Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday with U2

Wake Up Dead Man, from Pop album

This is a song of lament, in which God is absent. “I’m alone in this world, And a f**ked up world it is too.” It’s on the “Pop” album, which begins all bright and shiny, full of the bling and “bright promise” of a song like Discotheque, but ends with “the dark night of the soul that is “Wake Up Dead Man.”” (U2 by U2, 269)

For U2’s the Edge, this song is reality. “That is really the truth of our lot. You are on your own, even in a crowd. Whatever you’re doing, ultimately it’s about you and your Maker.” (U2 by U2, 269) The absence of God prompts prayer, the request to wake up, the request to rewind time. A new world is possible in the first verse, a request to hear the story of eternity, “the way it’s all gonna be.” But by the third verse, even that possibility is being questioned – “If there’s an order in all of this disorder.”

This song has echoes of Lamentations. The book of Lamentations appears rarely in the Church Lectionary. The church sometimes rips Lamentations 3:22-23

The Lord’s compassions never fail
They are new every morning
Great is thy faithfulness

out of context and into a clappy chorus. But the entire book is one of mourning. It gets bleaker, chapter by chapter. God is absent. Dead. No bling. No bright promises. The earth weeps. There is no order in any disorder. The book of Lamentations is what I read on Holy Saturday, after Friday and before Sunday.

Some years ago, while doing post-graduate study, a compulsory integrative theology topic on death, I stumbled across the work of Alan Lewis. He notes that Christianity pays little attention to Holy Saturday. But it needs to learn to say “Wake Up Dead Man,” to learn the discipline of “mournful waiting.” Lewis’ work is best captured in Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday. It’s not a theoretical book. He wrote it while he was dying of cancer.

It’s interesting that despite being such a bleak song, “Wake Up Dead Man,” it’s often played at U2 concerts. It suggests something about the way the song connects. There are plenty more people than U2 singing “Wake up Dead Man.” Holy Saturday might just have some important mission possibilities in our world today.

For entire U2 at Easter catalogue keep coming back over next few days of Easter (Maundy Thursday is here, Good Friday is here). For more of my U2 and theology reflections check the backcatalogue. For another popular culture take on Easter, see my Holy week at the movies.

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM

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