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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 12:42
When faced with puzzling information,
 one of the most important statements a
 scientist can make is 
                  "I don't know." 
Similarly, one of the most important statements a
 theologian can make is
                  "I don't know."

--In the Eye of the Storm: The Autobiograthy of Sir John Houghton By John Houghton, p 85

HT Ross H Mckenzie
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "certainty"
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 12:23
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ecclesiology, role of the pastor"
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 12:19

Tina Turner Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ By Chaplain Jim Linzey (Ret.)Special to ASSIST News ServiceSAN DIEGO, CA (ANS) -- Take little Anna Mae Bullock as an example of a marvelous creation of God who was badly hurt by a small rural local church when she was a young girl. As depicted in the feature film “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, Anna Mae was the only little girl in the church choir, consisting of older teens and adults in an African-American church.

Reared in the broken home of “party girls” with the exception of her grandmother who was truly a righteous woman of God, the only music Anna Mae understood in the home was bar ...continued here

Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ecclesiology, spirituality of music"
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 12:11
William Stringfellow:
..The Kingdom is, I believe, temporal as much as spatial...the event of the church constantly, repeatedly fractures time. This is to say, the church as an institution or nation is, first of all, an event of the moment, gathered here or there, but that does not predetermine whether or how the church will appear again. The church is episodic in history; the church lives in imminence so that the church has no permanent locale or organization which predicates its authenticity as the church. This may seem a hectic doctrine of the church to the Constantinian mentality. It is. But it is so because it suggests the necessity of breaking away from Constantinian indoctrination in order to affirm the poise of the church awaiting the second advent of Jesus Christ. .. William Stringfellow, Conscience and Obedience: The Politics of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in Light of the Second Coming. (ht, Richard Beck)
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "apocalyptic, book reviews, time travel"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 22:11
Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 16):
Nothing But a Burning Light (1991)

My first Bruce Cockburn concert came with the release of this album. We had been trying to get to one for years, but the stars never could align. Finally he was coming to a city within driving distance (4 hrs) on a weekday. I took a personal day and we drove there and back on the same day. Took in the concert with Colin Linden and the full band. Slept an hour or two, got up and taught the next day, and it was awesome! The band led off with a song that Bruce did not write, but it set a very spiritual tone for the evening and for the new album. It was this version of “Soul of a Man,” except that he may have modified it slightly for national television. In our concert the song began with the drummer alone on stage playing a giant bass drum and each musician came out and joined the song one at a time.

At this concert the band played the song “Mighty Trucks of Midnight.” During this song, something happened that confirmed in my mind that Cockburn’s fans listen to the lyrics and “get” what he means. After Bruce finished the last line in this next quote, a cheer went up from about half of the crowd. Being a progressive Christian can seem lonely at times. I realized in that moment that I was surrounded by a crowd of similar faith.

Mighty Trucks of Midnight

Wave a flag, wave the bible, wave your sex or your business degree
Whatever you want -- but don't wave that thing at me
The tide of love can leave your prizes scattered
But when you get to the bottom it's the only thing that matters

Mighty trucks of midnight
Moving on
Moving on

I believe it's a sin to try and make things last forever
Everything that exists in time runs out of time some day
Got to let go of the things that keep you tethered
Take your place with grace and then be on your way

Letting go of the things that keep you tethered; perhaps the prizes that the mighty trucks have scattered. Cockburn seems to be finally able to let go of the anger and pain and accept the love and grace of God. In “Great Big Love” Bruce refers to Mathew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden,” indicating that while Christians are reflecting this love and grace, it is too hard to find. Nonetheless he has found it and is back to singing a song of praise.

Great Big Love

Seen a lot of things in the world outside
Some bad but some good stuff too
Felt the touch of love in the works of God
And now and then in what people do
Never had a lot of faith in human beings
But sometimes we manage to shine
Like a light on a hill beaming out to space
From somewhere hard to find

Great big love
Sweeping across the sky

Cockburn’s next album would turn out to be a Christmas album. He foreshadows that with the song “Cry of a Tiny Babe.” It tells the Advent story, but with enough of a modern translation to emphasize the transformational story that it is. In it Bruce also refers back to an image from his more Evangelical days, that of a stone landing in a river, the ripples expanding outward. He sings: “Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.” I need to explain this next link a bit. Bruce used to host a radio show for Columbia records. (He also hosted a Christmas special each year on CBC television in Canada) One one show, he performed this song with Lou Reed and Roseanne Cash (Johnny’s daughter). When I first heard this version, I thought that Lou Reed had just ruined a beautify performance, and I am a fan of Lou Reed. Now I feel that Lou only brings more realism to the story, so listen at your own risk.

Cry of a Tiny Babe

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph gets upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says God did this and your part of his scheme

Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says, forgive me, I thought you'd been with some other man
She says what if I had been, but I wasn't anyway
And guess what, I felt the baby kick today

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything

Cause the governing body of the Holy land,
Is that of Herod a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born, King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two

But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and getaway clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

And there are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepards and street people, hookers and bums

And the message is clear if you have ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fears
It's a Christmas gift that you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eye

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe
Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

He concludes his album with this autobiographical declaration:

Child of the Wind

Little round planet
In a big universe
Sometimes it looks blessed
Sometimes it looks cursed
Depends on what you look at obviously
But even more it depends on the way that you see
Hear the wind moan
In the bright diamond sky
These mountains are waiting
Brown-green and dry
I'm too old for the term
But I'll use it anyway
I'll be a child of the wind
Till the end of my days
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 22:00

Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 15):
Big Circumstance (1988)

In the song “Shipwrecked at the Stable Door” Bruce acknowledges that Big Circumstance (Divine Providence) has taken him on this life voyage. While he states that he would rather be home, being shipwrecked at the Bethlehem stable, living on the road for Jesus is probably the better thing.

Shipwrecked at the Stable Door

Big Circumstance has brought me here -
Wish it would send me home
Never was clear where home is
But it's nothing you can own
It can't be bought with cigarettes
Or nylons or perfume
And all the highest bidder gets
Is a voucher for a tomb

He concludes the song with a reworking of the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matt. 5):

Blessed are the poor in spirit -
Blessed are the meek
For theirs shall be the kingdom
That the power mongers seek
Blessed are the dead for love
And those who cry for peace
And those who love the gift of earth -
May their gene pool increase

Left like a shadow on the step
Where the body was before -
Shipwrecked at the stable door

Cockburn is still troubled by the visible face of Christianity active in the political world of that time. From the context of his travels in Central America, it is clear to him which side of American policy falls grace. Not from the “Gospel of Bondage”, but falling from above upon the people “Down Where the Death Squad Lives.”

Gospel of Bondage

You read the Bible in your special ways
You're fond of quoting certain things it says -
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
But if God stays silent, what else can you do
Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you'd surely see
That God won't be reduced to an ideology
Such as the gospel of bondage...

 Where the Death Squad Lives

Where the Death Squad Lives
Like some kind of never-ending Easter passion,
From every agony a hero's fashioned.
Around every evil there gathers love --
Bombs aren't the only things that fall from above
Down where the dead squad lives
down where the dead squad lives

Sometimes I feel like there's a padlock on my soul.
If you opened up my heart you'd find a big black hole
But when the feeling comes through, it comes through strong --
If you think there's no difference between right and wrong
Just go down where the death squad lives

This world can be better than it is today
You can say I'm a dreamer but that's okay
Without the could-be and the might-have-been
All you've got left is your fragile skin
And that ain't worth much down where the death squad lives

Throughout all of these songs runs the common theme that greed is the cause of the evils of our day. An essential step toward salvation is the letting go of possession. Like the Old Testament prophets, Bruce cries out for Creation, which groans under the curse of human greed. Are we deaf?

Hosea 4:1-3

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing,[a] lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

Isaiah 24:4-6
4 The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth.5 The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws,violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.
If a Tree Falls

Through thinning ozone,
Waves fall on wrinkled earth -
Gravity, light, ancient refuse of stars,
Speak of a drowning -
But this, this is something other.
Busy monster eats dark holes in the spirit world
Where wild things have to go
To disappear

If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 21:55

Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 14):
World of Wonders (1983)

This was the first newly released Bruce Cockburn album that I had purchased, and at this point of my life I was a diehard Cockburn fan and loved the newer political content of his songs. Unlike many of his more recent fans, I was also a huge fan of the deep spiritual content of his earlier work that touched me “deep down where I lived.” Can this spirituality still be found in World of Wonders, if had Bruce become a secular Canadian music star. Lest one think that Bruce is little known, when this album was released, his picture was plastered across every inch of the window to the record store across from the University of Winnipeg, where I was attending.
During this time, Bruce had a problem. That is, if he identified himself as a Christian artist, he would be associating himself with the Moral Majority, who were supporting policies in Central America that were subsidizing the horrors that he had witnessed while there. He would not condone oppression wrapped up in an angelic shroud.

Call It Democracy

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament -
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
Idolatry of ideology

Bruce is beginning to find his hope though. It is in the faces and the faith of those who are living under these appalling conditions. Shining out from behind the bad stuff is some good stuff too. “Dancing In Paradise” describes an oppressive vignette in each stanza, but concludes each with “and there’s dancing in paradise,” indicating that the people find a way to live on.

Dancing In Paradise

Biggy Dread gunned down by police at Big Bridge March 16
Riding a mule cart to Sav-la-Mar pulled out a cutlass and they had to shoot
That's what they say
Something tells me they like to shoot
Something in the eyes of the ones at the road block
Where they searched the car and tried to get us to confess to whatever...
There's truncheons and gas down in Harbour St.
Typical response where life isn't so sweet
And somebody gets desperate enough to say so
Price of fish price of flour
Going up up up almost by the hour
And they throw away money on spectacular shows
To show the world the right likes the right music
And the Prime Minister sucks ice cream in the company of a happy band of children
While a naked man, sores on his neck,
Lies for days in Washington Blvd. gnawing chicken bones
And the Chamber of Commerce thinks there's too much crime
And there's a kung fu movie in every town
And there's Dancing in Paradise...

World of Wonders

There's a rainbow shining in a bead of spittle
Falling diamonds in rattling rain
Light flexed on moving muscle
I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames (at this...)
World of wonders...

Moment of peace like brief arctic bloom
Red/gold ripple of the sun going down
Line of black hills makes my bed
Sky full of love pulled over my head
World of wonders...

Grace abounds in these songs. This is was Bruce has said about it: “Grace lives in the dirt you know?...If you’ve got to wait until you’re sitting out on a mountaintop somewhere to experience grace, you’re probably going to miss it. It’s not really grace then. You’ve constructed an atmosphere for yourself to get in touch with an aspect of yourself. But it’s that gleam in a ‘bead of spittle.’ That’s where the grace is. It’s all over the place.”

The imagery of “Down Here Tonight” conveys a prayer to the “Lord of the starfields” that thanks to the fire and the light, we are doing ok down here tonight even in this hour of darkness.

Down Here Tonight

Pans gonna play and the fire burn bright
Talking drums say everything's all right
Beating of the sea sends a message
To the far starlight
"We're doing okay down here tonight"

The end of the road's still far away
But the travelling's better by the light of day
This hour of darkness is the time to dance
Lay down your burdens -- give the beat a chance
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 21:46
E. Stanley Jones... always timely, incurably ahead of his time..wrote in 1970:

Suppose on Sunday morning ten minutes were set aside for the [congregation] to listen to God, listen to what God would say in answer to the question, 'What would you have us as individuals and as a collective body to do?'  Then have a church meeting to prayerfully listen to the suggestions that emerge.  It would bring a sense of expectancy into the Sunday morning service.  Now we listen to a sermon from man and leave it at that. And that is the result--it is left at that, nothing happens. -The Reconstruction of the Church: On What Pattern? p, 133
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ecclesiology, role of the pastor, spirit..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 16:12
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Pope Francis"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 15:50
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 15:24

Stealing Fire (1984)

During the 1980’s unspeakable horrors were being perpetrated upon the common people of Central America. Most Americans new only of the “communist threat” from south of our border and voted for more money to arm the oppressive military regimes of the region. Bruce experienced first hand the conditions that this money helped to create. He did not sing explicitly much about his faith in these times, but make no mistake. his faith was the driving force behind what he did sing about. He hints at this in the song “Maybe the Poet,” along with an obvious Biblical allusion to Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Maybe the Poet

Maybe the voice of the spirit
In which case you'd better hear it

Male female slave or free
Peaceful or disorderly
Maybe you and he will not agree
But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don't let the system fool you
All it wants to do is rule you
Pay attention to the poet
You need him and you know it

While Cockburn was visiting a Guatemalan refugee camp on the Southern border of Mexico, the refugees were strafed by military helicopters. Like the psalmist, Bruce is filled with rage, and in the moment sees no alternative but to strike back in righteous anger. Many have discussed whether or not he is advocating violence or merely expressing his rage and despair. Bruce has been quoted to say that Rocket Launcher "is not a call to arms; this is a cry."

If I Had a Rocket Launcher

Here comes the helicopter
Second time today
Everybody scatters
And hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered
Only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
I'd make somebody pay

I don't believe in guarded borders
And I don't believe in hate
I don't believe in generals
Or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors
Of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun
100,000 wait
To fall down from starvation
Or some less humane fate
Cry for Guatemala
With a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice
At least I've got to try
Every time I think about it
Water rises to my eyes
Situation desperate
Echoes of the victims' cry
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher
Some son of a bitch would die

I have made a couple of connections between Bruce Cockburn and U2 already in these blogs, as they both make frequent Christian spiritual allusions and have a largely secular audience. There is a direct connection between the two. In the context of the darkness of those days in Latin America Cockburn sings:

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

This last line is quoted (and attributed to Bruce Cockburn in the lyric sheet) by U2. The song is God Part II. That song is a response to the Jon Lennon song “God”, in which Lennon sings that he does not believe in the many manifestations of God, but instead believes only in himself and Yoko. Bono’s version describes ironic stanzas, each contrasting what he doesn’t believe in to the Love that he does believe. It is worth noting that in Bono’s lyrics love is frequently a metaphor for Jesus. Here is the stanza that references Cockburn:

God Part II (U2)

I don't believe in the '60s
In the golden age of pop
You glorify the past
When the future dries up
I heard a singer on the radio
Late last night
Says he's gonna kick the darkness
Till it bleeds daylight
I believe in love

I feel like I'm falling
Like I'm spinning on a wheel
It always stops beside a name
A presence I can feel
I believe in love
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, reading the Bible, spiri..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 15:19

by Don Berg
The Trouble With Normal (1983)

I remember hearing this album for the first time. I was still just developing as a Cockburn fan and was accompanying my good friend Joel to the recored store to buy his copy of this just-released album. When we got home we pulled out the vinyl, placed it on the turntable, and I had my first ever listen to newly released Cockburn... and I hated it. I couldn’t get past the stylistic change to his music and he even talked on on of the tracks. It wasn’t until I bought the album myself years later when I was filling out my Cockburn collection, that I gave it the 2nd, 3rd and 4th listen that it seems that it takes for me to appreciate a new Cockburn album. I will be honest, you have to look hard and read between the lines to find spirituality and theology in this album That in itself could be the evolution of his work, but there is more there than appears on the surface. This album came out during the height of the moral majority and the Reagan years. Bruce was working to distance himself from this brand of Christianity. He offers this critique of putting our faith in a supply-side God.

Candy Man’s Gone

In the bar, in the senate, in the alley, in the study
Pimping dreams of riches for everybody
'Something for nothing, new lamps for old
And the streets will be platinum, never mind gold'
Well, hey, pass it on
Misplaced your faith and the candy man's gone
I hate to tell you but the candy man's gone

Bruce is still calling out to the arrows of light to come and pierce his soul, but it doesn’t bring peace, but rather a prophetic vision to critique the “system of the world’s events.”

Civilization and It’s Discontents

So many people so lost you feel sorry
But too much pathos just makes you angry
And even though I know who loves me I'm not that much less lost

Black outline, sliding gray scale
Subtle variations of dark to pale
Pearl sky raining light like hail, come on and pierce me
Raining light like a vision of the holy grail, come on and pierce me

Civilization and its discontents
When all's been said and all the money spent
Trying to beat the system of the world's events
Gets you nowhere.

Bruce returns to the theme of a broken, but beautiful world; a broken, confused, but still beautiful humanity. About this time Cockburn had begun to make visits to Central and South America as a guest of Oxfam. He was awakened to the issues of oppression and injustice there. One day he was staring out over the ocean, the waves crashing in reminded him of jet fighters. His mind began to wander over the conditions under which the people there lived. How could such beauty happen to such beautiful people. As he continues to ponder the beauty of this broken world, he glances down to see the waves washing over his now sodden shoes, and he realizes he has a song.

Planet of the Clowns

Stare into the moonlight
Silver fingers press my eyes
Probing in my heart with longing

These footprints by the sea's edge
Disappearing grain by grain
Lose their form but keep their substance

As the waves roar on the beach like a squadron of F16's
Ebb and flow like the better days they say this world has seen

Government by outrage
Hunger camps and shanty towns
Dignity and love still holding

This bluegreen ball in black space
Filled with beauty even now
battered and abused and lovely

And the waves roar on the beach like a squadron of F16's
Ebb and flow like the better days they say this world has seen

Each one in our own heart
Desperate to know where we stand
Planet of the clowns in wet shoes
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 18:32
Meme by Quaid Ens, see Quaid Approved Memes
Douglas Wilson:
...I have sometimes entertained myself with thoughts of great men from the past paying a time travel visit to institutions that were named after them. Many of these thought experiments end with furniture scattered around waiting rooms, broken glass, and police sirens in the background. And if you doubt that there could be actual mayhem — for that doesn’t sound as pious as we would like — reflect on what happened when Jesus, the name of God, showed up at the place where God made his name to dwell (Deuteronomy 12:11). First he made a whip, and then he made a commotion.  link
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "reading the Bible, reformation, temple t..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 18:28

Inner City Front (1981)

Bruce once sang “Oh Jesus, don’t let Toronto take my love away.” Now Bruce stares at us on the album cover with a hardened urban expression while sitting in a Toronto bar or cafe. The album represents the “inner city” realities of his new life after losing his marriage and maybe his faith. With commitment (covenant) broken he has trouble experiencing love through the numbness and pain. The evident pain in his life is reflected in such lyrics as this taken from songs with titles to match (You Pay Your Money and Take Your Chance, All’s Quiet on the Inner City Front, and Loner):

The numb and confused
The battered and bruised
The counters of cost
And the star-crossed
You pay your money and you take your chance
When you're dealing with love and romance

Sometimes, sometimes, doesn't the light seem to move so far away?

A thousand question marks over my head

Days of striving, nights of novocaine
Never going to bring them freedom from their pain

I'm a loner
With a loner's point of view
When I was a torn jacket hanging on the barbed wire
You cut me free
And sewed me up and here I am

The song “Justice” foreshadows the work that Cockburn will do for world relief and political change in settings of extreme injustice. He begins by critiquing ideologies beginning with his own as the source of violence perpetrated on the other. The third stanza provides his answer: accept this post-modern critique, accept the other with hospitality, then listen for the quiet voice of God to transcend ideology.


What's been done in the name of Jesus?
What's been done in the name of Buddha?
What's been done in the name of Islam?
What's been done in the name of man?
What's been done in the name of liberation?
And in the name of civilization?
And in the name of race?
And in the name of peace?
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

Can you tell me how much bleeding
It takes to fill a word with meaning?
And how much, how much death
It takes to give a slogan breath?
And how much, how much, how much flame
Gives light to a name
For the hollow darkness
In which nations dress?
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

Everybody's seen the things they've seen
We all have to live with what we've been
When they say charity begins at home
They're not just talking about a toilet and a telephone
Got to search the silence of the soul's wild places
For a voice that can cross the spaces
These definitions that we love create --
These names for heaven, hero, tribe and state
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

Cockburn returns to an image of creation. But this time the creation is not celebrated, but broken. The Earth itself is broken, and we are the culprits. Before he looked up to God and found his answer, but now he calls out to the Lord to “spit on our eyes so that we can see.” The third verse contains no answer as it returns to the original theme of brokenness without healing. Our “Trial comes before truth's revealed.” Faith is the answer, but will it be enough?

Broken Wheel
Way out on the rim of the galaxy
The gifts of the Lord lie torn
Into whose charge the gifts were given
Have made it a curse for so many to be born
This is my trouble --
These were my fathers
So how am I supposed to feel?
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel

Water of life is going to flow again
Changed from the blood of heroes and knaves
The word mercy's going to have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves
No adult of sound mind
Can be an innocent bystander
Trial comes before truth's revealed
Out here on the rim of the broken wheel
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, city, spirituality of mu..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 18:23
Humans (1980)

This was the first album of Bruce Cockburn that I ever really listened to. Like every album of Bruce’s I have ever listened to, it took several listens before I had decided whether it was really worth listening to. Now it is one of my all time favorite albums. This album signals a transition in Cockburn’s music, in his personal life, and of course in his theology. We saw that in his previous three albums the beauty of nature pointed him towards God, even saying that “The earth is bread, the sun is wine.” In Humans, he sees himself as a grim traveller no longer satisfied with his answers of before.

Grim Travellers
Grim travellers in dawn skies
See the beauty -- makes you cry inside
Makes you angry and you don't know why
Grim travellers in dawn skies

Down on the plain of 10,000 smokestacks
Trucks butt each other to establish dominance
The newspaper next to me leans over and says matter-of-factly
'Sacred mountains towers above meadows' - uh huh - and above us

Grim travellers in dawn skies
I see the beauty -- makes me cry inside
It makes me angry and I don't know why
We're grim travellers in dawn skies

The newspaper leans over and gives him a glib answer of the hope he sang about but one short year before and he responds with a sarcastic “uh huh.” His pain cannot be assuaged by pat answers. His prior theology has come up short. Song after song speaks to his pain and disillusionment. He even sings “I'd like to put a bullet through the world.” He sang in the song “Gavin’s wood pile” that “there’s no human answer here,” but his human world has crashed in around him. A recurring theme in his music is the divine spark/fallen nature within each of us. Humans were created in the image of God, but to Cockburn that is now merely a “rumour of glory.”

Rumours of Glory

You see the extremes
Of what humans can be?
In that distance some tension's born
Energy surging like a storm
You plunge your hand in
And draw it back scorched
Beneath it's shining like
Gold but better

Rumours of glory

The lighter songs of this album were written on tour, while the darker songs were written later back home in Ontario. What has happened in between to cause all of this pain?. We get the answer to this in the song “What about the Bond.” His marriage has fallen apart.

What About the Bond

What about the the bond?
What about the mystical unity?
What about the bond
Sealed in the loving presence of the Father?

Of the institutions
That should give a frame to work in
Got to find our own solutions

I used to hear this song as a guilt trip upon his wife, but then saw it as a man struggling with not just his belief system about marriage, but also his legalistic belief system. The following song , “Fascist Architecture,” speaks of the facades we build up between each other, but also of the belief systems that are based on the Law, rather than grace and love. Hope finally breaks through in this song as he accepts God’s grace and love and is “OK.”

Fascist Architecture
Fascist architecture of my own design
Too long been keeping my love confined
You tore me out of myself alive

Those fingers drawing out blood like sweat
While the magnificent facades crumble and burn
The billion facets of brilliant love
The billion facets of freedom turning in the light

Bloody nose and burning eyes
Raised in laughter to the skies
I've been in trouble but I'm ok
Been through the wringer but I'm ok
Walls are falling and I'm ok
Under the mercy and I'm ok

Gonna tell my old lady
Gonna tell my little girl
There isn't anything in the world
That can lock up my love again

Finally, the album ends with this song of healing love:

The Rose Above the Sun
Something jewelled slips away
Round the next bend with a splash
Laughing at the hands I hold out
Only air within their grasp
All you can do is praise the razor
For the fineness of the slash

'Til the Rose above the sky
And the light behind the sun
Takes all

Gutless arrogance and rage
Burn apart the best of tries
You carry the weight of inherited sorrow
From your first day till you die
Toward that hilltop where the road
Forever becomes one with the sky

'Til the Rose above the sky
And the light behind the sun
Takes all
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 18:17

Don Berg
Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws (1979)

I have a friend who has a sister who was a poet laureate and has become a somewhat well known author, who when hearing this album, back when I was college, said upon hearing the song “Creation Dream”, “this is some serious poetry.” I may not know a lot about serious poetry, but I do love imagery, metaphor and symbolism. This is one reason why I like the music of Bruce Cockburn so much. In the Genesis account, God solemnly speaks the world into existence. Is there room in our theology for a creation account filled with a holy liturgical song and dance?

Creation Dream
Centred on silence
Counting on nothing
I saw you standing on the sea
And everything was
Dark except for
Sparks the wind struck from your hair
Sparks that turned to
Wings around you
Angel voices mixed with seabird cries
Fields of motion
Surging outward
Questions that contain their own replies...

You were dancing
I saw you dancing
Throwing your arms toward the sky
Fingers opening
Like flares
Stars were shooting everywhere
Lines of power
Bursting outward
Along the channels of your song
Mercury waves flashed
Under your feet
Shots of silver in the shell-pink dawn...

In the song, “Hills of Morning,” Bruce paints an allegorical picture of Jesus that preaches the Gospel of Mark and John in one song. A world in crisis, filled with ordinary people, living ordinary lives encounter the playful, glittering joker.

Hills of Morning
Underneath the mask of the sulphur sky
A bunch of us were busy waiting,
Watching the people looking ill-at-ease,
Watching the fraying rope get closer to breaking

Women and men moved back and forth
In between effect and cause
And just beyond the range of normal sight
This glittering joker was dancing in the dragon's jaws

We discover that this joker, who turns the wisdom of this world on it’s head, is dancing with death. The chorus informs us that this joker is in fact the creator God, hovering over the deep, pronouncing “let there be light.” Whose breath brings life, who through Bruce, calls us to dance with him bringing light to this hanging-by-a-thread world:

Let me be a little of your breath
Moving over the face of the deep --
I want to be a particle of your light
Flowing over the hills of morning

I carry a wound within me. Cockburn sings about this wound in “Northern Lights.” I have been cut by the beauty of the Sierras and have seen the northern lights, and felt the love of God. He weaves these together in:

Northern Lights
Ahead where there should be the thickness of night
Stars are pinned on a shimmering curtain of light

Sky full of rippling cliffs and chasms
That shine like signs on the road to heaven...

I've been cut by the beauty of jagged mountains
And cut by the love that flows like a fountain from God.

So I carry these scars, precious and rare,
And tonight I feel like I'm made of air...

Bono has this scar too. He sings it in his Magnificat:

Magnificent (U2)
Only love
Only love can leave such a markBut only love
Only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die
You and I will magnify
Oh, the magnificent

Only love
Only love can leave such a mark
But only love
Only love unites our hearts

(BTW: I love the way the images of this video match the imagery of “Dancing in the Dragons jaws”-- a dancer lifting the shroud from a similar place where the people were waiting for the glittering joker.

Finally, I couldn’t write about this album without referencing Cockburn’s biggest hit of all time. It starts with another dream. The lions of this dream are not the good lions of Narnia, they are the bad lions of Rome. They are a fitting conclusion to Bruce’s trilogy of “Evangelical” albums, for between this album and the next, the lions come with a vengeance, and his world falls apart at the seams. Will the ecstasy of this song be enough to weather the storm?

Wondering Where the Lions Are
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me....

I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bruce Cockburn, spirituality of music, U..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 18:02
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "culture wars"
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 20:39
 Leonard Sweet:
There has been little interest in friendship in the history of Christendom. The move from philia to agape in the Christian tradition was so dramatic that philia was almost left behind. 'A book on friendship now means, quite often, a collection of little sayings, attractively illustrated, meant as a gift, and sold in a drugstore' is how Gilbert  Meilaender puts it. About the only forms of relationships that have received sustained theological reflection in Christian literature are the two missing from this book: the erotic dimensions of relationships and marriage. Page 11 of 11: Indispensable Relationships You Can't Be Without

Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book reviews, Leonard Sweet, self-disclo..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 19:44
Great catch from Pasha:

The Lord revealed some down right controversial things to Isaiah. So controversial in fact that it got him sawed in half. How about this excerpt from chapter 66.

And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem.... And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites," says the LORD.

Levites from other nations? How can that even be possible. Aren't they supposed to be from the tribe of Levi. It just goes to show how serious the Lord is about people from all nations worshiping him in his kingdom is.  link

Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "jewish, reading the Bible, temple tantru..."
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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 11:53

This paper expands on an idea mentioned by William Thompson in his study
Matthew’s Advice to a Divided Community, namely, that Matthew intended the temple
tax pericope (17:24-27) to be read with the second passion prediction (17:22-23) and so
to function as an interpretation of the death of Jesus. As such this pericope suggests that
Jesus’ death is a replacement for the temple tax and the sacrifices that it funded.
Thompson’s observations were brief and have not been incorporated into subsequent
scholarly discussion of this passage, but it is my contention that this is an extremely
fruitful approach and that there are several reasons for adopting it which go beyond those
noted by Thompson.
I present the following evidence. First, in the first century the temple tax was seen
as a “ransom for life” based on Exodus 30:11-16 and was thought to give its payer
representation in the sacrifices it funded. Second, various exegetical details, including the
parallel introductions of the second passion prediction and the temple tax pericope, and
the use of ἀ in 17:27, seem to point in this direction. Third, a similar pattern, also
noted by Thompson, can be discerned in Matthew’s two other passion predictions. Each
one is followed by a pericope that mentions ransom. The entire pattern climaxes in 20:28
where Jesus is said to give his live as a ransom for many. Finally, this approach also helps
explain the otherwise puzzling use of the phrase “the kings of the earth,” from Psalm 2:2,
in 17:26. I argue that this phrase refers to the chief priests of the Jerusalem Temple, thus
bringing the pericope into the thematic stream of Jesus’ impending death.

Full paper here
Author: "dave (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "chiasm/inclusio, death of Jesus, reading..."
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