Jesus is the same forever

Canon Roy Arnold

When we have been ill or sad, worried or depressed, but start to hope again, or recover…these are times of God-given New Life – our little personal Easters – like a new day dawning… and in the Springtime of the Year. Which is when it happened that Jesus was RAISED from the dead and greeting the women in the garden. Later on he met many more people in those Great 40 Days after Easter – and (unless they were all deluded) we have no reason to doubt that this DID actually happen. We have witnesses and written evidence for OUR BELIEF. This then is Easter Past.

And from this quiet starting point in that Springtime garden, Christians began to look forward to another Easter yet to come, believing that – as Jesus is risen from the dead – so shall we all AS WE SHARE HIS RESURRECTION. And as Jesus met his friends again, WE shall hope to meet again our departed loved ones and friends – and TRUE love will prove to be (as Paul said) THE GREATEST AND THE BEST THING IN OUR HUMAN EXPERIENCE. And, if we have loved enough, we may hope for heaven thereby.

But all this lies in the future – our Easter Future – which we believe depends on how we live today, our Easter in this present time, in which we gather up our belief in Resurrection New Life (past and future) into the experiment of living out Easter every day.

  • Trying to be loving and kind (as we have been loved by God).
  • Trying to be forgiving (as we have been forgiven by God).
  • Trying to be generous (as we have been given so much by God).
  • Trying to be brave when things go wrong; remembering that Jesus is with us to answer our prayers (perhaps in his way, not always ours) – Jesus with us through all our days.

And when we need a word from him we may find it in the Bible; but more importantly meeting him (not in a book, or in history or in heaven) but in person; that is, meeting Jesus in other people. And maybe most of all when meet together as the Church – and especially meeting him TOGETHER in Holy Communion, the gift Jesus gave to us to remember him by. His love for us on the cross, and his gift for us of this New Resurrection Life.

THIS Easter Morning we remember that Jesus truly is THE SAME YESTERDAY…AND TODAY… AND FOREVER.

AND HIS PROMISE TO US IS: PEACE I LEAVE YOU; MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU. SO LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID, FOR I AM WITH YOU TO THE END OF TIME.

Scrooge comes to Bollington Cross School!

It was revealed during the Key Stage 2 Christmas Play in St Oswald’s Church on Wednesday evening 12/12/12 to a shocked audience that Bollington Cross School had a new Scrooge-like Head Teacher who frowned upon any form of seasonal celebrations and had persuaded her staff to ban Christmas altogether!
However in the end the “mini” Mrs Downing was fortunately persuaded to change her mind when all the children of Key Stage Two rebelled and insisted on keeping Christmas as an essential part of their school life and traditions. Carols and songs old and new were enjoyed by all during this splendid performance, which complemented well the delightful Key Stage One Nativity Play as the children once again followed the star to Bethlehem.

 

Help support our local Food Bank

An ongoing appeal!

As part of our Harvest Thanksgiving, we have always chosen from a wide range of charity appeals and our Harvest focus has recently included collecting money for Christian Aid, or Send-A-Cow, or Water Aid, or Farm Africa, or the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy. For the 2012 Harvest Appeal we started working in co-operation with our companion churches in Bollington to gather together non-perishable food items under the umbrella of “Hampers of Hope”. This is part of the North-East Cheshire Food-bank, a voluntary organisation which provides emergency food parcels for local families who find themselves in critical need of provisions, often not knowing where their family’s next meal is coming from. You may be thinking that such a situation surely doesn’t arise here on our doorstep in Bollington and Kerridge! But sadly our present economic climate has indeed brought what we often think of as solely “Third World” desperation much closer to home.

The volunteers at Hampers of Hope work in partnership with frontline care professionals to identify people in need. The recipients of the emergency hampers (which aim to include a minimum of three days’ worth of non-perishable foodstuffs) may well be adept at keeping their plight hidden from their neighbours, often feeling shocked that this unexpected crisis situation could somehow have happened to them, when in normal circumstances they have been able to cope alright in the past. Hampers of Hope works with all the recipients in confidence, respecting their privacy, but providing a vital lifeline at a time of particular need.

Bollington Life Church acts as a Collection and Distribution Point for Hampers of Hope in our immediate locality. On Sunday 7 October 2012, members of all the Christian Churches in Bollington came together for a joint Harvest Service at 3.00pm in the Church at Hawthorn Road. We brought along to this service a variety of non-perishable foodstuffs to add to the Hampers of Hope store cupboards.

But this help is needed as an ongoing support throughout the years. We are still collecting for Hampers of Hope at the back of church (look out for the big red bin). Why not go shopping tomorrow at your favourite supermarket and take advantage of any BOGOF offers on some of the following products? These include:

milk (UHT or powdered); sugar (500g); long-life fruit juice; fruit squash; soup; pasta sauces; tinned sponge pudding; tinned tomatoes; cereals; tinned rice pudding; tea bags; instant coffee; rice; pasta; instant mashed potato; tinned meat or fish; tinned fruit; jam; biscuits; snack bars.

shopping4

Just think what you yourself would welcome as a life-saving gift of staple foods if you were to find yourself in a similarly desperate situation. Please take the trouble to put those extras into your own shopping trolley when the opportunity arises and bring them to St Oswald’s on Sundays from now on.

Thank you.

Veronica

Have we forgotten what Advent’s about?

Canon Roy Arnold

This sermon is delivered in absentia (by Veronica) because I have gone to our grand-daughter’s musical debut on the Double Bass at a school carol concert – so I know full well that we have to have school carol concerts in term time, and that they are very popular (sometimes ticket-only events).

And I know we feel that we must catch Christmas by its coat-tails, to keep up with the advertising, and the carols in the supermarkets, and the Salvation Band at Handforth Dean… but it does seem such a terrible shame to the let this marvellous, frightening season of Advent fly out of the window.

Strangely enough the liturgical framework is still there: O Come O Come Emmanuel… with clouds descending… and all the rest…. and the Bible Readings full of such terrible warnings about the end of the world… all decidedly un-Christmassy… these traditional Advent themes of the Four Last Things: Death and Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

And even when John the Baptist comes on the scene in these Advent readings we may mistakenly think that he is foretelling Jesus coming as an infant (Baby Jesus), but not so. John was preparing the Way of Lord… soon to come… as a grown man… of Jesus coming with his message of the Love of God… coming with this message of Love to a world just as unloving and as unlovely as it is now… a world of violence (personal and national), drugs and drunkenness, abuse of children (Jimmy Savile and others including clergy we must admit), lack of integrity (South Yorkshire Police Force and Hillsborough) and greed (the collapse of banking probity)… and we could go on. All of these crimes or misdemeanours happening because (I suppose) people think they can get away with it… keep their dirty deeds under wraps.

But – as we know – more often than not, THE TRUTH WILL OUT. Sometimes this may happen (as with Jimmy Savile) just after his death… or maybe a long time afterwards… Historical Crimes as we call them nowadays (such as landed a clergy friend of mine in prison). And I am going through this all too familiar territory because it seems to be the case (perhaps because of our putting traditional Advent teaching to one side) that everybody has forgotten the Day of Judgement… that one day all will be revealed to the loving and utterly fair Summing Up of our lives by Jesus, who knows all the secrets of our hearts (even yours and mine).

But all this teaching is smothered under a Charles Dickens Version of Christmas, and Ordering Turkeys, and White Christmases, while we leave it to the Jehovah Witnesses to knock on doors with their version of the Four Last Things. But then maybe we have left it too late to rescue Advent. I wonder what you think?

Maybe we ought to designate another time of the year for this season… and this teaching. Maybe early in Lent might be a better time (for us personally and in our teaching the faith) to remember Richard Baxter’s prayer which goes:

Keep us O Lord, while we tarry on this earth,
in a serious seeking after You,
and in an affectionate walking with You,
every day of our lives;
that when You come,
we may not be found hiding our talents,
nor serving the flesh,
nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished,
but waiting for our Lord,
our Glorious God for ever.
Amen

Ask me about Christmas

Canon Veronica Hydon

Dave and I called in at the Cock & Pheasant last weekend after our Parish Winter Fair and I noticed that the bar staff were all wearing new black T-Shirts with a small snowflake motif on the front and a bold message in striking white lettering on the reverse. I asked the landlady if I could buy one: she said, “Not at all, don’t be silly, please have this one as a gift!” The bold message on the T-Shirt says: “ASK ME ABOUT CHRISTMAS”. Perfect for when I’m doing my school assemblies I thought (and remarkably, although it was a size smaller than I’d normally have picked out for myself, the T-Shirt fits!)…

On this day, when we look forward to the start of the Advent season beginning next Sunday 2 December, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, Lord of all creation and Prince of peace. But today also is traditionally known as “Stir Up Sunday” because of words of the old Collect set for this day in the Book of Common Prayer, the same prayer we have now in modern form as our Post-Communion Prayer: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Interestingly, even this week’s Weight Watchers’ leaflet of encouragement recognises we reached “Stir Up Sunday” in the calendar!) Today was supposed to be the day you stirred up all the good things into your Christmas pudding and everyone in the family took turns to wield the wooden spoon in the mixing bowl and make a wish. Then you’d let the well-mixed ingredients rest quietly in the larder for several weeks to mature, before cooking it on Christmas Day as the crowning glory to the Christmas feast, with its halo of holly and flaming brandy.

This week we’ve had the misfortune to witness the family of the Church of England wearily mixing together long rehearsed and stale arguments as diverse ingredients into a stodgy clerical pudding, and at the end of the day, rather than bringing out a rich and tasty pudding to be proud of (notwithstanding the variety of wishes fervently stirred into the General Synod Mixing bowl), we witnessed the wooden spoon becoming the only prize and are faced with the gloomy prospect of an irrelevant and bitterly disappointing pudding that fails to satisfy anyone’s hunger for justice, equality, grace and new life. Certainly no amount of brandy can now make it light up to produce even the faintest “wow” factor in the world outside the church, which looks on astounded and dismayed.

The current advertising campaign launched by a well-known supermarket starts off in a very promising way: “At Sainsbury’s we know that Christmas is about more than just one day. It’s about a whole season of days. So far so good.. and it goes on: There are so many special days in the run up to Christmas and this year we’d like to celebrate every single one of them.” Oh good, you are tempted to think: at last the commercial world is picking up the real message of Advent! At last, we can celebrate the powerful witness of the prophets and saints who through their feast-days over the next few weeks point us to see afresh the miracle of the Christ-Child. There’s a whole rich variety of them – St Catherine with her fiery wheel, Isaac Watts the great hymn-writer who gave us “When I survey the wondrous cross”, St Andrew the go-between brother of Simon Peter who took seriously the offer of five loaves and two fish from a little child, Charles de Foucauld a 20th Century hermit, missionary and martyr, Francis Xavier a Jesuit missionary to the Far East at the time of the great explorers in the 16th Century, Nicholas Ferrar, founder of the Little Gidding Community (which has influenced my own spiritual journey) and who was neighbour and friend of the Anglican priest George Herbert (who wrote “Let all the world in every corner sing” – the hymn we sang before the gospel today), then of course there’s the great bishop of the 4th Century, St Nicholas, generous and unassuming friend of the poor and patron saint of seafarers and pawnbrokers (and of anyone who takes a punt at something and takes risks in life I guess!)… The list of saints celebrated in the run up from now until Christmas goes on, and I’ve only reached 6th December! But, of course, Sainsbury’s did not intend to point us to any of these hallowed feast days: they have instead produced a list of their own: there is “Putting up the decorations Day”, “Buying the Christmas tree Day”, Ordering the turkey Day”, “We’re going to need a bigger fridge Day”, “Being good for Santa Day”, “Impressing the neighbours Day” (I don’t quite get that one, though the next one I do: “Opening the chocolates early Day”) and one they didn’t think of “Switching on the Bollington Christmas Lights today Day”!!!!

church house002

To most of the world, as the Bishop of Leicester said towards the end of the General Synod debate last Tuesday, all our churchy internal discussions seem irrelevant to those being bombed in Gaza and Syria, or those millions suffering from persecution, famine, drought, flood and war. The Archbishop of Canterbury designate also spoke of the real role of the Church being that as Christians we hold as a treasure God’s Peace and Grace for the world. This week we seem to have opened our fingers and dropped that treasure, shattering it like a precious glass Christmas ornament, and the ordinary churchgoer and the secular world can only look on in despair. When we celebrate St Andrew’s Day this coming Friday, we will still dare to say as Andrew did to his own brother and to those Gentile strangers wanting to meet Jesus, “Come and see!” But our invitation may sound hollow, unless we in our turn, even within the flawed institution of the Church, can demonstrably live lives of true inclusiveness, saintliness and graciousness and keep the flame of Advent hope burning in our hearts.

RIP Eileen Williams at Canterbury

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of our good friend Eileen Williams on 10 November 2012 peacefully in a nursing home in Canterbury at the age of 92. Eileen will be remembered by many readers of Bollington Church News for the entertaining episodes published exclusively here from her colourful autobiography. Her funeral will take place towards the end of November/early December at All Saints’ Church, Poplar, the parish where she was born. The charity closest to her heart was the Delhi Brotherhood Society, so donations in Eileen’s memory may be given for this worthy cause (please make cheques payable to Revd V.W. Hydon with a note on the reverse to indicate that this is for the work of the DBS). Veronica will arrange for the total sum to be forwarded to the Brotherhood in the most economical way possible, as Eileen would have wished. Meanwhile, please raise a glass in her memory! May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Veronica

in the days of black and white
in the days of black and white

RIP Paul Faulconer Morgan MBE

Paul was born in 1922 to a Christian family. His father, a senior army officer, died when Paul was 12. He went to Winchester College, where the motto “manners makyth man” was to prove very influential. He learnt that not only are manners important, but that the privileged must learn to lead and that to lead he must learn to serve.

As he was on the verge of going to Cambridge, the war started and he volunteered for the army, serving his commission in the Rifle Brigade. In August 1944 he was wounded, losing his left leg below the knee. Although not invalided out, he got permission to go to Cambridge in 1945, where he studied Mechanical Engineering. He also rowed again, a sport he had enjoyed at school.

Having gained his degree, he spent 19 years with a Bedford company, making steam turbines, large diesel engines, pumps etc, in due course being promoted to Pump Department Manager. During this time he met and married Hilary (by far the smartest thing he ever did, he says), and they had four children, Clare, Stella, Patricia and Hugh. (Sadly their third daughter, Patricia, died of cancer aged 36 in 1994, only about 18 months after her marriage to Mark here in St John’s Church.)

They left Bedford in 1967 and Paul became General Manager of a pump company in Brentford. Then, after four years, he moved to an international company based in Todmorden. Being responsible for European sales, he moved to Styal to be close to the airport. Here he met the Revd. Peter Hunt, a previous incumbent of Bollington. Paul was Managing Director of this company for 16 years until he retired.

He decided with Hilary that, rather than move back South and leave so many friends behind, they would settle in the area and so ended up in Bollington. Peter Hunt had told them Holy Trinity was a stone’s throw from their new home, and they joined the congregation there straight away. Together they had 12 happy years here until Hilary died of cancer in 1999.

Paul became a governor (then later Chairman) at St John’s School. He also helped found Community Transport for Macclesfield Borough, providing transport for disabled people. His efforts were recognised in 2001 when he was awarded the MBE for service to the community.

At 82 he was interviewed for Bollington Church News Profile Page and declared that he wanted to go on serving the community “at least until I become a thrombosis (the clot that blocks up the system!)”. Paul indeed continued to play an active part in local life and always remained interested in his family and friends and the goings on at church, until after a spell in hospital two years ago his health began to deteriorate and, following a fortnight of being housebound, Paul took his leave of us peacefully at home in the early hours of Michaelmas Day 2012.

He left his body to Newcastle University for research and so his family requested a simple Thanksgiving Service which took place on Saturday 3 November in St Oswald’s Church, attended by over 120 people. The Vicar added the following words to the family’s own tributes:

“As we pray, each of us will undoubtedly bring to mind in thanksgiving to God the particular part Paul has played in our lives. I would just like to give thanks for Paul’s enthusiastic commitment to the life of the church in this parish. He was always concerned that the younger generations should continue to be nurtured in the Christian faith, as witnessed his time spent as Chair of Governors at St John’s School, and later then in my time as Vicar how he delighted in the number of Baptisms we carried out, promising to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury to declare that (contrary to national media scares) the church was alive and well in Bollington!

Paul himself was an enthusiastic member of our Lent Groups and he was the inspiration (although he may not have been aware of this) for the founding of our Wednesday afternoon Faith Hour, an informal open discussion group which has gone on from strength to strength for the past year and a half. Paul has always been a strong supporter of the work of the clergy, both verbally and tangibly, each year marked by a generous cheque for the Vicar (quietly given as was his wont, and of course insisting that no “thank you” was necessary) harking back to the olden days when the Easter Offerings would go straight into the hands of the parish clergy instead of being paid into the coffers of the diocese. Paul was a great benefactor to the parish as a whole over many years, taking his Stewardship responsibilities very seriously, and we have much to be thankful for in that respect, as we have been able to grow and thrive far better than otherwise we would have done. And I’m sure, had he lived, Paul would have been an enthusiastic supporter of our 2012 campaign, our latest fundraising effort aimed at further improving the fabric and facilities of this our parish church. Paul always rang the bell early on Sunday mornings at Holy Trinity Kerridge, calling to worship the faithful flock (which did indeed include a couple of stray lambs one Sunday I recall!).

But most of all I want to give thanks for Paul as a person, a true gentleman and a good friend to many, a very faithful communicant member of the church, for his sense of humour and his unfailing ability to look beyond his own needs to attend to the needs of others. On the Sunday morning at the end of September when I announced the sad news of Paul’s death, I invited members of the congregation to partake of a glass of sherry after the service in memory of Paul, who had himself always embraced this weekly innovation with his characteristic good-naturedness and charm.

So in a few moments of quiet, let us give thanks now for Paul’s whole life and work as we commend his soul to God. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.”
Veronica

Veronica’s 60th Birthday Surprise

On Monday evening 29 October 2012 the congregation gathered together in church for the Surprise Party. Most of the lights were switched off and we awaited Veronica’s arrival, contrived by Dave who was in on the secret. As she entered church, she was truly shocked, which was wonderful! And to think that we managed to arrange the party without her knowledge! Well done to everyone!

The evening went very well with good conversation, food and, of course, the fantastic birthday cake kindly made by Ann Stringer, iced and decorated with a sculpture of St Paul’s Cathedral, a cargo ship and a gondola!

After a song by the choir and a poem read by Dave, we had a toast to Veronica. A cheque was then presented to her from the congregation.

The candles were lit on the cake, Happy Birthday was sung and everybody had a piece of the cake.
Thanks to everyone who helped to make this a truly special evening.

Jackie Pengelly


Birthday Song

Baptising babies, weekends on Cursillo,
Smooth gin and tonics and sermons with brio,
Moving church furniture round on your whims:
These are a few of your favourite things

Dang-ly earrings and chocolate coin treasure,
Giving out presents because they give pleasure,
Weeks spent in Venice that make your heart sing:
These are a few of your favourite things

When it’s freezing, there’s no heating,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

Whole school assemblies and singing at birthdays,
Conducting weddings, remembering Feast days,
Travelling to India with lots of friends:
Now that we’ve started the list never ends.

When life’s dismal, at a funeral,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

Friends and relations and great hymns for singing,
Shopping in bookshops and incense for swinging,
Blessings on couples who smile with relief,
Comforting everyone at times of grief.

When life’s whining, sun not shining,
When you’re feeling sad,
Then simply remember your favourite things
And then you won’t feel so bad.

written by Maggie O’Donnell


Birthday Poem

In nineteen hundred fifty two
th’Elizabethan age began
but on this day I hope that you
will call this age “Veronican”.

Alumni from her former school
are designated the “Old Blues”!
You might have thought that old and blue
lie not among the words to use
about our Vicar, youngish still,
(at heart, that is) and rarely glum.
But moving on, Insurance will
be what brings life its premium.

At Lloyds of London, risks marine
were calculated and proposed.
We’ll never know what might have been
had not Th’Almighty interposed
a calling. But, of course, back then
though Westcott House would welcome all
the priesthood only was for men.
And later on, it was St Paul
(no less!) whose church on Ludgate Hill
allowed some women deacons through.
And there again (though later still)
Veronica was priested too.

At All Saints’ Poplar she did dwell
for training in the curacy,
then Roxwell, then Emmanuel
–her first full-time incumbency
(in Chelmsford diocese, you know),
then north to Deva and to Dave.
In Timperley she first did go,
then Bollington had souls to save.

In twenty-twelve the chronicle
reminds all to raise a cheer
and that our own Veronica’ll
be sixty through the coming year!

Written by Dave

RIP Revd William David Thomas, former Vicar of Bollington

It was a lovely sunny day in June 2011 – which may seem a long time ago when you read this – but it really was a warm and pleasant afternoon when we gathered together in the Columbarium to bury the ashes of the Revd William David Thomas, Vicar of Bollington from 1947 to his early death in 1953.

For many years his ashes have reposed in a Memorial inside St John’s Church, but with the prospect of alterations to the Church, they were taken to rest for a few months in the little chapel room at the Vicarage and have now been moved to an honoured space in the Columbarium.

Present for the service were Winifred – now aged 90 – (Fr Thomas’ widow, subsequently married to the Revd Dennis Prewer – also present – and both now living in retirement together in Marple) and Daughter Veronica (who lives in Grimsby) and Son Robin (Rob) who lives in Penzance.

The family enjoyed a delightful lunch at the Church House Inn hosted by the present Vicar, with much reminiscing about times gone by and sharing memorabilia, such as Fr Thomas’ first pocket prayer book dating from his time as a Reader before his Ordination. Canon Roy Arnold – who then took the service – welcomed them and some representative members of our congregation who were able to be present and who had fond memories of Fr Thomas’ time as Vicar.

Jackie Pengelly, one of our current Churchwardens, showed Rob a photo taken of the two of them as young children at St John’s School, parading down Palmerston Street dressed up as (cheerful) bride and (somewhat reluctant-looking) groom! Roy recalled how he and Hylda (and others present there) had been prepared for Confirmation by Fr Thomas in the late 1940s – which seems even further away than last June! Roy said that, after Confirmation, Fr Thomas asked him to be a Church Server, but Roy found the prospect so alarming that he completely disappeared from Church Life for a few years. However he returned for the Funeral Service of Fr Thomas (after his sudden death in post in October 1953) when there was a packed congregation in the former Parish Church. At that service Roy realised that he had let the Vicar down and he promised to himself that he would get to know and to work with the next Vicar better…which he did. The rest of that story is – as they say – history, with Roy now approaching the 48th anniversary of his own Ordination this September! Not bad for someone who felt too timid (or unwilling) to be a Server in his younger days.

The memorial tablet, which had been placed in front of the niche in the Lady Chapel holding the marble casket, has now been put over Fr Thomas’ final resting place and bears the simple inscription after his name: “A Faithful Priest”. This is a real tribute to someone whose ministry here (albeit short) has left such a worthwhile legacy.

In September 2012 we heard that Fr Thomas’s widow Winifred Prewer has now died

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Veronica

The Hillsborough report

Canon Roy Arnold

Away from the “More tea Vicar and can I tempt you to another slice of cake” image of the Clergy of the Church of England (and other denominations), there are many dark places where the clergy find themselves. One of the darkest places in which I found myself was in the midst of the Hillsborough Football disaster in 1989, now firmly back in the news after a twenty-three year struggle to disclose the truth about it all. I was not at the actual football match, but (as Vicar of St Oswald’s Sheffield at the time) I went to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield shortly afterwards to see what help was needed. There I witnessed football fans desperately searching for friends, among the chaos of a hospital overwhelmed by it all.

Later still, I was in the Gymnasium at the Sheffield Wednesday Football Ground which had by then been turned in a mortuary with 96 body bags in neat rows, and photographs of the dead displayed on the walls. A team of Clergy and Social Workers met the families and friends who by then were arriving from Liverpool and other places. They were taken to the photograph wall and then to identify dead loved ones. I was there principally in my other role of Sheffield Diocesan Press Officer. Later in the week the then Archbishop of York (Dr John Habgood) came to visit Police and Emergency Workers who were pleased to accept his praise for their efforts. Little did we know that some of those same senior officers were cooking up a cover-up plan to shift the blame for the disaster from themselves to the football fans of Liverpool by, among other things, the alteration of reports of what had gone wrong.

Sadly, it almost natural for all large organisations to do this, like the Police in South Yorkshire and the Ambulance Services. Governments do it, and Doctors and Hospitals certainly do it, to protect their own skins. And of course the Church does it, as witness the cover up in the Catholic Church, and in the Church of the England, about the abuse of children. It seems to me that Systems and Large Organisations can became somehow evil, unless they are led by people with integrity (who are not easy to find). It is interesting to note from today’s Gospel passage (Mark chapter 8 vv 27-38) that Jesus he calls his contemporaries “an adulterous and sinful generation”. Well, it seems that things haven’t changed all that much in two thousand years: maybe because we prefer to ignore the Church’s teaching – the teaching of Jesus no less – about the Day of Judgement?

The release of the Hillsborough Report this week has been like a mini day of judgement, with cover ups and lies out in the open, apologies all round from the (then) editor of The Sun, and from politicians and senior police officers: so many people colluding with lies and half-truths. But the secrets of many hearts have been disclosed, and the truth is out, as it will be on the Day of Judgement, if what we believe is true. Our Epistle for today (from James chapter 3 vv 1-12) reminds us of the importance of integrity in leaders such as preachers and teachers – and, in fact, in each and every one of us. What we do not want is for Jesus to be ashamed of us when he comes with his angels. What we want Him to say is: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”, so that, as it said in today’s Psalm (116 vv 1-8), “we may walk in the presence of the Lord and in the land of the living”.

It is often difficult to end a sermon, but this morning these words from St Paul spring to mind: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians Chapter 4 verse 8)

Not only think about these things but try to put them in action, in both public life and in our own personal lives – and then we shall perhaps deserve to hear our Lord’s “Well Done!”.

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Mark chapter 8 vv 27-38

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

James chapter 3 vv 1-12

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.