Monthly Archives: February 2015

Christmas Song

Manger scene by Emma Nickel

Manger scene by Emma Nickel

She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She be his wife; make him her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around

A few years ago, my church organized an art show on the theme of Easter. Emma, then 5 or 6, created two pieces of art for us: a manger scene and a Golgotha scene. When her mom reminded her that this was an Easter themed art show, she responded “Mom, you can’t have Easter without Christmas, you know.”

So in the season of Lent as we head for Good Friday so we’re singing this song, called Christmas Song, although, really, this song is misnamed. It’s not strictly a Christmas song; it’s really a story-telling song that tells the story of Jesus’ whole life. I love it when artists re-phrase a familiar story to make it new again.

Golgotha by Emma Nickel

Golgotha by Emma Nickel

When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree
Said “oh, Daddy-o I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I’ve spilled the blood of my children all around
The blood of our children all around..

(See? Good Friday.)

Preparations were made
For his celebration day —-
He said “eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be
The blood of our children all around

I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it but as I examined the lyrics a little more closely it was these references to “the blood of our children all around” that I struck me as odd, even troubling. I’ve been sitting with it for weeks now and this is what is emerging for me. I think it helps to know a little bit about the songwriter, Dave Matthews.

Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews

Born into a Quaker family in Johannesburg, South Africa, Matthews would have had an upbringing that focused on social justice and peacemaking. Paired with what he witnessed during apartheid, he would have witnessed enormous injustices – these themes come out in a lot of his music. But Matthews refers to himself as an agnostic. I’ve read and listened to a few interviews with him and what I get from these is his enormous dissatisfaction with organized religion and with a depiction of a God who is only concerned with judgment. “Where is the God that calls us to love our neighbours, to make a difference in the lives of the poor and oppressed?” – these words in an interview with Q TV struck me. “He’s right here! Weeping beside you at the same injustices you see!” I wanted to scream. What is sad is how the church has killed that God for Matthews – and others, sometimes, even me.

i like the inclusion of the crown of thorns in this communion image. it reminds me of the very short journey from Jesus' last supper with his friends to the cross.

i like the inclusion of the crown of thorns in this communion image. it reminds me of the very short journey from Jesus’ last supper with his friends to the cross.

I worship a God who is deeply concerned with injustice. Jesus spent his whole life on earth living with, tending to, and lifting up the poor and oppressed. No wonder, when he was hanging on the cross, he felt forsaken – and couldn’t you see how he might have had doubts? “I fear that all I’ve done is spilled the blood of our children? Nothing will change! They’ll keep doing this to each other, to our creation…”

But then come the redemptive words: Drink this wine and dream… believe that when you drink this it is my blood shed for you. Dream that this will be the blood of our children all around…

I worship in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition and our confession of faith refers to the communion meal as a time when we renew our covenant with God and with each other. It is in Christ that I live and move and have my being but I also live and move in community and so I need to be just as deeply concerned as God is, as Jesus demonstrated, about all of God’s children, all of His creation.

That’s what I’m meditating on when we sing this. How do you connect with that lyric?


Trouble and Woe

grief[1]

This world is full of trouble and woe

This world is full of trouble and woe

All I see is trouble, everywhere I go

I’m gonna sing the trouble that I know…

War in Syria and Ukraine, child abductions in Nigeria, the murder of Coptic Christians, millions of refugees in the middle east, missing women on the Highway of Tears, 17 police offers in Abbostford charged with corruption, two children dying in a house fire, whole countries on the verge of bankruptcy…this is a sampling of the newsfeeds I checked as I am writing this. Not a lot of good news out there, mostly trouble and woe.

So how do the events of Good Friday speak into this reality? When I imagine that day, 2000 years ago, with Jesus having been flogged, ridiculed and crucified – what must his friends and family been thinking? The Oxford Dictionary defines “woe” as “affliction, bitter grief”. I can imagine that this is exactly what they were feeling. Even Jesus, when he cried out – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was crying out his bitter grief.

the 6th Station of the Cross at the Italian Chapel, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland

the 6th Station of the Cross at the Italian Chapel, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland

Yet the events of Holy Week are often called the most important in the Christian calendar. We believe that Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection made it possible for all of creation to experience their Creator God in a new way. Has that happened?

Gonna dig deep down into my heart

Gonna dig deep down into my heart

Gonna dig deep down, gonna do my part

I’m gonna sing, sing a brand new start…

As I searched the web for news headlines, there was one that leapt out at me. A brother of two of the Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS thanked the terrorists for allowing the brothers’ testimony of faith in Jesus to be shown in the video of their murder. In an article in Christianity Today, Beshir Kamel is quoted as saying, Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.

That stopped me in my tracks. Beshir Kamel has learned how to “sing a brand new start”. He has embodied Jesus’ words on the cross: Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. This is Good Friday speaking into the bitter grief, the anguish, the trouble and woe of this world.

singer/songwriter Ruth Moody

singer/songwriter Ruth Moody

The lyrics to this song, by Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth Moody (of the Wailin’ Jennys) are straightforward and simple but when applied to this scenario, it’s clear that this song is not simplistic. It really does take digging – deep, deep digging into our hearts to be able to forgive, love and bless our enemies but unless we take this approach to the trouble and woe in our lives, we’ll never be able to imagine anything else.


Good Friday Blues 4.0 – We’re back!

photo by Saskatchewan photographer Lois Siemens

photo by Saskatchewan photographer Lois Siemens

We’re back, people! We’re in rehearsals and looking forward for this year’s Good Friday Blues Services. We hope you’re looking forward to it, too!

This year’s services will be filled with the same soul-searching, rockin’ blues music we’ve experienced in previous years. We’ll have prayers and readings, an original piece of poetry written especially for us and artwork from around the world. You’ll have a chance to nail your blues to the cross and we’ll offer that up in prayer. Each Friday during Lent, I’ll blog about some of the tunes we’re doing. I hope you’ll join us on this journey of meditation.

Our theme this year is “Trouble and Woe” and we’re raising funds for Cyrus Centre, a local ministry that serves street entrenched youth. We know that there are youth right here in this community that are living with all kinds of trouble and woe. This ministry makes a huge difference in the lives of these kids and their families and they do it all without one penny of government funding. Last year, we raised $5000 because we had a generous donor couple who agreed to match all donations up to $2500. The same donor couple will do the same this year, let’s see if we can exceed that!

Here’s how you can help us:

  1. Pray with us. Pray for the good work of Cyrus Centre and for the kids who find themselves there. Pray for us as we rehearse that we’ll be diligent, patient and passionate. Pray that we’ll stay healthy. Pray for the services – that God will meet each of us there, that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our worship, that Christ will be glorified by all that’s said and sung.
  2. Come! And bring a friend!
  3. Bring your cheque –book! If you cannot come, please consider making a donation to Cyrus Centre. Their ministry is worth our support!

This year’s event will be held Maundy Thursday April 2nd and Good Friday April 3rd at 7:30 both evenings. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the House of James soon, we’ll let you know as soon as they’re available!