Radio 4 recently had a Sunday service called ‘Love Took My Hand’ about the poetry of George Herbert, which took me back to an album – I Shall Be Made Thy Musique – which I made with musician Penelope Cave, and released in 1992. Penelope played harpsichord and virginals.
This album included poetry by George Herbert, John Donne and Henry Vaughan, and was a little out of my normal style! But my affection for these poets, with their interesting spirituality, was something I had wanted to record for some time. Penny was the key as she played the right instruments to go with these poems.
The Radio 4 service came from the Chapel of St John’s College Cambridge. Dean of the Chapel is Mark Oakley – a lover of poetry himself, and he has written a book “The Splash of Words” with the subtitle, “Believing in Poetry.”
The style of my album was a little different from the style of the choir of St John’s College! But it reminded me of this project that I had done with Penny – you can hear the song Love Bade Me Welcome here – this is perhaps a more folky working of the poems, but hopefully treating them with the respect they deserve.
O God, from the heart of Bethlehem
From the heart of occupied land
You have sent a message
To shake the world
Thank you for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
That gives so many clues as to your character
In the birth of this child we discover a spirituality
Of hope, peace, justice
Thank you that a child born in simplicity
Amongst a poor community
Speaks of the values of the way of peace
Thank you that you are a God of the poor
Those for whom there is no room
And that’s why this is a way of life and a theology
That gives such hope
Because no one is forgotten
May we hear the call
And live out the lifestyle
That helps to build a community
That reflects this alternative way
Of a loving God
A community of justice
That asserts simplicity
And the worth of every human being
Thank you that you are a humble, generous God
Who stopped to show us the way of love
O God, just and loving,
May we find a way to speak up
for those who are being brutalised,
ignored or forgotten.
May we be those who speak up for refugees,
May we be those who speak up for the oppressed in Palestine
May we bring support where we can and may we never be silent.
Love is never silent and justice is never silent –
May we find ways to speak up
Especially when our sisters and brothers are asking for our solidarity –
with our voices telling the story.
May we echo the Palestinian Christian “Cry for hope”
And stand against injustice and apartheid –
And stand against the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
May we show the love and justice of Jesus
And find ways for our voices to tell the story.
And may the God who dances in creation
Who embraces us with human love
Who shakes our lives like thunder
Bless us and drive us out with power
To fill the world with her justice.
The final paragraph is a blessing from St Hilda’s Community
The original version of Strange Weapons, which includes the verse about the demonstration in South Africa with Desmond Tutu, and then goes to the story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday
In the sadness of the news from Myanmar the solitary witness of a nun in prayer was a very powerful moment. Seeing this action from Sister Ann (18 Feb 2021) reminded me of something I was trying to say in the song ‘Strange Weapons’. The first verse of Strange Weapons was about a demonstration in Cape Town during apartheid days. The procession as led by faith community leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Strangely I had been adding a verse to this song on the power of prayer and the first part of this verse very much reflect the example of Sister Ann.
Prayer is an act of defiance
Won’t accept the way things are
Prayer is an act of protest
Won’t accept the way things are Read more…
O God as we enter Lent
May we remember we are walking with you on a journey towards Holy Week –
May we pause and pray and meet with you.
Your teaching has been about the kingdom or community of God,
A way of life and a community that goes up against the empires of domination –
As relevant now as it ever has been.
The empires of greed favouring the rich and
Instead of your way reflecting justice for all.
As you head to Jerusalem you are witness to this
on Palm Sunday
As you ride in with non-violence,
From one side of Jerusalem gentle and riding on a donkey –
From the other side the army of empire, injustice, greed and oppression.
As you turn the tables of oppression,
So the empire wants you killed
The powers who rule, crucify you: the sinfulness of the world kills you.
But on Easter Sunday God affirms you
And all you have done –
It is a rising again –
God’s community of love continues forever.
May we be in the community of love –
The community that is never silent
And so a community of the Gospel bringing justice and hope to all.
It witnesses to the wounded God –
It whispers of the generous God of love
We walk with the activists on the way
And we are encouraged to become communities
That are just and loving –
Communities that make a difference
Communities that reflect the light of the Gospel –
Do justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Deep in the heart of the infinite darkness
A tiny blue marble is spinnin’ thru space
Born in the splendour of God’s holy vision
And sliding away like a tear down his face
Closer you see the whole wide holy wonder
Of oceans and mountains and rivers and trees
And the strangest creation of many, the human
A creature of laughter and freedom and dreams
Now the warriors are wavin’ their old rusty sabres
Preachers are preachin’ a gospel of hate
By their behavior determined to teach us
A lesson we’re soon to be learnin’ too late
Look closer my brother, we’re killin’ each other
We better stop and get started today
Because life is the question and life is the answer
And God is the reason and love is the way
Words and music Kris Kristofferson
Resaca Music Publishing