Remembrance Sunday 2020

Canons Veronica and Roy

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.

Our Collect Prayer seems to strike the right note for Remembrance Sunday, as it brings to mind that it is sin which divides us and which causes wars, and that it is only when the world is subject to God’s just and gentle rule that then (and only then) wars will cease. Perhaps we forget that the point of remembering on this special day the trenches, the dead and the dying, the heartache, is that we don’t want anyone to experience such terrible times of war ever again. In sorrow we name aloud those who were traumatised, wounded or fell in battle (and recall that so many of them weren’t professional soldiers, sailors or air crew).

Jesus spoke this parable to the disciples: “The kingdom of heaven
will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Matthew 25:1-13

Every year, when we say “we will remember” all of this, we are in all good conscience saying “we won’t let it happen again”. But sadly, even as once more we bow our heads in silence before the memorial boards here in church commemorating our local lads, we cannot escape the fact that wars and killing still go on unabated across the world. Our Gospel for this Sunday reminds us that we all need to stay alert and awake, prepared to listen out primarily for God’s commands, and “with oil in our lamps” to respond positively to the deep yearning of humanity to be at peace… the sort of peace that passes understanding (whether in the midst of fears of conflict or coronavirus), the peace of Christ that we all long for.

The First World War was rounded off by a pandemic as deadly as the present one – exacerbated by the weariness of a world worn down by the fighting and hatred of war. Our present crisis may not have been brought about by wars, yet we may feel ourselves bogged down in the mire of divisive politics and entangled in the insidious barbed wire of different “tribes” seeking narrow self-interest above the well-being of “the other”. The world awaits the distant bugle call signalling that somewhere an effective vaccine has been found, while vainly hoping to “be home by Christmas”. But let us not despair: let us keep our lamps lit by being wise enough to go on replenishing the oil of human kindness, and in the gloom of our remembrances today, let us be determined to fix our eyes on the light of Christ, which no amount of darkness can ever extinguish, and so hold fast to the importance of God’s command to love one another.

Thy kingdom come, O God

A hymn for Remembrance Sunday

The word were written by Revd Lewis Hensley (1824-1905). He was ordained in 1851 and was Vicar of Hitchin for 49 years. He published a number of hymns in 1864 and 1867, but this Advent hymn is the only one appearing in modern hymnals.

He died suddenly of natural causes while travelling in a train on the Great Eastern Railway in 1905, so it was not the horrors of WW1 that inspired the phrase “When comes the promised time that war shall be no more…?”.

The tune is St Cecilia composed by Revd Leighton George Hayne (1836-1883). He was precentor of Queen’s College, Oxford 1860-1866, during which time he was ordained. He was vicar of Bradfield, near Manningtree, Essex from 1871 until his death. He was a fine organist, and an amateur organ builder. He published “Hints on the Purchase of an Organ” (1867). He also wrote the well-known tune Buckland (Loving Shepherd of thy sheep).

St Cecilia

Thy kingdom come, O God,
thy rule, O Christ, begin;
break with thine iron rod
the tyrannies of sin.

Where is thy reign of peace
and purity and love?
When shall all hatred cease,
as in the realms above?

When comes the promised time
that war shall be no more,
and lust, oppression, crime
shall flee thy face before?

We pray thee, Lord, arise,
and come in thy great might;
revive our longing eyes,
which languish for thy sight.

Men scorn thy sacred name,
and wolves devour thy fold;
by many deeds of shame
we learn that love grows cold.

O’er lands both near and far
thick darkness broodeth yet:
arise, O Morning Star,
arise, and never set!

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

Vicar’s Letter November 2019

At our recent Autumn Fair we were truly blessed by the generosity of our local community which helped us raise an amazing sum of £1,800 towards the upkeep and continuing work of your Parish Church!

Included in that total was an incredible £200 as a result of the enterprise and talents of those members of our RiCH After School Group who took up Bev’s innovative challenge of “RiCH does The Apprentice!” We must also give thanks for the long list of supporters from local businesses and individuals who willingly gave us raffle prizes or items to sell or who offered their services free-of-charge on the day (see the full list here)

We are so grateful for all your support in helping us to meet the everyday expenses of keeping your Parish Church open, flourishing and able to offer a high standard of care to all those, young and old, who call upon our resources from within the local community and beyond.

As we now move from Autumn to Winter, at our Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve, 31 October, we will celebrate once more all those Saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose lives we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. It may not be exactly time for Spring-cleaning but if you are of an active and energetic disposition, please come and help us clean and polish up the church building on Saturday 2 November between 10.00am and 12noon! On the evening of that same day, All Souls’ Day, we will gather at 7.00pm for our Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, bringing to mind those closest of our friends and family whose passing we mourn, entrusting their souls once again to God’s infinite care as we light a candle in their memory. A few days later, we may hear fireworks in our neighbourhood, celebrating the joyful life we can share with friends around us. Perhaps we will write our own names with sparklers in the light of a bonfire, as we focus our attention on our own roles and identities within the complexities of world politics, historically and in the present day. On Remembrance Day, 10 November, we will parade solemnly with poignantly resilient poppies on our lapels and hold respectfully before God, in the two minutes’ silence, the lives of those who died or who returned maimed in body, mind or spirit, praying that we do not squander their hard-won peace. As we continue to teach all our children St Oswald’s motto, urging them to “be strong and of good courage” and to follow paths of gentleness and peace, so let us pray for strength and resourcefulness for ourselves and our community as we look for ways to enhance the well-being of all those around us and across the wider world, mindful of so many people still living in poverty or in dire need as a result of violence, relationship breakdown, cruelty, greed or selfishness.

There is the opportunity to lighten this solemn November mood by joining in either one of the two Christingle Services we now offer on Advent Sunday afternoon, 1 December, at 2.00pm or 4.00pm.

At these services we are invited to take carefully into our hands those familiar bright orange candle-holders, studded with delicious symbols of the fruits of the earth, anticipating Christ’s light dawning into the world and blessed by the music and song of so many children and families from our local schools. During the following four weeks leading up to Christmas, we may begin to look inwards at our own lives and perhaps examine our consciences in response to new awareness of world-wide climate change (highlighted by the Transition Bollington group), challenged as we must be by the younger generation’s persistent awkward questions about our collective choice of lifestyle. We might decide to volunteer again with HOPE in NE Cheshire as a Street Angel or at our Winter Night Shelter project for the homeless, staffed by members of the churches and other people of goodwill in and around Macclesfield. We may be encouraged over the next few months to consider what part we could take in a new local initiative of helping Bollington to become a Dementia Friendly Community. All these and other good causes provide us with opportunities to serve others, but we should also be careful not to neglect our personal need for spiritual nurture and reflective space: so please do also join us here on Saturday 14 December between 10.00am and 4.00pm, when we are offering the hospitality of an Advent Quiet Day, open to all, to prepare our inner selves spiritually for Christmas. In these various ways we aim to clear the clutter, to make enough room to greet the birth of the Christ Child and to discover afresh some practical ways of welcoming God’s Spirit of kindness and justice into our hearts and homes.

Every blessing this Advent and Christmas and always,

Veronica

Remembrance Sunday 2017

Brian Reader

Good morning to you. I don’t normally go off script, but this morning at our short Remembrance Service I was quite moved as all the names were read out.  I recalled what I had heard, (at ‘A Concert to Remember’ arranged by Rotary at St Michael and all Angels Church in Macclesfield last night) when we were told that since 1914, eighty million had been killed by war or terrorist acts. Eighty million – that is more than all the people in the United Kingdom including all those we don’t know about.

Looking back I found that I preached my first Remembrance Sermon 22 years ago today and it was interesting to read what I had said then, and on subsequent Remembrance Sundays. One thing I discovered was that I could never preach any of those sermons again as the world has changed so much during those 22 years.

For the past three years we have heard a lot about the First World War and I am sure we will hear much more about it next year as the centenary of the armistice is approached. In re-reading those sermons I was reminded that it was only in 1995, that I fully grasped what effect the carnage of that war had at a personal level.

I had been on holiday up in Scotland, and we decided to go and have a look in the Doune Motor Museum. We had the place to ourselves and could look at this large collection of interesting cars which were nearly all roadworthy. One car took my eye,  It was a small 1913 Sunbeam 3 Litre sports car.  I can picture it now, British Racing green, a lovely swallow tail, an outside hand brake and a leather strap over the bonnet. A car any young man would have been proud of. But something was wrong. The number plate; it was modern.

I then looked at the plaque which told you something about the car. It had not been registered until 1974. A farmer’s plough had hit it, and it had been dug up and restored.

It had lain buried for nearly 70 years. Can you believe that?

Someone had just buried that lovely car. Imagine the grief of that family, the father mother, wife or sister, who could not bear to have the prised possession of their son, husband or brother about them, to remind them of their great loss. So when they knew that their loved one was dead, they buried his car just as he had been buried on a far-away battle field.

But although we all know a lot more about the First World War it appears that this modern generation knows little about the Second World War, the Battle of Britain or the Battle of the Atlantic when many brave lives were lost to bring us food. As shops are open every day with food flown in from all over the world children, cannot imagine what it was like during the war, with rationing and vital food being brought in convoys across the Atlantic fighting their way across with the constant threat from submarines, enemy warships and bombers.

A paper recently reported, that when school children were questioned, they thought that we had fought alongside the Germans in the last war!!   I wonder what history is taught in schools!

Although we are not at war, we still live in troubled times. There are threats of terrorism and unrest and in the Far East, North Korea is threatening the USA with nuclear rocket attack. It also appears that the morality of prominent members of our society, including our politicians is under suspicion and is being investigated.  Much of society seems ‘Hell bent’, (and I use the words advisedly,) in getting the maximum out of the system with the minimum of effort. It makes you think that if the call came today, few would be willing to sacrifice all to defend what they believed in. It is therefore not surprising that some of those who fought to bring freedom, question where this modern world is headed.

Where will it all end? What is the point of carrying on?

On this Remembrance Day we need to look around and see if this country and the world is worthy of the sacrifice of those who fought in wars to end all wars.

Jesus said, ’Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  How was Jesus able to say this? It was because He himself was to give his life to be a sacrifice for all.

Twelve days ago, in Faith Hour we heard this read. ‘During Old Testament times, the high priest’s work was never finished! Do you know why? Because the people where always sinning, so lambs had to be constantly sacrificed to atone for their sins.

However, when Jesus died, rose again and went back to heaven, the first thing He did was to sit down, because the work of salvation was finished! The Bible says: ‘Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn’t like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal. Instead, he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin, and because of Christ’s ‘once and for all’ sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God at any time. The moment you say, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus,’ you’re made welcome and all your needs are met.

There’s a story from American civil war days about a soldier sitting on a bench outside the white House looking depressed. A little boy passing by stopped and asked what was wrong. The soldier told him he needed to see president Lincoln but the guards wouldn’t let him in. Hearing this, the boy took him by the hand and led him directly into the president’s office. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘this man really needs to speak with you.’ That boy was the president’s son; he had direct and continuous access to his father, and because you belong to Jesus, you do too!

So today let us approach the God the Father, through Jesus his Son, and ask that we can be made agents of God’s love and peace to help this world become a better place for all.

AMEN.