Bird on a Wire: The Love Songs of Leonard Cohen

Episode 23 – February 12, 2019

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A live recording of “Bird on the Wire: The Love Songs of Leonard Cohen”, from February 10, 2019 at Ravenshoe United Church in Georgina, Ontario

THE SONGS:

Tower of Song
Suzanne
Bird on the Wire
Famous Blue Raincoat
Hallelujah
If it Be Your Will
Come Healing
Show Me the Place
Anthem
Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye

Band Members:
Jessica Deutsch – violin, backing vocals
Drew Winters – keys
Naoko Tsujita – percussion
Bri-anne Swan – vocals and guitar

Readers:
Marilyn Butcher
Wayne Butcher
Kathy Anderson
Betty Ridge

Featured Image by Dimitra Marioras Photography.

Order of Service

Ravenshoe United Church

Opening

Tower of Song
Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song
I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song
[BRIDGE]
I see you standing on the other side
I don’t know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We’ll never have to lose it again
I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here
In the Tower of Song
So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don’t let a woman kill you
Not in the Tower of Song
[BRIDGE]
Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices
In the Tower of Song
Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly
From a window in the Tower of Song

Welcome/Announcements – Rev. Calin Lau
Lighting of the Christ Candle

i. a sensual love
The Perspective of Mary Magdalene
“His Mouth Was Like the Heart of a Pomegranate”

read by Kathy Anderson

His mouth was like the heart of a pomegranate, and the shadows in His eyes were deep.
And He was gentle, like a man mindful of his own strength.
In my dreams I beheld the kings of the earth standing in awe in His presence.
I would speak of His face, but how shall I?
It was like night without darkness, and like day without the noise of day.
It was a sad face, and it was a joyous face.
And well I remember how once He raised His hand towards the sky, and His parted fingers were like the branches of an elm.
And I remember Him pacing the evening. He was not walking. He Himself was a road above the road; even as a cloud above the earth that would descend to refresh the earth.
But when I stood before Him and spoke to him, He was a man, and His face was powerful to behold. And He said to me, “What would you, Miriam?”
I would not answer Him, but my wings enfolded my secret, and I was made warm.
And because I could bear His light no more, I turned and walked away, but not in shame. I was only shy, and I would be alone, with His fingers upon the strings of my heart.

Suzanne
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his
mind.
Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her
mind.

ii. a compassionate love

The Perspective of Matthew
“On Jesus by the Prison Wall”
read by Wayne Butcher

UPON AN EVENING Jesus passed by a prison that was in the Tower of David. And we were walking after Him.
Of a sudden He tarried and laid His cheek against the stones of the prison wall. And thus He spoke:
“Brothers of my ancient day, my heart beats with your hearts behind the bars. Would that you could be free in my freedom and walk with me and my comrades.
“You are confined, but not alone. Many are the prisoners who walk the open streets. Their wings are not shorn, but like the peacock they flutter yet cannot fly.
“Brothers of my second day, I shall soon visit you in your cells and yield my shoulder to your burden. For the innocent and the guilty are not parted, and like the two bones of the forearm they shall never be cleaved.
“Brothers of this day, which is my day, you swam against the current of their reasoning and you were caught. They say I too shall swim against that current. Perhaps I shall soon be with you, a law-breaker among the law-breakers.
“Brothers of a day not yet come, these walls shall fall down, and out of the stones other shapes shall be fashioned by Him whose mallet is light, and whose chisel is the wind, and you shall stand free in the freedom of my new day.”
Thus spoke Jesus and He walked on, and His hand was upon the prison wall until He passed by the Tower of David.

Bird on the Wire

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for
thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just
let it go by.
If I, if I have been
untrue
I hope you know it
was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

iii. a love imbued with remorse

The Perspective of a Man Outside of Jerusalem

“On Judas”
read by Wayne Butcher

JUDAS CAME TO my house that Friday, upon the eve of the passover; and he knocked at my door with force.
When he entered I looked at him, and his face was ashen. His hands trembled like dry twigs in the wind, and his clothes were as wet as if he had stepped out from a river; for on that evening there were great tempests.
He looked at me, and the sockets of his eyes were like dark caves and his eyes were blood-sodden.
And he said, “I have delivered Jesus of Nazareth to His enemies and to my enemies.”
Then Judas wrung his hands and he said, “Jesus declared that He would overcome all His foes and the foes of our people. And I believed and I followed Him.
“When first He called us to Him He promised us a kingdom mighty and vast, and in our faith we sought His favor that we might have honorable stations in His court.
“We beheld ourselves princes dealing with these Romans as they have dealt with us. And Jesus said much about His kingdom, and I thought He had chosen me a captain of His chariots, and a chief man of his warriors. And I followed His footsteps willingly.
“But I found it was not a kingdom that Jesus sought, nor was it from the Romans He would have had us free. His kingdom was but the kingdom of the heart. I heard Him talk of love and charity and forgiveness, and the wayside women listened gladly, but my heart grew bitter and I was hardened.
“My promised king of Judea seemed suddenly to have turned flute-player, to soothe the mind of wanderers and vagabonds.
“I had loved Him as others of my tribe had loved Him. I had beheld Him a hope and a deliverance from the yoke of the aliens. But when He would not utter a word or move a hand to free us from that yoke, and when He would even have rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, then despair filled me and my hopes died. And I said, ‘He who murders my hopes shall be murdered, for my hopes and expectations are more precious than the life of any man’.”
Then Judas gnashed his teeth; and he bent down his head. And when he spoke again, he said, “I have delivered Him up. And He was crucified this day. . . . Yet when He died upon the cross, He died a king. He died in the tempest as deliverers die, like vast men who live beyond the shroud and the stone.
“And all the while He was dying, He was gracious, and He was kindly; and His heart was full of pity. He felt pity even for me who had delivered Him up.”
And I said, “Judas, you have committed a grave wrong.”
And Judas answered, “But He died a king. Why did He not live a king?”
And I said again, “You have committed a grave crime.”
And he sat down there, upon that bench, and he was as still as a stone.
But I walked to and fro in the room, and once more I said, “You have committed a great sin.”
But Judas said not a word. He remained as silent as the earth.
And after a while he stood up and faced me and he seemed taller, and when he spoke his voice was like the sound of a cracked vessel; and he said, “Sin was not in my heart. This very night I shall seek His kingdom, and I shall stand in His presence and beg His forgiveness.
“He died a king, and I shall die a felon. But in my heart I know He will forgive me.”
After saying these words he folded his wet cloak around him and he said, “It was good that I came to you this night even though I have brought you trouble. Will you also forgive me?
“Say to your sons and to your sons’ sons: ‘Judas Iscariot delivered Jesus of Nazareth to His enemies because he believed Jesus was an enemy to His own race.’
“And say also that Judas upon the selfsame day of his great error followed the King to the steps of His throne to deliver up his own soul and to be judged.
“I shall tell Him that my blood also was impatient for the sod, and my crippled spirit would be free.”
Then Judas leaned his head back against the wall and he cried out, “O God whose dreaded name no man shall utter ere his lips are touched by the fingers of death, why did you burn me with a fire that had no light?
“Why did you give the Galilean a passion for a land unknown and burden me with desire that would not escape kin or hearth? And who is this man Judas, whose hands are dipped in blood?
“Lend me a hand to cast him off, an old garment and a tattered harness.
“Help me to do this tonight.
“And let me stand again outside of these walls.
“I am weary of this wingless liberty. I would a larger dungeon.
“I would flow a stream of tears to the bitter sea. I would be a man of your mercy rather than one knocking at the gate of his own heart.”
Thus Judas spoke, and thereupon he opened the door and went out again into the tempest.
Three days afterwards I visited Jerusalem and heard of all that had come to pass. And I also heard that Judas had flung himself from the summit of the High Rock.
I have pondered long since that day, and I understand Judas. He fulfilled his little life, which hovered like a mist on this land and enslaved by the Romans, while the great prophet was ascending the heights.
One man longed for a kingdom in which he was to be a prince.
Another man desired a kingdom in which all men shall be princes.

Famous Blue Raincoat
It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.
Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?
Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You’d been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene
And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody’s wife.
Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane’s awake —
She sends her regards.
And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I’m glad you stood in my way.
If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.
Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.
And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear —
Sincerely, L. Cohen

Invitation to Offering – Bri-anne Swan

Offering Song: Hallelujah
Offering Prayer – Bri-anne Swan

iv. an aching love
The Perspective of One of the Marys
“On His Sadness and His Smile”
read by Marilyn Butcher

If it Be Your Will
If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well
And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
If it be your will.

Prayers of the People – Jason Meyers

Come Healing
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb
Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace
O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart
O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above
O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name
O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood
And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb
O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

v. love for the neighbour
(and we are all neighbours)

The Perspective of Peter
“On the Neighbour”
read by Betty Ridge

Once in Capernum my Lord and Master spoke thus:
“Your neighbor is your other self dwelling behind a wall. In understanding, all walls shall fall down.
“Who knows but that your neighbor is your better self wearing another body? See that you love him as you would love yourself.
“He too is a manifestation of the Most High, whom you do not know.
“Your neighbor is a field where the springs of your hope walk in their green garments, and where the winters of your desire dream of snowy heights.
Yuor neighbor is a mirror wherein you shall behold your countenance made beautiful by a joy which you yourself fif not know, and by a sorrow you yourself did not share.
“I would have you love your neighbor even as I have loved you.”
Then I asked Him saying, “How can I love a neighbor who loves me not, and who covets my property? One who would steal my possessions?”
And He answered, “When you are ploughing and your manservant is sowing the seed behind you, would you stop and look backward and put to flight a sparrow feeding upon a few of your seeds? Should you do this, you were not worthy of the riches of your harvest.”
When Jesus had said this, I was ashamed and I was silent. But I was not in fear, for He smiled upon me.

Show me the Place
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place where my head is bendin’ low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began
The troubles came I saved what I could save
A thread of light, a particle, a wave
But there were chains, so I hastened to behave
There were chains, so I loved you like a slave
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place where my head is bendin’ low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
The troubles came I saved what I could save
A thread of light, a particle, a wave
But there were chains, so I hastened to behave
There were chains, so I loved you like a slave
Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

vi. a love worth living for
The Perspective of Joanna, the Wife of Herod’s Servant

“On Children”
read by Marilyn Butcher

Jesus was never married but He was a friend of women, and He knew them as they would be known in sweet comradeship.
And He loved children as they would be loved in faith and understanding.
In the light of His eyes there was a father and a brother and a son.
He would hold a child upon His knees and say, “Of such is your might and your freedom; and of such is the kingdom of the spirit.”
They say that Jesus heeded not the law of Moses, and that He was over-forgiving to the prostitutes of Jerusalem and the country side.
I myself at that time was deemed a prostitute, for I loved a man who was not my husband, and he was a Sadducee.
And on a day the Sadducees came upon me in my house when my lover was with me, and they seized me and held me, and my lover walked away and left me.
Then they led me to the market-place where Jesus was teaching.
it was their desire to hold me up before Him as a test and a trap for Him.
But Jesus judged me not. He laid shame upon those who would have had me shamed, and He reproached them.
And He bade me go my way.
And after that all the tastesless fruit of life turned sweet to my mouth, and the scentless blossoms breathed fragrance into my nostrils. I became a woman without a tainted memory, and I was free, and my head was no longer bowed down.

Anthem
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.
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.
[CHORUS]
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned
up a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.
[CHORUS]
You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.
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.
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.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

Commissioning & Benediction – Bri-anne Swan
Postlude

Hey, That’s no Way to Say Goodbye
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but now it’s come to distances and both of us must try,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

I’m not looking for another as I wander in my time,
walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
you know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
it’s just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,
but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.



The Living Presence Ministry is a community ministry of the United Church of Canada

 

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