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!
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.