Goodnight everyone, and have a triumphant weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.

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Easter is Jesus Christ’s victory over death. This season may seem like there is no Easter.  However devoted Christians around the world will not be deterred. They will still find a way to mark this holy period.

Jodi Durr runs the parenting blog “Meaningful Mama” and says, “There are news articles and people reporting, ‘Easter is cancelled,’ It makes me think of the Whos down in Whoville. They were stripped of everything at Christmas, but they weren’t phased. They continued to celebrate the deeper and real meaning behind the holiday. That’s what we will do with Easter.”

Sounds of the Easter season this week…let’s get started.

Our opening selection is a hymn that dates back more than 150 years.

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From the Facebook page of Fanny Crosby:

“Frances Jane Crosby (1820-1915) was a blind gospel hymnist and poet, proving to be one of the most influential American women of evangelicalism throughout the 19th century. Born on March 24th, 1820 in Putnam County, NY, Fanny was blinded at six weeks of age by the malpractice of a family physician. She was the first woman ever to speak to the United States Senate, the founder and president of the Golden Rule Alliance of America’s Department for the Blind, the popular gospel song lyricist of over 8,000 songs, and a well-known author and poet. Her work spans the years 1844-1915, and her legacy is found in most protestant hymnals to this day.”

During the spring of 1868 Crosby paid a visit to a detention center in Manhattan where she sang of her songs  to the inmates. When she had finished, Crosby heard one of the inmates cry out:

“Good Lord, do not pass me by.”

The experience inspired Crosby to write yet another hymn (released in 1870) where the singer makes an impassioned plea.

Jazz legend Ramsey Lewis started playing gospel piano at the age of 4. In 2005 he recorded a gospel CD and some of the tracks featured the J.W. James Memorial A.M.E. Church Combined Choir in Maywood, Illinois. The CD, a production of Narada Jazz located in Milwaukee, was recorded live at the church where Lewis’ sister was Reverend. We do love a rousing opener.

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Interesting note about Fanny Crosby. She often spoke in public, loved to do it and also loved being photographed. As mentioned Crosby was blind. Take another look at her picture above. She had the entire Bible committed to memory, and so the Bible that she typically held while speaking was mainly a visual prop for the benefit of her audience.

Today is Good Friday. Odd choice of wording? From Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Then in 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

John the Baptist was considered by the people to be a great prophet. They flocked to hear him speak and baptize.

He would be imprisoned by Herod about the time Jesus began his ministry. The ruler of Galilee, Herod took John into custody as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). Herod wanted to kill John because he said Herod couldn’t marry Herodias, that it was against God’s law. But fearing a riot if the popular prophet was killed, Herod kept John locked up.

At a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’ young daughter, Salome performed an erotic dance for the inebriated Herod who had vowed to give her anything she wanted if she would perform. Salome, upon her mother’s urging, demanded the head of John be brought to her on a platter. Regretting his promise, Herod still didn’t want to go back on it, so he ordered John be beheaded.

Disciples informed Jesus of John’s death. Soon, Jesus would also be arrested. Roman Governor Pontius Pilate handed him over to be crucified.

From Bible Gateway:

“Although crucifixion could take a variety of forms, it was common to have the victim carry the crossbeam to the place of crucifixion where the upright was already in place. Occasionally the victim was tied to the crossbeam with leather thongs, but most often nails were used, as in the case of Jesus. The nails were five to seven inches long and were driven through the feet and wrists, not the hands. Crosses in the shape of an X or a T were used, but since the title was attached over Jesus’ head we know the style used for Jesus’ cross was the shape we usually imagine, at, which was also a common form. The person was laid on the ground and nailed to the crosspiece, which was then hoisted into place. Often the person was only a short distance off the ground, though the fact that a stick was needed in order to offer Jesus a drink suggests his head was higher than arm’s length above the people on the ground. The nail wounds would cause a great deal of bleeding, but death often took place through suffocation. A little seat rest was attached to allow the person to maintain a position in which it was possible to breathe, thus prolonging the agony.”

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From one of Bill Gaither’s many gospel shows, Ben Speer sings along with Mike Allen, Judy Martin Hess and Reggie & Ladye Love Smith.

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In Bill O’Reilly’s fascinating book, “Killing Jesus,” there’s a great line that ends one of the chapters. Jesus has been placed in the tomb, and a nervous Pilate agrees to a precautionary move to prevent anyone from stealing the body. O’Reilly writes, “And so it is that a Roman guard is placed at the tomb of Jesus, just in case the dead man tries to escape.”

Mark wrote in a gospel that on the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to apply to Jesus’ body. When they arrived at the tomb they saw the stone placed in front had been rolled away. They became alarmed when they entered and saw a young man dressed in a white robe.

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified,” he said. “But he has risen! He is not here! See the place where they had put him.”

Again from O’Reilly’s book, “To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.”

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Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an advice column in Ebony Magazine in 1958 where he stated, “The profound sacred and spiritual meaning of the great music of the church must never be mixed with the transitory quality of rock and roll music. The former serves to lift men’s souls to higher levels of reality, and therefore to God. The latter so often plunges men’s minds into degrading and immoral depths.”

Then came the late 1960s and early 1970s. In his book “​Contemporary Worship Music​” John Frame wrote “About that time,many young people from the sixties’ counterculture professed to believe in Jesus. Convinced of the bareness of a lifestyle based on drugs, free sex, and radical politics, ‘hippies’ became Jesus people.”

A musical based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, “Godspell” opened Off-Broadway in 1971. A movie version was released in 1973.

This track is from the 2011 Broadway revival soundtrack. Anna Maria Perez De Tagle is the lead singer.

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That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

This Easter will be difficult. From Mary Healy, a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit:

Is the coronavirus pandemic a judgment from God? It is a question being debated by many Christians.

God is infinitely good — “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) — and therefore he cannot directly will evil. Rather, he permits evil because in his infinite wisdom he is able to bring a greater good out of it.

Thus, where Scripture speaks of God “sending” a calamity, it does not mean that God directly causes it. Rather, out of his great love for us, he allows human beings to experience the consequences of our choices.

God takes our freedom seriously — far more seriously than we do. And his judgment on sin is to allow us to experience the wages of our sin. But that judgment is with a remedial purpose. God’s desire is always that his children turn back to him and be healed and restored. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).

Clearly, the virus that causes COVID-19 is evil. It is bringing sickness, death, havoc and destruction — all contrary to God’s plan for the fullness of life for the human beings he created in his image. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Moreover, the evil one is seeking to exploit this disease to bring further evils: fear and panic, selfishness and greed, tension and division in families, acrimony and blame among government leaders.

So we ought to pray — indeed,  pray with great confidence in God — for an end to the virus.

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