It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of our dear friend, Derek Beddow. I, as I’m sure you do, hold Mary and the family in our thoughts and prayers. As I paused while out running last week, at a small chapel high in the woods above the River Tamar, I thought about this Local Preacher who I was always humbled and thankful to be able to call my friend. And this led me to some thoughts that I feel I’d like to share with you to-day.
Derek was one of God’s great encouragers and as this was so often linked to his passion for preaching the Bible, he just swept you along! I would say that Derek lived out the Bible verse given to us by the Apostle Paul – “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (**). I think that words are essential to our faith. The Creator God spoke the universe into being; the Disciple John tells us that Jesus was and is the Word; at Jesus’s Baptism and the Transfiguration we are told to listen to Jesus; and when human words fail us, we are reassured that the Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us (***). And it is with words that we are always trying to find the right way to share with others the good news of what Jesus has done for us and how our lives have been changed.
Of course, it’s both about how we live and how we preach. But how many times have you watched a game of ‘charades’ and chuckled at the guesses made in response to a person’s actions? In the same way, all sorts of guesses and assumptions might be made as to why we, as Christians, do what we do. The phrase “preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” is often ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi, but this isn’t quite what researchers think he said (he in fact emphasised that preaching without living accordingly, was of no use). What we don’t know or remember is that Saint Francis went to a lot of trouble to get permission to preach from church authorities in Rome. Then he took the spoken message on the road with him. I might suggest that we amend this oft used phrase to read “preach the gospel at all times. Of necessity use words” (****). Derek was so passionate about telling us that God loves us. I have lost track of the number of carefully crafted notes that he shared with me to ‘correct, rebuke and encourage’. So whether we feel up to it or not, perhaps now would be a good time for all of us to polish up our re-telling of the stories of Jesus.
I will close by reflecting on the final verse from one of the readings selected for Derek’s funeral, taken from Isaiah chapter 40. ‘May you renew your strength through your hope and faith in the goodness of the Creator, the grace of the Saviour, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And you will soar on wings like eagles; you will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not grow faint’. God bless.
(**) Bible quotation from 2 Timothy 4:2
(***) thoughts from Genesis 1; John 1; Mark 1:11 and Luke 9:35; Luke 12:11-12 and Matthew 10:19
(****) I discovered this thought in an article by London based preacher and teacher, Sarah Hall, published in 2019