The light of Christ

Canon Roy Arnold

The other night when I couldn’t get off to sleep, I went downstairs to make myself a hot drink. I sat to sip it (without the light on) by the window when I noticed – to my surprise – a sinister black plant on the window ledge. I recognised it after a moment or two, as the crimson Poinsettia we had at Christmas. In the dark its bright red petal-leaves had taken on the blackness of the night.

Well last week was a pretty dark one I think – despite the brightness of the weather – with the terrible news of the young Jordanian pilot put to death, and the ongoing story of apathy in the face of the abuse of children and young women at Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Obviously sometimes we seem to take too much notice of breaking news from far away, while failing to recognise good news from around the corner, but there are occasions when the darkness can enter our own lives and homes when death or serious illness comes calling.

But our Gospel for today (from John ch 1) reminds us of the light which shines in all our darknesses, which light is Jesus, and which the darkness failed to overcome. In that reading from St John’s Gospel (which we normally hear at Christmas), the light from the infant Jesus seems like a little lantern in the dark corner of the stable at Bethlehem. But a light which grew as Jesus became a man, and shone out in his teaching and his gifts of healing, and finally in the expression of his love on the Cross, and three days later his gift of New Life for us all in his Resurrection.

In the Season of Lent – now almost upon us – we shall hope to prepare ourselves for Passiontide and Easter and maybe learn that the darkness of our world is down – not to a cruel and capricious God – but to the darkness which is within ourselves when we fail to see and follow the Wisdom and the Love of God. The Wisdom which is calling out to all of us as we heard in our first reading from Proverbs. But our Gospel for today told us that when Jesus came to live among us, his own people – the Jews – failed to recognise him because their minds preferred the darkness to the light. Like the fanatic Muslims and the young pilot they so brutally killed and like the Nazis whom we remembered last week who killed six million Jewish people – their minds darkened by thoughts of revenge or totally misguided ideologies and motives.

We are told in the New Testament of how Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time, when he looked out over the city (knowing the terrible fate of the city and most of its people). We are told in just two poignant words: “Jesus wept”. He often must weep still at the thought of how the heart of humanity (which of course includes me and you) can so easily let the darkness overcome us, either by apathy, despair or downright evil.

All the more reason that we must try and try to follow this man called Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God and who came to be that light for all people. And who (even when his own people and we all rejected him) faced up to his death on the cross and said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”; then went on to bring us out into the light of Everlasting Life.

I was long asleep (I guess) when the dawn broke and the Crimson returned to the Poinsettia flowers and Christ’s glory filled the skies. Christ the true, the only light. And the Sun of righteousness triumphed o’er the shades of night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth – when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

John 1: 1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

 

Another road

Canon Roy Arnold

We are all familiar with the Three Wise Men and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but let me tell yon this morning about one of the other main characters in this story.

King Herod, better known as Herod the Great, had quite a good reputation as the restorer of a ruined Jerusalem, rebuilder of a new temple and other grand schemes. He was generous to the poor after he once had some of his gold plates melted down and the proceeds given to feed the hungry, and he was bringer of 21 years of peace to his kingdom. Not bad.

But he had a flaw in his character. He was deeply suspicious of anyone who challenged his power and he actually murdered his wife and her mother because of this. And many another who threatened him which is why he gained the reputation of being a murderous old man, getting worse in his old age.

Imagine then how he felt when our Wise Men turned up asking about a new king just born. We know his response “Go and find this child” he said, “that I too may come and worship him”. But for “worship” he actually meant to MURDER him.

But the Wise Men were not called “wise” for nothing and when they had found Jesus and presented their gifts, we are told they went back home “by another road”, disappearing from the pages of the Bible and history leaving Herod the Great thwarted in his evil intent.

What lessons might we learn from this familiar story, I wonder? Perhaps we might ponder about the flaws we might have like Herod beneath our own good reputations and respectability, and wonder (or maybe know) that there might lurk another side to our characters; some shady or darker side. Psychologists tell us that we all have a shadow self, a dark side, such as Herod had in abundance. With us it can be envy of others, or jealousy, or greed. It might be an everyday fault like a wicked temper or irritability, or the need to control others at work or at home.

The plain fact is that these flaws spoil our lives, and when we add all the faults of humanity together they most certainly spoil our world. Just watch the News tonight to confirm that this is so.

And yet, there is an answer to all of this. There is always “another road” for us to take – as the Wise Men did – which I believe is the other road of love and forgiveness. In our own everyday lives and in the wider life of humanity, as taught by Jesus; the alternative route which He wants us to travel. The other road with Jesus by our side; and what better time to decide to travel this other road than at the start of this New Year.

I came across a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta the other day. She said: “Every work of love brings a person face to face with God, and simple acts of love and care keep the light of Christ burning”. Let us – me and you – keep this light of Christ burning through this New Year.

Going the other road with Him – His way. But always remembering that this road – this way – is not an easy route.

By no means easy.

motherTeresa

Knitting for Ugandan babies

The charity “Born on the Edge” is currently working on a project at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in the east of Uganda. They are setting up a ward for babies that are born too soon or too small. These children are not able to control their body temperature properly and, even in a warm country like Uganda, need tiny hats, cardigans and blankets in order to keep warm enough to survive.
Our “Bollington Church News” editor, Katharine Howe, enlisted the help of a group of knitting volunteers among our congregation to help support the charity. On Sunday 14 December a large selection of knitted items was displayed at the front of the church to be be blessed before being packed to be sent off to Uganda. At this time in the Church’s year we remember how Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus in difficult circumstances far from home.
In early 2015 we heard of the discharge from hospital of the first baby to have a “Bollington hat”!
A big “Thank You” to all who have helped in this marathon effort, some of whom are shown in the group photo.

Advent – looking forward not backward

Canon Roy Arnold

This is not the sermon I was going to write, but the postman arrived when I had just started writing that one, and what he delivered waylaid me. It was our latest Tesco club card statement which arrived and looking at it I realised (to quote George Orwell) that Big Brother had been truly watching me; because all the money-off coupons exactly matched our recent purchases, all entered into the Tesco computer. I suppose they even have my shoe size.

No surprise there I suppose. But then I got to thinking that if Tesco know so much about me, it is frightening to think what God or my recording angel must know about me. And about you. About our going out and our coming in; about when we sit down or get up, and what we are going to say even before we speak. Our good points, and our sins likewise. When we fail to do right, or when we are pleasing to God. And I thought about Jesus as our judge at the end of time with all this evidence to hand.

This is one of the major themes of this season of Advent – Jesus as our judge – so what will Jesus think about us? I believe he will search for our good points as well as the bad.

But what about our bad points? All the more reason why we should be totally grateful that Our Lord is letting us (and the rest of humanity) play extra time to get things right and on target before that dreadful day of judgement.

This patience of Jesus is a main theme of our epistle this morning. The early Christians thought the return of Jesus would be straight away, but 2000 years on we are still waiting. One disadvantage, however, of this extra time is that we can so easily forget to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom, but as John the Baptist taught in our gospel for today – it will be wise of us to prepare a way for the Lord. By telling God of our sorrow for our sins, and then trying not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Which is why we, as Christians must try to imitate Christ.

By all means let us remember and welcome the baby born on Christmas Day, but not forgetting it is what we do with the present and the future which really counts – the race which set before us.

The race that is set before us, unless, that is, like the Goons’ song, we are walking backwards to Christmas, which we can never actually do. Our journey carries us onwards, so…

not in that poor lowly stable with the oxen standing by we shall see Him,
but in heaven set at God’s right hand on high.
Where like stars his children crowned, all in white shall stand around.


1 Corinthians 1 3-9

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge – God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13 24-end

But in those days, following that distress,

‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’

Holiday in Venice 2014

venice1

A few holiday snaps from Veronica and Dave’s recent trip to Venice…

 


 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Torcello…
…is a sparsely populated island at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon. It was probably the first of the islands to be populated following the fall of the Roman Empire. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta contains a 12th Century mosaic of the Last Judgement. The 11th century bell tower has been under repair for the last couple of years.

The Devil’s Bridge at Torcello, and some more godly symbols on houses nearby.


Burano
According to legend, the houses at Burano were brightly coloured so that the fishermen could more easily find their own homes after celebrating a successful day’s work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


St Mark’s Basilica
Some of the gold mosaic ceilings date from about 1070, but about two thirds were “restored” in the 18th and 19th century.

Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union

St Oswald’s support for Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has famously criticised payday lenders such as Wonga, and vowed to put them out of business by promoting credit unions as an ethical alternative. He has set up a Task Group to develop the Church of England’s on-going support for local credit unions as part of a more competitive financial sector which encourages responsible lending and saving. (see more on the Church of England website).
Our Parochial Church Council has recently agreed to support our local Credit Union by investing some of our parish reserves with them. Investing our money in the credit union provides funds that can be used to help people needing short-term funds at ethical interest rates.
Individuals within the congregation may also wish to support Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union. To find more details call into Macclesfield Library from 10.00am to 12.00 noon on Thursdays or visit their website.
CNCU001

Remembrance Sunday 2014

Brian Reader

I would like to thank Veronica for letting me speak to you today on this Remembrance Sunday; it also gives me an opportunity to thank all of you for making me feel so welcome since I moved to Bollington. My dear wife Jean has told some of her friends that I “will bore the pants off you”! Perhaps that is better than being told that “I will bore you all to death”! So I will be brief.

Now Remembrance Day awakens different memories and feelings in all of us. As a school boy some 75 years ago I had no idea what war entailed, and as no family members had been killed in the First World War I couldn’t think of anyone to remember. On looking at some notes I made in 1995, I could say then that no one under the age of fifty would have remembered the country at total war. At that time some believed that with the end of the cold war, all threats of war had been removed and that a day for Remembrance no longer served any useful purpose; saying that it glorified war and anyway, it was all too long ago.

People would not say that today. Not only has television brought home the horrors of all the recent wars, but there has also been much publicity about the centenary of the start of the First World War in all the media.

Now Remembrance Day is a time set aside when we remember the dead of the 1914 and all subsequent wars, but, as I will explain later, I believe it should be much more than just that.

What does remembrance mean to us?
The dictionary says that remembrance is “the power or the process, of reproducing or recalling what we have learnt.”

What have we learnt?
That war is wrong, that war is bloody, that war is wasteful and that war should be avoided, not at all costs, but certainly whenever possible. As I believe Churchill once said Jaw, Jaw, is always better than War, War.

Did you know that since the end of the 2nd world war in 1945, there has only been one year when no British soldier has been killed on active service?

Recently our troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan. When asked about their service out there, they did not glorify war; they had a simple pride in what they had done and they remembered their colleagues who did not come back, as well as those who had returned with appalling injuries.

I don’t believe in jingoistic nationalism which says that we must die for our country right or wrong, but I do believe that we have a duty to protect ourselves and our country from evil, both from within and from without.

Peace is not something that just happens; we must strive and work for peace, just as much today, as our forefathers have always had to in the past. We must remember that we too have a duty to oppose evil and that it may be necessary for us, either individually, or as a nation, to stand and fight against the evil we see all around us.

I am old enough to remember the last war, and I am also proud to have served in the Royal Air Force and seen active service around the world. It was round about Remembrance day in 1966, when I was tasked to fly my helicopter to a forward hill fort in Borneo to pick up a casualty, a young Royal Marine Lieutenant. Only he died just before we got there, nothing could have saved him, he bled to death, he just bled to death! What a waste. A few weeks later, confrontation was over, and the border of Borneo was intact.

Christ opposes all evil. He was always talking about the evil he saw about him, not to condemn those who were doing evil, but to get them to change their ways.

Yes, as well as remembering those who gave their lives, on the land or sea or in the air, we also have to remember the sacrifice made by their loved ones, the children without fathers, the widows, perhaps denied children, the mothers and sisters, and the fiancées and girlfriends who never married. Today we also have to remember the families of the service women who have recently died.

And so as we remember all those who made sacrifices for us, we have to ask ourselves “What would they have require of us?”. To ensure that all those who were injured were well looked after? Yes, but more than that. I think that they would want us to live in peace and protect the rights of all to freedom and justice, and I believe that only by obeying Christ’s command to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves can we achieve that.

We also have to bring Christian hope to a materialistic world which has lost its purpose and direction. In our reading from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he gives hope to those who are grieving, and you may have recognized the reading as it is sometimes used in funeral services. Paul did not know, as we still don’t know, exactly what happens to us when we die, but he did know that Christ was crucified for all of us and that he rose from the dead. Paul therefore has a sure belief and faith that Christians too will be raised from the dead at the end of time.

So let us reflect on our own lives to ensure that not only are we striving to defeat evil in the world, but that we also spread the good Christian message of love, hope, forgiveness and peace, so that our children, and our children’s children, will be able to share those freedoms which we, through the sacrifice of many, and God’s abundant mercy have all enjoyed.

Amen


remembrance2

1 Thess. 4: 13-18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.