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.

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.

– 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

The story of Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10)

Canon Roy Arnold

The Gospel tells us the story of Zacchaeus, who was a very, very rich man – the chief tax-collector in the prosperous city of Jericho – but not a popular man because tax collectors were collaborators with the hated Roman occupiers, and noted for making a bit of cash on the side for themselves. But one day – going about his business in town – he heard a stir and wanted to know it was all about. Actually it was Jesus just passing through Jericho, but Zacchaeus couldn’t see him because of the crowd and also because he wasn’t very tall. So he started to run up the road and scrambled up a sycamore tree. It was a surprise – up among the branches – when he heard his name being called.

Church of the Good Shepherd, Jericho (photo by Tango7174)
Church of the Good Shepherd, Jericho (photo by Tango7174)

“Zacchaeus, come on down”. It was Jesus who was calling and much to the surprise of Zacchaeus, Jesus was saying that he wanted to stay at his house, despite the muttering of the crowd about Jesus mingling with tax collectors and sinners. Actually, I believe that Jesus could see into the heart of this man called Zacchaeus – that he wanted something more in his life, he wanted forgiveness maybe; he wanted to feel loved; no longer to be an outcast. And this is what he heard Jesus saying directly to him (and the men muttering in the crowd) “Today salvation has come to this house, because this too is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost”, using the word lost in the sense of getting lost as in a strange city or place.

I guess that most can feel lost at times. People can get lost in their search for riches, as I think Zacchaeus had done; for the love of money is the root of evil and a frequent way of getting on the wrong track. Or people can get lost when they take to the bottle, or drugs. And also we can get lost when the experience of our lives change. I must admit that I am not particularly enjoying getting old, despite having a bus pass. But then I could be old or a child in war-torn Syria.

There are all sorts of ways in which we can feel lost, some our own fault and or by actions of others; or by illness or loss, but lost is lost (as Mrs May might have said). But Zacchaeus was found – up a tree – by Jesus, the same Jesus who can show me and you the right way to go. By that light of God which Jesus brings to us when we are lost, as the old hymn has it:

Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom; lead thou me on. The night is dark and I am far from home, lead thou me on. Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene. One step enough for me.

One step out of our lostness, or one step towards the life which is to come. One step; a step to follow Jesus. Just one step is probably all it takes. So we pray that Jesus, the Light of the World, will be with us this day, that we may ever live and walk as children of the light, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All Saints – 30 October 2016

Canon Roy Arnold

A while ago I came across one of the books I had in my childhood, and was amused to find on the second page my name and address as follows: ROY ARNOLD, 41 HIGH STREET, BOLLINGTON, NEAR MACCLESFIELD, CHESHIRE, ENGLAND, EUROPE, THE WORLD. I guess that maybe you wrote that sort of thing in your books or on the cover of exercise books at school.

And I thought that it might be an idea this morning, to remind us of our place in the Church right now in a similar way. So in imagination put your own name here, at the front of your mind. And then, where we are now, at St Oswald’s Church seated next to – well whoever it is – and the company of all the people who are here in Church this Morning And then add as well the names of any who aren’t here this morning; away on holiday, or ill, or in hospital or Nursing Homes. And then count in our friends at Church in St Gregory’s and the Christian Life Church. And then outside Bollington, at Pott Shrigley and Prestbury and Rainow; at St Paul’s in Macclesfield with Michael in charge… and on through all the churches in this Deanery under the charge of Veronica as Rural Dean. And so on, adding in the churches of Chester Diocese and, going the whole hog, throwing in all Churches of any denomination in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland where acts of worship similar to here in our church are going on right now.

But there’s more to come as we recall the hymn which tells us that “our brethren neath the western skies” will be taking over where our worship leaves off while we sleep. Christians at worship throughout the world; a stupendous chorus of praise – even more than the 14 million who watched the Bake Off Final on Wednesday night. Many, many more because now we must add in the all who belong to the Church in the closer company of God; including we hope some of our own loved ones who are in heaven. All whom we have loved and lost awhile; our daughter Rachel, my Mother and Father and so on. And of course you can put in the names of your loved ones here. How or where we can hope to see them all maybe we cannot know; all standing around the throne of God, and maybe all of them joining with us as we say the Our Father. They on the other side of death and we on this – which is the special theme of All Saints tide starting today, as we remember that we are part of the Communion of Saints stretching across time and space. With our prayers, whether offered alone or together, and being caught up in the great outpouring and praise and worship of the whole people of God.

all-saintsAnd the golden evening will brighten in the west and soon to faithful warriors will come their rest. And from earths wide bounds, from oceans furthest coast, through gates of pearl will stream the countless host, singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Our effectiveness in this heavenly choir depends, of course, upon our joining in. Singing together from the same hymn-sheet as the saying goes, using the same script, taking note of the teaching of Jesus. And not least of those last words from this morning’s Gospel where he tells us “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” A specific direction to me. Now residing at my home in Bollington, near Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, Europe and The World. And to you, whoever you are and wherever you live.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

A golden rule. Easy to remember. Difficult to do.

Michaelmas – 29 September 2016

Canon Roy Arnold

When the Protestant Reformation swept into Britain from Germany in the time of King Henry VIII and his short-lived son Edward, the more radical of the Protestants had it in mind to clear out anything that smacked of the old Catholic ways such as altars, vestments, candles and devotion to saints. And also the keeping of Saint’s Days, but with Saint’s Days they ran into a major snag because some of these were part and parcel of the legal and educational setup.

Not least Michaelmas (which we are celebrating today) because Michaelmas marked the start of the new Legal Year and also the start of University Terms. And it was (like Lady Day in March) a Quarter Day connected with the payment of rents and debts, and with the hiring of new servants and labourers. After much thought they decided that it was best to stick to the status quo and leave Saint’s Day alone because they were too interwoven with legal issues and education and practical life to tamper with.

mikharkhangel1Another of the customs of Michaelmas was to ordain new clergy – deacons and priests – because of the obvious connection between the role of the clergy and the ministry of angels. For both angels and clergy have been given the task of being God’s Messengers, informing and teaching people about the love of God. But here I dip back into Reformation history because one of the main teachings of the Reformation was that it was not just the clergy who were servants and messengers for God; this work has been given to all who call themselves Christians. And God doesn’t have favourites, nor does He have First and Second Class messengers and servants. This forms the Reformation Teaching which we call THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS

Maybe you might recall that it was at Michaelmas in 1963 that I was ordained as a Deacon and the following year as a Priest. But through all these years of Ministry I have always kept in mind that important thought of THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS; that it is together – clergy and lay people together – being about our Father’s business, as Jesus was. So we must help the Angels out (or be helped by them) in the work of carrying the message of the love of God to a world which so badly needs it. God’s love for us, and our returning love for him, and ideally for everyone we meet as we live our daily lives.

Heavenly Father,

We pray to you this day that we (like the angels) may truly be messengers telling of your love, spreading this great good news.

And being like Jesus, we ask that
your love may shine through our eyes,
your spirit inspire our words,
your wisdom fill our minds,
your mercy control our hands,
your will capture our hearts,
your joy pervade our being
until we are changed into his likeness from glory to glory.

We pray for peace in our warring world, and for that same peace in our own lives; whether we are happy and in good health or if are worried or ill or sad. May the peace of God which passes all understanding may settle in us all and we pray for our loved ones and our friends, for us here at St Oswald’s and throughout the wide boundaries of the Christian Church and today we remember especially Mary Houghton who died this week.

All this we pray through Jesus Christ Our Lord.