“How long to sing this song?”
These lyrics from the 1983 song “40” animated the deepest groanings of a generation—or two!—through the music of the band U2. I (Kara) have actually sung these lyrics live with Bono (well, along with the 40,000 other fans at the same U2 concert in the late ’80s). The words resonate so deeply because they speak authentically about human experience.
The words are directly from Psalm 40, one of the many lament psalms that articulate these questions and cries in expressions that translate across centuries. Except when the words and phrases leave us even more confused.
Eugene Peterson describes reading the psalms as a 12-year-old boy and being utterly perplexed by the language. But through the psalms he was introduced to the power of metaphor, and ultimately, the psalms “showed me that imagination was a way to get inside the truth.” Pairing that imagination with biblical scholarship, eventually Peterson rephrased the psalms—and then the rest of the Bible—into modern language in The Message translation.
The Message translation deeply moved Bono and U2 in the early 2000s, and when Peterson found out about this, his first response was, “Who’s Bono?”
(from a recent email newsletter I receive from the Fuller Youth Institute)
The school I (Jeff) went to, Fuller, works a lot with the intersection of faith and pop culture. They recently produced a short film on Bono meeting Eugene Peterson, the translator responsible for The Message. Perhaps because I am part of the men’s group at Deep Water Church that is studying the psalms…or perhaps because of my love for where culture intersects the world……or perhaps because of the course I taught on the Psalms in Ethiopia last Fall…or perhaps all those reasons, I found the video interesting. It’s a little over 20 minutes, but it may be of interest to some of you. Enjoy!