14th Sunday of Trinity 2019

Brian Reader

What should be made of our readings for today, what are they trying to tell us? They all seem to be pointing in different directions. Firstly, I think we should consider the Gospel reading from Luke:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.  If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Luke 16:1-13

Some have thought that Jesus was condoning sharp practice in Business, but Jesus was not applauding fraud; he was telling a story where the master was commending his steward because he acted cleverly, not because he acted dishonestly. How can we sort all this out? The first thing to do is to understand how the story works. It would seem that the master in the story had himself been acting in a somewhat underhand manner. Jews were forbidden to lend money for interest, but many people got round this by lending in kind, with oil and wheat being easy commodities to use for this purpose. It is likely that what the steward deducted from the bill was the interest that the master had been charging, with a higher rate on oil than on wheat. If he reduced the loan in each case to the basic sum that had been lent, the debtors would be delighted, but the master could not then bring a charge against the steward without owning up to his own shady business practices. Thus, when the master heard about it, he could only admire the man’s clever approach. We know, as many lottery winners have discovered, that money can’t buy true friendship. This manager decided that by helping his master’s debtors, he would at least put them under an obligation to himself. He ‘made friends’, by writing off their debt; and his action recalls in part, the ancient Hebrew law of Jubilee when every fifty years debts were cancelled.

We should remember that the best that any of us can be or become is one of the ‘friends of Jesus’. He calls you to be his friend, and writes off all that you owe. He promises aid whenever you need it – all with no strings attached, and also gives us  – to each other – for ever.

But we should also realise, that the story is a parable, and not just a piece of moral teaching about money, and how or how not to use it. We are faced with a first-century Jewish story about a master and a steward, so we should realise that the master is God; and the steward is Israel. Israel is supposed to be God’s property manager, the light of God’s world, responsible to God and set over his possessions. But Israel – as can be seen in so much of Luke – has failed in the task, and is under threat of imminent dismissal. What then ought Israel to do? The Pharisees’ answer was to pull the regulations of the law even tighter, to try to make Israel more holy. But this had the effect that they were excluding the very people that Jesus was trying to reach. Jesus, in this parable, indicates that if Israel is facing a major crisis the answer is rather to throw caution to the winds, to forget the extra bits and pieces of law which the Pharisees have heaped up, and to make friends as and where they can. That’s what ‘the children of this world’ would do, and ‘the children of light’- that is the Israelites, ought to do so as well, learning from the cunning people of the world how to cope in the crisis that was coming.

Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”- skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”

Amos 8:4-7

The reading from Amos is also warning about unfair trading and social injustice. To have good law and justice in a country you must have a good government to make those laws and then see that they are obeyed. Amos is advocating that the Jewish state return to the teachings of the prophets and obey the laws that God gave them so that they would prosper as the people of God. I think that today, when we look around at the problems in our country, many of us feel that our Parliament, as a whole, has let us down very badly.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

In the reading from the epistle, Paul is giving Timothy instruction about how to be a good pastor, and his teaching on prayer goes straight to the point. It is normal to pray for those close to us, but in this passage he strongly urges that we should start, as it were, at the other end. We should pray for the people who hold the world together by their rule, leadership and authority.  A few years ago people were more or less happy with our democratic institutions, and our system of government. We voted every few years, we answered opinion polls from time to time, and we had a sense that we lived in a free society. Are you aware that since the reign of Charles II, prayers are said before each day of parliamentary business? The Speaker’s Chaplain usually reads the prayer:

“Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed.”

You may not be surprised to hear, considering their recent actions, that in January of this year, some MPs have called for an end to the practice of holding prayers in parliament before the start of official business. This motion, backed by the National Secular Society, says “religious worship should not play any part in the formal business of the House of Commons”. And we think we are in a Christian country!

I remember that not so long ago, in every Anglican service there was a prayer for the Queen, but just not the queen but for all those in authority under her; this included all those in government, national and local, the armed forces, police and civil servants. When I was in the Royal Air Force, I liked that prayer because I felt it was also for me. I held the Queen’s Commission and I was part of all those ‘in authority under her’. That prayer was not just for the Queen but for the good governance of all in our country. We rarely hear it today!

Many Christians who were reasonably content with their country have been tempted to think that praying for kings and governments is a rather boring, a conformist thing to do. It looked like propping up the status quo. But now we have an unstable government, unable to find solutions to current problems and tending to divide rather than unite the country. We have knife and drug crime rife amongst our young, an under-resourced police force, a judiciary who appear weak, and there are other injustices affecting the less able and weak in our society. Our tackling of climate change and pollution can be said to be only half hearted at best.

No, this is not another chapter of Project fear, but a call to action for all Christians. The teaching given to Timothy is correct and just as meaningful now as it was then. Should we not all be joining together and praying for good government on a worldwide scale, for the United Nations and all who seek to influence the rulers of the nations?

This train of thought brings us exactly to the point the Jews had reached in the first century. They had suffered under persecution and unjust rulers for many generations. But they trusted in the one true God, and that God had sent his Son Jesus into the world to act as a ‘mediator between God and humans’. The fact that this view of God is centred upon Jesus, who died as a ransom for the sins of the whole world, means that the news of this one God, this one Saviour, must now go out and spread into all the world.

As so often in the New Testament, the call to prayer is also the call to think clearly about God and the world, and God’s project for the whole human race. Try praying for your rulers instead, and watch not only what God will do in your society but also how your own attitudes will grow, change and mature. So, if we want Justice for all, if we want a better government, if we want the best outcome from the current situation, if we want to see our nation united and thriving again in the future, then we had better start praying for it now.

“Oh Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, we are in a mess. Grant to all those responsible for our government, both in this country and to those who speak for the European Union, the wisdom and the guidance of your Spirit, that they may reach solutions which benefits all and brings the unity and wellbeing for which we all long; For yours is the kingdom and the power; and to yours be the glory now and for evermore.”

AMEN

Rural Dean of Macclesfield 2014-2019

Canon Veronica has completed her five-year stint as Rural Dean of Macclesfield. A number of well-wishers from around the Deanery showed their appreciation…

Gifts of a mainly liquid variety

Revd Dr John Harries, Vicar of the Peak Parishes (Bosley, Sutton, Wildboarclough and Wincle ) was Commissioned as the next Rural Dean of Macclesfield at St James, Sutton on Tuesday 10 September, one of Bishop Peter’s last services before he retires at the end of September.

11th Sunday after Trinity 2019

Come to the party!

Brian Reader

Proverbs 25:6 – 7; Ps 112; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14

A very good morning to you all on this the 11th Sunday of Trinity, or as Veronica has renamed it “Back to school Sunday”.

I am very pleased to be back with you today because last Sunday Jean and I were worshipping at Holy Trinity Church in Broadstairs, in the church where I was both christened and confirmed. Veronica would have appreciated the service as lots of incense was used.

We were there to celebrate the 80th Birthday of my sister-in-law, and it was a big family gathering and a party. To find a theme for the address for today is fairly straight forward as the short reading from Proverbs points directly to the Gospel from St Luke, which itself links in with the family party.

Did you know that Luke’s gospel has more mealtime scenes than all the others? If Luke’s vision of the Christian life, from one point of view, is a journey, then from another point of view it’s a party. Several stories end with a festive meal – like, for instance, the parable of the prodigal son which is in the next chapter of Luke. All these themes come together in the Last Supper and, finally, the reported meal at the end of the journey along the road to Emmaus.

In this chapter Luke has brought together two parables about feasting. The first we heard this morning, is not always recognized as a parable, because it looks simply like a piece of social advice, a piece of practical wisdom. So if you want to avoid embarrassment in front of your fellow guests, then follow this tip. But Jesus didn’t come to offer good advice; and often his own conduct seemed calculated to cause embarrassment. In any case, Luke tells us it’s a parable; in other words, we ought to expect it to have at least a double meaning.

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched… When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

What is Jesus really talking about? The rest of the chapter makes it clear that he’s talking about the way in which people of his day were jostling for position in the eyes of God. They were, so it appeared to him, eager to push themselves forward, to show how well they were keeping the law, not to benefit others, but to maintain their own purity. They were precisely the sort of people he now found himself with, people who would watch for any sign of irregularity, even frowning upon actions, such as Jesus’ healing a man on the Sabbath; which they would have accepted on any other day but not the Sabbath. And Jesus, throughout this section of Luke, is turning things upside down. He is associating with the wrong kind of people. He is touching the untouchable and going out of his way to speak to the nobodies.

The parable, then, isn’t so much good advice for social occasions – although there is a very practical human wisdom in the warning against pride and arrogance. No! The real meaning is to be found in the warning against pushing oneself forward in the sight of God. In Jesus’ day it was all too easy for the well-off and the legally trained to imagine that they were superior in God’s sight to the poor, and to those without the opportunity to study, let alone practise, the law. And even today, this is a trap that Clerics, Readers, and all other Christians can fall into.

At the same time, in the world for which Luke was writing, there would also be another wider meaning. Within Luke’s lifetime thousands of non-Jews had become Christians – they had entered, as you might say, into the dinner party prepared by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Many Jewish Christians, as we know from Acts, had found this difficult, if not impossible, to understand or approve. They were so eager to maintain their own places at the top table, that they could not grasp God’s great design to stand the world on its head.

Pride, notoriously, is the great cloud which blots out the sun of God’s generosity. If I reckon that I deserve to be favoured by God, not only do I declare that I don’t need his grace, mercy and love, but I also imply, that those who I think don’t deserve it, shouldn’t have it. Jesus spent his whole life breaking through that cloud and bringing the fresh, healing sunshine of God’s love to those in its shadow. The Pharisees could watch Jesus all they liked, but the power, both of his healings, and of his explanations, was too strong for them. The small-mindedness which pushes itself forward and leaves others behind, is confronted with the large-hearted love of God. All Christians are called to the same healthy dependence on God’s love, and should have the same generosity in sharing it with those in need.

The last two verses are linked more with the next passage, but still have a message for us. Bishop Tom Wright, who has written many good commentaries on the Gospels said, that once, many years ago, he preached a sermon on this passage. He emphasized the extraordinary way in which Jesus tells his hearers to do something that must have been as puzzling then as it is now. Don’t invite friends, relatives and neighbours to dinner – invite the poor and the disabled. The sermon had a strange effect. In the course of the next week he and his wife received dinner invitations from no fewer than three people who had been in church that day. The Bishop didn’t know which category of guest he was in and he was too polite – or afraid – to ask. This time it looks as if the passage is real advice. The parable of the supper, which immediately follows, is a parable all right, but Jesus really seems to have intended his hearers to take literally his radical suggestion about who to invite to dinner parties.

Social conditions have changed. Once it was easier when people lived in small villages in which everyone knows everyone else’s business, when meals are eaten with the doors open and people wander to and fro at will, but now in many parts of the world this has changed and it may seem harder to put it into practice. Many Christians would have to try quite hard to find poor and disabled people to invite to a party – although you will know some who do just that.

But nobody can use the difference in circumstances as an excuse for ignoring the sharp edge of Jesus’ demand. In particular, they cannot ignore it in the light of the parable that follows. You will remember the story about people who very rudely snub the invitation to a splendid party. They make excuses of the usual kind. The householder, having gone to all the trouble of organizing and paying for a lavish feast, is determined to have guests at his table, even if he has to find them in unconventional locations. The original guests have ruled themselves out, and others have come in to take their place. Once again the invited and expected guests are the Jews, waiting and waiting for the kingdom, only to find, when it arrived, that they had more pressing things to occupy them.

Of course, in Luke’s day many Jews had become Christians. But the majority of the nation, both in Palestine and in the scattered Jewish communities in the rest of the world, were not. Instead, (as it must have seemed to those first Jewish Christians), God’s messengers had gone out into the roads and hedgerows of the world, getting all kinds of unexpected people to join in the party. Not just Gentiles, but people with every kind of moral and immoral background, people quite different from them culturally, socially, ethnically and ethically.

But there is a another twist to this parable, because it bends back, as it were, on itself, returning to the challenge which Jesus gave in those last verses. The party to which the original guests were invited was Jesus’ kingdom-movement, his remarkable welcome to all and sundry. If people wanted to be included in Jesus’ movement, this is the sort of thing they were joining.

Once again, therefore, the challenge comes to us today. Christians, reading this anywhere in the world, must work out in their own churches and families what it would mean to celebrate God’s kingdom so that the people at the bottom of the pile, at the end of the line, would find it to be good news. It isn’t enough to say that we ourselves are the people dragged in from the country lanes, to our surprise, to enjoy God’s party. That may be true; but as those of you who have done an Alpha course, or experienced a Cursillo weekend will know, party guests are then expected to become party hosts in their turn.

Jesus is asking you to invite non-Christians to come in and share His party, to share, His love, His joy and His forgiveness which is available to all.

AMEN

Working to become Dementia Friendly

Bollington is now officially “Working to become Dementia Friendly”

A dementia-friendly community is a city, town or village where people with dementia are understood, respected and supported.

Communities who wish to be recognised as dementia-friendly can register on Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities recognition process. These communities will be considered to be ‘working to become dementia friendly’ and may use the ‘Working to become Dementia Friendly’ symbol (‘the symbol’) as long as they are part of this process.

STOP PRESS:
Bollington is now part of this process!
We’ll add more detail when available

We are hoping St Oswald’s may be used as a regular support meeting venue for carers and sufferers in future

Season of Creation 2019

Starting Sunday 1 September 5.oopm at St Michael’s Macclesfield

More Information on Events

Sunday 1st September 5.00pm
“World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”
Prayer Service at St Michael’s Church, Market Place SK10 1DY

Sunday 8th September 2.00pm
Reflective Ramble
Walk to reflect on and appreciate God’s creation followed by tea and cakes.
Teggs Nose Country Park SK11 0AP

Monday 16th September 7.30pm
Macctastic meeting
at St Michael’s Church, Market Place SK10 1DY

Sunday 22nd September 11.30am
Family Cycle Ride
Cycle to Nelson Pit for a picnic.
Meet at Tesco Car Park SK10 2AB

Sunday 29th September 10.00am
Morning Service with an Eco Church theme
at St Peter’s Church, Prestbury SK10 4DG

Friday 4th October 7.00pm
Celebrate the end of the Season of Creation and St Francis’ Feast Day
Prayer Service at St Albans Church, Chester Road SK11 8JD

even more detail here

Vicar’s Letter – September 2019

On 22 October this year we will happily celebrate 111 years of worship and witness here at St Oswald’s.

How time flies! Last Spring, the exciting though modest internal building plans for improving our collective hospitality and welcome were granted faculty permission by the Diocesan Chancellor. Hopefully now this Autumn the work will actually start, the first phase being the creation of a new glazed fire exit door in place of one of the windows along the south west wall of the church (opposite the old school buildings), in accordance with plans earlier approved by Cheshire East Planning Department. Our thanks go to Richard Raymond, our volunteer Project Manager, for successfully liaising with our Architect and the supervising contractors so that works can begin, utilising part of the funds we have already earmarked for this project. We are continuing to apply for additional funding in order to subsequently proceed with the next phase, that of fitting a new kitchen into the former main entrance porch area, and then finally moving on to the creation of wall cupboards on either side of the west end of the nave, to house our folding tables and chairs and other equipment when not in use. Apart from applying for grants, we are always on the look-out for good fundraising ideas, so please do come along to our next Growth Action Planning meeting at 10.00am on Saturday 21 September if you have any inspired suggestions! (Of course, there are also special Gift Aid envelopes available at the back of church for contributions towards our Kitchen Development Project.) Thank you for your continuing prayers and financial support.

People may not be aware that (thanks to a small group of dedicated key-holders) since September 2016 we have been unlocking the church during daylight hours (normally between 8.30am and 4.30pm) on a Wednesday each week?

This is to offer anyone free space to come into St Oswald’s for a moment or two of peace and reflection, to make themselves a cup of coffee or tea from the servery hatch, to find time to think and pray quietly, to light a votive candle either for themselves or for someone else, and hopefully to sense the powerful yet gentle and familiar presence of God which has imbued this building for almost 111 years now. You may encounter others popping in during the course of any ordinary Wednesday, whether they are young pupils from Bollington Cross School’s Focus Group, facilitated by school governor Maggie O’Donnell and a member of staff, or perhaps if you venture into church between 2.00pm and 3.00pm you may be conscious of a small group from our regular congregation gathered in the Vestry Room at the east end of the church for their weekly Faith Hour (and if you chose to do so, you’d be most welcome to join Jean Reader and her friends for this informal hour of refreshments, prayer and companionship). Whether you find the church empty of people or you are aware of others who are also respectfully making use of the space, we pray that you will find it to be a place of solace, comfort and even challenge – a calming place without too many distractions, where you can focus your attention on what is really important to you, and where hopefully you may discover some much-needed fresh perspective in the midst of an otherwise busy or stressful working week…

The National Churches Trust published a document in August 2016 entitled “50 Things to do in a Church”. One contributor was their Vice-President, the former Monty Python performer, intrepid traveller and entertaining writer, Michael Palin, who said this:

Once asked to declare my religious beliefs I described myself as ‘an agnostic with doubts’. However, my interest in and fondness for churches is undiminished…

Churches and chapels are important for all sorts of reasons. Where some are notable for inspirational architecture, others are commended for their community role and the work they do in bringing local people together. Two years ago, I was being cross-questioned in a court case in London and during a lunch break, in which I was not permitted to talk to anyone, I desperately wanted somewhere to sit quietly and get myself together. And yet there was nowhere where the price of a seat didn’t involve eating, drinking or some commercial transaction. Then, out of the blue, at the very heart of Fleet Street, I discovered the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West. I was never so grateful for a place of repose, an oasis of peace and quiet in the midst of the mayhem.”

Michael goes on: “There are of course many other uses for churches and chapels, and the National Churches Trust’s ’50 Things to do in a Church’ – which includes everything from finding the Green Man to helping out at a Night Shelter – shows clearly why churches are such important local buildings. Our churches speak to all of us, even just as a tower on the horizon, a spire amongst the trees. We must do all we can to pass them on to future generations. They are part of our landscape and part of our national heritage. We have to do all we can to make them part of our lives as well.”

Please do now and then weave a visit to St Oswald’s into the fabric of your everyday life, whether that means coming along to one of our many different worship services, our welcoming social occasions, a music concert or art exhibition, a particular charity fundraising event, or simply to spend a while here on a Wednesday to place yourself and your concerns consciously within God’s presence and, by taking that time out, to know yourself to be blessed. This is your Parish Church and thankfully its witness spans multiple generations and is constantly evolving to encourage and inspire us all, both young and old, to make the most of our lives. Thank you to the steadily increasing number of people from our local and wider community who have joined our new “Friends of St Oswald’s” Scheme, whose generous commitment to regular financial support (whether large or small) will enable us to continue opening our doors, welcoming people in and empowering them to persevere, overcoming all obstacles through God’s good grace, for many more years to come.

Every blessing,

Veronica

Gin Flight at St Oswald’s

55 people participated in our Gin Flight evening to mark St Oswald’s Day. We enjoyed a variety of gins selected by our host for the evening Heather Kirk (of Concepts of Wine & Dine). Most of the gins had some sort of Ecclesiastical connection. There was also a raffle with many other gin-related prizes.

The event was held to raise funds for our New Kitchen project.

This one was certainly different. It was black. And like Marmite, some enjoyed it, others were not keen.

The next Bishop of Chester

#YourBishList – Have your say!

copied from the Diocesan Website

The Church of England is looking to appoint the next Bishop of Chester to lead the Diocese of Chester, and the Vacancy in See Committee is seeking your views on who that person should be and the qualities he or she should have. 

Click HERE to participateDeadline for submissions: 10 September

Comments will be received and read by the Vacancy in See Committee, the group tasked with preparing a brief description of the diocese and a statement setting out the desired profile of the next bishop.

Garden Party at Lambeth Palace

By the invitation of Archbishop Justin Welby, Veronica attended the event on Tuesday 23 July 2019 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood.

After the Garden Party, Veronica took a trip down Memory Lane – or to be more accurate, a boat trip on the Thames…