A Servant’s Weekend

I may not always serve the Lord as I would wish too.  In fact I quite often find myself serving yours truly.  But the last weekend had me at my church for drama, singing, and leading.  It started Wednesday night with choir rehearsal when the director announced they were looking for a few people to be a part of a drama for Good Friday.  I thought about it and sent an email back saying I could, but for only three of the four services as I had to work for at least part of the day.

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The Good Friday service was made up of a few parts, starting with singing and followed by a short announcement.  For a half hour then everyone could walk around the worship center (95% of the chairs had been removed) visiting different areas.  One area had the text of the last days before the Crucifixion projected on walls for people to read.  Another had a giant cross people could sign.  There was a section with artwork portraying these days and an area with a looping video about a medical perspective on the Crucifixion.  There was also an area with replicas of a Roman flagrum, a spear such as used to pierce the sides of the victims to test for death as they did with Jesus, a crown of thorns, and others.  So following this time was another brief message followed by more songs.  The drama was during the half-hour tour time.  Like everyone who heeded our pastor’s wishes, we were dressed in black.  We would walk around and at various points break into one of two skits.  There were two main characters in one, the scene where Peter denied being a follower of Jesus three times, and one main character in the other, the scene in front of Pilate.  The rest of us were people in the crowd whispering or shouting out on cue- “crucify him!” or “yes, he is one of them” or similar.  The interesting part of the drama was it just happening right in the middle of everyone, and then we would be done, fading back into the wave of people- and boy, were there a lot of people, especially during the final service.  One could barely move at times.

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So Friday I was there from about 3:30 to about 8:00.  Then Saturday, I had to be back again at 1:00 for choir rehearsal, dressed and ready to sing.  We warmed up on our own then joined the worship band in the worship center, put back together from the day before.  I tell you, we sang for what had to be two straight hours on the entire worship package including our three songs and the five that the congregation sang together.  Since the majority of the guys sang tenor, I decided to sing bass.  Okay, let me not kid myself.  Some of that music, if it could talk would say, “first tenors only- second tenors need not apply.”  Following rehearsal we had a short break before lining up for the real deal.  I took this time to visit the 4th and 5th grade room.  I talked to some of the other leaders and kids before I had to go.  I would miss their worship time and craft time where they made crosses out of nails, but would be back during teaching time.  The singing went well, and so did the 4th and 5th grade small group time.  The teaching went well too, but it wasn’t me teaching.  In fact, due to choir I relinquished my own Sunday teaching time to someone else.  Following two choir times, who knew how my voice would be?

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Sunday we had to be back at 7AM, when we tried to watch a video from the night before.  It was either a bad disc or a bad player, but most of the video was a rapid, silent fast-forward.  Oh, well- that’s technology for you.  We had a short warmup and practiced a few of the songs, but not the entire set this time.  We performed, then breakfast was waiting for us.  Ahh…  There’s the real reason I serve.  Kidding aside (we did have to donate for the food if we were able!) both Sunday services went great as well.  I was back in the 4th and 5th grade room after the second service where we ended up merging 4th grade small groups which was fine.

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I went right to lunch from there, meeting my brother, nephew, mother, grandmother, and uncle for an Easter lunch (not brunch).  We ate, we chatted and bantered, and afterward we went to my house for some pie and chatted and bantered some more.  I’m tired of typing so I’ll skip the detail here.  As a bonus though, here are links to videos of most of the songs we did including the video shown at the start of our service with us singing.  I couldn’t include one song because it is an original from the musicians at my church and no one has made a youtube video with it.  Most of these are not us, just videos pulled from youtube.  Most.  Oh, and let me wrap up with this- in case you did not return to the comments of my last post, I mentioned that I updated some of the pictures by adding larger versions, so check them out- it may be easier to ID me now. 😉

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So anyway, the videos:

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The Greatest Day in History!

With Friday we honored the blackest time in history- God’s Son, put to death in the worst possible way, and the front page of this site went black in remembrance.  Peter, one of His closest friends denied ever knowing Him.  “Now what?”  People wondered.  Wasn’t this man Jesus supposed to save the world?  And for two days the Adversary laughed and people mourned.  Then came the third day, and the tomb was found open and empty, and soon the people’s grief turned to joy…

He is risen!

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He's alive!

Holy Weekend

Of course we know last weekend was Easter weekend.  For me, that means celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Of course, before a resurrection, there had to be a death.  That is what Good Friday is all about.  Now, some churches celebrate the entire week starting with Palm Sunday, going into Holy Monday – Holy Wednesday, following with Maundy Thursday, and then finally moving to Good Friday and Easter.  My church starts with Good Friday.  In the past, there had been Good Friday dramas of which I had been part.  During two four-year cycles I played one of the disciples, and some years a member of the mob condemning Jesus.  I kind of miss those times.  Last year the church decided to do something different with a walk-through one could start at any time.  I think I blogged about it.  This year they changed again.  It was still dark as the day of Christ’s death was dark.  It was touching to hear video testimonies of a few people, one of whom accepted Christ just last year on Good Friday from the walk-through.  Besides the testimonies there were some songs, and a short message by our pastor.  We left as usual in a somber mood.  That would of course be remedied the following day for Easter Saturday.  What do you mean you’ve never heard of Easter Saturday?  Well, our church has a Saturday service every week, so the Easter service is naturally duplicated for that Saturday service.  We have to change the words a little bit:

Christ the Lord is Risen Today Tomorrow… Ha-a-a-a-a-le-e-lu-u-ja.

Okay, not really.  But it is still a little strange having grown up in a traditional church, sometimes I feel like altering the lyrics.  So Saturday started with rehearsal at 1:45 until 4:25.  Fortunately not all of it was singing so I had some voice left for the real deal at 5:00.  We went through each choir piece at least three times, and the worship set of five songs twice.  It was nice to finally sing with the soloists.  The main soloist has actually been in a Christian band and has been heard on the radio, and it showed (in a nice way).  She sings at our church once or twice a year.  By the end of the rehearsal I needed to sit down after standing for over two hours.  It turned out to be the last time of the night I got to sit in a chair.  More on that in a moment.

A little time out:  Our choir I’d like to think is a little unique.  We have women tricking into the tenor section and a couple of guys in the alto section.  Women in the tenor section?  Probably not entirely odd.  Guys in the alto section?  Well, the clever readers may have noticed that while I used the term “women” for the tenor section, I did not reciprocate for the alto section with the term “men.”  That’s right, the two guys are actually kids.  While the rules for the last couple of years stated choir members had to be at least 14, they had been singing for about a year prior to that rule, so they were allowed to continue.  In any event, they did just turn 14 (they’re identical twins by the way) so this was the first year they met the rules.  Another factoid, but probably not so unique- I think the Alto section was as large as the other three put together.  Simply huge.

Okay, back to the present.  Following rehearsal, we grabbed our robes and had a bit of time to ourselves before having to line up.  Just before lining up, about ten minutes before the service, it was announced to us that the worship center was completely full.  Wow.  There were multiple overflow rooms all in use by the time service started.  All told, there were together 19,000 attendees at all the church’s campuses- a new record I think.  It might have been helped along by knowlwdge of our special guest.  A former teen-idol from the 80’s turned Christian, he now has a talk show on a Christian station and has starred in some Christian movies, the latest out last year.  I had a moment I could cringe when our pastor asked how we all felt about that movie and there was much cheering.  Now you all know me by now with movies- do you think I saw it yet?  That’s right, I did not cheer because I had not seen it- it would have been a dishonest cheer.  Of course our guest turned around just then and looked back toward my section of the choir.  I hope he didn’t see me and mistake my lack of cheering to not liking the film, I just haven’t seen it.  He thinks he might partner with the church in a marriage ministry, so we may see more of him.  Feel free to make your guesses of who he is in the comments section. 🙂

So following choir we returned to the gym which was our “green room.”  No chairs.  They took every one of our chairs for the overflow rooms leaving us with tables to stand around.  😯 . Fortunately I still had kid’s ministry to go to so the lack of chairs wasn’t an issue- or so I thought.  I got to the room and everyone was sitting on the floor.  That’s right, they took 4th and 5th grade chairs too.  I wonder if all of children’s ministry lost their chairs?  What happened was all those overflow rooms needed those chairs for people to sit in.  Well, we made do.  It turned out that while the crowds in the church were huge, it didn’t seem to translate to many more 4th and 5th graders.  My own small group was all regulars.

So Sunday rolled around, and we had to be there at 7:30 to rehearse.  Yuck.  Well, it’s only a few times during the year.  The 9:00 service was not a full service.  However, the pastor was at the other main campus along with our guest, so they may have had a much bigger crowd than normal.  Every week, our pastor switches between the two main campuses on Sunday to preach live.  The other gets a live feed or recorded video from Saturday night.  The 11:00 service was back to overflow capacity, but not quite as bad as the night before, which in my mind was pretty odd.  I would have thought that more people would have come on Sunday because that is actually Easter.  Saturday is Easter Eve, if you will.  So that was it, except for one more factoid: neither the main sermon nor the 4th/5th grade lesson were specifically Easter.  For the former, our pastor just started a new series, and for the latter we continued the series from the book of James.

So, that was my weekend.  If I think of anything I may have missed, I’ll add it to the comments.  Right now I need to start getting ready for bed.

He is risen!

Just a quick note to say (in pictures shamelessly ripped from here and here):

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Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!, continued

I just wanted to get that Godtube video up before continuing writing.  I can’t believe it’s been three days since my last post (not counting the first Easter post of course!).  Well, yesterday was a busy day.  Friday was, well, Good Friday.  Like a Good Friday should be, it was a very dreary day outside- snowing for most of the day.  After shoveling (for the last time until next winter I hope!) I headed out to the church.

The service that day was like a tour.  The first stop of this “tour” was worship time.  They basically played a loop of songs.  From the bulletin we were given, it looked like they played the same five or six songs over and over for the five hours (with periodic breaks of just instrumental music).  I hope they switched off bands throughout the night- playing the same songs for five hours straight would be kind of grueling.

Anyway, the songs would prepare our hearts for the next part of the “tour”, which we could skip to at any time.  This part had signs and card packets all around telling us why Christ had to die.  There was even a projected image of this on the wall.  There were many, many reasons along with Bible verses supporting each reason.  I think I read maybe half of them as I walked through.

Next was a meditation area where we would see constant changing images of Christ’s “trial” and execution.  This actually wasn’t working for some reason when I arrived, but they finally got the projectors going before I moved on.  Step four of the our had us write our own sins and nail them to a large wooden cross.  There was a long wait for this as there were I think only two or three hammers.  We could also leave the cards in a basket at the foot of the cross.

The final stage was communion.  We would go in the room, grab our own bread (small cracker) and wine (grape juice) and take some time to reflect, pray, and take in the two elements all on our own time.  All in all it was a very somber mood throughout the evening, befitting of a day like Good Friday.

Saturday I was at the church after 1:30 (supposed to be at 1:30, but as usual I was late) for choir rehearsal.  The worship music the day before had been somber, but the Easter music we had been practicing was anything but.  Where Good Friday was a time of reflection, Easter is a celebration!  We actually did very well according to several people.  It was a lot of singing- not just the four special songs we were doing as a choir, but five worship songs as well.  It was near constant singing from almost the time I got there on Saturday until after 5:30, and again today.  The well-wishers’ critiques must have been spot on as our time to be there this morning was pushed from 7AM to 7:25, but it was still a bit grueling with so much singing- two services plus the rehearsal (similar to what felt like two rehearsals last night plus the service).  I was actually supposed to sing at the end Saturday night (about 6:25ish) but I felt I was needed in the children’s ministry as there was only one leader besides another choir member and myself there, and the other choir member went back down to sing the final song.  I was able to sing this song the two Sunday services however.

So here we are, voice resting for now.  I really should practice singing more often.  My voice held out this time, but there have been times in the past where my endurance didn’t last through all the services.  I remember particularly from when there were four services at one time before the second campus opened and many people went there instead.  That one extra performance turned out to be a killer of my voice.  But I don’t sing in the choir all for me.  It’s about giving back to God.  He gave me this talent, so it’s only right to use it to give some back to Him.

Once again, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!!!

Happy Easter!

Okay, trying to make people say Resurrection Day instead of Easter is just pointless. If you’d like, Happy Resurrection Day! The celebration of Jesus Christ’s victory over death is upon us once again! Hallelujah! No, I wasn’t calling you over, Hallelujah (private joke: there is a boy named Hallelujah in one of the classes I teach). Now that you’re finished cheering, I have a Godtube video to share. Godtube is like Youtube (ya think?) only it’s all about Christ. My pastor showed a video in church a few weeks ago that really shows using dance/drama what God’s love is all about. He loves us so much He went through the humiliation of becoming a man and the pain and suffering of becoming a sacrifice- the sacrifice for us. Anyway, on to the video. Let me see if this works…

<edit> Nope. I guess we can’t embed videos- hey C, any way we can turn this feature on? like embed, target = _blank also gets cut out of the code when trying to make a link open in a new window. Anyway, here’s the link:

[godtube]http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ee73e63418003b47d7d5[/godtube]

Resurrection Day is coming!

I say Resurrection Day because the word Easter is used in reference to the spring celebration with eggs and easter bunnies.  Resurrection Day rather refers to the holiday we Christians celebrate at the same time, the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He was murdered on a cross by a reluctant Pilate at the insistence of the Jewish leaders who were blinded and could not see that He really was the Messiah they were waiting for as He came in humility rather than in power, to teach rather than to conquer.  There will come a day of course when He does finally come to destroy the ones who reject him and build a new Heaven and Earth for Him and His people, but for now we wait and celebrate what He has done so far in offering a way out of the darkness we call sin.  That He was resurrected shows all that He has victory even over death, what many think of as the final conclusion to ourselves.

First of course we must remember His death- His unfair trial, His suffering, and his being nailed to a cross in the most brutal form of execution know in those days.  Good Friday, as it is known except by school districts that now refer to it as a “non-attendance” day, is the day we remember this horrible death.  I of course have the bonus of it being a day-without-pay so I can really feel the suffering. 😛  Kidding of course, but it is a serious day.  Our church is actually doing something a little bit different this year.  We are still called to attend wearing black, but instead of a drama (I was in it 7 out of the last 8 years!) and a message it is apparently an open-ended service where we can come at any time within a 5-hour window.  More on this after Friday as I really don’t know anything more about it.

We are preparing for Easter with the choir and it is coming along nicely.  Of course tonight we will probably have a train wreck as we’re told to sing from memory- no sheet music for us when we’re up there!  Of course the train wreck will be followed by further improvements as we improve in our confidence of the music and, just as important, will actually be looking at the choir director instead of the music! 😀  And once it’s over, a week of (unpaid) rest follows…