Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics Part 15: Big Circumstance

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?

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