Glory!

a glorious sunset, Grand Canyon, Arizona. – photo John Dawson

 

 

Come to me all who labour and are heavily laden down and I will give you rest – Jesus

 

Bobby McFerrin’s latest album, Spirityouall, is a masterpiece of spirituals, original and traditional, done in classic McFerrin style. What that man can do with his voice and body… holy smack.

One of my favourite tracks is Glory:

 Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I laid my burden down
All my sickness will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down
Lord, I’m feeling so much better
Since I laid my burden down
Glory!

 Well, I am shouting Hallelujah! today because I found out how much we raised for Cyrus Centre. Are you ready? $4000!!. Four. Thousand. And here’s more good news: because you rose to the challenge, our friends who agreed to match all donations to $3000 decided to match everything to $4000! So that means, together we’ve raised $8000 – more than we’ve ever raised at a single event! People – that’s worth shouting about!

Thank you. For reading, for praying, for following, for giving. Because of your generosity, the youth who are supported by Cyrus Centre may indeed be able to lay their burdens down, at least for a little while. Glory, hallelujah.


Didn’t it rain?

photo by Saskatchewan photographer Lois Siemens

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining… Luke 23: 44-45

 We live on the West Coast of British Columbia, so we know what it’s like when the sun stops shining. This is a rainforest, something we often forget, despite the fact that it rains a lot – and this past fall/winterl/spring, it feels like it’s rained more than usual. Last night it was coming down in buckets, pushed sideways by the wind. Whenever it rains like that I think of homeless people. Where do you go to get out of the weather? What do you do if you and all your stuff gets wet? How do you sleep?

One of the songs that the Good Friday Blues Band has done multiple times is Randy Stonehill’s “Didn’t it Rain”. It’s a great, rockin’ blues tune that paints a word picture of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

 Well the sky grew dark and the wind it howled
And the angels wept and wailed
And the devil laughed with a serpent’s hiss
As the hammer hit the nails
It was holy blood that paid for all our shame
Oh, didn’t it rain?

I always feel like it is appropriate when it rains on Good Friday – like nature is reminding us of what happened. But this morning, as I’m writing this, the sun is streaming through my window, despite the dark clouds to the south. Maybe today, nature is reminding me of the end of the song, the end of the story:

When you tell this story (didn’t it rain)
Don’t forget the end(didn’t it rain)

’cause on the third day Jesus

Walked from the grave again
He redeemed our souls (didn’t it rain)

He changed history

 Didn’t it rain,(rain) rain, rain

Didn’t it rain (rain), rain, rain

Oh, didn’t it rain (rain) when my Jesus
Died for me

Whether or not you believe that Jesus was the son of God, no one can deny that Jesus changed history. We mark time by before and after his life – we are living in A.D., Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. And whether or not you believe he was the son of God, you can still appreciate his teaching to love your neighbour, love your enemies. The world would be a damn better place if all of us chose to do this. Today, you can change history for some of those homeless youth who may have spent last night, in the rain, on the streets of Abbotsford or Chilliwack or Langley. When you support Cyrus Centre, you are supporting an organization that survives 24/7/365 largely on the donations of people like us. Today is the last day of our Good Friday Blues non-event fundraising effort for Cyrus Centre. Every donation up to $3000 will be matched 1:1. If you’ve already given, I can’t thank you enough. If you haven’t yet and it is within your means to do so, please do. Check out our Service Info page to find out how you can ensure your donation is matched.

I’ll write one more blog post next week and let you know how successful we’ve been. My prayer for all of us today is that we can be changed by the story, that we’ll be able to see the sunshine, despite the rain.

 


How long?

About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lema sabachtani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the gospel of Matthew

 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? – Psalm 13, a psalm of David

We always think of the psalms as songs of joy and praise but there are actually more psalms of lament than there are of praise. The writer(s) give voice to despair and suffering that I think we in the western world could learn from. We so focused on individual strength and stoicism, even in the face of suffering. It is seen as a sign of supreme weakness to admit that sometimes we fail, sometimes we are weak. Sometimes in the church community, suffering is seen as a sign of a lack of faith – if we believe hard enough then we should be able to overcome all things. We  should be living “In victory”, right?

The psalmists knew better. They were honest with God: “Hey! I’m suffering here! Where the heck are you?” For cryin’ out loud, even Jesus gave voice to doubt and suffering.

if you don’t own any Michael Card music, this is a good compilation. if you only want one album, buy Starkindler

 I don’t listen to a ton of Christian music, but Michael Card is one of my favourite Christian musicians. He comes to his craft with integrity. He’s got a master’s degree in theology, so he writes with both knowledge and depth. Every song he writes is run by an accountability group before it is recorded to ensure that he’s written something accurately, with respect, with integrity.

He set Psalm 13 to music, giving it a rockin’ gospel feel, with a choir bellowing “how long? How long? How long will you hide?”

 You won’t even give an answer, Lord! (How long? How long?)
Give me light or I can live no more! (How long will you hide?)
My foes rejoice when they see me fall! (How long? How long?)
We have overcome and now they call! (How long will you hide?)
How Long? (Will you hide from me?) How Long?
How Long? (Till you set me free?) How Long?

That third line… imagine Jesus hanging there, nailed to the executioner’s cross, his enemies waiting for him to die. “Forsaken” only barely begins to describe what he must have felt – sometimes words are inadequate.

We’ve got one week left in this fundraiser for Cyrus Centre. This organization support children and youth who have been forsaken by their families. Some of their stories are devastating. But Cyrus Centre is there to respond to the cries of “how long?” working to restore relationships, helping these kids get back on their feet again. They embody Christ as they serve, the Christ who understands the suffering those children and youth are living. Your gift to this ministry supports this work and speaks healing to suffering. Remember that we have a matching gift of $3000 and we’re already over half way there – can we get to $3000, turning that into $6000? I believe we can. To ensure that your gift is matched, visit our Services Info Page for info.

Blessings to you as you enter into Holy Week. I’ll blog once more on Good Friday and will do my best to update you on our success!


The house where nobody lives

First of all, an update on our fundraiser: We’re over half way there!! As of last Monday, we are at $1650! Only $1350 to go to maximize the matching donation of $3000 – Let’s do this!

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

 “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. – From the gospel of Mark

Bob Frazer plays Judas alongside Todd Tomson in Pacific Theatre’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot – photo by Tim Matheson

A few years ago, I saw a play called The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It is set in purgatory and a lawyer agrees to hear the case of Judas, who is in hell. The question is, should he be there? If God is a loving God, should forgiveness be extended to him? His mother, Sigmund Freud, Mother Teresa and other characters throughout history all testify for or against him. Even Satan gets a chance to speak. Throughout it, Judas is on stage, never says a word, he’s almost catatonic. The heartbreaking scene is at the very end when Jesus comes in and washes Judas’ feet. It left me weeping.

I always think Judas gets a bad rap. When I read the text in Matthew, I feel like he never thought that the priests and elders were going to hand him over to be killed. He rues his decision, tries to make it right, fails. Then he makes another mistake and kills himself, never gets a chance to see the end of the story… I bet Jesus’ would have washed his feet even then.

Tom Waits album cover for Mule Variations

Byron, the harmonica player in our band, reintroduced me Tom Waits’ music last year when we did “Come on up to the house.” Waits has a few songs with the word “house” in them, “The house where nobody lives” is just a poignant. He describes a broken down house that used to have a family living in it. Now the house is falling apart and Waits speculates at what might have happened.

Oh, and once it held laughter
Once it held dreams, did they throw it away, did they know what it means?
Did someone’s heart break
Or did someone do somebody wrong?

To me this describes Judas’ relationship with Jesus. It must have been filled with laughter at times and Judas’ clearly dreamt of something different than what he saw towards the end. Then, brokenhearted, he threw it all away, realizing he’d done Jesus wrong.

So if you find someone
Someone to have, someone to hold, don’t trade it for silver
Oh, don’t trade it for gold
‘Cause I have all of life’s treasures and they’re fine and they’re good
They remind me that houses are just made of wood
What makes a house grand, oh, it ain’t the roof or the doors
If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure
But without love it ain’t nothin’ but a house
A house where nobody lives

I often think about the broken homes, the broken relationships that are represented by the children and youth who are served by Cyrus Centre. I wonder if there was laughter in those families at some point or what it was that dashed their dreams. I wonder if there was love. Your donation to Cyrus Centre helps this organization do its reconciliation work. Their goal is always, if it is at all possible, to reunite children with parents, to create healthy families again. If it’s not possible, they work hard to help those young people survive and be successful. If you have already made a donation, THANK YOU. Encourage your friends and family to consider a donation too. If you haven’t, why not? It doesn’t have to be a big gift – every little bit helps and all donations up to $3000 will be matched. Get the details on how to give on our Services Info Page.

 


Unlikely Icon

This painting is one of several that illustrates this passage from the book of John. The painting is by Eugene, J. Pentiuc, who is working on an illustrated Bible. check out his website http://pentiuc.com/pascha/

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. – the gospel of John

 

one of my favourite novels

One of my favourite novels is by Christopher Moore called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It sounds a little irreverent and it is but it’s also brilliant. Moore imagines Jesus’ childhood, youth and his emergence into adulthood – all those years for which the gospels do not account. The story is told through the eyes of his childhood friend, Biff. Imagine growing up in the same village as Jesus and being his chum. You would have seen a child playing with other children. Seen him go to the temple with his family. Listened to him describe what it was like working in the carpenter’s shop with his dad. Just ordinary human stuff.

What’s beautiful about this novel is that it highlights the humanity of Jesus but also shows how he came to understand his own divinity. Fully human, fully divine. It’s hard to wrap your head around that concept. No wonder he wasn’t immediately recognized for who he was. No wonder, when he began his preaching ministry and started to make great claims about himself that the people wondered “isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he say he came down from heaven?”

one of my favourite CDs!

In her song, Unlikely Icon, Helma Sawatzky explores exactly this, repeating the phrase “the unlikely icon of the face of God”. She describes the children playing “hide and seek with the Saviour of Nations”. She describes Joseph’s carpenter’s shop as the “royal surroundings where God grew up.” She also describes Jesus’ “cruel execution where blood stained the dirt, bystanders taunting him for a lifesaving work.”

And then. Then she brings it right home.

 

How can we be sure to see

The light of the world in the eyes of an enemy

Is your face so common place

We fail to see your grace in reality…

We fail to see you?

 

We stumble through darkness and try to make sense

Of what you might look like in this present tense

When here in the mirror

We stand face to face with the holy reflection of the God of Grace

 

The unlikely icon of the face of God

Unlikely Icon

Unlikely

 

When God chose to come to us, he really did choose to get down and dirty. Who would have imagined the King of Creation choosing such a path to restore his creation to himself? It truly is the most unlikely method. And if each of us is a spark of the Divine, then we too are unlikely vessels and what a gift we’ve been given.

But the real test is to see that in each other. To see that in our enemies. To see that in the strangers we encounter each day. When I think of the youth who are served by Cyrus Centre in this light, I’m humbled. Those who do this work 24/7/365 look at the face of Jesus every time they look into the face of one of those kids. Holy smack.

Cyrus Centre does amazing work in the Fraser Valley and they deserve your support. Give what you can, knowing that because of the generosity of a wonderful donor couple, all donations no will be matched up to $3000. Give what you can, knowing that what you do for the least of these unlikely people, you’re doing it for Jesus. Get the details on how to give on our Services Info Page.


It’s not over

sculpture by Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, who has dedicated his life to creating art focused on Jesus.

Jesus was crucified, hung between two criminals. One hurled abuse at Jesus but the other rebuked him saying “We are suffering justly but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” and Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.” – the gospel of Luke

We’ve done a couple of Jonny Lang tunes in the past – our favourite is “I Believe”, a rockin’ gospel tune that’s a declaration of faith. His 5th studio album, Turn Around, is his possibly his most overtly Christian album. His goal was to focus “more than ever before, on my purpose in life… It wasn’t so long ago that I was spiraling downward until God touched my life and se time on the right track.” He recognizes that not everyone believes the same as he does and the album isn’t meant to be preachy, it’s just an honest reflection of his own life’s experiences and a way for him to encourage others.

Perhaps the most encouraging song on the album is It’s Not Over.

 This one’s for the prostitute
The drug abused, homeless and destitute
And anybody wanting to be rescued
There’s still time

Yeah, this is for the orphan who is all alone
All he wants is to have a home
Your earthly father may have left you
But your Heavenly Father told me to tell you

It’s not over
It’s not over
There’s still time

Someone loves you….

Musically, it’s classic Lang: rockin’ guitar, great gospel choir, tons of energy. Lyrically you can tell it’s coming from his heart. When I think about the kids supported by Cyrus Centre, who are often kids that are rejected by their own families or who feel friendless and desperate, I am grateful that Cyrus Centre exists because I am sure this is a message they hear.

Cyrus Centre does everything it can, not only to support the youth who come into their care but to restore family relationships whenever possible. Their work deserves your support. If you were hoping to come to a Good Friday Blues service this year, you would have spent $10 for a couple of tickets. We’re unable to do these services this year, but you can take those $10 and give them directly to Cyrus Centre. If you can give $100 or a $1000, do it.  Because of the generosity of a wonderful donor couple, all donations no matter how big or small will be matched up to $3000, So tell a kid at Cyrus Centre that it’s not over, that they have a home, that someone loves them. Get the details on how to give on our Services Info Page.

 

 


You want it darker

Night at Golgotha, 1869
Vereshchagin, Vasili Vasilievich (1842-1904). Russian. Medium: oil on canvas.

From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27: 45-46

Some call Good Friday the darkest day in history. Well, I suppose if you watched Jesus being crucified, it probably was a dark day. Truth is, there is darkness for people every single day. Anyone living in the middle of war and persecution, who is dying of a terminal illness and living in pain, anyone who wrestles with severe mental illness… and all those who are relegated to the sidelines and have to watch people they love go through this, well, those people are living in great darkness too.

I recently bought my first and only Leonard Cohen CD – You want it darker. I have mixed feelings about Cohen. He was a larger than life character throughout his life. Musically, I put him in the same category as Bob Dylan: fantastic poets who can’t carry a tune. Seriously, someone else should sing their songs. Still…

i love the concept of this album cover art

I’ve listened to Cohen’s title track on repeat and there’s something hypnotic about his voice. Reviewers of this particular CD said it was Cohen at his most honest, most raw. Knowing that he was dying as he recorded it gives extra weight to the words “I’m ready my Lord”.

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

These words take me right to the foot of the cross, watching Jesus in anguish as he cries out to God, crying out for the love that never came. It’s gripping. But the genius of Cohen’s lyrics is that he takes the story through history and to his own life:

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim

You want it darker…

Throughout all of this recognition and confession is the constant refrain “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord”. Cohen calls out the darkness in the world, acknowledging our part in killing the flame, making the world a darker place. He knew he’d lived a less than perfect life and he owned it. He also acknowledged the grace of God in all of that. He knew he was dying and he was ready.

At first listen, this is a pretty dark song, hopeless almost – except for that repeated refrain. If we are living as people who are ready, then we need to do what we can to keep the flame burning, to keep the million candles lit, to be the love that comes to those who need it. When you support Cyrus Centre with your financial gift, you are doing exactly that. Cyrus Centre brings a little light into the dark corners of our city streets where some of our forgotten and neglected youth find themselves. Remember that all donations up to $3000 will be matched! I hope you’ll join us and support this important ministry.

Get the details on how to give on our Service Info Page