Lent Lunch Talks 2018 – 5

Roy Arnold

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8

A thought to hold in mind and we may illustrate it by something that happened to Jesus: two men stood before him, one was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee said to himself “How glad I am that I am not as other men are. I fulfil all the laws of our Jewish faith from the old testament. I have never touched a pork pie. I wash everything that is unclean according to the Bible. I go to synagogue every day and I am very pleased with myself. And I am certainly better than this tax collector.”

And the tax collector said “God have mercy upon me – a sinner.”

You might have thought that Jesus, the Son of God, would have commended and congratulated the Pharisee for his exemplary religious life. but instead, Jesus commended the tax collector for his absolute honesty.

Sometimes we can get bored by the same old words in our services week by week in our church worship. But I think the repetition of the words is good for us, and the words “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” remind us of the need for honesty before God. And as we hear these words often, we can (and must) take them to heart, as they remind us that what God wants is not self-righteousness but honesty – and certainly never to think of ourselves as better than any other, because we have all sinned and come short of what God – and Jesus – wants of us.

When we come to church to worship God, our services often start with a confession, and I think that we often just gabble through it, maybe without much thought. Yet I believe God wants us to come to Him with our sins of thought word and deed, of commission and omission, to be forgiven, and to improve our lives and be happy. We cannot afford to wallow in our sins – we need to get rid of them. Things like bad temper or peevishness, or money grabbing – maybe things we may not think of as sins at all – just part of who we are.

Envy is counted as the number one of seven deadly sins, which can destroy our relationships in marriages or in family life. And confessing our sins to God is a start towards a better way. I think we could all do with preparing a list (as we do when shopping) and being specific about the sins we want to be rid of. Only make the list in your head (in case you accidentally leave it around). Although in the early church people did confess their sins openly as a way of healing, which is a thought alien to us – to think that our sins might be making us ill, and confession a way to get better. So as the way to end these Lenten talks…

Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die
to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we are healed. Let us
confess our sins. 1 Peter 2.24

Let us admit to God the sin which always confronts us.
Lord God,
we have sinned against you;
we have done evil in your sight.
We are sorry and repent.
Have mercy on us according to your love.
Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.
Renew a right spirit within us and restore us to the joy of your salvation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 51

Almighty God,
who in Jesus Christ has given us a kingdom that cannot be destroyed,
forgive us our sins,
open our eyes to God’s truth,
strengthen us to do God’s will
and give us the joy of his kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Lent Lunch Talks 2018 – 4

Roy Arnold

We are now halfway through Lent. The word Lent comes from Old English lencten, the lengthening of the day as this year of 2018 spins along. And this Lengthening of the Days is another way of describing Spring. And at one time, Spring was synonymous with giving the house a good clean through – a Spring Clean. Not so much practised nowadays, because with a good Hoover and washing machine you can Spring Clean every week. Yet, I believe, we can still Spring Clean our lives – our souls- and our life-style.

At one time if you asked about THREE sinful things to do people might have said SMOKING, DRINKING and SWEARING. Well I would say yes to SMOKING as a wrong thing, as it is self-harming. But actually up to you if you want to die of lung cancer. As to drinking, well of course it can be harmful and lead to alcoholism (another way of self-harming), but is probably OK in moderation. Although I would say that it is difficult to moderate, and that an awful lot of harm is caused by DRINK – violence is often a result of drinking. But in moderation some people say it is a good thing. As to SWEARING, I suppose it depends on the context – and whether or not it is meant, or is a habit.

But there are (I think) many other things – every day things – which become sinful. ENVY comes top of the Seven Deadly Sins – and it can spoil relationships and family life. And there are other everyday things that can become sinful and destroy people’s happiness. I would say BAD TEMPER would come top in this. old men (and I speak as one) can be particularly good at Bad Temper – which is related to peevishness and changeability – never knowing whether you are going to upset someone – someone you never know how they are going to take things. Self-righteousness is another thing which can destroy happiness.

I could go on about everyday sins because they can ruin family life and marriage. Maybe – if we would like to Spring Clean our life – this is where we could start in this season of Lent, which as it happens, coincides with Spring. And Spring coincides with fresh life and new growth.

God doesn’t want us to confess our sin to him in order to condemn us, but to give us a Good Life. A life like Springtime after Winter. To give us LIFE and have it more abundantly.

Lent Lunch Talks 2018 – 3

Roy Arnold

I spoke last week about our sins, which can come in all shapes and sizes – little sins, big sins and huge sins. The interesting thing is that huge sins begin normally with small thoughts we allow to grow.

If you think about it, the holocaust, in which six million Jews died, began with someone’s thoughts and passed on through the ages until it became a terrible crime against humanity.

My talk last week was about our sins of thought, word and deeds – hateful thoughts, hateful words and hateful deeds. And we can divide these sins into two halves, namely things we actually do or think or say (we call these “sins of commission”) in contrast to our “sins of omission” – things we don’t think (when we should) or don’t say (when we should) or deeds we should do but don’t.

And I have always believed that all of us are more guilty of sins of omission. The good thoughts and opinions about other people, or the good, encouraging (loving) words we should have said but didn’t or don’t, and the good deeds which we forget to do – or never even thought of. All of which linger on, as thoughts, words or deeds which remain good intentions.

According to our prayer-book  we don’t act as we should, through “negligence, weakness or our own deliberate fault”. In this season of Lent our faith reminds us of our need to come to God and say sorry. And, if need be, to say sorry to the people we sin against. That is if we previously through carelessness or negligence haven’t even recognised that we have hurt them – usually the ones we shouldn’t hurt at all…

If we can ask God to forgive us for our sins of commission or omission, then forgiven and freed from guilt we will be able to serve God and one another in newness of life – the fresh start which Lent reminds us about.

New mercies each returning day
hover around us while we pray.
New perils past, new sins forgiven.
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

Lent Lunch Talks 2018 – 2

Roy Arnold

Here we are in the season of Lent – and, from her fabulous collection of stoles, Veronica will be wearing purple for the next few weeks at Holy Communion. Purple for “saying sorry to God” for our sins and to receive his forgiveness.

Sins:
– the things we have thought (about other people – and even about ourselves) which has saddened God
– or the words we have spoken. – unkindly or carelessly – and which maybe have been contrary to God’s ways
– or our  deeds which have been wrong in God’s eyes.

To sum up, our sins of thought, word or deed.

Note the order of our sins. Sins begin with thoughts – the things which we harbour in our minds, or which other people have planted in our minds. Things which we keep in our “craws” and which, as sure as eggs are eggs, thoughts will become words. And from being hidden they will become public – out in the open – for all to hear. And from words they can soon become deeds.

How much better our own lives and our world would be, and happier too, if we could think good thoughts, and speak good words, and do good deeds. But often maybe we don’t, which means we must own up to God our sins of thought, word or deed, and trust in the love of God – who surprisingly knows the thoughts of our hearts, and our words before they leave our mouths and our deeds before we do them.

But before he can forgive us, we must own up, come clean. Then God in His everlasting love can truly forgive us, and we can make another new start. We must be born again – maybe many times!

Lent Lunch Talks 2018 – 1

Roy Arnold

Just by way of interest, how many of you take the “Macclesfield Express”?

Well, if you do, you will know the item called “Before the Bench” – a weekly list of people had up for drunkenness, driving too fast, stealing, beating up their wives or girl-friends, drug offences – selling them or taking them. It all makes depressing reading.

But there is nothing new under the sun. Back in the early days of the church, St Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, gives us a similar list of offences like “quarrels and strife, unfaithfulness in marriage, anger, drunkenness, jealousy, etc”.

By way of contrast, St Paul lists what’s on the opposite side of the coin – what he calls the Fruits of the Spirit. In other words, how God wants us to live a better way – a more happy way. Here is his list: “love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I think you would agree God’s way is by far the better way. You would think that coming to church regularly might be a guarantee of us leaving a life full of the Fruits – the harvest of the Spirit. Yet in my time as a vicar I have had an alcoholic churchwarden, an organist who regularly “borrowed” money from vulnerable pensioners, a young server who embezzled funds from his employer (a funeral director) and a regular communicant who was totally obnoxious. Meanwhile (I guess) others might be sinners in a more hidden way – behind closed curtains.

It may well be that as a church we are always banging on about sins. So I make no excuse – as a sinner myself – that in these next few weeks of Lent, I am going to talk about sin. “We knew nothing about sin until our new Vicar arrived” – an old joke. But I have come to a new understanding of how God works. For instance, in the Lord’s Prayer two things are closely linked together and joined together by a very significant conjunction – by an “and”: “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses.” This is God’s provision: Bread and forgiveness.

Appropriate, then, that with our bread and soup, that we dip into some thoughts about sins – and God’s wish for us to be rid of them. We can all be tempted. But being tempted is not sinning, to quote: “Temptations are like birds flying over our heads. It is only when we let them make nests in our hair that they become sins.”

Jesus said: “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” Maybe like an archer aiming for a bull’s-eye, not quite hitting it, but having to keep trying.

St Paul said: “The good that I want to do, I don’t do; and the evil I don’t want to do, that I do!”

When we think about God we might be inclined to think of some stern headmaster – always on duty to spot naughty children. But Jesus tells us that his likeness is to:
a housewife searching for a lost coin,
or a shepherd looking for a lost sheep
or a father welcoming home his tearaway son.
At this mention of God in relation to our sins, think of the three descriptions – the housewife, the shepherd and the overjoyed father.