Monday, September 16, 2013

N.T. Wright opens up for U2: 3 psalms

Okay, we all know N.T. Wright is the rock star of Bible scholars.

Sometimes even literally, see this:

But he also opens up windows for us to "really read" rock stars.

I was thrilled NT mentioned (page  25)  Bruce Cockburn  (and Dylan) in his new book on the Psalms.
Of course those two are only one degree of separation from U2.
I don't know if Wright has wrestled with U2 (Vice versa is a good bet).

But this post is really called "N.T. Wright opens up  U2."

At least three times when reading "The Case for the Psalms," I said "Hey, that's a U2 interttext!"
 And I'm not even  talking the obvious examples like "40" and "Wake Up Dead Man,"

Here are the three (o far)


The Psalms thus transform what I have called our 'worldview.'  I use this term in a very specifi8c way...A 'worldview' in this sense is like a pair of spectacles, it is what you look through, not what you look at..Worldviews, in this sense, are a swirling combination of stories, symbols, habitual praxis, and assumed answers to key questions (Who are we? What's the solution?  What time is it?)   -page 8-9, emphasis mine

That last question is of course familiar to anyione conversant with U2's 36O Tour.
It was full of questions.  The "questions" intro to "Blinding Lights " and later to "Zooropa" was brilliant.  But the whole "What time is it in the world?" line,  which was used in various spots, is in ones sense the leitmotif..even worldviewmotif..of the tour.

Here;s one example from the intro to "Magnificent," note also the question is often coupled with "And where are we going?":

Psalms center us, and call us back to worldview that is not from this world.  Asking questions about navigating time and timing lead to answers being found in the questions.  It's a timeline and time machine on the horizon.

In the book, Wright baptizes us into the worldview (and I might coin the phrase "timeview") of the Psalms (and thus also of Jesus and Paul, who quoted about almost  many Psalms as U2 do).  From there, he says, we get oriented to what time it the world, and in us.  "We are given those psalms, I believe, so that we can pray them ourselves out of our own impatience. God in his wisdom knows that we shal want and need to express the pain of being caught in the crack of time."  (p. 74)

"How long?" indeed.

Related : U2: "thank You for the unanswered question"

2)Wright, in  a parenthetical (literally!  Some of his most profound observations can be found in parentheses and footnotes) discussion of Psalm 137's context of exile:

We shouldn't miss the extra point here.  It may be impossible to "sing YHWH's song" in this foreign land, but this particular pslamist turns this impossibility into yet another of "YHWH's songs,"  thus making a psalm out of the fact that one can't sing psalms here."  (p. 43)
That insightful obsvervation about pslamic subversion connected me to so many places in U2's canon.  In a  sense, their mission is not only to mention/pray/sing the unmentionable/unprayable/unsingable (Bono often jokes about his "Tourette's syndrome").  But singing/psalming from within that place ("right in the middle of a contradiction," Bono often says, takes me to "Gloria"

"I try to sing this song..but only in You I'm complete"

 I will never/can never/must never forget.listening to U2's "With a Shout" (so commonly known as "Jerusalem " that even The Edge seems to think that's the song's name),

 a song about Jerusalem..


To the side of a hill
Where we were still
We were filled
With a Love

We're gonna be there again
We're gonna be there again

(See"with a shout" by the worship band formerly known as The Hype)

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6-7 ).
I cannot read or sing this psalm without multilayered memories of many great services in Oxford, Litchfield, Westminster, Durham and many other places.

But the psalm sounded quite different when I heard it in Jerusalem.

..I have sung the psalm as a pilgrim, heading up the hill from Jericho ina bus rather than doing the journey oin foot as Jesus dd, but still with that same sense of excitement as you crest that final hill and there at last is the city that another psalm calls 'the joy of all the earth.  (p. 183)

I am always in Jerusalem; praying from Jerusalem.
Or at least righ around the crest of that final hill.

Suffice to say I have added this new Wright book to my stack of books on the Psalms that Bono has read...or should.


  1. This is neat! I think I need to read the Psalms more often.

    1. Hey Rocker...tell me about it. Thanks for stopping by

  2. Really need to pick this up! What are those top two titles on the right? Both Peterson's? I read Answering God for a bib lit class

    1. yes , Earth and Altar, and A Long Obedience..both Peterson

    2. Excellent! Thanks Dave! Once I read some of these I'd definitely enjoy chatting with you about them!


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!