Tag Archives: faith

Unravelling or completing the picture?

The interaction of music and image is a powerful way of helping us reflect on significant moments in life.

How does it feel to be a parent watching your child; to fall in love; to witness the majesty of Creation? What is it like to wrestle with the break-up of relationships or the fact of death?

Manchester band James have released their 13th album La Petite Mort this week and, in a BBC Breakfast interview, they explained that it was the result of battling through tough times including family deaths. As a part of the interview we saw a clip from the video that goes with the single Moving On.

 

Image

It’s a beautiful piece of animation, picturing the multi-layered hope and heartache of life’s endings and beginnings. It’s from BAFTA-nominated animator, writer and director Ainslie Henderson and provokes a number of questions.

The underlying imagery about death is that, as we near the end, everything unravels, no matter how much we try to hold it together. In the end we have to give in the inevitable: we have to let go and let it all fall apart. The film has a beautiful parallel of new life being “knit together” (Psalm139?) so that we are in life at the same time as we are in death.

But I’m left with a question … no bad thing there. Is death the unravelling of everything or actually the completion of part of our story?

As a Christian, my future hope is that there will be more than an unravelling when I draw my final breath. My reading of God’s promise in Jesus is that death completes what is being stitched together in my life to a pattern of God’s own design: death is not losing but winning. The victory of the cross is that Jesus went through death and emerged triumphant into a new life where what had appeared to have unravelled was actually reshaped into God’s extraordinary design … and the promise of a new design for every one of us.

As Dylan Thomas wrote: “Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”

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1 Corinthians 13 … the online version?

I’ve been musing on the topic of love ahead of preaching at the weekend. The Gospel lesson is John 17: 20-26 where Jesus prays to God that those who come after him would be one, and known for their love.

It set me thinking about the many times that Internet discussions get way out of hand. So here is an adapted 1 Corinthians 13, the famous Bible chapter on love.

If I speak in the tongues of Google and of LinkedIn, but do not have love, I am a noisy ringtone or a nuisance call. And if I have blogging powers, and understand all mysteries of code and all knowledge of hashtags, and if I have all Facebook, so as to ‘friend’ many, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my PayPal balance, and if I hand over my smartphone so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on having the last word; it is not interested in a flame war; it does not rejoice in cyberstalking, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

But as for updates, they will come to an end; as for multiple online identities, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we tweet only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I Snapchatted like a child, I thought like a child, I shared like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish updates. For now we see pixels in a screen, dimly, but then we will see Facetime to Facetime. Now the Wikipedia page is only a stub but it doesn’t stop me writing about it; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known – and will know when to be offline. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Stories of hope across Europe

Day two of the Extended Cabinets meeting in Braunfels, north of Frankfurt, included a time of sharing stories.

The reason I’m here is that three of us from the Methodist Church in Britain have been asked to come and share about Fresh Expressions. I’m with Stephen Lindridge, the Methodist missioner from the Fresh Expressions initiative and one of the initiators of Mind The Gap in Gateshead, and Peter Hancock, Northampton District Chair and a founder of The Bridge in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

I’ll be talking about Tubestation in Cornwall, not surprisingly.

But yesterday we sat in small groups and heard stories from Siberia to southern Germany of how God is inspiring people to plant new churches and risk new things.

  • The Belarus pastor whose work isn’t officially recognised by the government because she’s not allowed a sacred space but where the children go to school and tell stories about how they love their mothers because they pray for them.
  • The church in Finland slowly being brought back to life after one old man sustained it and believed in his vision from God that people would come. Now they are, one by one.
  • A German church where a pastor heard the call to go and rescue a dying congregation and moved home. Now the fellowship has grown from a handful to a systainable church, mainly recalling former members but beginning to impact its community.
  • A teenager who used the Latvian version of Facebook to bring together 30 unchurched young people to begin a youth group. Now some of them are inquiring about baptism.

There were many more stories but that’s a flavour of what was shared yesterday. We also heard two lectures on why adults came to faith, much of it interesting but probably too rooted in the German cultural setting to need repeating here.

Today we tell our stories, thrilled to know that we will simply be adding to the good news others have already shared.

Hymn for Remembrance Sunday

I struggle with Remembrance Sunday but a friend asked me if I had written any hymns for the day. I hadn’t but I have now! Here it is. It is a Common Metre setting (8.6.8.6.) and was written to go with an old tune Lloyd – it was in the old 1930s Methodist Hymn Book as an Alternative Tune

We stand for brave and selfless friends,

who sacrificed today.

In our remembering, Lord give faith,

and teach us how to pray.

 

We stand for all who die for us

– and have no more to give:

those we have never met or known,

those we should not outlive.

 

We stand and honour lives laid down –

futures that conflict stole –

and sing of one who died to end

the warring in our souls.

 

We stand to gain a greater prize

than any war can claim,

if we can hear the Saviour’s voice

as he calls out our name.

 

You stand for peace and truth and light:

we pledge our faith for now.

And when you wipe all tears away

all nations’ heads will bow.

 

Gareth Hill 2009 © GraceNotes Music