August 7, 2020

Music For Lent

Lent 2012: A Journey through the Wilderness Music for lent As we journey through this Lenten season, we need some company for the road. I’d like to recommend some books and a movie or two. But this morning we’ll look at an album to keep us company in this time in the wilderness. First of all, I am not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I don’t have any problem with him, and his Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago was head and shoulders above Madonna’s, but I don’t get all that excited about his new releases. Give me Darkness on the Edge of Town, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., and Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band: Live In Dublin, and I’d probably be happy. The fact that I have 120 songs by the Boss (nine and a half hours’ worth) in my iTunes playlist doesn’t necessarily mean I love the guy now, does it? And yes, I know he has the reputation of being a workingman’s rock star, but I kind of doubt he takes out his own trash. Know what I mean? So when I heard of his new release, Wrecking Ball, I didn’t exactly camp in front of the Target I work at to get the first copy. Yet something (or rather, Someone) was stirring in me to get this album. I did. And that’s when I realized I may have stumbled across the best—or rather, most—Christian album of all time. No, Springsteen is not going to be appearing at WinterJam anytime soon. He won’t be putting out a duet with whoever the hot new female CCM singer is, nor should you expect a worship album by the E Street Band anytime soon. The Boss won’t be doing Sunday mornings at your local megachurch or making a guest appearance on TBN. (And I, for one, am very thankful for that!) Still, Wrecking Ball is, in my opinion, the perfect album for Lent. Musically, this offering is not as muscular as some of his other works. It is not bad by any means. Maybe it’s just that the Boss is 62. Maybe it’s that he does most of the musical lifting-and-toting on his own, not relying on the E Street so much. It is still better than 95% of the stuff being passed off as music right now. Just don’t expect “Rosalita” or “Jungleland” here. Lyrically, well, this album will preach, and just in time for Lent. The songs are about hard times, struggles, sins and failures. Yet it ends with hope and resurrection. Springsteen starts out by singing,

I been knocking on the door/that holds the throne/I been looking for the map/that leads me home (“We Take Care Of Our Own”)

In that same opening number he cries out,

Where’re the eyes, the eyes with the will to see Where’re the hearts that run over with mercy Where’s the love that has not forsaken me Where’s the work that’ll set my hands, my soul, free Where’s the Spirit that will reign over me

In that first song, Springsteen captures what has been crying forth from my heart over these last few weeks, maybe months. Where art thou, O Lord?Where is meaningful employment that will pay the bills? And where is love that won’t forsake me? I have seen myself as a failure in so many ways lately. Now I found someone to give voice to these feelings. He works through songs of doing menial labor to make ends meet, being cheated by “fat cats,” and having big industry leave his town in rags. He hits bottom with the song, “This Depression,” when he sings,

Baby I’ve been down, but never this down/I’ve been lost, but never this lost

It could be the song of Good Friday. Even if he is not suffering himself, Springsteen understands those who are. He begins to crack the light of hope in “Rocky Ground:”

Forty days and nights Of rain washed this land Jesus said the money changers In this temple will not stand Find your flock Get them to higher ground The floodwater’s rising We’re Canaan bound

That leads into the song this album is built around, “Land Of Hope And Dreams.” Yes, Bruce and the band have been doing this song in concert for at least a dozen years, and you can find a live copy of it on The Essential Bruce Springsteen. But this is the first time it has been included on a studio album. Often times in song the Gospel is referred to as a train, and Springsteen makes good use of that word picture in these lyrics.

This train carries saint and sinners This train carries losers and winners This train carries whores and gamblers This train carries lost souls I said this train carries broken hearted This train …thieves and sweet souls departed This train carries fools and kings This train–all aboard

If that is not the Gospel plain and simple, I don’t know what is. That’s a train I will gladly board. Wrecking Ball ends with what at first seemed out-of-place on this album. It is a song about those who have died—one in 1877, one in 1963, one last year, and the lyricist himself—who rise to life again at night. There are pictures of worms crawling over him and of his fingers scratching at the dirt. But in the end, his dead soul lives. (Yes, I know, it is not perfect theology. It doesn’t need to be in order to still point to the Resurrected One.)  It is a song of resurrection. The story is complete. Wrecking Ballstarts with the despair of life out of control, goes into the depressing sorrow of the Cross, and ends in the triumph of the Resurrection. What better album could we take with us on our Lenten wilderness journey? Here is the last stanza from the final song, “We Are Alive.”

We are alive And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark Our souls and spirits rise To carry the fire and light the spark To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart We are alive

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWOZotnFhLA’]

Comments

  1. Wow, great review, Jeff! Tom and I are Springsteen fans and I will be sure to get this album too. Thanks!

    • Leslie Jebaraj says

      Hi JoanieD, long time!

      I am too. I’m placing an online order in two minutes!

  2. Awesome!!

  3. Big fan of the 70’s Springsteen, and some of the more earthy later stuff (Nebraska, Tom Joad, etc.). Appreciate the review and the video…Hey, if Bruce had spiky blond highlights, a goatee, a deep v-neck, skinny jeans, and a voice like a girl, he could totally be a worship leader!

  4. The Boss reminds me of one of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde. If you read Wilde’s more serious works, especially his children’s stories and “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” there are wonderful spiritual messages in them about sin and redemption, grace and forgiveness. I’m convinced that God pursued that man all his life, and I think God is pursuing Bruce as well. This album is probably going into my collection, too.

  5. wow that is so incredible to hear! It’s amazing to see how God works in even the most famous and influential figures in America’s corrupt culture. Radical change and revival is indeed coming to this nation and world very soon!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Ease off on the Christianese buzzwords, RC. It cuts into your credibility outside of the Christian bubble.

      • Possibly throwing more Christianese buzzwords on the bonfire here, but if anyone ever wanted to know Which Church Father Are You? then there you go!

        Apparently I’m St. Melito of Sardus. I know, I went “Who?” as well. What – I don’t get one of the ones into self-mutilation or slapping the face off their opponents at church councils? What kind of irenic, milk-and-water, pacificistic, compromising wuss am I? This kind, it would seem:

        “You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.”

        • Miss Martha, I was St. Justin Martyr…My love of liturgy did it, I’m sure.

          Mike Aquilina is actually a good resource for us who are novices, in terms of church history and Catholicism.

    • Dude! Something like 30 years ago I heard an evangelist proclaim: “In a year you won’t be able to tell this is the same town, because REVIVAL has come. A year later the only thing you couldn’t tell was that the evangelist had ever come to town.

      Needless to say I quit believing such proclamations YEARS ago.

      (and I’ll second HUG’s comments about Christianese. for the most part it has lost it’s impact even within the bubble)

      • (note to self – be careful about cutting & pasting from the word processor)

      • Evangelists have been saying that for over 2,000 years, just because most of them were wrong, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Most evangelists just say that everywhere they go without hearing from God and getting numerous confirmations.

        Not really sure what Christianize buzzwords I used?

        • At this point all I gotta say is: I’ll believe it when I see it.

          And buzzwords?

          “so incredible to hear!” (Happy Clappy Joy Joy Christianity).
          “It’s amazing to see how God works” (same song, second verse)
          “America’s corrupt culture” (culture warriors’ battle cry)
          “Radical change and revival is indeed coming to this nation and world very soon!!” (change she’s a comin’, and she’s just around the corner – heard every year on the first Sunday in January from at least half the evangelical pulpits in the country as we recap last year an look forward to the coming year’s glory)

          Roughly translated: Your entire post was little more than buzzwords & phrases.

          • haha well in that case I guess I speak in buzzwords, I’m cool with that. Sorry if it offends you.

          • Doesn’t offend me, any more than a fly buzzing around my ears offends me. But, as HUG noted, you will have no credibility outside the “Christian bubble.” Think in terms of the Charlie Brown movies: All non-believers will hear is “Wah wah waah waah,” and they will totally tune you out. And to a degree that happens even within the “Christian bubble,” as buzzwords are over-utilized to the point of meaninglessness. Ultimately the use of buzzwords, whether in the business world or the “Christian bubble,” becomes nothing more than the buzzing of flys.

            As for this: “Most evangelists just say that everywhere they go without hearing from God and getting numerous confirmations.’

            Another common evangelical practice: “Everyone has been getting it wrong for 2,000 years, but now WE are getting it right.”

            Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

          • Well you will be believing it soon!

  6. Funny… all these years I thought the guy was jewish…. thinkin back on the Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song…

    Really liked his 70’s stuff and the Born in the USA stuff (great concert that year). Will have to give this one a listen… and not because it has anything to do with a christian theme, but only because I believe Jeff has good taste when it comes to music…

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    No, Springsteen is not going to be appearing at WinterJam anytime soon. He won’t be putting out a duet with whoever the hot new female CCM singer is, nor should you expect a worship album by the E Street Band anytime soon. The Boss won’t be doing Sunday mornings at your local megachurch or making a guest appearance on TBN.

    No Skubalon, Sherlock.

    Remember the claimed Special Revelation I read on some blog comment years ago that God was removing his mantle from Christian (TM) moviemakers and musicians and artists and writers and placing it on their secular (TM) counterparts? That Christian (TM) artists had been weighed and found wanting and henceforth secular (TM) moviemakers and musicians and artists and writers would begin to say what God wanted said?

  8. Wow…

    You mean no David Crowder singing about sloppy wet kisses?
    You mean no Hillsong to where you can numb your brain singing to those endorphones are popping (Spirtual version of cocaine perhaps?)
    You mean no Mercy Me singing how much one longs for suffering in bringing the rain?

    Jeff how could you!! (LOL…) 😉

  9. I’m sure glad I was never subjected to that….

  10. David Cornwell says

    “This train carries saint and sinners This train carries losers and winners This train carries whores and gamblers This train carries lost souls I said this train carries broken hearted This train …thieves and sweet souls departed This train carries fools and kings This train–all aboard’

    And one day it will steam right into the station!

    Great post, thanks.

  11. wilderness music = lauryn hill – mtv unplugged.

  12. VolAlongTheWatchTower says

    Amen, Bruce, Fight The Good Fight.

  13. petrushka1611 says

    Interesting to hear Springsteen turning the old gospel song “This Train” on its head. That song says, “this train don’t carry no gamblers, this train,” and “if you wanna ride, you gotta live holy.” Not a whole lot of gospel in that.

    Emmylou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” is highly recommended as well. There’s some spirituality in it, though probably not as much as the Springsteen seems to have, judging from this review. But it would fit into the Lent/Wilderness idea very well.