Monthly Archives: February 2012

Didn’t it Rain?

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

 

Randy Stonehill’s  Didn’t it Rain is the song that started this whole thing. Every time we listen to this song, Aaron and I (Angelika) say “we should sing this in church on Good Friday.” Like so many of Stonehill’s songs, this one is story-telling poetry.

Well the Lord looked down from eternity
And he saw that the world was bound in sin and misery

And he said to his Son
We’ve got to set them free
Oh, didn’t it rain when my Jesus
Died for me…

 Stonehill has such a brilliant way of expressing big concepts with an economy of language and then weaving it with music that expresses the emotion of the story he’s telling. This one begins sparse, with almost a monk-like “Didn’t it rain” chant that runs underneath the whole song from beginning to end. It builds and builds as the story is told until it comes to this rockin’ climax:

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?
Yeah, didn’t it rain?

Whenever I read Luke’s account of the crucifixion, I’m struck by the horror of what happened to Jesus. But today, as I sit with this text and this song, I begin to get a sense of the internal storm that must have been raging within the Christ as he hung there, God trapped in human form… what it must have cost him just to be God enclosed in such little space and then made to suffer such a physically brutal death. And all around him, his creation bearing witness to the storm of suffering within him.

The song doesn’t end there, but we won’t blow the end for you; you’ll have to come and hear it for yourself. Until then, tell us, what resonates with you when you read the account of the crucifixion?

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O Come and Mourn with me a while

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, O God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

As we begin the Lenten season today, Ash Wednesday, it is fitting that we begin with this prayer, bringing our broken and contrite hearts to God, as we remember Jesus’ journey to the cross.

The preparations for the Good Friday Blues service have been under way for a while already as we’ve worked at song selection. The service will begin with O Come and mourn with me a while, a beautiful song that dwells on the theme of brokenness.

 

groovy hat, eh?

Thel hymn was written by F.W. Faber (best known for the hymn Faith of our Fathers)  in 1849 and originally had 12 stanzas! Although Faber was a Catholic, his hymns are often sung in Protestant churches. The original refrain reads “Jesus, our Love, is crucified” – it now reads “Jesus, our Lord, is crucified” – which is how we will sing it when we sing the Jars of Clay version, recorded on their album Redemption Songs.

The language of the song paint amazing word pictures.:

O break, O break hard heart of mine
My weak self-love and guilty pride
His Pilate and His Judas were
Jesus our Lord is Crucified

 It’s interesting that “weak self-love” is associated with Pilate – who washed his hands of Jesus’ fate in an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility and save face as a politician. And “guilty pride” is associated with Judas, the disciple who betrayed his friend for 30 pieces of silver and later came to regret his action so much so that he took his own life. Faber identifies his own self-love and pride in such a manner, crying for his own hard heart to be broken.

It is powerful imagery that is carried out further in the last verse: a broken heart love’s cradle is… isn’t that beautiful? The crucified Jesus, whose own heart was broken as he took on the sin of the world, also accepts and heals our broken hearts as we offer them to him.

O love of God, O sin of man
In this dread act your strength is tried
And victory remains with love
Jesus our Lord is crucified

How do you respond to this song and its message?


It’s Friday… but Sunday’s comin’

Those of you who are Tony Campolo fans will surely know the reference made by the title of this blog. Campolo often tells the story of a preacher in his church who moves a congregation to call out the praises of God with that one, repeated phrase. In between phrases, he tells the story of Jesus death on Good Friday – a horrible moment in history. But he reminds people that Sunday – Easter Sunday – is comin’. The story isn’t over.

The church does a pretty good job of celebrating the Resurrection but Good Friday is a bit of a challenge. What’s so good about it? Jesus died, didn’t he? It must have been a horrible day in the lives of his family and friends, those who stood at the foot of the cross where he breathed his last and saw their loved one, their friend, their leader, their dreams, die. Those of us living on this side of that Friday want to fast-forward to the good part, where he conquers sin and death, gives the Devil a kick in the ass and says, “NOW, it’s finished.”

But we forget that Jesus had to do a lot of dying and conquering before he got to the raising part. And in that dying, he bore the sin of all creation, he suffered horribly – in ways we can barely imagine – both physically and spiritually. What music gives voice to that kind of suffering better than the blues?

That’s what my son, Aaron and I, mused one Good Friday years ago, when we listened to Randy Stonehill’s “Didn’t it rain?” and thought that the best time to sing that song in church would be that day. But in our church, that service is quite traditional, fairly sombre… a rockin’ blues song might not be welcome in that context.

 So, we decided we needed to create a service that celebrates the suffering of our Lord with music that gives voice to that and just find a place to do it. We gathered together some of our favourite musicians and put together the Good Friday Blues Band. We approached Lando Klassen, owner of House of James (you know, James, that in-your-face, show-me-your-faith-by-your-deeds disciple) and asked him if he would open his space for such a service and let it be a place where all would feel comfortable to gather and worship. Lando, God bless him, said yes, without hesitation.

 So it’s coming people. The “It’s Friday but Sunday’s Comin” Blues service, Good Friday, April 6th at 7:o0 pm at House of James  Tell your friends!

 In the meantime, come back here on Ash Wednesday (February 22nd) and every Friday of the Lenten Season and with each post, we’ll tell you a bit about the songs you’re going to hear. We promise, it will be unlike most church services you’ve ever been to; we hope it will be one in which you are inspired and uplifted. To God be the Glory.