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


Giving Up the Blues for Lent

lent

Giving Up the Blues for Lent

For 5 years, Good Friday Blues has been an opportunity to remember Jesus journey to the cross through prayer, storytelling, poetry and really great blues music. It was also an opportunity for us as a community to support a really important resource: Cyrus Centre, which supports street entrenched youth in the Fraser Valley.

This year, Good Friday Blues is taking a break. I know that will be disappointing to many of you and I have to admit that it feels a little weird not to be in rehearsals. For the last 5 years, I’ve spent all year thinking about music, finding readings and prayers, considering themes. This year, I’ve done almost none of that because I knew we would not be doing Good Friday Blues this time around. But what has been heavy on my heart is a desire to continue to support Cyrus Centre and the important work that they do. Over the 5 years that we put on these services, we raised over $15,000 for Cyrus Centre and I want to see that support continue.

cyruscentre-e1476989664794

So here’s the deal: I’m going to ask all of you who have ever attended a Good Friday Blues service (and those who haven’t!) to consider making a donation to Cyrus Centre in lieu of attending a service this year. This ministry deserves your support. If you need further incentive, our good friend, who has matched donations for the last several years, has agreed to do this again, matching all donations up to $3000!

Here’s two ways to do this:

  • Make your donation online on the Cyrus Centre website. When you get to the donate page and fill out all your info, you’ll see two options at the bottom. Choose “Is this in honour of someone?” and you’ll get a drop-down menu. Where you see “Occasion” enter “Good Friday Blues” THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO DO IN THAT SECTION. Fill in the rest and give your gift.

 

  • Send a cheque to Cyrus Centre and in the memo line write “Good Friday Blues”. Cheques can be mailed to 2616 Ware Street, Abbotsford BC, V2S 3E5

 

I chose the theme Giving up the Blues for Lent because I love the play on words. Yes, we’ve given up doing our Blues service this year but by supporting Cyrus Centre, we’re helping those who are living with challenges and probably feeling more than a little “blue”. So if you’re looking for something meaningful to do during this Lenten season, join us in giving up the blues for Lent and make a donation to Cyrus Centre!

I’ll keep you updated on our progress through this blog and I’ll also share my thoughts on some music that I’ve encountered since last year. So keep coming back – and tell all your friends!


A Beautiful Sunday Afternoon

Big sky view from the top of the lighthouse on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland... on a Sunday afternoon

Big sky view from the top of the lighthouse on North Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland… on a Sunday afternoon

 

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb…

And lo, I will be with you, even unto the end of the age – Jesus

 

Get up in the mornin’

No you can’t sleep all day

You wake up to God’s glory

every single day

Birds are singing their own song

Church bells ring in the distance

Glory be to the Lord

From whom all blessings flow

 

I said it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon

 With Jesus by my side

I know I’ll get through

Beautiful Sunday afternoon

Yeah, oh yeah!

 

Happy Easter!

I thought I’d share thoughts on this, the first song of our encore last week. This enthusiastic tune was written ages ago by Johnny Unger when he was with the band Rockford Special. It’s just high energy fun. And today, when we remember what happened on that Sunday morning, it’s just another reminder to give thanks to God from whom all blessings flow and remember that Jesus is always with us.

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday.


This Story has a Happy Ending

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We set out to tell a story this weekend. In reality, there were a few narratives going on – the story of a band that’s worked hard, in various forms, for the last 5 years to raise funds for a much-deserved charity. The credit for the photos that tell the story of this band’s journey goes to Dale Klippenstein Photography.

The story of the charity itself: I learned this week that Cyrus Centre, the organization for which Good Friday Blues raises funds, is the only organization of its kind between Vancouver and the Okanagan. Since we started this adventure, they’ve helped more than 500 kids – some reunited with their families (always the first goal), some into foster care, some supported to be on their own. Cyrus Centre operates 24/7/365 and is funded almost entirely by donations. So it felt pretty good to know that together with matching donations, we raised $6020 for this organization this week. That’s a happy ending right there.

A story of thanks: THANK YOU. Thank you Lando, for opening up your house to us to do this. Thank you all for coming and for giving generously. Thank you to the band for taking weeks of time out of your hectic lives and busy schedules to learn the music and come to rehearsals.

And thank you Jesus for being the conquering hero of the story we tell this weekend. And all God’s people said?

 

 


Service Man

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona Arizona

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona Arizona

 

Upon this rock I will build my church.  – Jesus, to Peter, before the crucifixion

Simon Peter, do you love me? – Jesus to Peter, after the resurrection

 

You said you believed in Me, to save your soul and set you free

Well I said I needed you, to build the church I want you to

You knew there was a price to pay

You saw it in my eyes no looking away

Now I know you’re the one for me, although you would deny me three

peters-denial

Back to Peter. Remember we talked about him earlier. Caught in a lie? I wonder if, when Jesus looked at him, right when the rooster crowed, I wonder if Peter remembered Jesus’ promise to build his church on his shoulders. (I also wonder what Jesus thought at that moment?)

Good Friday Blues is departing from tradition this year. Instead of having a sermon in our second half, our resident preacher John Dawson will be joined by the uber-creative Heidi Epp and the two of them will tell the Good Friday story throughout the service. They are awesome.

And instead of limiting ourselves strictly to the events of Good Friday (even though we’ve foreshadowed the Easter Sunday story in the past) we’re telling the whole thing – even more than the resurrection. Because, you know, the story doesn’t end there. Good news for Peter – and the rest of us.

I love Peter. To me he’s the most refreshing disciple – all bravado and big talk, blustering, reckless, impetuous. Speaks before he thinks. Acts before he considers the consequences. Gets out of the boat and starts walkin’ on water and is doing fine until he realizes what’s happening.  Then in the end he screws up, big time. Not only does he deny his friend and teacher, he witnesses his horrendous death. You just gotta feel for the guy.

And then: PLOT TWIST!  Jesus defeats death. Didn’t see that comin’ – even though Jesus told them all that he would. (But would you have believed him? Even after seeing Jesus’ raise Lazarus from the dead, I think I would have been skeptical. It’s one thing to raise someone else from the dead, but yourself? How can you do that when YOU’RE DEAD? Hello?)

fishermen

This is our “final” song (in quotations because, you know, encore) and it riffs on all of that. Jesus reminds Peter that despite his denial, he was forgiven. John 21 is this weird little addendum to the whole resurrection story. Jesus performs another fish related miracle and prepares another meal for his disciples. And then that strange conversation: Peter, do you love me? Three times he asks the same question, Peter responds the same way every time – Yes, Lord, I love you. You know everything, you know I love you. It must have killed Peter to hear that question over and over – the memory of his denial so fresh in his mind. But Jesus responds the same way each time: Feed my sheep. It’s the reminder that he’s still got work ahead of him, that the church he talked about earlier was still to come, and Peter was going to be instrumental in building it and nurturing it.

 

There‘ll be some action, It’s outta sight,

Some satisfaction

The time has come to understand

When your trouble’s outta hand, I will be your Service Man

 

A little foreshadowing that, for all of us, there is help. Jesus also promised that he’d leave us a helper, the Holy Spirit. It’s a big story, isn’t it? And you know what? It’s still being told because you and I are part of it.

 

See you Thursday/Friday! Doors at 7 pm, service begins at 7:30 pm!


I Want to be Ready

palm-sunday 2

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna! – the crowd at Jesus’ triumphal entry as recorded by Mark

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross… – Philippians 2

 How I am strong
is to know what makes me weak
how I am found
is to know just whom I seek
the gift of a blessing
the burden of a sin
turn to him
I want to be ready, ready to put on
my long white robe

 

A million years ago I preached a sermon on this day, Palm Sunday. I titled it “It’s Sunday, but Friday is comin’”, riffing on Tony Campolo’s speech of the same title with the days flipped around. The turn of events during Holy Week have always fascinated me. How can a crowd that is cheering Jesus on Sunday be calling for his crucifixion by Friday?

It makes this song, by Ben Harper, even more poignant to me. Here’s a song that cries out “I want to be ready” – ready for whatever is ahead, whatever I have to face. Here’s what Ben says:

This song came to me in one breath. The sentences like “I want to be ready to put on my long white robe”, come from the old Delta Blues and from the Gospel. It talks about the redemption to win a better life after the death. I don’t say that I’m ready but I want to be. I know that life is a little part of THE Life. The shade of meaning is here. It’s fragile, but it’s here. All is a question of wisdom faced with the doubt.”

Nailed across

from hand to hand

for the sin

of every woman and man

and all upon the earth

its all within his plan

and I know this will be    

my journey home

Palm-Sunday

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on this day, he knew what his journey home would be. He knew what was coming and he did it anyway. He was “obedient to death”. He was ready.

Harper also talks about this being a song about spiritual freedom and how our life in this world is directly connected to the next world – as opposed to being a song about religion, which he feels is “often an insult to God” because it divides humanity. Hard to argue with that.

The beauty of this song is in its ending:

Covet no silver
covet no gold
reach your empty, reach your empty
hands for him to hold
up in the kingdom
glory shall be proclaimed

oh got to sing a song and praise his name.

triptych - Luiza Vizoli

triptych – Luiza Vizoli

We will come in prayer, reaching our empty hands (having given all our gold and silver in donations to Cyrus Centre, right?) and we’ll remember the gift of Jesus’ death, the way in which he emptied himself, humbled himself, and we’ll praise his name.

What does Palm Sunday hold for you?