St Oswald’s Day 2018

Be Strong and of Good Courage!

At our Family Service this morning we heard the story of St Oswald (about 604 – 642 AD), King of Northumbria who helped St Aidan  to spread Christianity throughout his kingdom. He was generous to the poor. One Easter he was feasting with St Aidan when news came of poor people in the street outside begging for food. Oswald not only shared the food from the feast, but also gave away the silver dishes that the food was on. He had a wooden cross erected before the Battle of Heavenfield and exhorted his troops to be Strong and of Good Courage.

During the service young and older members of the congregation decorated shields with Christian symbols.

The banner in our Children’s Corner was created ten years ago by children from both of our Church Schools

9th Sunday after Trinity 2018

Brian Reader

2 Kings 4: 42-44; Ps 145. 10-19; Ephesians 3.14-21; John 6:1 -21

In the past I have spoken about the story of the feeding of the 5000, so, I was a bit taken aback to find that the main Bible reading again related to that story; so today I will be asking you to think about the second part of the story where Jesus comes to his disciples when they are in trouble on the lake.

Just over two weeks ago the country was gripped with the Football World Cup fever, and even Veronica featured it in her sermon. Our team did well, but had they returned with the trophy I am sure that one of the newspaper headlines would have said that Gareth Southgate, or the winning goal scorer ‘walks on water’, acknowledging an almost superhuman performance. But that success in the world cup did not quite happen.

‘Walking on water’ has become an accepted sign of divinity since the evangelists recorded this story -which is exactly why they wrote it down. But the water he walked on was no ‘millpond’. Jesus was seen, striding across a tempestuous sea.

Now I believe in miracles. I believe in the really big ones, the Incarnation and the Resurrection; I believe that Jesus healed the sick and cured the lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb. I believe in miracles, but I do not believe in magic; there is no place for magic in the Christian faith.
When it comes to the ‘nature miracles’, however, I have to pause and wonder; but I’ll keep an open mind.

You have heard me speak about Bishop Tom Wright, and he has written the book ‘John for Everyone’. The book is a very easy to read commentary on the Gospel of John and in it the bishop says he believes that St. John has already made it clear that this chapter is to be all about the Exodus, and so when we have this scene of Jesus walking on the water we should be prepared to understand it as part of the same story. The children of Israel began their journey to freedom by coming through the Red Sea, with the waters parting before them but closing again on their pursuers. It was, of course, Moses who led the way through the Red Sea, and the crowds have just declared that Jesus is ‘the prophet who should come into the world’ – the prophet, that is, like Moses.

Now, even though the crowds have misunderstood what such a prophet might have come to do – they were looking for another act of political liberation, but Jesus was offering something far greater and deeper – Jesus nevertheless does something which the disciples, on subsequent reflection, are bound to see in terms of the Exodus story, the Passover story.

They would see it like this – not least because the Jewish people were not very keen on the sea. They were not much of a seafaring race, unlike the ancient Phoenicians to the north. In some of their ancient stories and Psalms, the sea was associated with chaos, evil, untameable forces within the natural or the spiritual world. True, they sang psalms which celebrated the fact that YHWH, their God, was king over the mighty waters. But small lakes can make big waves as we saw on the TV last weekend, when the Duck boat sank on a small lake in America with the loss of all those lives. So even the fishermen in the story, used to squalls on the Sea of Galilee, could find themselves not only in trouble but in real fear of their lives, as the sea would suddenly become rough, and chaos threatened to come again.

All of this is in the evangelist’s mind as he tells of how Jesus carried on praying on the mountain, away from the excited crowds, until late in the evening, while the disciples set off back to Capernaum in the boat. The lake is about twelve miles long by seven wide at its widest point, and it looks as though they had rowed, through the storm, most of the way back from the east side of the lake to Capernaum on the north side, when Jesus came to them walking on the water.

This event is recorded by Matthew and Mark as well as by John – with all three of them locating it immediately after the feeding of the multitude – and there is no way of rationalising it. (People have suggested that maybe Jesus was standing on a sand bank near the shore, or something equally unlikely). You either come to the story with a firm view of what is and isn’t possible in the world, which won’t allow any fresh evidence – which is not, perhaps, the best way of approaching a book like John, which is all about the challenge of the gospel to all existing world-views – or you come with at least an open mind to new possibilities as yet unimagined. This isn’t the same as being gullible, or credulous.

Nor are the extraordinary stories in the gospels designed, as some seem to have imagined, to portray Jesus as being able to do anything and everything, simply for the sake of making a supernatural display. They are there, rather, as moments in the text when the strange glory of the Word-made-flesh shines through, not so much because Jesus can do whatever he wants, but because this particular act is so closely associated with what Israel’s God does at a key moment in Israel’s history.

The reaction of the crowd is explained in detail in the next four verses.
22 The next day the crowd that had remained on the far side of the lake saw that there had only been the one boat there. They knew that Jesus hadn’t gone with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves.
23 But other boats came from Tiberius, near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him beside the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

John wants us to understand the fact that not only had the disciples seen what had happened but also that the crowds were puzzled. They knew Jesus hadn’t set off on the boat, and yet when they managed to get to the other side of the lake they found he’d already arrived in Capernaum. Last week, the Revd Rob Wardle told us about his night walk around the north-east side of the lake, so it is easier to understand that it would have been difficult for Jesus to make the journey by land in that time.

As so often, John leaves us with their puzzled question, to which Jesus will now give what seems an even more puzzling answer. This story of Jesus’ walking on the water can easily be used as a theme for meditation.
There are many times in our lives – and we never know when they will strike – when, metaphorically speaking, suddenly the wind gets up and the sea becomes rough. As we struggle to make our way through, sometimes we are aware of a presence with us, which may initially be more disturbing than comforting. (We may think ‘We’re already nearly drowning, and now we’ve got ghosts following us!’) But if we listen, through the roar of the waves and the wind, we may hear the voice that says, ‘It is me – don’t be afraid’.  And if we are ready then to take Jesus on board, we may find ourselves, sooner than we expected, at the harbour where we will be calm and secure once more.

Remember, God in Christ is with you; even in the deepest darkness.
Do not be afraid.
AMEN

God’s Hand Is Always There by Helen Steiner Rice

I am perplexed and often vexed
And sometimes I cry and sadly sigh,
But do not think, Dear Father above,
That I question you or your unchanging love
It’s just sometimes when I reach out
You seem to be nowhere about…
And while I’m sure that you love me still
And I know in my heart that you always will,
Somehow I feel that I cannot reach you
And though l get down on my knees and beseech you,
I cannot bring you closer to me
And I feel adrift on life’s raging sea…
But though I cannot find your hand
To lead me on to the Promised Land,
I still believe with all my being
Your hand is there beyond my seeing!

Kirsty Allan ordained as deacon

Kirsty is from Veronica’s previous parish (Timperley) but those parishioners from Bollington who have visited the Delhi Brotherhood in India will probably know her. She was ordained deacon in Chester Cathedral on 22 July 2018 and Fr Monodeep and Fr Raju from Delhi were able to attend.

The cathedral was packed for this joyous occasion.

Afterwards there was cake. And angels.

Kirsty will be curate at Wilmslow later this year.

This year’s Schools’ Experience Week – Noah

The church was open on Saturday 30 June from 10am to 2pm…

…for people to come in and see what our schoolchildren have been taking part in this week. Some of the school children who had visited the Experience with their class-mates brought their parents or grandparents along.

Nature flourishes under the rainbow!

In previous years we have held Schools’ Experience Weeks about All Saints, Easter, Epiphany, God’s Creation, Jesus’ Parables and Moses.

Vicar’s letter – Summer 2018

A recent BBC TV Antiques Road Show episode marked the centenary this year of (certain) women in the UK having been granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections. We watched with interest from the comfort of our sofa as the many and varied pioneering women and/or their friends and descendants were interviewed: there was a wide range of contributions, each celebrating particular women whose lives and careers had served to promote greater gender equality across our society over the past 100 years, sometimes at significant risk to their own well-being. There were inspiring stories of political campaigners from the suffragist and suffragette movements, an early 20th Century soft toy designer, women’s dance band members, recorded broadcasts from a pioneering opera and jazz singer, the 1928 first women’s Olympic Gymnast Team, the first female press photographer from before WW1 (whose great-great niece is a priest), wartime pilots, spies and land army recruits, post-war cross-channel swimmers, glimpses of fashion models, multi-tasking home-makers and career women, 1960’s striking factory workers, women jockeys and trainers, Greenham Common protesters, polar adventurers, particularly ground-breaking MPs like Margaret Thatcher, Diane Abbott and Betty Boothroyd, and finally our very own Bishop, Libby Lane.

At the end of the programme, Dave expressed mild surprise that one of the first women Marine Cargo Insurance Brokers at Lloyd’s, who went on to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England, had not been featured in the programme – but clearly I’m not yet an Antique, so didn’t really qualify!?!

Annually at this time of year, we rejoice in celebrating the many and varied achievements of all of our young people here in Bollington and Macclesfield. Whether it is in leisure centres or at Sports Days, or within our uniformed organisations, or in creative activities at RiCH our church after-school group , or in a whole range of academic, artistic and practical subjects in our local schools and colleges, we applaud the efforts and developing skills and expertise demonstrated by this future generation of pioneers and innovators, of public servants and others dedicated to make the world a better place.

I personally had the privilege recently of witnessing the graduation ceremony of a young woman, Dawn Biza, who has gained a BA in Theatre Studies at Millikin University, near Chicago in Illinois. As part of her four year University course, Dawn recently made her debut at the Globe Theatre in London! She is definitely a star in the making! I first met Dawn in 2001 when as a young child she encouraged her Mum to bring her to church and they became members of the congregation of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate in East London where I was Vicar at the time. Although still only at primary school, Dawn was one of those who confidently chose a few years later to be confirmed by the Bishop of Barking at a special service to mark the 150th Anniversary of that church, when the then Borough Mayor (who happened to be a Sikh) was also present! I was honoured to be at her graduation ceremony in May this year, to celebrate her academic achievements and also her work as a socially aware global citizen who is a strong yet humble woman of faith. I am proud to count Dawn as one of my friends as she now steps up resolutely to take her place upon the world’s stage.

Whatever their aspirations and ambitions, may we continue to nurture all our young people in faith and love, praying that they may each be enabled to fulfil their true God-given potential and to discover and develop their talents, for their own continued well-being and for the greater common good. As the late MP Jo Cox declared: “We have more in common than that which divides us.” May we recognise the unique part we have to play in our society today and may we encourage one another to always be the best we can be, to the glory of God and for the betterment of the world we have inherited from all those who’ve dared to mark out new paths and sing new songs across the centuries.

Every blessing,
Veronica