by Brian Walsh
[On Sunday, November 17, the Wine Before Breakfast community joined our friends at the Church of the Redeemer, Toronto, for a service featuring the music of Joni Mitchell. The texts for the evening were Psalm 98 and the beginning of the apocalyptic discourse in Luke 21.5-19. The Mitchell songs performed were "Woodstock", "River", "Shadows and Light", "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", "Passion Play (When all the Slaves are Free)", "Both Sides Now", "A Case of You", "The Circle Game", and "Big Yellow Taxi". While this sermon makes allusions to most of these songs, the primary point of reference is "Slouching Towards Bethlehem." When that song, based on William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming," is performed just before the reading of this apocalyptic gospel text, it isn't sure whether the song interprets the gospel, or the gospel interprets the song.]
When things fall apart,
when the centre does not hold,
there will always be a blood dimmed tide,
loosed upon the world.
When nothing is sacred,
and innocence is drowned in anarchy,
then the best will simply lack any conviction,
while the worse will be full of passion without mercy.
It is never pretty when things fall apart.
And there is no cheap celebration when the centre cannot hold.
Maybe things should fall apart.
Maybe it was all a house of cards.
Maybe it was all built on lies.
And maybe the centre could not hold,
because it was a false centre,
rooted in idolatry.
But when you come to the end of things,
it doesn’t really matter how justified
and how necessary that ending might be,
it will always be violent.
Joni Mitchell is a poet of endings.
And it is no wonder that she is drawn
to William Butler Yeats’ apocalyptic poem,
“The Second Coming.” Read the rest of this entry »