Thursday, August 04, 2005

"40"

I got hooked up with an online music service last week, and I've been rediscovering a lot of old favorites that didn't quite manage to make the transition from cassette to CD with me. Steve Jobs has said that it doesn't make sense to rent music, but he obviously underestimates the number of albums I'd like to listen to now and then but wouldn't be willing to pay $10+ to own.

Among the old friends I've gotten reacquainted with is U2's War. I was a fan of U2 in the early 80's, but around the time The Joshua Tree came out I decided they were too commercial. But what I've discovered this week is that I didn't really appreciate then how spiritual some of their music was. (Imagine, a teenager overlooking spirituality!)

In particular, I'm currently enamoured with "40". It's a simple little song based on Psalm 40, but the real genius of the song is that it juxtaposes the praise of Psalm 40 with the "How long?" motif from Psalm 6. Here are the lyrics (I leave it as an exercise for the readers to look up the psalms):
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit,
out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long? How long? How long?
How long to sing this song?

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long? How long? How long?
How long to sing this song?
What I love about this song is the way it rehearses Psalm 40's confession of God's deliverance, but then throws in the longing, asking "When will I be able to make this confession my own? When will the Lord do this?"

I've said before that I think one of the great things lacking in Christianity, generally, today is this longing for God's action. We spend so much time trying to live an abundant life that we've forgotten how to wait for the Lord.

There's a Generous Orthodoxy conference in Seattle this November that's going to include a workshop on "U2 Theology". The description says:
Why do so many people follow U2 and Bono? Why do many young followers of Jesus think of them as the world’s best worship band? What are they saying with and through their music and why should we be paying attention to their theological tunes?
I've heard their general approach described as "deferred redemption". There's certainly something in that that resonates with me.

On one level, this is probably just a characteristic of my generation (i.e. Gen X self-loathing and longing for God are two sides of the same coin). On the other hand, I think this also ties in with things like Jurgen Moltmann's eschatalogical theology.

What do you think?

2 comments:

LutheranChik said...

Oh, that's one of my favorite U2 songs! Back in the days of cassettes, I rewound and replayed that so much that I warped the tape.

Re deferred redemption: See also "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" ("I believe in the kingdom come...but yet I'm still running...") And "A Sort of Homecoming" from The Unforgettable Fire.

It's really an echo of the prophets ("How long, o Lord!...") and of the early Church ("Even so, come, Lord Jesus.")

Beth said...

Just a heads-up that I will likely link this on the blog for the "Get Up Off Your Knees" book in the next week or so.