Tag Archives: crucifixion

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!


You want it darker

Night at Golgotha, 1869
Vereshchagin, Vasili Vasilievich (1842-1904). Russian. Medium: oil on canvas.

From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27: 45-46

Some call Good Friday the darkest day in history. Well, I suppose if you watched Jesus being crucified, it probably was a dark day. Truth is, there is darkness for people every single day. Anyone living in the middle of war and persecution, who is dying of a terminal illness and living in pain, anyone who wrestles with severe mental illness… and all those who are relegated to the sidelines and have to watch people they love go through this, well, those people are living in great darkness too.

I recently bought my first and only Leonard Cohen CD – You want it darker. I have mixed feelings about Cohen. He was a larger than life character throughout his life. Musically, I put him in the same category as Bob Dylan: fantastic poets who can’t carry a tune. Seriously, someone else should sing their songs. Still…

i love the concept of this album cover art

I’ve listened to Cohen’s title track on repeat and there’s something hypnotic about his voice. Reviewers of this particular CD said it was Cohen at his most honest, most raw. Knowing that he was dying as he recorded it gives extra weight to the words “I’m ready my Lord”.

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

These words take me right to the foot of the cross, watching Jesus in anguish as he cries out to God, crying out for the love that never came. It’s gripping. But the genius of Cohen’s lyrics is that he takes the story through history and to his own life:

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim

You want it darker…

Throughout all of this recognition and confession is the constant refrain “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord”. Cohen calls out the darkness in the world, acknowledging our part in killing the flame, making the world a darker place. He knew he’d lived a less than perfect life and he owned it. He also acknowledged the grace of God in all of that. He knew he was dying and he was ready.

At first listen, this is a pretty dark song, hopeless almost – except for that repeated refrain. If we are living as people who are ready, then we need to do what we can to keep the flame burning, to keep the million candles lit, to be the love that comes to those who need it. When you support Cyrus Centre with your financial gift, you are doing exactly that. Cyrus Centre brings a little light into the dark corners of our city streets where some of our forgotten and neglected youth find themselves. Remember that all donations up to $3000 will be matched! I hope you’ll join us and support this important ministry.

Get the details on how to give on our Service Info Page


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

Palm-Sunday

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?


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?

lyrics-e1400661088623

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.


Saw you yesterday, see you tonight!

Thanks to all who attended last night’s service of Good Friday Blues – it was great to see everyone up and dancin’ by the end!

Tonight’s service is sold out – doors are at 6:30 pm. Don’t forget to bring your cheque book so you can support Cyrus Centre further.

And of course, make sure you wear your dancin’ shoes.

keep-calm-and-put-your-dancing-shoes-on


Saved

detail from "John 3:16" by Robert T. Barrett. Oil on canvas

detail from “John 3:16” by Robert T. Barrett. Oil on canvas

I was blinded by the devil, born already ruined

Stone-cold dead as I stepped out of the womb

By his grace I have been touched, by His word I have been healed

By His hand I’ve been delivered, by His spirit I’ve been sealed

I’ve been saved by the blood of the Lamb

And I’m so glad… I want to thank you Lord

 

I’ve always thought that Bob Dylan is a living example of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I don’t care what anyone says, the guy can’t sing! So it’s extraordinary that he makes his living as a singer. Might as well be parading in front of us naked.

 

What Dylan is, is a poet and a damn good one. No one writes songs quite like his, which is perhaps why we forgive so much of his inability to carry a tune. He really does have a wonderful way with words.

 

album artwork "Saved" by Bob Dylan

album artwork “Saved” by Bob Dylan

Saved isn’t Dylan’s best song but we chose this song for obvious reasons – it’s his most Christian song, talking specifically about the saving work of Jesus. Most of the song uses cliché Christian phrases but the opening verse is a brilliant example of Dylan’s skill with a pen.

 

The idea that one steps out of the womb physically alive but spiritually dead is as dramatic an example of a need for a Saviour as there ever was. The use of the words “stone cold” and “womb” make the listener imagine the stone cold tomb from which Jesus emerges on Easter morning. This very Saviour who conquered death by his blood is now able to touch us by grace, heal us, deliver us, and seal us. Indeed there is much to be glad and thankful for!

 

Bob.

Bob.

Dylan’s recording of this song is rather frantic and we’ve worked pretty hard to give it more nuance so that the poetry of it emerges strongly. But the musical strength of the song is its celebratory nature and we haven’t lost any of that quality. We’ve been saved – freed from the pit and the fire that burns in it! If ever there was a reason to get up and party, this is it! So we’re saving this one for the end – and I keep sayin’ this, so it must be true: make sure you bring your dancin’ shoes.

We have one more rehearsal and then it’s happening! If you haven’t got your tickets yet, get them now – they’re going fast and we want to sell out so that we can bless Cyrus Centre and the great work they do there. See you next week!