All posts by Gareth

Methodist Minister in Romsey Circuit, Hampshire. Award-winning hymn writer, guitarist, Fresh Expressions Associate, hopeful collaborator.

From the mystery …

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The hidden depths of a chrysalis conceal what breaks out as the beauty of a butterfly.

Today, at Romsey Methodist Church, we used butterflies as an image to help us understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the crucifixion and a period of death Jesus appeared alive and transformed by God into our risen Saviour.

At the end of the service we fixed our butterflies to the front railing of the church as a signal to the town that new life has emerged.

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Life walks from a borrowed cave

 

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Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise

Yet silently, as morning breaks,

the risen Lord is found.

A battle fought beyond the grave

has ended with a shout: ‘He saves!’

and Life walks from a borrowed cave,

now holy ground.

Daily thought: borrowing days

This is the final Daily Thought for BBC Radio Solent during Holy Week.

Resurrection Of Jesus


There is an old Scottish and Shetland proverb that the last three days of March are “borrowing days”. These are supposed to be unusually stormy, and March “borrows” them from April in a last-ditch attempt to influence the spring weather, before March winds give way to April showers.

The same story crops up in a Spanish folk-tale: a shepherd promises to give March a lamb if he will reduce the strength of his winds, protecting the flocks. But once March has done so, the shepherd refuses to pay up. In revenge, March borrows three days from April, and produces even fiercer winds to pay back the shepherd for his deceit.

Borrowing and lending always has its consequences, I guess.

Today is Good Friday and I want to mention someone closely involved after the crucifixion of Jesus, an event the Christian Church marks today.

Joseph of Arimathea is described in the Bible as a rich man, a disciple of Jesus and a respected member of the Jewish council. We also know he didn’t support the council’s decision to call for Jesus’s death.

He watched as Jesus was crucified and then Joseph took Jesus’s body and, according to Matthew’s gospel, laid it to rest in a tomb in his own garden.

On Sunday, Christians will celebrate the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead, so Joseph’s act of extraordinary generosity was only needed for a handful of days.

But that doesn’t diminish his gift. After all, who expects a borrowed grave to be returned with grateful thanks – by the occupant?

 

Daily thought: smoke and mirrors

Day 3 of my week of Daily Thoughts on BBC Radio Solent, for the Julian Clegg Breakfast Show was about the arrest of Jesus.

640px-Jerusalem_Gethsemane_tango7174Gethsemane. By Tango7174 – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26323542


It seems there’s a special day for just about everything now. Apparently today is worldwide Smoke And Mirrors Day. I kid you not! Every March 29th we are meant to dedicate some time to the art of fraudulent cunning.

The phrase ‘It’s all smoke and mirrors’ refers to the way magicians use distraction to ensure the audience misses what’s really going on. The more complex things are, the more successfully the magician gets away with it.

We are in Holy Week, the decisive week for Christians as we near Good Friday when Jesus was crucified. In the Bible we see that the more Jesus revealed about himself as the Son of God the more those who opposed him accused him of trickery.

In the very last hours before he was arrested and tried, Jesus found a quiet spot to pray. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed for his disciples; for those who would believe in him because of his coming death and resurrection and even for what would happen down through the ages when those who followed him told their stories of faith.

Then, when soldiers came to take him away, he was waiting in the open. “Why are you coming mob-handed?” he asked. “I’m not using smoke and mirrors to hide from you. I’m here in plain sight.” And they took him off to be tried for his life.

Tomorrow is Good Friday but, for the moment, I’m going to try some trickery of my own. I’m going to see how quickly I can make a breakfast disappear!

Daily Thought: Blessed is the king …

Today’s Daily Thought on BBC Radio Solent draws a parallel between the events in Alabama 53 years ago and Jerusalem around 2,000 years past.

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Civil Rights Movement Co-Founder Dr. Ralph David Abernathy and his wife Mrs. Juanita Abernathy follow with Dr and Mrs Martin Luther King as the Abernathy children join the front line, leading the Selma to Montgomery march.

It’s exactly 53 years ago today that Dr Martin Luther King led nearly 25,000 people to the steps of the state capital of Montgomery, Alabama, to highlight black grievances. This five-day march had started in Selma and closed a month of civil rights protests.

The BBC report described troops surrounding the capital and army helicopters hovering overhead as Dr King addressed the protesters.

He described the trek as one of the greatest marches in the history of America and said the aim was not to humiliate and defeat white people, but to win friendship and understanding. Dr King tried to present a petition of black grievances, but Governor George Wallace refused to meet the delegation.

During this Holy Week, we mark a parallel event towards the end of Jesus’s ministry on earth. He didn’t march with 25,000 people but entered the capital Jerusalem to cheers and acclamation sitting on a donkey.

The crowd waved palm branches and greeted him as a king and Saviour while Jewish religious leaders watched on in horror.

The scale of Dr King’s support on the Selma march almost certainly hastened his assassination. The crowds in Jerusalem chanting “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” definitely spurred on those who were out to have Jesus arrested and tried.

And, despite all the crowds, Jesus soon finds out that the road to the cross is one he has to travel alone.

Daily Thought: lightbulb moment

This week I’m on BBC Radio Solent with the early morning Daily Thought slot at 6.50am. It’s part of the Julian Clegg Breakfast Show.

The great challenge is to say something about faith in 90 seconds – especially difficult in Holy Week. Here is today’s offering:

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It struck me this week just how easy it is to take things for granted. We simply don’t pay attention to the things around us until something happens to rob us of them.

At least a couple of times a week I drive past the Potters Heron pub in Ampfield (picture above) and I have been in for meals. But, if I’m honest, I’d never paid that much attention to its thatched roof until last week when the emergency services had to tear off the thatch to control the terrible fire that broke out.

It was a spot on the journey between where we pick up two of our grandchildren and our home – usually around where one of them utters the time-honoured phrase: “are we nearly there yet?”

Now, everyone who goes past is only too aware of what’s happened. For the owners, the staff, or those who were days away from holding their wedding reception at the Potters Heron, the fire is something to be remembered for the rest of their lives.

This week is Holy Week – the time in the Christian church when we journey towards the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday before celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In his last long conversation with his friends the disciples, Jesus says he has to leave them. They protest but Jesus insists that leaving is essential if he going to be able to come back – he has to face death in order to beat it.

This is the disciples’ lightbulb moment: they realise that they have to let go of the one thing they can’t ever imagine being without and say, finally, that they are now certain he has come from God.

The Walker

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As the new year dawned, The Walker came across an old woman carrying a massive collection of boxes. Some were gold, others were silver. Some were rainbow-coloured and others had ribbons flying from them.

Some boxes were so battered they looked as though they would fall apart if anyone hit them too hard. Others had tape over long rips and still others had knotted string linking them to other boxes, turning them into a chain. One or two of the boxes looked almost brand new, as though they had been gifts at a recent birthday party.

The woman looked weighed down by her load and The Walker was concerned. “Are you all right, old woman?” he asked.

“Well, I’m used to it by now,” she answered, “although I’m trying to work out where to put this new box.”

The Walker looked where she had indicated with her head and there was a silver box about six inches long and four inches wide. It was covered in paper and held together by glittery gold tape.

“Could you just tuck it under your arm?” he suggested.

“Well it’s alright at the moment but, in a couple of weeks, it won’t fit at all and then I’ll be finding a new place for it. It really needs a permanent home,” said the old woman, bent almost double by both the weight of her load and the awkwardness of the sheer number of things she had to carry.

The Walker didn’t understand but, in his concern for the old woman, offered to carry some of her burden.

“Oh no,” she laughed. “I can’t let go of a single one of them. They’re mine and I have to carry them.”

“You’re going to have to explain this,” said The Walker, “because I don’t understand.”

The old woman smiled gently. “Here’s a clue. I’ve just entered my 83rd year and this little silver box is my 83rd bundle. I carry the reminders of every moment I’ve lived in these bundles.

“The most battered are for the most difficult years and the shiny ones represent the good years. As each year progresses the box for that year grows – that’s why I can’t tuck this new one under my arm. It’s all my burden and I’ve carried them all my life.”

It was The Walker’s turn to smile.

“It’s a good job I came along. This burden has become far too much for you to bear but you don’t believe help is possible. What started out as a bit of an inconvenience has taken over your life. Sit down.”

The old woman looked puzzled. “How can I sit with all of these boxes on my back?”

The Walker reached out and lifted all of the boxes from her shoulders. “Sit there,” he said, pointing to a chair which had appeared by their side. The old woman sat and fell asleep instantly. Quietly, The Walker carried the boxes away and burned the lot.

Waiting in hope … a hymn for Advent

I posted this some three years ago. If preachers are looking for a contemporary Advent hymn this may fit the bill. We sang it in Romsey last week to O Waly Waly and it went really well.

All Creation Sings

For preachers and worship leaders who are beginning to think about Advent services, here is a hymn which may prove useful.

I wrote it with the tune Deep Harmony in my mind, but the editor of Singingthefaithplus suggests Niagara as a more upbeat option. O Waly Waly is another lovely Celtic tune which would add a different dimension to the text.

We wait in hope for hope to come:

promised of old; the righteous one.

Help us to watch, expect and pray

and then to greet Messiah’s day.

We read the story of your plan:

this world redeemed by heaven’s Son.

Grace breaks upon the present time;

mercy and hope through David’s line.

We hear the prophet’s voice ring clear:

‘changed hearts and lives are needed here’.

So, when the Spirit fires your Church,

make us a sign for all who search.

We go to share this great Good News:

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BBC RADIO SOLENT DAILY THOUGHT: FRIDAY

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The signpost outside RCA Studio B

I’ve been talking this week about our sabbatical trip to Nashville, Tennessee – and one of the places we knew we had to make a pilgrimage to was the historic RCA Studio B on Music Row, just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel.

The studio was opened by RCA Records in 1957 and played a major role in establishing Nashville as a premier recording centre. The list of hit records that started out there is mind-blowing. Elvis himself recorded more than 250 hits in this one small building.

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The ‘Elvis board’ inside the studios.

As well as the King, there were Floyd Kramer, the Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, Bobby Goldsboro, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves … I could fill my time just listing musical stars.

Dolly Parton was so nervous on her way to record at RCA Studio B that she crashed her car but didn’t tell anyone until the recording session was over!

Everthing in the place reeks of history and musical quality. The grand piano has been there since the day the studio opened. Jerry Lee Lewis has played it. Dean Martin has leaned on it!

RCA studio B grand piano
The grand piano, played by all of the stars who recorded at RCA Studio B.

As a writer, just to stand in the same room and think of the catalogue of hits was almost enough to make me hang up my notebook and guitar, but then I remembered an encounter from the last days of Jesus.

The disciples had lived through the crucifixion and then met the risen Jesus who told them it was their job to keep telling the world of God’s love, just as he had done. It didn’t matter if they thought they weren’t up to the task – he believed in them.

“As the Father sent me, so I send you,” he told them.

If we have a God-given gift we are called to use it. Make sure not to squander your opportunities today.