Monthly Archives: March 2016

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


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?)


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


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?

Fix me

prayer candles always give me a sense of hope. it feels so poignant that my prayers continue to burn there even after i'm gone. these candles burn at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona

prayer candles always give me a sense of hope. it feels so poignant that my prayers continue to burn there even after i’m gone. these candles burn at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona


Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love. – Psalm 51

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner – the Jesus prayer.


Oh fix me

Fix me for my starry crown

Fix me for my long white robe

Fix me for my dyin’ day

Fix me for my journey home

 Prayer is one of those things where I feel like we make it more complicated than it actually needs to be. We come with long lists or we use flowery language. We tell God what he already knows. At the end of the day, though, if we believe that God knows what is in our hearts, we don’t need to come to God with a sales pitch, we just need to tell it like it is. For me, most of the time, that prayer could be this simple: I’m screwed up, please fix me.

That is part of what this traditional spiritual is getting at but it’s also a lovely play on words. “Fix” can refer to repairing something that’s broken but it can also refer to preparing for something to come, a journey to a better place.

bobby mcferrin album cover

You may know Bobby McFerrin from his “Don’t worry, be happy” recording but he is so, so much more than this. Bobby’s whole body is his instrument and a brief cruise through youtube will show you what I mean. What you might not know is that Bobby is also a man of deep faith.

“I couldn’t do anything without faith,” he says. “I couldn’t open up my eyes, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t sing.”

What I learned as I dug around for info on this song is that Bobby’s dad was an opera singer. I know, right? This song appeared on the senior’s McFerrin’s 1957 recording Deep River but it’s nothing like what Bobby does with it on his album spirityouall – an album I highly recommend.

Daniel takes the lead on this one at Good Friday Blues and does a great job with it. This is one of two songs we’ll hear as we prepare for our own time of prayer at the service. Our tradition is to have folks write down their prayer concerns on little slips of blue paper and then nail those to the cross. In the second half of the service we’ll take time to pray, that God would fix us, fix what we’ve nailed to that cross. The symbolism if powerful.

What burden will you nail to the cross when you come?

They Crucified My Saviour



They crucified my Saviour and nailed him to the cross…

Joseph begged his body and laid it in the tomb…

Mary, she came running a-looking for my Lord…

An angel came from heaven and rolled the stone away…

And the Lord, will bear my spirit home…


There is such a wonderful simplicity behind most African American spirituals. By using repetition and a simply melodic formula, they were used to tell Bible stories to a population that was illiterate. It’s an effective way to teach because the music embeds the story into your memory.


This tune tells us the story of Jesus death and resurrection and is unique in that it includes some of the secondary characters that we don’t often sing about – come on, how many songs do you know that include Joseph of Arimathea? The other thing that most spirituals have in common is the way they include the singer in the story – the Lord will bear my spirit home! It fills us with hope.

That these songs still resonate so strongly with us is a testimony to both the story and the moving, memorable melodies that are used to convey that story.

Well, mostly that’s true. This spiritual is a marked exception. As with most spirituals, no particular person is given credit for the lyrics or text of this song and it’s a good thing because that person would go down in history as the writer of the worst spiritual ever.

The words are great but the music? Holy smack, people. It’s awful. If you’re familiar with “the Dreidel Song” then imagine singing that with these words. Yuck, right? For those of you who read music, here it is (complete with appropriate warning from Scripture – “Do not be alarmed!”):

He arose

If ever there was a song begging to be re-written, this is it. Thankfully, my son, Aaron did just that and turned this into a fabulous blues tune that’s gonna get you moving. You’ll be singin’ it all the way home. I promise.


Come on up to the house

la bella luna

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split… – Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus.


Well the moon is broken and the sky is cracked
Come on up to the house
The only things that you can see
Is all that you lack
Come on up to the house

The world is not my home
I’m just a passin thru
Come on up to the house

Crucifixion, Jan van Eyck left panel of a diptych

Crucifixion, Jan van Eyck left panel of a diptych

 Every year when we prepare for this event, I try to imagine what it was like to be standing at the cross and to watch Jesus die. How must his mother have felt? His closest friends? How could they bear it?


Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can’t find no port
Come on up to the house
There’s nothin in the world
that you can do
you gotta come on up to the house
and you been whipped by the forces
that are inside you
come on up to the house

Yes, this is what they might have felt: that life is nasty, brutish, short, stormy, whipped, nothing to be done… Where did the disciples go after witnessing that? Did they hang out somewhere together? What could they possibly have said to each other for comfort?

 This fantastic Tom Waits tune might be one of the saddest sounding songs we’ve ever sung. Tom’s voice sounds like he’s gargled with gravel and the whole song just has this soul-weary, exhausted feel to it – and yet there’s this faint sense of hope that this world isn’t all there is, we’re just passing through, hang in there, come on up to the house.