PO Box 645
Canon Roy Arnold
Well we are few and far between today. We have two of our flock cruising the river Thames at Henley while some are in Guernsey. One has gone to see the Duke of Westminster (well, his garden to be exact). Two are looking after their respective grandchildren and we thought we should have been looking after our youngest daughter’s cat, but seemingly that is next week.
Others are on holidays and sadly some of our very faithful members are not at all well but thankfully we have our Vicar and Dave back from Belgium and Margaret Booth has come rushing back from Malta, and, as it happens, Holidays come into my sermon as they did with Michael last week – for I want to talk about MEMORIES.
One of God’s gifts to us is the gift of MEMORY. Without our memories we would be lost and have to learn again every morning how to do the most basic of human tasks such as how to dress ourselves or use the toaster; let alone how to drive a car or to read and write.
And then there is the wider scope of memory, whereby we remember things that have happened to us in the past – of things happy or sad. Even on this very day – July 26 – I have memories buzzing round in MY head of holiday times and of Bollington Wakes Week (which always was in this last week of July), when all the mills shut – and the shops – as Bollington folk went off to the seaside; and with Palmerston Street lined with Coaches to take them there “to be beside the seaside”; where a happy time was had by all.
But my next memory of this very day is definitely not a happy one: this day 19 years ago was when we buried our daughter’s ashes in the Columbarium here in Bollington. Rachel our second daughter had died in a cycle accident.
All of us (I guess) have sad memories mixed in with our happy ones. And perhaps it is our memories, happy or sad (of people or events), which make us who we are and how we see the world. It is worth noting, that I am saying all this in a church, because, when you think of it, churches are stacked high with so many memories (happy or sad); memories of Births, Marriages and Deaths – Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals.
And as well as churches holding our own personal memories it is, of course, here it in church that we keep alive the memory of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord, which is our aim in this very service of Holy Communion. “Do this in remembrance of Me” is what He said, and what we say and do in this service.
But harking back to the memories of seaside holidays, do you remember how the sun shone and the sea sparkled? Although it was so far out at Southport (where I spent several holidays as a child) you could hardly see the sea. But then in contrast, I remember a holiday in Scarborough with the sea in all its fury; with the waves smashing against the promenade and sending its spray high into the air – like that storm on the Sea of Galilee of which we heard in our Gospel this morning and the disciples fearful for their lives. But then came Jesus surprisingly walking on the waves, as somehow – equally surprisingly – He has walked into our lives (yours and mine). Impossible but true; and in part He has entered our lives because the stories of Jesus became embedded in the memory of the Church. Stories passed on through the long ages to me and you; the memories of what He taught people, and about His miracles, and of how He told His first disciples and us to “Have faith and be not be afraid”
As in another seaside story when Jesus was in the same boat as the apostles and when they were very frightened until He stilled the storm. Reminding us that Jesus is ALWAYS, ALWAYS in the same boat as us. In dark and stormy times and in those golden and special times, for God – through His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit – has somehow ALWAYS been with us; as one of my favourite quotes from the bible reminds us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever”. Experience tells us that He has been with us in the past (as we remember) and hope whispers that He will be with us in the future.
But then the past is yesterday and the future is tomorrow and the reality is we are left with is the Jesus who is with us today. So while today is still today let us remember His presence with us now.
I heard the voice of Jesus say: “I am this dark world’s light.
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I’ll walk till travelling days are done.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Peggy died peacefully at the East Cheshire Hospice on 13 June 2015.
Funeral at St Oswald’s 10.30am Friday 26 June
She will be much missed at St Oswald’s
The slide show shows images of her in happy times, organising the Posh Tea, arranging flowers, creating our mosaic, participating in Faith Hour, being a “wise woman” at our “Epiphany Experience”, generally socialising, and with her beloved triplets (her grandchildren) on Easter Day. There are also a couple of archive photos taken at the Centenary Edwardian Supper, held in church in 2008.
Great celebrations this weekend…
Both in Chester on Saturday for the Midsummer Parade plus the ordination of 20 people as priests in the Church of England – and at St Oswald’s on Sunday morning as our assistant curate Michael presided for the first time at our 10.30am Parish Communion! Huge thanks to the lovely Beryl and Audrey for creating our very own “White Nancy” for this festive weekend too! Do come along to church again during this week to enjoy walking through the best daisy chain arch in the world!
Midsummer parade at Chester
Sorry – we don’t have any pictures from the Ordination Service in Chester Cathedral…
But during the service at St Oswald’s on Sunday morning, Revd Michael, presiding at Holy Communion for the first time, was presented with a creation by Bollington Baloon Man Alex…
Beryl and Audrey created the White Nancy Archway. And the Vicar and Assistant Curate celebrated with a glass of Fizz!
Venerable Ian Bishop
Archdeacon of Macclesfield
I’d like to make four observations about the story of Adam and Eve that we’ve heard this morning.
Firstly just how much we take God’s abundance for granted.
If the writer of Genesis was telling us anything about the creation that God had put together, it is that it was pretty good! Abundant, peaceful and beautiful. God had made a place for men and women that was all they needed.
Of course we can’t help it… When we have much we take it for granted. Our hearts should be full of thankfulness for what we have, but more often than not we find ourselves looking at what we don’t have. You’ll know we live in a materialistic culture that tempts you and entices you, that invites you to take what you can’t afford and buy what you just don’t need. Like the serpent in the garden whispering away -“Hey this looks good – go one try it — you know you want to!”
But Jesus said “You cannot serve both God and money”. If we get drawn in we forget to be thankful for what we’ve got and we find ourselves driven to acquire what we haven’t got. And that means we take our eyes off God because we’re too focused on the baubles of earth. The apple that we’re not supposed to take.
Which partly makes my second point. You see we’re never content with what we have. My favourite verse in the whole of the Bible is in 1 Timothy 6:6 when Paul writes to a young man saying “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
What is truly the right way to live for people of faith is to find contentment through holiness. Jesus said “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Never was that better illustrated than in the garden, as Eve took the one apple she had been asked not to take; she took the treasure and gave her heart away. Contentment was lost, the innocence of the garden was replaced with knowledge of fear of what they had become. One thing I have learned through years of following Christ is that I am most content when I am on track with him. When I entrust my treasure, my family, my money, my time and gifts to him and live his way — then I am most content.
Which leads on to my third point. Which is that when it comes to making decisions, we are lousy judges of what is right and wrong and we get it wrong too often. It was a bad decision in the garden, the first of a billion bad decisions people have made in life. It might have been the first — it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
To be sure we make lots of great decisions. Church folk I think probably on balance make a lot better decisions than people who don’t go to Church. God called Adam and Eve to look after the creation, and I think the people of faith generally get that. We are a generous people, in any year the people of faith in this country give way more to charity than Children in Need will ever raise, we look after some of the most amazing buildings in this country at no cost to the nation, we employ thousands of people who care for the poor and the weak, who go out and look for the lost and the lonely, who bring hope to the sad and joy to the depressed. And then there is the army of volunteers like you, who roll up their sleeves and make our communities work, who contribute time and energy that builds a better world and remakes the creation.
The people of God are astonishing. But we still make bad decisions about what to do with our money and our time and our energy. As you read the stories of the early Church you see that it was characterised by an astonishing generosity. I think Churches get it — just not enough — their treasure is a bit in the bank with Jesus but mostly not, and that means their heart is missing from Jesus’s safe keeping as well.
The Bible sets a very high standard. Deuteronomy 14 sets a figure of 10% for the people of God in their giving. 10% of what you earn should be given back to God. And before you moan about that, remember Jesus also told the rich young man to give away everything and then follow him, and he commended the widow who gave a mite — all she had. At least I’m only suggesting 10% for starters! Think what that would mean for you?
I see the giving figures across the Diocese and I’m astonished how little people do give. So many people give less than £5 a week. But what is £5 worth today? It certainly doesn’t make up 10% even for someone on a basic pension. And then every now and again you see someone giving much much more than that — and it usually isn’t the one with the most money — instead it’s someone you wouldn’t expect, but who gets it.
The theologian Helmut Thielicke once wrote (in a time when we still used cheques), “Our cheque books have more to do with Heaven and Hell than our hymn books.” And he was correct.
I remember when I was taking a funeral of a very wealthy man once, I was chatting to the undertaker in the car on the way to the cemetery, and the undertaker asked me — “how much did he leave?” To which I was able to answer, “Everything!”
But most don’t get it, and my fourth and final point from the reading this morning is this. We are always trying to make excuses. In the garden, the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent and the fact was that they all got it wrong and should have just owned up.
I know that if I sat you all down this morning and asked you to give more I would probably get a Church full of excuses, so I won’t ask. Instead I reckon that most of you should be giving at least twice what you’re giving regularly and that still probably won’t be 10% – but it would be a start.
Many of you won’t be giving by standing order — which you should be, otherwise someone has to trudge to the bank every week.. Save your treasurers aching feet and sign a standing order.
Some of you won’t have signed a Gift Aid form — which is a nonsense because that way the Government adds 25% to what you give (if you pay tax!)
It has never been easier to give. You may — like I do – have the ability to have your giving deducted from your pay before it lands in your account. I like giving that way because it reminds me that the money was never mine anyway — it’s God’s.
As more and more churches face uncertain financial futures, and I know St Oswald’s is one, I’m reminded of the Vicar who stood up before his congregation and declared “You will be glad to know we have found the money to solve the financial crisis at the Church.” There were hopeful smiles all round the congregation, until the Vicar said with a beaming smile, “It’s there in your pockets!”
Let me draw my four points together.
Never forget the context in which we live; God has created a world of abundance – we need to live with hearts full of thankfulness.
Sadly we’re rarely content — but make contentment your aim
We do often make lousy decisions and many excuses, but the best way is to be generous.
Remember when the wealthy tax collector Zachaeus threw a party and gave away half of all he had to the poor. That was when Jesus said “salvation has come to this house today.” Budgets are moral documents, the way we use what God has abundantly given tells us where our hearts truly are. So let me leave you with a question — where today is your heart?
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’
The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’
Once or twice a year I venture up the steep hill to look at the view from White Nancy! From there on a clear day I can take in the whole panorama of my parish, picking out the hidden chimney tops of the Vicarage at one end and the distinctive red roof of St Oswald’s Church at the other end, with Kerridge nestling just out of sight in the valley between. Whilst I recover my breath after the slow climb (yes, I know I’d get fitter if I tried going up there more regularly!), I always take the opportunity to pray for the people and places I am called to serve here in this beautiful part of Cheshire. I also give thanks for my many predecessors who have ministered as Vicars and Assistant Curates in the Parish of Bollington, especially mentioning some of my favourites: George Palmer the first Vicar, who opened St John’s School and built Bollington Cross School, but after thirteen years sadly died from overwork and anxiety about the financial burdens of the church, and Charles Brooke-Gwynne, who in his thirteen years as incumbent had the vision to oversee the building of our Vicarage, Holy Trinity Kerridge and St Oswald’s Bollington Cross, whilst simultaneously moving a lot of the furniture around in St John’s Parish Church, including making it a more flexible worship space by replacing the original pews with chairs! As someone who so far has only served eight years in the parish, I hope (God willing) to survive well enough until my retirement within the next five years, if possible unscathed by too many financial worries and having helped in my time to encourage similarly constructive developments in the ever-changing life and work of our local church community.
The appeal raised £151.50. Thank you all for your support!