Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: U2 (page 1 of 3)

Bono on the Psalms

You may recall that last year Fuller Seminary in the US did an interview between Bono and Eugene Petersen. It was fascinating and got a lot of coverage in Christian circles.

This time Fuller have a series of short clips of Bono talking about the Psalms. His critique of Christian music is what much of the latter is not: honest and hard-hitting. Check it out here:

Bono & David Taylor: Beyond the Psalms – Fuller Studio

On the first year anniversary of FULLER studio, we reflect on our inaugural conversation on the Psalms between author Eugene Peterson and musician Bono. In celebration, we are pleased to offer five new, exclusive videos from an additional interview conducted subsequently in New York.

Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Bono and Eugene Peterson struck a friendship some years ago when the U2 singer messaged the author of The Message in thanks for the translation and the impact it had on Bono.

What followed was a connection between kindred spirits who both had a passion for the rawness and brutal honesty of the Psalms.

Last year Bono met with Peterson and his wife at their ranch in Montana and recorded a conversation about the impact the Psalms had had on each of them. The conversation was released to the public today. It’s a fascinating insight into the minds of two remarkable people…

 

Bono & Eugene Peterson on THE PSALMS – Fuller Studio

Special Thanks to David Taylor , Brehm Texas , and Fourth Line Films for their vision for this project. + Bono , Grammy award-winning artist and lead singer of U2. + Eugene Peterson , beloved author, pastor, and writer of The Message.

Crying for home

DSC02059Sometimes when I feel the pain of life, whether my own or that of others, I just long for the kingdom of God to become fully realised in this world. I recall the words of the U2 song, Peace on Earth: “Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this hanging around…sick of the sorrow, sick of the pain.”

I relate to that. I’m sick of the pain, I just want justice, peace and love to rule the world now.

This morning at church we remembered the passing of a much-loved member of our congregation. He died two years ago today. At the end of the service we sang a song he wrote before he died. The lyrics are as follows:

Continue reading

There is no them, only us…

“There is no them, there’s only us” – U2, Invisible

Some mornings I wake up with a song in my head. More often than not it’s a U2 song. Their music has had a profound influence on me for many, many years.

This morning, for some reason, their song, Invisible, was playing in my head. I was scrolling through my emails and thinking of Advent, the time of waiting for the birth of Christ, in a world that doesn’t like waiting. As a blog I read this morning said, Advent is deeply counter-cultural because it is about waiting.

It was then that the lyrics of Invisible invaded my mind. Towards the end of the song come the words, “there is no them…only us”. Continue reading

Peace in Hiroshima

“Strike a bell in Hiroshima park
You know that we can’t see in the dark
We try and we try and we try…”

– Midnight Oil, Hercules

Hiroshima_Peace_BellAs the world remembers the most terrible day in Japan’s history, and one of the most terrible days in our planet’s history, it is just unbelievable that the world is closer to nuclear armageddon today than during the Cold War. And the other problem is that no one is talking about it.

The attack on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 showed the world that, for the first time in human history, we knew we had the ability to destroy ourselves. Today that ability is closer than ever. In October 1962 we came incredibly close, but with relations today between Russia and the West as they are, the Doomsday Clock has been closer to midnight only once in its history.

The late Ross Langmead used to sing a song simply called Love One Another, in which the opening lines were,

Some trust in nations, some trust in war

But trust in my love

For I am the Lord

Stop all the fighting

Let the wars cease

For I am your God

The Fountain of Peace

During this solemn day, I am reminded of another song, Peace on Earth by U2, or John Mellencamp’s Now More Than Ever (“the world needs love”). Most of all though, I am reminded of the Prince of Peace, the source of love. As Ross Langmead goes on to sing in the above-mentioned song, the great hope of Christian faith is that war will one day be over forever, fighting will cease, and the kingdom of peace will reign forevermore.

May Hiroshima never happen again. The world must not forget. Life on this planet depends on it.

 

Apparently there’s a new album out

U2_360_at_Cowboys_StadiumLast Wednesday was a good day for me. In fact it was a Beautiful Day. You might even say it was Magnificent. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes, The Miracle has occurred. After years of speculation, the latest U2 album is finally here. And, just like that other miracle in Luke 9:10-17, so far, over 200 thousand iTunes users have downloaded and had their fill.

But can you ever get your fill of a U2 album? I have listened to this one a few times already and while I’m preferring some songs over others, those lesser ones are growing on me. You could say a U2 song is like pizza, chocolate or sex: when it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s bad it’s still pretty good!

After a few listens, this album has definitely been worth the wait. The first six songs have the potential to become classics, some of them even anthems. I can just picture them ringing out around massive stadiums around the world (although they would have to be pretty special to beat the sheer spine-tingling electricity of Where the Streets Have No Name being performed live).

On first listen, my initial thought about this album was that it is less Christian than previous ones. But what is Christian? Is it about how many overt biblical references you can count in the lyrics, or is it more about how faith is actually embedded in them? As Greg Clarke says in his eloquent and insightful review of this album, U2 are very good at naturalising their Christianity. It has been a natural part of who they are for so many years that it doesn’t necessarily have to be overt. It just comes out in the stories of life that exude out of these songs. Out of the heart the mouth speaks.

Songs of Innocence is an album that expresses the angst, insecurity and inspiration of youth. It is a tribute to the band’s early years, written with appropriate fondness and richness. The fondness includes tributes to the influences that made the band, and Bono in particular, what they are today. These are songs of influence on four young men, just ordinary guys, who were shaped by the many and complicated facets of faith, religion and politics of Northern Ireland.

When I review albums, I tend to focus on the lyrics to find a connection to relate to. That’s where it’s always been easy reviewing a U2 album. For millions of fans, the uniqueness of this great band lies in the depth of connection one feels, particularly with Bono. You sort of feel like you know him as he opens up about faith, hope, love, sex, fear, and the myriad other ecstasies and agonies of life. No wonder he lamented, back in 1989, the hero-worship that takes place when we turn admiration into obsession, in the brilliant Love Rescue Me, “many strangers have I met on the road to my regret; many lost who seek to find themselves in me. They ask me to reveal the very thoughts they would conceal. Love rescue me.”

Healthy connection though is what U2 have always been about – connection both with their audience and with the life-long search for reality in this roughly three-score-years-and-ten that we’re all supposed to get in our time on this planet.

It is more than the lyrics though that make up U2’s greatness. Their poetic eloquence are complemented by the passionate energy of the music itself, fuelled by a spiritual anger that arises out of the heart of these four Irishmen who have have seen their fair share of troubles in their homeland. The music and lyrics, combined with the yearning, passionate spiritual rage, make this band a consistent standout in a world of increasingly manufactured, bland and, quite frankly, often boring, pop.

For me, the standout songs are Every Breaking Wave (“Every shipwrecked soul knows what it is to live without intimacy” – spot on) and Iris (Hold Me Close), the latter a beautiful, heart-wrenching tribute to Bono’s mother who died so tragically when he was just 14. Written from the maturity and life experience of 40 years hence, it is a touching tribute to a woman who clearly had a major influence on his life, and someone whom he still misses dearly.

It is the ache of loss that comes through quite powerfully on this album. More than once, Bono refers to his own pain and grief that not even being a rock superstar can take away. Here are a few examples:

“The ache In my heart Is so much a part of who I am” – Iris (Hold Me Close)

“There’s no end to grief?That’s how I know?That’s how I know?And why I need to know that there is no end to love?All I know and all I need to know is there is no end to love”

California (There is No End to Love)

“A heart that is broken is a heart that is open” – Cedarwood Road

“We got language so we can’t communicate?Religion so I can love and hate?Music so I can exaggerate my pain, and give it a name”

– The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)

These examples are another attraction of U2, and of this album in particular. The raw honesty is the conduit that makes the connection between band and listener so strong and so intimate.

These songs of innocence are in fact songs of meaning. They are personal to the core; they are honest and they are vulnerable. They are typical, classic U2, in lyric, in sound and in impact on this fan of 30 years’ standing. It was worth the wait.

Hope on earth

Joseph and Mary at the wallDriving home tonight listening to the ABC’s Newsradio, I heard about more fighting in South Sudan. In a country that is only two years old, tens of thousands of people are fleeing for their lives to get away from the conflict.

As I listened, first I felt somewhat numb. More bad news is nothing new, but at Christmas time it just hit me a bit more than it would normally. As I listened to the radio report, I recalled an image that is being spread around on Facebook of Joseph and Mary, pregnant with the Christ child, traveling to Bethlehem, but being blocked by the dividing wall that separates Israelis from Palestinians in that strife-torn land.

We live in such a world of conflict, hatred and self-centredness. Although official statistics say that the amount of conflicts in the world has dropped in recent years, there are still millions of people displaced, starving and being forced to do things against their will. And most of it is because of man’s inhumanity to man. Continue reading

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas…

“…they said there’ll be peace on earth.” – Greg Lake

I’ve been thinking recently about writing a reflection on how Christmas, and the Christmas spirit, brings alot of peace and goodwill at this time of year. I was going to write about how people are generally nicer to each other and look out for each other a bit more in the weeks leading up to this time of year. John Smith said many years ago that if it wasn’t for Christmas, the violence and suffering in our society would be even greater.

That may have been true back then, but it doesn’t quite ring true after the unimaginable horror of Newtown, Connecticut. The truth about Christmas for most of us is that it is actually a time of great paradox. It is a time when emotions are heightened, both in a positive and negative sense. As Greg Lake sang in his profound I Believe in Father Christmas almost forty years ago, “they said there’ll be snow at Christmas, they said there’ll be peace on earth.” But there is no peace in Newtown this Christmas in the families of those grieving the loss of their innocent children; there is no peace in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, and we find no peace in the families of those for whom Christmas is a time when loneliness and poverty are heightened.

I went to a Christmas show at one of the largest churches in my home city of Melbourne last week. It was a wonderful production and I had a huge lump in my throat as they went through the story of the Nativity. But I also felt disappointed that the full story was not told. As usual in church circles, the story they told was a sanitised version. It actually wasn’t the real Christmas story. There was nothing of Herod wanting to kill all boys under two in his attempt to dispose of Jesus; Simeon’s talk to Joseph and Mary did not mention that a sword would also pierce their souls as it would Jesus’; and Mary’s revolutionary Magnificat was not even mentioned.

When we sanitise the Christmas story, we not only do not do it justice, we not only leave out part of the Gospel, but we also distance it that much more from the realities of our own lives. In other words, we bring across the impression that the Gospel of Jesus is not as relevant as it really is. The story they were telling last weekend did not contain as much good news as it would have had they told the whole story. The truth is much more powerful when told within the context in which it happens.

Christmas is not a nice story with fluffy animals and a little smiling baby Jesus who ‘no crying he makes.’ The Christmas story is scandalous. It is both uncomfortable and comforting at the same time. And for these reasons it is incredibly good news for all of creation. Like the rest of the Gospel, it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

This Christmas sees much tragedy in the world. That’s why we need to remember the birth of the world’s Saviour more than ever. As John Mellencamp sang in the ’90’s, “Now more than ever, the world needs love; not just a slogan, but the world needs love.”

The Christmas story, with its almost ‘too-good-to-be-believable’ hope, is just what the doctor ordered in a world in which our children are slaughtered in broad daylight, and in which selfishness so often rules the human heart. The Son of God was born into just such a world in the 1st century. The hope he brought then is just what the world needs now. Christmas is more relevant than ever in 2012. Come Lord Jesus. We need you.

And to the people of Newtown, and all others for whom this Christmas will not be as merry as you had hoped, may the truth of the Christmas story, the hope coming out of the horror, soothe your aching souls. Meditate on them as you take in also the words of Greg Lake again, this time sung by Bono (see below for the whole song):

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

A wave of sorrow in West Africa

One song that is very haunting that I listen every now and then is U2’s Wave of Sorrow. It is a song that didn’t make it on to The Joshua Tree album back in the late 80s. The song is about Bono’s experience of visiting Africa during the 1984 famine, and the desperate situation that he experienced.

The same is happening now in West Africa. Famine is decimating that part of the world, and the media needs to wake up to it before too many more lives are lost. Here is a strong article from Rich Stearns, President of World Vision US and author of The Hole in Our Gospel. Stearns urges the world’s media to report about this before thousands of lives are lost ad it becomes ‘newsworthy.’

Please do what you can to give to organisations like World Vision to provide relief for those who are starving as you read this (you can click on the banner to the right to go to the World Vision Australia website). I am sitting on a comfortable sofa bed at home with the heater on as I write this. We are so comfortable, and in many ways so far removed from suffering like this. It can so easily be a case of out of sight, out of mind. Giving some money might mean giving up a cup of coffee a day for a few weeks. It’s really not a lot to give up in our cosy world.

In the meantime, let yourself be moved by some of the words of Wave of Sorrow, then have a look at the clip below.

Oh, oh this cruel sun

it’s daylight never done

cruelty just begun

beneath the shadow of everyone

 

And if the rains came

and if the rains came now

would they wash us all away

on a wave of sorrow?

It’s sort of about you

A few years ago John Ortberg wrote a book called The Me I Want To Be. At first thought, the title sounds like another one of those ‘you need to believe that you’re number 1’ books that so many Christian authors trot out. But this is not about that at all. This book is about being the person God made you to be, and that is something we have a responsibility to do.

http://vimeo.com/10968973

The problem with heretical doctrine is that there is always a grain of truth in it. The fact is that God has made each one of us unique. As Psalm 139 says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But then we get the prosperity and success preachers coming out and saying that God wants you to be fabulously beautiful and wealthy because after all, you are you, and you deserve the best. Do you see the (not so) subtle twist on a biblical truth? We need to be very very careful that we don’t cross the line from biblical truth into something that ultimately destroys us. Sometimes that line is very thin.

The biblical truth is that there will not, never has been, and never will be, anyone else like you. You really are unique. Just look at your fingerprints. No one else who has ever lived or who will ever live has or will have the same fingerprints as you. This is just one of the wonderful and fascinating aspects of a God who gives us such inherent dignity that we cannot comprehend it.

God has given each of us gifts, and we have a responsibility to use them. Most of my life I have tried to be someone else because subconsciously (and even consciously at times) I have been frightened to show my true self for fear that people wouldn’t like what they saw. For instance, I used to try to walk and talk like my elder brother, and I still try to sing like my favourite singers and sometimes make my mannerisms like my favourite people. But that is not honouring to the God who gave me unique gifts to use for the bringing in of his kingdom. Don’t try to be someone else; it is not honouring God and it is not doing justice to the gifts God gave you to give to the world.

As a child of the ’80s in terms of much of my musical influence, I have recently been getting back into The Pretenders. One of their most beautiful ballads, Hymn to Her has as its opening line, “Let me inside you, into your room. I hear it’s lined with the things you don’t show.” Many people are so driven by fear that we don’t allow others to see the image of God in us, or we don’t want to show it to others. That’s why it’s so serious, tragic and evil when children are abused in any form. The innocence and wonder of a child is taken away and they hide in their shell, possibly for the rest of their lives, trying to protect themselves from more hurt. That’s why Jesus gave such a serious and solemn warning that whoever treats these little ones like this, it would be better for a millstone to be tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea.

In his inauguration speech in 1994, Nelson Mandela quoted Marianne Williamson in saying that,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When Jesus said to his followers, “you are the light of the world,” he said it in the sense that we are to live as the people God made us to be, so people could glorify God and see how good God is. The Scriptures are full of affirmations about our inherent worth and dignity. It is right and good to rest in that. It is also right and good though that we don’t stay in that place. That is why Jesus said “let your light shone before others, so that…“. God’s affirmations of us are always ‘so that’. We are saved to serve, created for “good works in Christ.”

In their song, Breathe, U2 sing “We are people born of sound, the songs are in our eyes. Gonna wear them like a crown.” Such words can be easily misunderstood. It’s a thin line between using our gifts for God and using them for our own glorification, for our own egos. Another common refrain throughout the Scriptures is simply ‘do not be afraid.’ Jesus said it often, and in saying it he echoes the many times God says it in the Old Testament. Let’s let our light so shine before others that they are drawn to God and the kingdom, and not our gifts for their own sake.

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