by Brian Walsh
It seems to me that the environmental crisis is, at heart, a failure and a perversion of the human imagination. Our imaginations have been taken captive by an ecocidal ideology of economic growth that invariably will render us homeless in a world not fit for habitation. If imagination is the issue, then a redirection of our lives towards creation care will not emerge out of statistics of ecological despoliation, as important as those statistics might be. What we need is liberated imaginations, imaginations set free to envision an alternative life, an ecological imagination that engenders a life of restorative homemaking in this our creational home.
And so, when asked to give a chapel talk at World Vision Canada on the environmental crisis I turned to the music and poetry of Bruce Cockburn. Over a career spanning 40 years with 30 albums to his credit, Cockburn has been dedicated to the hard work of imagination, the weaving of word and music in such a way that we see anew, feel more deeply and are animated by the joy of a creation-caring life. At World Vision I was assisted in my presentation by the fine Toronto folk-jazz ensemble, Hobson’s Choice.
Then a few weeks later I went to Christ Church (Anglican) in Burritt’s Rapids, Ontario to preach at a Cockburn influenced Eucharist. At Christ Church the music was wonderfully led by the Cameron Strings. The significance of Burritt’s Rapids wouldn’t be lost on any fans of the early works of Bruce Cockburn since many of those pieces were composed when Cockburn lived in that town.
The sermon “Creation Dreams and Ecological Nightmares” is rooted in a series of counterpointal readings from Scripture coupled with a number of Cockburn songs.
The first set of readings places Genesis one in tension with a number of prophetic texts. Read these texts in this order and see what happens:
Gen 1.1-4 ……………….. Jer. 4.23
Gen. 1.9-12 ……………. Is. 24.4-6, 11, 19
Gen 1.20-22 …………… Hos. 4.1-3
Gen 1.24-25 ……………. Jer. 9.10
Gen. 1.26-28, 30-31 ….. Jer. 4.23-26
Then add in John 1.1-5 as the Gospel and Colossians 1.21-23 as the Epistle.
Now stir it all with the music of Bruce Cockburn. Begin with “One Day I Walk”, play “Creation Dream” just before reading the sermon, and finish it all off with “Lord of the Starfields” and “All the Diamonds.” You might also want to top it all off with “In the Falling Dark,” and “Night Train.”
Here’s the full-text sermon.