There is something powerfully ironic about Leonard Cohen’s song, “Anthem.”
Anthems tend to be declarations of faith, of nationhood, of victory.
But Cohen’s anthem borders on lament.
Instead of evoking a memory of past glory that sanctions an optimistic hope,
the artist sings:
The birds they sang at the break of day
“Start again”, I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be
And instead of singing in confidence that the strength of the nation (or the church) will achieve a lasting peace, Cohen confesses:
Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free
Bought and sold and bought again.
The dove is never free.
Those deep hopes and longings for a shalom that fills all of life
are dashed on the realities of history,
the realities of the human penchant for violence.
The song proceeds to evoke a world of betrayal, of signs of widowhood, of the death of covenant.
The artist comes close to naming names when he sings of a lawless crowd,
with “killers in high places who say their prayers out loud.”
Wonder who they might be?
And in the last verse of the song, Cohen sums it all up
by saying that there is no summing of it all:
You can add up the parts, you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
There is no bringing of it all together.
There is no way to finally figure this all out.
And therefore, there is nothing to rally us,
nothing to animate us in a common direction.
Except … Leonard Cohen, his depressing image notwithstanding,
never leaves us without hope.
And so he brings the song to its conclusion with these words:
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee
Like refugees, displaced, dispossessed, exiled from home,
every heart will come.
Every heart will come home to love,
because it is only in love that we can ever come home.
But we come as refugees,
looking for asylum,
looking for safety,
looking for home.
That’s us, I think.
That’s the Wine Before Breakfast community gathered on Tuesday mornings,
and scattered literally around the world.
We are those refugees.
And what do we bring to our refuge?
What gifts do we bring?
What is our offering?
Well, here is Cohen’s refrain to this song:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
What can we bring?
We can ring those bells that still can ring,
recognizing that most of them are cracked and broken.
Yes we can bring who we are, what gifts we might be able to share,
but we can forget that “perfect offering.”
There is no such thing.
And maybe because we know the betrayal,
we know the disappointment,
we know the confusion,
we know that we are a bunch of empty-handed refugees;
maybe because we come to Wine Before Breakfast
knowing that there are cracks in everything,
cracks in everyone,
cracks that run through the very heart of things;
maybe that is why we get glimpses of the Light,
maybe that is why the Light gets in when we gather to pray.
So forget your perfect offering, dear friends.
But, bring your imperfect one.
I know that you do this every time we gather.
We bring the offering of ourselves, our gifts,
our cares and hurts, our joys and laughter;
we bring it all to the table when we gather.
And this week, you are invited to bring another kind of gift,
– as imperfect as any other –
the gifts of financial support for this campus ministry.
Yes, friends, this is our first Offering Tuesday.
Or maybe we should call it ‘Imperfect Offering Tuesday.’
This Tuesday, November 20, we will receive an offering from the community.
Loose cash is great, but so are cheques, or cash offerings in envelopes with your name on it for tax receipt purposes.
If you are writing a cheque, make it out to “Classis Toronto” and put “U of T” on the memo line.
Andrew Federle is breaking the bread.
Marcia Boniferro is preaching on Romans 7.
Jane Dykeman has crafted the prayers.
And Deb and Co. are mixing up some spirituals, Taize, classic hymns, a little Fiona Apple, and the aforementioned Mr. Cohen
Wine Before Breakfast
November 20 @ 7.22am
Wycliffe College Chapel