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Holy Week through the eyes of a rugby union commentator PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Walsh   
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
palm sunday.pngA BBC Radio Cumbria sports colleague is putting a new spin on Easter this week with a series of modernised accounts of the biblical message.

James Clarke, the station’s rugby union correspondent and commentator, has produced his version of Easter for the Hereford Diocese communications section.

He says: ”They are putting them out as voiced by local people for an internet project aimed at younger people this week,

“It happened in an amazing modern way.. I write pieces like this from time to time, to help people get inside Bible Stories, freshens them up if they know them well, helps them understand them if they are new to them,  

“I wrote one about the story of Jesus on the Mountain top, changing into the Godlike form...sent it to a friend in Bristol, she shared it with her on-line prayer group, someone put it on a facebook page, Hereford Diocese Comms Officer saw it, and got in touch.

“My favourite so far is about Palm Sunday and Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, it starts:

"Hey! where you going with that Quad Bike?"

-Jesus wants it

"That's OK then..who's driving?  Peter  -

 of course!

- go slow its steep down to Jerusalem from here and tell Jesus to shove old Gyp off he thinks it's his seat!!!..and so on...

“Sadly they didn't want that one, I told it to the 8.00am Holy Communion at Appleby last year, they seemed to like it....and they ain't young.”

But nine of James’ tales did make it and they have been recorded each day since Sunday when James called it -  Palm Sunday A Mother’s Story - A Family Outing.

Just to give a flavour of how he has worked the biblical template into new stories here’s the Palm Sunday offering.

(Female voice)

We had come up to the city from Jericho for the Passover Festival. There’s always

plenty to do and see, and my husband and I thought our two are old enough now to

cope with the crowds and the waiting about. We’ve one of each, Sarai and Jacob. And

this is the first time we took them to Jerusalem.

I don’t honestly know what happened -we wanted to see the parade, well my husband did really, . The Governor Pilate riding in full pomp with his honour guard, to make sure everyone knows who is in charge.

I’m no fan of the Romans, but they do put on a great parade, and it would have been a great sight for the children to see! The crowds were so great that we couldn’t get across the city to see it happen, instead we were stuck on our side, , near a little Olive Grove called Gethsemane, and found ourselves in another crowd that seemed to be gathering as we heard singing and cheering coming down the road from Bethany.

“Jesus!”, “Saviour!” “Jesus!” getting louder as they came nearer and nearer I had heard about Jesus. He’d been down to Jericho, and taught there for a while.

Seemed honest and straight forward, and unlike most of our religious leaders, you could understand him. Loving and serving seemed to be more important than the rules we are supposed to follow… and there were several women in his party, which I liked to see.

It was a bit of a shock even so, when he invited himself to dinner with Zacchaeus, a Rabbi eating with Roman Agent, who admitted fiddling our taxes!

So we went along with the Sunday crowd to see what this “Prophet” was up to now!

As the procession came round the corner from the steep road down, we were suddenly stuck in crowds and crowds of people.., at the heart of it all was Jesus. But unlike Governor Pilate on his great charger, Jesus was sitting on a very young- - donkey!

The crowd still cheered him, the only laugh was a warm and friendly rumble of noise as people saw man and beast together! All round him was that same group of men and women. They were leading the cheering – carrying and waving huge branches of palm as they surrounded him. I recognized most of them from Jesus’ visit to Jericho. james clarke.png

Then in front of us the donkey slowed right down – he had no choice - and then crowd parted to let him through and then started to close behind him again. But before we lost Jesus and the donkey in the crowd, he saw our two children, looked them in the eye and called their names, lifted them up on to his donkey and carried them with him for a few yards till the crowd started to close up…..and he returned them safely to us with a brief word of blessing.  How did he know their names?

People were everywhere, and masses just cheered and waved clothes, scarves anything they could, some were putting cloaks on the road…Palms - Branches of trees, everything was waved, even children it seemed.. and the cries:

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Help me! Jesus here!

“Hallelujah! “Hosanah, David’s son!!

“Hail the New King!”

I couldn’thelp but join in!

“Hallelujah! Hosanna in Highest Heaven!”

Of course we followed. The children would never forgive me if we didn’t, so we went deep into the city after all, but I almost wished we hadn’t, because in the city, especially near the Temple, the mood changed. Passover just a week away, less – only 5 days, the tension was in the air everywhere you went.

We had heard that Jesus had been in tears over the Holy City, which the Scriptures tell us had failed God (and His people) time and time again…. the people expected a new leader, someone to rescue them from the grip of that foreign army, and make Jerusalem truly the centre of the world.

But here they were. Cheering and praising a gentle Rabbi riding on the back of a rough farm animal.

The religious leaders were the first to react; “Teacher, tell your fans to be quiet!

“If I tell them to be quiet, these old stones would shout instead!

James (pictured above right) followed-up on Monday with the Market Traders Story; Tuesday’- Simon Peter’s Story; Today Nicodemus' story; tomorrow – John Mark’s story; Good Friday – Jesus' brother’s story and the Centurion’s story; Saturday – Joseph's story and Easter Sunday - the Woman’s story.

Away from the Radio Cumbria microphone James is a retired Church of England Priest, and his ministry of over 35 years was with Deaf People.

He says: “To do that I had to learn sign Language, and a whole new way of thinking and teaching the Christian Faith.  The key is always communication, and that is what took me into radio, first into religious affairs, way back in the 70’s, then when a new commercial station opened in Leicester, I joined as a freelance religious reporter, and the Rugby Union reporter!   

“All the time alongside the "day job", I was invited to move to the local BBC station, and when I retired to Cumbria was delighted to be asked to join their sports team.  

“I believe that the demands of communicating with Deaf People, and speaking to people who are "out there" somewhere are very similar, I owe both careers a huge amount, it is a privilege to be part of them, and to serve in this way.

“I write these stories to help people get inside the words we read in the Bible, and to see the stories as if we are part of them, not just things that happened long, long ago.  I am glad they help, and when we get back into churches to hold normal services again, no doubt, there'll be more.”


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