Monday, November 27, 2006

U2: Beautiful Day (theological reflections)

Discussion of David's branch / sprout over the last few days reminds me of the mention of the power of the sprouting shoot mentioned near the start of U2's hit, Beautiful Day. Here is a video, lyrics, and some theological reflections (interconnected with next Sunday's reading of Jeremiah 33). Comments welcome, of course.

Beautiful Day
The heart is a bloom, shoots up through stony ground
But there's no room, no space to rent in this town
You're out of luck and the reason that you had to care,
The traffic is stuck and you're not moving anywhere.
You thought you’d found a friend
to take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace

It's a beautiful day, the sky falls
And you feel like it's a beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

You’re on the road but you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud, in the maze of her imagination
You love this town Even if it doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over and it’s been all over you

It's a beautiful day Don’t let it get away
It's a beautiful day Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out

It was a beautiful day A beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Reach me, I know Iím not a hopeless case
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
You don’t need it now, you don’t need it now
Beautiful day

As in Jeremiah 33, which we've been discussing, this song of hope and promise is set amid sorrow and shadow. For a lot of people in this Advent world of bullying and hoarding, there is "no space to rent," "no room," no more "luck."

Yet, it truly is a beautiful day. The world is far from totally dark. From Heaven, you can see green and blue, and canyons in all their beauty. The problems are there, such as tuna fleets clearing the sea out, but the world is full of ambiguity and promise.

Noah's bird bears "a leaf in her mouth" symbolizing hope after the flood. Jeremiah 33 similarly points to this hope after Jerusalem's world came crashing down in 586 BCE.

In the midst of the darkness and ambiguity we face in the here and now, we've got to keep focused and oriented on how "after the flood all the colors came out; It was a beautiful day." A shoot is pushing up through the stony ground. It is Advent, and God's messiah is on the move to usher in "that other place," viz. that righteousness within community spoken of by Jeremiah 33.

In the new Jerusalem (Jer 33:16), bullying and hoarding will vanish. People will realize that King Josiah had it right in Jer 22:15. He got along just fine, had plenty to eat and drink (NLT), and was blessed besides, because he didn't orient his life around an abundance of possessions. What he did not have, he did not need, just as U2 sings.

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Blogger Peter Carey said...


This is just great. I am reminded of yesterday's Christ the King Sunday, and the ways that God's reign will be something radically different than the reigns of kings in this world. "He got along just fine, had plenty to eat and drink, and was blessed besides, because he didn't orient his life around an abundance of possessions." This is a profound statement, and one that is full of the radical joy that should move us toward God's reign and free us from the chains of individualism and consumption of our lives.

I am also quite taken with your discussion of "righteousness within community" ... that is a key quality of the reign of the messiah who is on the move. The work of God is done here in the midst of community, the midst of communion - not removing our personhood in our personalities, or our own gifts, but making them whole. God is with us...Emmanuel.

Thanks for this reflection...very helpful for my mind and my soul as we move toward Advent...

Have a Beautiful Day.

Mon Nov 27, 11:07:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks so much, Peter. Yes, this idiom of "contentment" in Jer 22:15 is striking, and it resonates with Sinai-oriented theology elsewhere in Scripture. For there to be shalom on earth, each group must come to a place where they can be content with thier own simple "vines and fig trees" (mic 4.4). ---S.

Mon Nov 27, 03:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger U2 Sermons said...

You may already be aware of this, but since you didn't mention it explicitly... speaking of the 33rd chapter of Jeremiah, the cover of the CD from which the song comes was altered by the band to include a visual reference to Jer 33:3.

Mon Nov 27, 04:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks Beth! Yes, you can clearly see J-33-3 in the center of the left margin of the album cover. Check it out at:

Note to readers: I do believe that Beth is none other than Beth Maynard, an international expert on U2 and theology. Check out her U2 blog at:

Mon Nov 27, 06:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger U2 Sermons said...

Gee, I don't think I've ever been called an international expert before. ;-) Thanks for your confidence!

I had actually marked your "Streets" post from awhile back to link, and then somehow lost track of it. I think I'll do a combined post with this and that sometime this week.

Tue Nov 28, 08:13:00 AM GMT-5  

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