There are occasions when I am reading something or watching something, and I go, "Ah there is where Bono got that line or that idea.” Niall Stokes, in his book Into The Heart about all the U2 songs, points out Bono’s magpie technique in songwriting a few times at least. I am always joking, and I think almost certainly that I am joking, that Bono’s Spanish intro to Vertigo is because he was reading Dora The Explorer to his sons Elijah and John around that time. As I said I am joking but if…
Not only in songs but in interviews Bono is fond of quoting others. In his interview with Michka Assayas, Bono In Conversation, Bono quotes CS Lewis a few times in his argument as to why he believes Jesus to be the Son of God.
Today, as I was preparing for a sermon tomorrow on Psalm 126, I came across a line that I believe Bono has stolen too. It is from Eugene Peterson’s book Long Obedience In The Same Direction. Though that title is itself is a steal from Nietzsche Peterson’s book is a commentary on Psalms 120-134 which are known as the Psalms of Ascent. U2ophiles will see already a link with U2 right there. There is a record that U2 are said to have recorded but not yet released called Songs Of Ascent. I have always seen the direct link.
Today however there is another direct magpie lift. As I am reading about Psalm 126 I came cross the sentence, “Our lives are like that - drought-stricken - and then suddenly the long years of barren waiting are interrupted by God’s invasion of grace” Those last words… Interruptions of grace. Bono uses that phrase often, again particularly in the Assayas' book.
I have been using that phrase for some time, crediting it to my favourite Irish theologian! Indeed, I did a series of three sermons under that titles Interruptions of Grace in Birmingham Alabama during Lent 2014. Well, I need to correct myself and credit it now to Eugene Peterson.
Bono has been a fan of Peterson for many years. He has endorsed Peterson’s paraphrase of The Bible called The Message. Indeed, he quoted Psalm 116 from that very paraphrase during the introduction to Where The Streets Have No Name back on the Elevation Tour and as the Songs Of Innocence and Experience Tour has kicked off last month pages of The Message are falling as confetti or bomb debris after the song Raised By Wolves and just before Until The End of The World (see photo at the top of this blog).
Tomorrow in Fitzroy I will be quoting this line from Peterson as extensively used by Bono and also the words of Rick Warren when he read Scripture and prayed with the band after Tour Manager Dennis Sheehan sadly passed away during the recent LA gigs. Warren shared a phrase of his wife’s after they lost their son tragically - Choose Joy. That is exactly what this Psalm 126 is all about.
U2 and theology; always wrapped up together.