by Brian Walsh
Every week during the school year I write an email inviting folks to come to
worship with us at Wine Before Breakfast. While most readers of these blogs
have no way of joining us in Toronto on Tuesday mornings, once in a while I
will share that invitation with the broader Empire Remixed community if it
seems that what I have written may be of benefit to those who read these
blogs. Here is the piece for this week.
On Wednesday afternoon a group of around thirty five people were treated to a “house concert” and conversation with the incomparable Martyn Joseph in my office. This was a moving time for all involved, including Martyn. In fact, when we all joined in on the chorus of one of Martyn’s new songs it was the artist who was as blown away as the audience. He asked us to sing. So we did. But we gave Martyn not just the tune back. We offered him some wonderful harmonies improvised on the spot. Pretty amazing.
Another poignant moment was when Martyn responded to a request and played “Whoever it was that brought me here, will have to take me home.” About a verse into the song, however, the artist forgot the words. So longtime Wine Before Breakfast bandhood member, Dave Krause (who was doing sound that day), prompted Martyn, feeding him his own lines. An embarrassing moment of performance? No a lovely moment of community.
As most of you know, I think a lot about home. The day before Martyn’s house concert a small group of us came together to pray for this ministry. I’ve written about one wonderful vignette from that time of prayer in my last blog [link], and you can check that out for a moment of encouragement. But one of the prayers that morning used the language of home and family. This was a prayer of thanksgiving that Wine Before Breakfast and Graduate Christian Fellowship have been communities of homecoming for many people.
Home … hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one
Home … I can‘t say where it is but I know that I’m going
Home … that’s where the hurt is
So wrote a band from Ireland that will be playing Toronto next week. A longing for home that is ineluctable. Maybe I’ve never had a home, and maybe I don’t know where home is, but I know that’s where I’m going. But notice that this is no sentimental Hallmark “home sweet home” ideology. Home … that’s where the hurt is. That’s where the hurt is the deepest, and yet that is the only place where the hurt can be redemptively healed.
Martyn’s song offers us a picture of deep homelessness in three sparse verses. In the third verse he gives voice to that same deep longing for home that we meet in U2:
Now the clowns and clairvoyants are aiming at true
In the babble, the rabble, I’m still headed for you
Those masters of war never did go away
And the bleak sky is burdened but I’ll pray anyway
And though irony’s drained me, I’ll now try sincere
But whoever it was that brought me here
Will have to take me home
Okay, I’ll admit it. Even though I am writing this piece on the edge of a pasture at Russet House Farm, [link] where I am very deeply at home, my eyes still well up with tears as Martyn sings these lines. Even though the only babble and rabble that I can hear at this moment is the crowing of roosters and the call of Blue Jays, I can still hear the babble and rabble of a lost culture ringing in my ears. And while the only time I hear gunfire at the farm is during hunting season, I also know that Bob Dylan’s masters of war are still offering up millions of people as sacrifices before their insatiable gods.
The “bleak sky is burdened but I’ll pray anyway.” Or as Cohen would put it, “even though it all went wrong/I’ll stand before the Lord of song/with nothing on my tongue/but Hallelujah.” Or maybe Emmylou has it right. “We cry alleluia.”
I’ll pray anyway. And if I allow the priestly music of Martyn Joseph to guide my prayers, then I’ll say to the Lord of song, “whoever it was that brought me here/will have to take me home.”
Friends, Wine Before Breakfast is a community for such prayers. In the midst of the babble and rabble of our lives – on the streets, in the classroom, in our hearts – we are invited to come and listen to a Word that is aiming at true because it bears witness to the one who is the way, the truth and the life. The one who enfleshed truth. We are a community that can do irony with the best of them, but we long for something deeper.
This year we return to Paul’s letter to the Romans, and believe it or not, this letter is about the kind of homecoming that Martyn and Bono and Leonard and Joni and Ani and Emmylou sing about. These folks will join the community at various times throughout the year. But it is Paul who will point us in the direction of home. We’ll let the letter to the Romans help us to come to a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “Come unto me all you who labour and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” The rest of home. The rest of being held in love.
So come to Wine Before Breakfast at 7.22 on Tuesday mornings in the chapel of Wycliffe College. But don’t come alone. Who else is singing deep in their hearts, “whoever it was that brought me here, will have to take me home”? Bring your friends along. Maybe they will find home.
Wine Before Breakfast, Tuesday, September 15 @ 7.22am
Wycliffe College Chapel
Breakfast to follow in the chaplain’s office.
This week Andrew Federle will be presiding, Rob Crosby-Shearer kicks off a new year of the bandhood of all believers, I’ll be preaching, we’ll all be praying and singing, and we’ll all be headed for home.