Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Holy Saturday, April 11

Jensen Lee

Magnificent

I was born to sing for you, I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
and sing whatever song you wanted me to…

U2, No Line on the Horizon, 2009

 

I don’t try to hide the fact that church music is not my favorite genre. I appreciate the history of traditional hymns (I appreciate them more when they’re sung loudly and accompanied by beer). I understand the appeal of more contemporary or modern worship music, but I’ll admit I switch the radio station faster than I would throw a hot potato when I hear those songs. That being said, I like several of the songs we play in Rise – “Hold Us Together”, “Where I Belong”, “I Will Follow”, “Leaving 99”, and “Testify to Love” to name a few.

 

What appeals to me more, though, are songs that can cross the chasm between the sacred and the secular without seeming like they’re trying too hard or being overtly Christian. Enter U2. U2 has a history of mingling the secular and sacred. From “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from The Joshua Tree in 1987, to “Yahweh” from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in 2004, religious imagery has pervaded their catalogue.

 

I began listening to U2 in 2005 and was hooked from the opening of the first track on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, as Bono yelled, “Uno! Dos! Tres! Catorce!” at the beginning of “Vertigo”. By 2009, I was at the beginning of deconstructing and reassembling my entire worldview. In the midst of the mental modifications, I took several solo road trips to wide open spaces west of Kansas. On stretches of road where there were no signs of significant civilization for an hour or two, I’d entertain myself by listening to albums in their entirety to experience them in context. I had been looking forward to the release of No Line on the Horizon for a couple of months, so somewhere between Tucumcari, NM, and Flagstaff, AZ, I played the album multiple times.

 

“Magnificent” was a standout track. It has the classic elements of a U2 song – driving drum and bass beats, guitar parts that can’t be played without several types of pedals, and Bono’s unmistakable voice. The line that caught me, though, was in the second verse: “I was born to sing for you, I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song you wanted me to…”. Starting in 2005, music had become a compulsion for me, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else long-term. “Magnificent” describes that quite well and talks about how musical ability is a gift from God that we return to the Creator.

 

Regardless of genre, music connects us to something greater than ourselves – in some ways, it can save us from ourselves. Sometimes, chords can say what words can’t and can provide meaning beyond explanation.

 

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