This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 (with Sara Cox):

Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? Coming down to London on the train yesterday, I had a quick look for 16 October 2018 and discovered – to my amusement – that today is Dictionary Day, Steve Jobs Day, Boss Day, Department Store Day, and Feral Cat Day. Can you believe it? Who invents these things. And does anyone actually do anything on Department Store Day other than go shopping? As someone once put it: Tesco ergo sum … or ‘I shop, therefore I am’.

But, it’s also World Food Day, and here it all gets a bit more serious. World Food Day was first launched in 1945 to celebrate the start of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Its focus has been on food security and how agriculture needs to be developed a round the world in order for growing populations to be adequately fed.

Now, it’s easy to quote Jesus in the gospels praising those who feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but someone else then has to do the economics. Food banks around the country are absolute life-savers for individuals and families and are usually run by volunteers who believe that no one should go hungry in twenty first century Britain. But, we need to ask why they are so necessary and why use of them is increasing so markedly. But, World Food Day draws attention to the fact that global measures are needed if all people are to be fed. Look at Yemen and other places where famine and hunger are appalling, and food banks are in short supply.

Well, I can hear the voices already telling me that “I can’t change the world’s agricultural policies!” And I get that. But, today I could use my iPhone – or any other mobile phone, obviously – to celebrate Steve Jobs Day and locate a decent department store (hopefully without feral cats hanging around) where I could buy some food and take it to my nearest foodbank.

This way I can pay a small price for making a big difference to someone who otherwise will go hungry. And, in doing so, I’ll also be changing the world.

Anyway, it’s food for thought, isn’t it.

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This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox:

I have seen the Promised Land.

50 years. I remember thinking that if you could look back ten years, you were already old. But, I now remember too much.

50 years today people in Britain were waking up to the news that Dr Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis, having just delivered a speech that suggests in hindsight that he knew his end was coming. He got cheered to the rafters when he said: “I have been to the mountain top … I have seen the Promised Land”. But, like Moses who three thousand years ago peered over into the land for which he had given his life, he died before he could enter it.

Listening again to this immensely moving speech from Memphis, what is powerful about Martin Luther King isn’t just the vision he had – a vision that denied the power of the reality he experienced every day – but his ability to fire the hearts and imaginations of people … to get them to look beyond the limitations of their society and its injustices and have their imagination grasped by a vision and a hope that would not let them go.

It is the power of language and music. Dr King almost sang his evocation of liberation for black people in the United States. The Civil Rights movement was fired by the melodies and words of spirituals, the language of the Old Testament prophets whose poetry haunted their imagination, fired their courage and coloured their defiance of ‘the way the world is’. God was awake to the suffering of his people, and freedom was coming – one day, even if not to-day.

“Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord” were the last words spoken by Dr King to a crowd before his death at the age of 39. Here he dares to suggest that the glory of the Lord is not about some other-worldly realm of pious fantasy, but is to be glimpsed coming to us right in the heart of human suffering and confusion. Dr King had found his own heart and mind captured by a love that would not let him go – by a God who gets down and dirty in the muck and bullets of the real world we all recognise.

50 years. Yet, those words – and his delivery of them – still resonate, still sing out in defiant hope. The now is not the end.

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox:

It's probably a good thing that I am sitting here in my office in Leeds this time because I am about to admit a shameful secret. I have never watched a complete Formula One race. I am sorry, and I am very embarrassed to confess this in front of people who love the sport.

Maybe I'm a bit thick or just a bit slow. But, the speed of it all makes it difficult to work out what is going on. I think I need a good guide and I promise to listen to Suzi Perry's show on Monday.

Perhaps Good Friday is a good day to bury such a poor confession. Whereas the cars aim at speeding everything up, Good Friday slows everything down … to a stop, in fact.

Do you remember the story? The baby of Bethlehem has grown into the annoying rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, and the powers that be decide to sort him out once and for all. So, after a betrayal and a mock trial, they nail him and watch him die. And there, in the dirt of a rubbish tip outside Jerusalem, all the hopes of Christmas lie bleeding into despair.

Now, we know that the story doesn't end here. After the sheer emptiness of Saturday, when the loss and bereavement press in and refuse to be ignored, Sunday comes with an empty tomb and a resurrected Jesus, taking some frightened people by surprise and whispering that death, violence and destruction do not have the final word in this world, after all.

The trick is not to jump to Sunday until we have learned to live with Friday and Saturday. Slow down. Stop. Wait. Live with the loss and make darkness your friend for a while.

All this is powerfully real to me as I spent last week in Northern Iraq listening to the experiences of ordinary people whose lives, families and communities have been destroyed in the most unimaginably brutal ways by ISIS. For them Sunday is a very long way away. Yet, even for some of them, the darkness brings them closer to the light – as one songwriter put it.

So, I won't be running away from Friday – I'll just be surprised by the defiance of Sunday when it comes. Happy Easter, but not just yet.

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 with Sara Cox, Jeremy Vine, Gabrielle Aplin and Carrie Underwood.

I am a rubbish dancer. There's no point pretending otherwise. A West Indian mate of mine, when we were younger, once asked me to dance. When I asked why, he said he needed a laugh. It didn't exactly encourage me.

Well, I guess some people can do it, Jeremy, and some people can't. Or can they? I think it depends on what we think dancing is for.

An ancient poet once spoke about how God turns our mourning into dancing, and I know what he meant. I'm just not sure it tells the whole story. For many people – and just ask some of those children in real need – it is their happiness that is turned into mourning when tragedy or failure invade their life and turn it dark. (This is what the Blues is for – to give voice and mood to the sadder side of life.)

Well, along with that ancient poet, we are making a mistake if we think that dancing is always jolly or happy. Strictly speaking, dancing involves the whole body giving expression to the whole of human experience – and that means we can dance our grief and our sadness and our failure as well as the Cha-Cha, the samba or the jive (and I don't know what any of those are).

I think this is one way of understanding what Children in Need is all about: shining a different light into the darkness and enabling – or inviting – children to dance. Not to pretend everything is OK or that life can be transformed instantly into something happy-clappy. In other words, dancing the slowie is as valid and important as dancing the quickstep.

In one sense, this is obvious. We shouldn't be too quick to shake off the heavy heart when it actually needs to be heavy. Like dancing, love has to face reality in all its guises: shallow love is no use to anybody. But, having said all that, you can't help but be cheered by the enthusiasm of those who thought they couldn't dance at all, only to find that the rhythm was in them somewhere.

So, hit the dance floor of life with the steps that tell the truth. And if you want to be loving to me, don't laugh at my dancing.

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox and guests: Gabby Logan, Josh Gad and Lianne LaHavas. (There are ten of Liane's song titles and a reference to the work of Josh Gad and Gabby Logan for good measure.)

Well, I might as well announce it to the nation: my daughter has just had a baby. He's called Joseph and he's tiny and I love him. He's got a head of dark hair and he left me tongue-tied.

I nearly cried when I held him. I did get teary when I saw my daughter and son-in-law in the hospital and felt the unstoppable love that gets behind the emotional defences that often protect us from hurt. No room for doubt here: love can be elusive, but it's impossible to forget and you can never get enough of it.

Which bears thinking about when you watch the news and feel the misery. Yet, in the midnight of pain it's the daylight of wonderful love that keeps breaking through, catching us unawares and reminding us of our fragility and challenging our selfishness.

There are people who think that love is something merely romantic or soppy. I mean, it is great when it is romantic; but, love is much more than that. I would give my life for my kids and grandchildren (Joseph completes the hat-trick) because love goes deeper than anything else. When I did my daughter's wedding in Croydon some years ago, I remember looking at the gifts wrapped in paper covered in love hearts. I asked if this is really the best we can do as an icon of love. The icon of love I turn to is a man with his arms stretched out on a cross, embracing a world that couldn't handle him and demonstrating that love is never cheap. Christian faith is born of blood – costly love … as, of course, is the love that leads to a painful labour and childbirth.

I guess my question to myself this morning is this: Is your love big enough? Or do I settle for an imitation that costs less or is more convenient? Anyone who has loved will also bear the scars – because love can sometimes hurt.

Anyway, with a nod to the Beatles, “you can't buy me love”; but, with a nod to Josh Gad, our hearts do not need to be frozen. And that, Gabby, is the final score.

 

This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox. Guests included UB40 and there are four of their song titles embedded in the text.

Well, if it’s all busy busy busy in the studio this Good Friday morning – and it sounds like it is – then you’ll already understand something of what was going on during the first Good Friday.

Far from being a deeply meditative religious experience way back in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, everyone was actually going wild. There was a massive political ferment, and loads of the people hoped they were on the brink of being liberated from Roman occupation. The city was full of parties and lots of red, red wine was flowing down the throats of people crying for freedom.

It all sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the man of the moment – and the cause of the trouble on this particular Friday – was being built up as the great saviour of the people by some, and the great enemy of the people by others. It’s a terrible position to be in, isn’t it – especially when you’ve just spent the last few years telling everyone to love each other to death. But, Jesus of Nazareth has a final meal with his hopeless mates, gets arrested while praying in a garden, then gets tried before an embarrassed judge, and, finally, gets nailed.

What a waste.

Well, the reason we call this Friday ‘good’ is not because it’s a good story; it’s because the death of this Jesus changed the world. It also changed the personal world of people who were part of it.

Jesus’s friends had just bigged themselves up: “Jesus, if they’re going to get you, they’re going to have to go through me first.” Then the big men caved in under challenge, and most of them ran away when it all got too hard. Betrayed, denied and deserted: that was how Jesus experienced Good Friday.

But, the good bit is that this wasn’t the end of the story. The misery of Friday’s crucifixion was followed by the unbearable emptiness of Saturday, but opened the way to a surprising Sunday. ‘Where did I go wrong’ becomes ‘light my fire’ when people disillusioned by their own failure discover that this isn’t the end of the story.

Good Friday? It’s a labour of love.