians 5: 22-23

 

Patrick often said that he was blessed.

He would speak of the many good things in his life; his family, the love he shared with Jean over so many years, his community and its people, and his work, both locally as an MP and on the national and international stage. And he loved the ordinary things of life too; playing with the grandchildren, the conversation with the local farmer about the weather; being part of the PCC, the chance to help a neighbour or a constituent.

And he spoke of these many blessings, with humble gratitude, even when he was unwell and near death - perhaps more then than ever.

He knew that these blessings were gifts that he had been given, and while he had worked hard, he knew really that the best of them were unearned.

Patrick knew what it meant to be blessed.

And I know that Patrick was aware that he was blessed by more even than these things.

We usually think of blessings as those good things that we have received. Those parts of our lives which make them worthwhile and happy. And that is right - and there is a deep wisdom in the encouragement to ‘Count our blessings’.

But when Jesus talked about blessing he meant something more. And Patrick knew that too.

To be blessed, in the bible, is to have tasted and seen something of God. The Greek has its roots in the word that means ‘long’ or ‘extend’. So to be blessed is to have been caught up in and extended by the length of God’s love.  It’s a love that St Paul prays for in his letter to the Ephesians -  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  

To be blessed is to know yourself part of something wonderful that is much bigger than this life and the things we can touch and taste and see. It is to be caught up in that great overflow of love that God is constantly raining down upon us.

So when, in our reading, Jesus talks to the crowd on the hill about blessings, he doesn’t give a list of things that it would be nice to have in life; he tells us instead what it’s like to be caught up in that great overflow of love. He speaks of a gloriously upside down economy of blessing. It’s an economy, Jesus tells us, that we enter when we’re open to the length and breadth and height and depth of the divine care for us.

And it’s not easy. In this economy of blessing, it’s mercy, grief, purity and meekness that bring us into God’s presence. 

So in this economy of blessing we find that mercy and a thirst for righteousness are of God, from God and bring us closer to God. Patrick knew about mercy and righteousness. As Solicitor General and Attorney General he struggled with these things every day.

And in this economy, we find that being a peace builder brings us near enough to God that we might be called his children. Patrick and Jean knew the challenge of peace building in Northern Ireland.

And in God’s economy, we discover that mourning a loved one is a promise that God’s arms are wide open, ready to enfold us and comfort us. And Patrick knew that, as he listened to peoples hurt and suffering in the constituency and more widely.

Patrick was at home in God’s economy of blessing; in which he was blessed by the promise that he would never be alone, by the assurance that forgiveness was always available; by the faith that he said was encapsulated by a message in a card he received just before he died - ‘Whatever happens, remember that Jesus is with you every step of the way.’

And of course, because it’s the way that God works, when we are blessed, when we are caught up in the overflow of divine love, we are always invited to bless others in return.  To share what we have received. The bible calls it ‘being fruitful’.

And Patrick was fruitful - fruitful in his contribution to peace in Northern Ireland. In the significant decisions he took that shaped the nation. Fruitful in his family. So wonderfully fruitful, in so many ways, in his 53 years of marriage to Jean. And fruitful amongst us - in the goodness that has come from a thousand conversations and kindnesses shown to each one of us here today.

Blessed by many good things; at home in God’s economy of blessing; fruitful in sharing those blessings with others.

Patrick Mayhew, blessed, fruitful, servant-follower of Jesus Christ, may you rest in peace and rise in glory.

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