Monthly Archives: March 2013

Good Friday Blues Services start tonight!

good friday cartoon

Well folks, you’ve responded and we are so grateful! The Good Friday Blues service  tonight has very, very few tickets left, Friday’s service is SOLD OUT! That means we’ve raised nearly $1000 for Cyrus Centre. Thanks be to God!

See you tonight!


Can’t no grave

empty tomb and crosses

It was early one morning

Just about the break of day

The angels came in glory

And rolled the stone, stone away

When the women came along

And they found the Saviour was gone

Can’t no grave

Hold my body down

 

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? – 1Corinthians 15:55

 

The nice thing about living on this side of the resurrection is that we know how the story ends. I often try to imagine what it was like for the disciples, for the women who came to the tomb, for his other followers as they watched Jesus die. Even if I’d had the wherewithal to remember what Jesus said about rising again, would I have had the faith to believe it after watching that death? I honestly don’t know. Jesus’ last words were “It is finished” not “I’ll be back” (Egads. Let’s hope they never give that role to Arnold.)

Some people would question whether or not there’s sufficient faith to believe it even now. Well, I do have an answer for that: yes. Yes! I believe that Jesus died and was buried. And I believe that he rose from the dead 3 days later. There’s simply too much evidence to suggest otherwise: no body and eye-witness accounts from more than just his closest friends. But even stronger than that for me is my own encounters with Jesus; the irrefutable presence of Jesus in my life, the uncanny answers to prayer, the ways in which I have seen Jesus at work in the lives of others. You just can’t make this stuff up – at least I can’t. I know that detractors would call me naïve or romantic or just plain ignorant. Call me what you want, I know what I know: Jesus died, yes. He was buried, yes. He rose again, yes. He is alive. YES.

 

Can’t no grave hold my body down

Can’t no grave hold my body down

When the first trumpet sounds

I’m gonna get up out of the ground

Can’t no grave hold my down

 

 This song, by Mike Farris and the Cumberland Saints, is our encore – words of hope for the weary, for the doubters, for the scared, for the sick-at-heart, the wounded, the skeptics, for all. It’s sung with conviction. It’s sung with celebration. It is meant to look from Good Friday to the end; a teaser trailer, if you will.

The Good Friday Blues services are one week away. Have you got your ticket yet?


Hello Hurricane

Hurricane-111

Hello hurricane

You’re not enough

Hello hurricane

You can’t silence my love

I’ve got doors and windows

Boarded up

All your dead-end fury is

Not enough

You can’t silence my love…

 

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

We believe that Jesus was fully human/fully divine – the Son of God, the Son of Man – and I believe that he experienced this dichotomy most fully on Good Friday. Not only did he as a human have to endure a most horrible death, he also had to take the weight of humanity’s sin on his innocent shoulders. Talk about enduring a storm.

And yet, love could not be silenced. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is IN Jesus, Jesus who demonstrated God’s love by dying for us while we were yet sinners.

hurricane aftermath painting

This song, indeed Switchfoot’s whole album of this title, was written with these themes in mind. The lyrics for the song came after the band worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a woman who had to rebuild her life after Hurricane Katrina. In an article in The Examiner, lead singer Jon Forman said:

The hurricane had taken her city, her house, and her leg. As she relocated to Baton Rouge and learned how to walk as an amputee, her mantra was this: “I walked out of my house and my life in New Orleans on my own legs, I’m going to walk into this one the same way.” This is the spirit that I wanted to capture with this song, and moreover with this record. The storms of life might take my house, my loved ones, or even my life- but they cannot silence my love.

Our services begin with a song that speaks to the idea of embracing the storms of life,  – “When that love comes open up your door and let it in” – the idea that we cannot run away, so we face our storms, we choose hope, we know that we are in the hands of God who loves us deeply. It ends with this song, an expression of defiance in the face of storms: I’ve got my doors and windows boarded up, nothing will shake me from my foundation which is Jesus – BRING IT ON!

song-of-storms-and-lighthouse-arin-rajawali

I’ve had to face a few storms in my own life, the worst of which were the deaths of two of my children. My testimony is this: I could not have endured those storms without God. In the raging storm of my grief, God whispered to me: I know what it is that you feel, I know what it is to lose a child. It was not a minimization of my loss, it was an acknowledgement, which was what I needed. And with that acknowledgement came a depth of love and care that I had never before experienced. God’s love could not be silenced not even by my own dead-end fury, not even by death. I hope that I’ve learned to be loud and expansive with God’s love as a result of that – as loud and expansive as this song.

How do you relate to the words of this song?


It is well with my soul

it_is_well_with_my_soul_by_bloodmoonequinox-d3g70x5

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my loss, You have taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul….

In 1873, Horatio Gates Spafford’s wife and four daughters sailed on the steamship Ville du Favre for France, while Spafford finished up some business details in Chicago before joining them. In mid-ocean the vessel struck a large sailing ship and sank within half an hour. Many perished, including the four girls, but Mrs. Spafford was rescued. She cabled the message “saved alone” to her husband who then sailed for Liverpool to accompany his wife back to Chicago. Some say he wrote this hymn when their ship passed the place where their daughters died.

spafford_hg

This may be one of the most tragic stories in hymnody. You can imagine a father grieving the loss of all his children, sailing across that very spot and writing those lines when sorrows like sea billows roll. Indeed. But to get from that line to it is well with my soul? Wow. Only a deep, unsinkable faith can come up with words like that and really mean it.

It’s interesting that in his grief, Spafford turned to Jesus on the cross.

Though the devil will ruin, though trials may come

Let this blessed assurance control

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

And He shed His own blood for my soul

He talks further about his sin being nailed to the cross, saying that he bears it no more. When you attend the Good Friday Blues services, you’ll have an opportunity to nail your “blues” to the cross. We’ll have a cross there along with blue slips of paper, hammer and nails. Whatever makes you blue – sin, grief, sorrow, hardship, trial, personal events or the sad circumstances of others – you can nail them to that cross and bear them no more. Hopefully it will be an opportunity for you to say “it is well with my soul.

The melody – written by Philip Paul Bliss – is named “Ville du Havre”, after the steamship. It is also frequently known by the tune name “It Is Well.” We’re not singing that melody. We are singing the Jars of Clay version of this song, which is an interesting melodic interpretation of it. When you hear the hymn sung in church, it is usually thought of a mournful song. The refrain “it is well with my soul” always starts quietly but then swells to majestic heights as the author defies grief and proclaims “it IS well”. It’s pretty powerful. The Jars of Clay writers decided to give the whole song an upbeat interpretation (reminds me of the Monkees tune Last Train to Clarksville) that focuses less on the grief and more on the joy of what was accomplished on the cross and what is to come when Jesus comes again.

When you think of the trials in your own life, how do you relate to the words of this song? Does it give you comfort?


To be alone with you

Lake MIchigan

I’d swim across Lake Michigan …

I’d swim across Lake Michigan

I’d sell my shoes

I’d give my body to be back again

In the rest of the room

To be alone with you….

 regret child statue

Regret (n) – A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done

Have you ever done something you’ve regretted? Something where you’ve wished wholeheartedly, achingly that could you turn back the clock and change it, take it back, say something different, run toward instead of away – or vice versa. We’ve all witnessed events where we’ve wished we could have intervened and changed its course. But it’s so much worse when you’re the cause of something, especially when you started something that took on a life of its own and the outcome was never your intent.

I don’t know what Sufjan Stevens had in mind when he wrote this song, but the longer I sit with it, the more I envision it as the voice of Judas.

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching,and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. – Luke 22:1-6

I wonder what Judas was really thinking when he went to the Pharisees. Did he know that they were trying to kill Jesus? Really? After all the time he spent with Jesus, all those years? Yes, a little earlier, Jesus rebukes Judas after Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. The Gospel of John identifies Judas as the one who suggests that it was a waste of money. John also indicates that Judas was a thief, regularly stealing from the apostle’s coffers. When Jesus says “Leave her alone, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You’ll always have the poor but you won’t always have me,” did Judas feel more than the sting of rebuke? Did he think that Jesus realized he had been stealing all along?

Maybe. But is that enough to wish your friend dead? I wonder if Judas just wanted to the Pharisees to teach Jesus a lesson, take him down a notch, put him in his place (which is exactly what they did, ironically, and much to their own chagrin.)

You gave your body to the lonely

They took your clothes

You gave up a wife and a family

You gave your ghost

To be alone with me… to be alone with me you went up on the Tree…

 judas betraying jesus with a kiss

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.” Matthew 27:3

The Pharisees didn’t care much for Judas’ regret. “Not our problem,” they said. And when Judas realized their true intent, he went out and hanged himself. We always think of Judas as The Betrayer – which he was. I think we should call him Judas The Ruer. It’s a desperately sad chapter of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Sufjan’s song ends with this line: I’ll never know the man who loved me…

All of Jesus’ disciples could have sung that line. None of them actually expected Jesus to be crucified – even after he told them that’s exactly what would happen. How could they have lived with him so intimately for so long and still get the ending so wrong? And yet I cannot be too hard on them because I don’t know that I’d have been any different. I’m living on this side of the resurrection, so I already know how the story ends. For me personally, this song asks me to consider something entirely different: In my too busy, hectic, information-bombarded, task-oriented life, what do I give to be alone with Jesus? Do I know the man who loves me?