Remembrance Sunday 2019

Job said to his companions: “O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints with me!”

Job 19:23-27a

Job – a man put to the test by God at the behest of the devil, who is trying to prove that Job’s faithfulness is wafer-thin. Job’s fath is tested by disasters to his reputation, to his health, and by disasters to his family. But after this testing, Job’s faith is upheld – “I know that my Redeemer liveth…”

On this Remembrance Sunday it is appropriate to compare Job’ suffering to that of men, women and children in the midst of war – witnessing death and disaster, facing death or disability. Compared with Job, I think it is fair to say that in wartime many people lost their faith in God, while a few did persevere in believing…

…including one of Bollington’s most favourite vicars, Canon Reginald Norton Betts, who had been awarded the Military Cross in that terrible conflict of the First World War.

Another result of that war was that people lost their faith not only in God, but in all those in Authority – “the powers that be” – who led them into war in the first place. Our Collect for today echoes this:

Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the king of all: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

I rather think that at our present time, too, most people are not exactly inclined to trust those in authority, not only in our country but world-wide. And this year we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the rising up of the churches and the “little people” in peacefully breaking down the Berlin Wall. But this fundamental mistrust can escalate into fearfulness and even despair about the future of our planet.

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus, and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Luke 20:27-38

Our Gospel for today is about another battle of beliefs as Jesus confronts the Saducees – a Jewish religious group who did not believe in life after death. Obviously, Jesus spoke up for the belief in eternal life – and could do no other he was consciously on his chose pathway through life, to crucifixion and gloriously to resurrection. A path that led from utter despair to overwhelming hope, opening the way for all of us to eternal life: a central plank of our Christian faith.

On this Remembrance Sunday, I wonder how many of us remember that – as Christians and as many other faiths – we do believe in life after death. And (for instance) that those rows and rows of graves in foreign fields marked with crosses, or with Jewish Stars of David or the crescents of Islam, not only represent the tragic toll of death as a result of war, but also the ranks and ranks of those same souls now in heaven who “at the going down of the sun and in the morning” we do remember. Souls now at rest, with the battle done, but nevertheless poignantly reminding us of the immense sadness and tragedy of wars still raging today.

So at our parish war memorial this morning and later at war memorials right across the country and the world, we do well to remember not only the deaths of so many, but also like Job we may dare to believe that in truth Our Redeemer liveth, and that in God’s good time all things will be made new in Him. Our post-communion prayer for this remembrance Sunday has much to commend it:

God of peace, whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom and restored the broken to wholeness of life: look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your healing power make whole both people and nations; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen

Michaelmas 2019

A sermon prepared by Canon Roy Arnold, read by Canon Veronica.

Prologue: We have several people in our congregation who suffer from age-related macular degeneration. This is an eye condition which reduces central vision. Roy is now one of them – which is why Veronica read his sermon for this special day.


Have you noticed the Michaelmas Daisies on this the feast of St Michael and All Angels – commonly called Michaelmas?

56 years ago – in 1963 – at this time I was ordained Deacon in Bristol Cathedral. And earlier in that year Hylda and I were married at St John’s church in Bollington; married to my wife, and then to my second wife – the Church of England!

The connection between ordination and Michaelmas being angels – for angels (by definition) are messengers and servants of God, and hopefully and in theory, so are the clergy to the church. And as my special companion and guardian angel, so has Hylda been to me and our daughters too – which perhaps underlines the fact (in the priesthood of all believers) that everyone – clergy and laity alike – is called to serve God and one another.

We come across St Michael in our reading today…

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:7-12

The Good News is that God, being an Almighty God, won the battle and the war. The Not-so-good News (for us) is that the devil and his bad angels were banished to the earth, and we only need to turn on the television news or read the papers to see what the devil and his bad angels have been up to in our world. With so much evil and pain all around us, we (who are hopefully on God’s side) are called upon, in small ways or great, to fight the good fight (as the old General Thanksgiving has it) “not only with our lips (just by what we say), but in our lives, by walking before God in holiness and righteousness all our days particularly by following Jesus – the Son of God. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that all who believe in him “should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Of course, the devil whispers in our ears that this statement is not true – that God’s Son will not lead us to eternal life, because eternal life does not exist! But we must realise that the devil has always been a liar through and through. So we as Christians must hold onto our core beliefs, and live our lives with love and love and honesty and gratefulness… Speaking of which, let me end by thanking Veronica and Dave for their ministries, and thanking all of you, alongside all the people in the parishes and dioceses in which I have served.

I have – we all have – so much for which to thank our God – as I do!

Amen


There were two retired priests (and Honorary Canons) in our congregation this day who were celebrating anniversaries of ordination at Michaelmas. Veronica read out a potted history of each of their careers (having consulted Crockford’s Clerical Directory).

Canon Roy Arnold: After Lampeter Theological College Roy undertook two curacies (as was usual in those days) over a period of about seven years. his first curacy was at St Luke, Brislington in Bristol diocese. His second curacy was back in this diocese at the parish of St Mary Without the Walls, Chester. Then he served his first incumbency as Vicar of Brinnington with Portwood 1971-1975, followed by seven years as Vicar of St Paul, Sale. After that followed a short period as rector of Dodleston, before then moving away from Chester diocese across the Pennines to take up the post of Vicar of St Oswald, Sheffield, when he also had the demanding role of Diocesan Communications Officer, which latter role continued when he moved from that parish to take up another post, additionally working as Chaplain with the Deaf. In 1995 he was made an Honorary Canon of Sheffield Cathedral. He finally “retired” as they moved back to Bollington in 1997, helping cover two vacancies and also becoming a great friend and support to the present Vicar for the past twelve and a half years.

Canon Phil Lambert was ordained deacon in 1978, then priested in 1979. He also served two curacies, first at Holy Trinity, Upper Tooting in Southwark diocese, then at the parish of Whorlton in Newcastle diocese. Then he served successive incumbency posts in several clusters of parishes in Newcastle diocese before moving to the diocese of Bath and Wells as Rector of another group of parishes and becoming Rural Dean there. He then moved to Salisbury diocese as Team Rector of Dorchester and also Rural Dean there too, before becoming Canon Residentiary of Truro Cathedral. Finally he moved to the diocese of Europe where he served as an Assistant Chaplain living in Crete. We are pleased that he too has recently come to live here in retirement and has the Bishop’s Permission to Officiate.

Albeit the timings of both Roy’s and Phil’s early retirements were not necessarily what they had planned, we are nevertheless privileged to share in their continuing journeys and wish them every blessing.

2nd Sunday of Easter 2018

Canon Roy Arnold

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’.


Bollington, we believe, came into being in Anglo-Saxon times, as did the small word “if” – a word that can convey many meanings, not least to do with doubt. As in “If it’s nice next Sunday we will go for a picnic” or “If I pick the winner of the Grand National I will take you out for a meal”.

But if we add the word “only” – as in “If only” – it changes from doubt to regret. So if only I hadn’t fallen down nine stone steps at the Bull’s Head in March 2017, I wouldn’t still be on crutches, and Hylda and I wouldn’t have experienced one of the worst years of our lives.

But accidents apart, the words “If only” can express other types of regret, as in “If only I hadn’t quarrelled with my brother” or “If only I had written that letter”. If you think about it, we might count those “If only” moments as sins – things done wrong or things not done right; things that can spoil our personal lives, or the life of the whole world.

Which is where Easter, and Jesus the Son of God enters through our locked doors, comes in and says “Peace be with you” as he said to the Apostles – Well, all but two of them – Judas and Thomas, the Thomas whose day we keep today. He had not been there when Jesus spoke those words of peace. Perhaps he had been experiencing one of those “If only” moments. If only it could be true about Jesus being raised from the dead. if only.

But then, so we are told, it really was true. Jesus had risen from the dead – as Thomas found out when he touched the wounds in the hands of Jesus. Then the doubts of Thomas disappeared – as they can for me and you if we can believe that Jesus does take away all our regretful “Ifs” and know ourselves to be forgiven through the love of God. And find ourselves in the middle of a Special Offer for Easter – two for one – not only our sins forgiven, but (as well) the hope of heaven, in the closer presence of God, and of those whom we have loved and lost a while.

Thomas was given the proof for which he craved when he met the risen Jesus. But for the time being, we must walk by the light of faith and with all our “Ifs” and “Buts” through our nights and days of doubt or joy. Onwards let us go, singing songs of expectation, marching to the promised land;
letting the love of Jesus fill us,
the joy of Jesus surprise us,
the peace of Jesus flood us,
the light of Jesus transform us,
the touch of Jesus warm us.

O Saviour Jesus, forgive us,
and in your wounds, heal us.
and in your risen life, take us with you,
to stay with us, and us with You.

Amen

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.

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2017

Roy Arnold

[Roy wasn’t able to make it to church, so Veronica read the sermon]

I had thought I might be with you this morning, but thought better of it. Maybe next Christmas, or better still, Easter. Anyway, here we are again on Christmas Eve. Another year drawing to a close. A year for me of lessons learned – like the wisdom of those who wrote our Wedding Service and the words “in sickness and in health” as part of our relationships whether we are married or not.

I know how much Hylda’s care (and that of our daughters) has meant to me since my disastrous fall in March, and I know also the comfort of your prayers from this congregation, and of the work of caring for the sick by doctors and nurses and district nurses, and of the benefits of our National Health Service. All lessons learned by me this year.

And the simple lessons of walking in someone else’s shoes. The shoes of my mother who suffered from arthritis for many years, or the suffering of soldiers wounded in battle. Or the simple annoyances of being reliant on someone else to fetch and carry.

I could go on about this, but it doesn’t sound very Christmassy, perhaps? Or perhaps it is?  Because (if you think about it) walking in someone else’s shoes is actually what Christmas is all about. About how God sent His Son to be with us, and to experience life as we live it, the good bits and the bad, in sickness and in health, the rain and the sunshine. The darkest time of the year when Christmas comes to give us some light – if we are willing or able to accept the life and the light and the love of Christmas.

Christina Rosetti, who wrote the well-known carol “In the bleak midwinter”, also wrote another carol called “Love came down at Christmas”. Perhaps Veronica might sing it for us (if she has any voice left and is not suffering from carol fatigue). But before she does I would like to thank her – and Dave – for her love and care for us all:

 

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Jean Trafford RIP

Our lives can change in a flash, and as we get older one thing which quite rapidly change things for the worst is a FALL. A moment’s inattention or distraction is all it takes – as it did for this loved one and dear friend Jean. For her it meant long weeks in hospital then a spell at home and then back into hospital again. No wonder she came to be weary of it all and so  Jean passed from this life to the next. Albert and Jamie you will obviously miss her warm presence as we all do.

Macclesfield Bus Station is not the most cheerful place but it was always good to see Jean there and Albert and Jamie, and we miss her presence on the No 11 bus – good to talk to and always with a keen interest in other people. Not for her or us the anonymous life of cities where nobody speaks to their neighbours. The great hymn writer George Herbert (the Vicar of a village near to Salisbury) in a poem about Prayer, speaks of us seeing heaven in the ordinary things of life, as I believe we do. We see it most of all in human love like the love of Jean and Albert and Jamie, with a whole host of friends and neighbours; and we see it in this the season of springtime when things come back to life after the winter.

And we are truly blessed with our skies around Kerridge and Bollington, and the Trafford household particularly blessed with the view from their kitchen window and garden – the view out towards Alderley Edge. And in early evening the sky brightened with pinks and gold and blues and green – easy surely to believe in heaven at such a view and in our bright hope of Eastertide, and the heaven were Jean rests, free from pain and sadness, and safe in the love of the God in which Jean had such trust.

Roy Arnold