Category Archives: good friday


a glorious sunset, Grand Canyon, Arizona. – photo John Dawson



Come to me all who labour and are heavily laden down and I will give you rest – Jesus


Bobby McFerrin’s latest album, Spirityouall, is a masterpiece of spirituals, original and traditional, done in classic McFerrin style. What that man can do with his voice and body… holy smack.

One of my favourite tracks is Glory:

 Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I laid my burden down
All my sickness will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down
Lord, I’m feeling so much better
Since I laid my burden down

 Well, I am shouting Hallelujah! today because I found out how much we raised for Cyrus Centre. Are you ready? $4000!!. Four. Thousand. And here’s more good news: because you rose to the challenge, our friends who agreed to match all donations to $3000 decided to match everything to $4000! So that means, together we’ve raised $8000 – more than we’ve ever raised at a single event! People – that’s worth shouting about!

Thank you. For reading, for praying, for following, for giving. Because of your generosity, the youth who are supported by Cyrus Centre may indeed be able to lay their burdens down, at least for a little while. Glory, hallelujah.


Didn’t it rain?

photo by Saskatchewan photographer Lois Siemens

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

 We live on the West Coast of British Columbia, so we know what it’s like when the sun stops shining. This is a rainforest, something we often forget, despite the fact that it rains a lot – and this past fall/winterl/spring, it feels like it’s rained more than usual. Last night it was coming down in buckets, pushed sideways by the wind. Whenever it rains like that I think of homeless people. Where do you go to get out of the weather? What do you do if you and all your stuff gets wet? How do you sleep?

One of the songs that the Good Friday Blues Band has done multiple times is Randy Stonehill’s “Didn’t it Rain”. It’s a great, rockin’ blues tune that paints a word picture of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

 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?

I always feel like it is appropriate when it rains on Good Friday – like nature is reminding us of what happened. But this morning, as I’m writing this, the sun is streaming through my window, despite the dark clouds to the south. Maybe today, nature is reminding me of the end of the song, the end of the story:

When you tell this story (didn’t it rain)
Don’t forget the end(didn’t it rain)

’cause on the third day Jesus

Walked from the grave again
He redeemed our souls (didn’t it rain)

He changed history

 Didn’t it rain,(rain) rain, rain

Didn’t it rain (rain), rain, rain

Oh, didn’t it rain (rain) when my Jesus
Died for me

Whether or not you believe that Jesus was the son of God, no one can deny that Jesus changed history. We mark time by before and after his life – we are living in A.D., Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. And whether or not you believe he was the son of God, you can still appreciate his teaching to love your neighbour, love your enemies. The world would be a damn better place if all of us chose to do this. Today, you can change history for some of those homeless youth who may have spent last night, in the rain, on the streets of Abbotsford or Chilliwack or Langley. When you support Cyrus Centre, you are supporting an organization that survives 24/7/365 largely on the donations of people like us. Today is the last day of our Good Friday Blues non-event fundraising effort for Cyrus Centre. Every donation up to $3000 will be matched 1:1. If you’ve already given, I can’t thank you enough. If you haven’t yet and it is within your means to do so, please do. Check out our Service Info page to find out how you can ensure your donation is matched.

I’ll write one more blog post next week and let you know how successful we’ve been. My prayer for all of us today is that we can be changed by the story, that we’ll be able to see the sunshine, despite the rain.


How long?

About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lema sabachtani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the gospel of Matthew

 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? – Psalm 13, a psalm of David

We always think of the psalms as songs of joy and praise but there are actually more psalms of lament than there are of praise. The writer(s) give voice to despair and suffering that I think we in the western world could learn from. We so focused on individual strength and stoicism, even in the face of suffering. It is seen as a sign of supreme weakness to admit that sometimes we fail, sometimes we are weak. Sometimes in the church community, suffering is seen as a sign of a lack of faith – if we believe hard enough then we should be able to overcome all things. We  should be living “In victory”, right?

The psalmists knew better. They were honest with God: “Hey! I’m suffering here! Where the heck are you?” For cryin’ out loud, even Jesus gave voice to doubt and suffering.

if you don’t own any Michael Card music, this is a good compilation. if you only want one album, buy Starkindler

 I don’t listen to a ton of Christian music, but Michael Card is one of my favourite Christian musicians. He comes to his craft with integrity. He’s got a master’s degree in theology, so he writes with both knowledge and depth. Every song he writes is run by an accountability group before it is recorded to ensure that he’s written something accurately, with respect, with integrity.

He set Psalm 13 to music, giving it a rockin’ gospel feel, with a choir bellowing “how long? How long? How long will you hide?”

 You won’t even give an answer, Lord! (How long? How long?)
Give me light or I can live no more! (How long will you hide?)
My foes rejoice when they see me fall! (How long? How long?)
We have overcome and now they call! (How long will you hide?)
How Long? (Will you hide from me?) How Long?
How Long? (Till you set me free?) How Long?

That third line… imagine Jesus hanging there, nailed to the executioner’s cross, his enemies waiting for him to die. “Forsaken” only barely begins to describe what he must have felt – sometimes words are inadequate.

We’ve got one week left in this fundraiser for Cyrus Centre. This organization support children and youth who have been forsaken by their families. Some of their stories are devastating. But Cyrus Centre is there to respond to the cries of “how long?” working to restore relationships, helping these kids get back on their feet again. They embody Christ as they serve, the Christ who understands the suffering those children and youth are living. Your gift to this ministry supports this work and speaks healing to suffering. Remember that we have a matching gift of $3000 and we’re already over half way there – can we get to $3000, turning that into $6000? I believe we can. To ensure that your gift is matched, visit our Services Info Page for info.

Blessings to you as you enter into Holy Week. I’ll blog once more on Good Friday and will do my best to update you on our success!

The house where nobody lives

First of all, an update on our fundraiser: We’re over half way there!! As of last Monday, we are at $1650! Only $1350 to go to maximize the matching donation of $3000 – Let’s do this!

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.”

 “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. – From the gospel of Mark

Bob Frazer plays Judas alongside Todd Tomson in Pacific Theatre’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot – photo by Tim Matheson

A few years ago, I saw a play called The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It is set in purgatory and a lawyer agrees to hear the case of Judas, who is in hell. The question is, should he be there? If God is a loving God, should forgiveness be extended to him? His mother, Sigmund Freud, Mother Teresa and other characters throughout history all testify for or against him. Even Satan gets a chance to speak. Throughout it, Judas is on stage, never says a word, he’s almost catatonic. The heartbreaking scene is at the very end when Jesus comes in and washes Judas’ feet. It left me weeping.

I always think Judas gets a bad rap. When I read the text in Matthew, I feel like he never thought that the priests and elders were going to hand him over to be killed. He rues his decision, tries to make it right, fails. Then he makes another mistake and kills himself, never gets a chance to see the end of the story… I bet Jesus’ would have washed his feet even then.

Tom Waits album cover for Mule Variations

Byron, the harmonica player in our band, reintroduced me Tom Waits’ music last year when we did “Come on up to the house.” Waits has a few songs with the word “house” in them, “The house where nobody lives” is just a poignant. He describes a broken down house that used to have a family living in it. Now the house is falling apart and Waits speculates at what might have happened.

Oh, and once it held laughter
Once it held dreams, did they throw it away, did they know what it means?
Did someone’s heart break
Or did someone do somebody wrong?

To me this describes Judas’ relationship with Jesus. It must have been filled with laughter at times and Judas’ clearly dreamt of something different than what he saw towards the end. Then, brokenhearted, he threw it all away, realizing he’d done Jesus wrong.

So if you find someone
Someone to have, someone to hold, don’t trade it for silver
Oh, don’t trade it for gold
‘Cause I have all of life’s treasures and they’re fine and they’re good
They remind me that houses are just made of wood
What makes a house grand, oh, it ain’t the roof or the doors
If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure
But without love it ain’t nothin’ but a house
A house where nobody lives

I often think about the broken homes, the broken relationships that are represented by the children and youth who are served by Cyrus Centre. I wonder if there was laughter in those families at some point or what it was that dashed their dreams. I wonder if there was love. Your donation to Cyrus Centre helps this organization do its reconciliation work. Their goal is always, if it is at all possible, to reunite children with parents, to create healthy families again. If it’s not possible, they work hard to help those young people survive and be successful. If you have already made a donation, THANK YOU. Encourage your friends and family to consider a donation too. If you haven’t, why not? It doesn’t have to be a big gift – every little bit helps and all donations up to $3000 will be matched. Get the details on how to give on our Services Info Page.


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.



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?