Back in November I was approached by the composer Rhiannon Randle to write some words for a piece on the theme of creation and the environment she had been commissioned to compose for St. Michael Cornhill. We both felt that the church needed prayerfully to address the crisis of climate change and to express those concerns in her liturgy. The lectionary readings for the occasion seemed strikingly prescient and appropriate: God’s call to us through Isaiah: ‘Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!’ and Jesus’ words to the disciples in Gethsemane ‘Keep awake and Pray’. Together they seemed to me to form a wake-up call! What emerged as I began writing, was a long cry of the earth, an appeal from nature herself, which Rhiannon could set into song.
I wrote ‘Our Burning World’ before the recent devastating Australian fires, but, as you can imagine, these lines came back to me as those fires burned.
Now Rhiannon has completed the piece and it is to have its premiere at St. Michael Cornhill on Monday 17th February in an evensong service at 6pm. I am very much looking forward to hearing this piece – Rhiannon is a brilliant young composer. Do come and join us there if you can.
Here, meanwhile, are the words for ‘Our Burning World’, and below them the two readings which will accompany the anthem when it is sung.I hope that in a later post I can share a recording of Monday’s premiere:
Our Burning World
Our burning world is turning in despair,
I hear her seething, sighing through the air:
‘Oh rouse yourself, this is your wake up call
For your pollution forms my funeral pall
My last ice lapses, slips into the sea,
Will you unfreeze your tears and weep from me?
Or are you sleeping still, taking your rest?
The hour has come, that puts you to the test,
Wake up to change at last, and change for good,
Repent, return, re-plant the sacred wood.
You are my children, I too am God’s child,
And we have both together been defiled,
But God hangs with us, on the hallowed tree
That we might both be rescued, both be free.’
Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!
Stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord
the cup of his wrath,
who have drunk to the dregs
the bowl of staggering.
There is no one to guide her
among all the children she has borne;
there is no one to take her by the hand
among all the children she has brought up.
These two things have befallen you
—who will grieve with you?—
devastation and destruction, famine and sword—
who will comfort you?[c]
Your children have fainted,
they lie at the head of every street
like an antelope in a net;
they are full of the wrath of the Lord,
the rebuke of your God.
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[h] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[i] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”