Music For Holy Week, Easter Day

Jesus said, “Mary.” John 20:16

It all leads to this: restoration, healing, innauguration of a new kingdom. Creation reordered, reality redefined, the blankness of the grave shaken to its core. An almighty Yes. 

Again, a few songs instead of one. Again, all on the same post.

Radiohead have an unfair reputation as a miserable band; their music may often be bleak or difficult but live they express a deep joy. As I once remember the singer, Thom Yorke, articualting, joy is shared truth and this is what people experience at their concerts. For all that, they are also astonishing musicians and performers. This strange track is one for the live experience, or if not then greeting the sunrise in the country on a cool, crisp morning; holding coffee on the sofa in the silence of mid-morning; late-night after the wedding reception.

Lyrics

Today transfigures pain. It does justice to it, trumps it, redefines it. Pain is not removed by Easter Day. It is made holy, and is also reshaped into something that is no longer an ending. There’s a deeper, bigger truth than suffering and pain. Urban legend has it than in the days after 9/11, the working man’s prophet, America’s greatest living theologian Bruce Springsteen, was walking in New York. A man passed him by and told him “We need you now, Bruce”. If that’s true or not has long since become irrelevant. What he wrote as he reflected on those awful events was an intoxicating, Easter-soaked transfiguring of pain, a narrative of 9/11 written from the viewpoint of a fireman killed in the rescue in the Twin Towers.

Lyrics

I’ve left the most obvious to last. I tried to avoid U2, partly because some people seem to think I listen to nothing but (most definitely true); and because they are such a divisive band for Christians and non-Christians alike. But after the last 6-7 months I’ve just experienced, this little track seemed a good Easter Day summary to go out on. That, and if you’re sitting in a chocolate-induced coma right now, you can have bags of fun trying to name all the artists shown in this video.

 Lyrics

Also in this series: 

Introduction

Palm Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday

Music For Holy Week, Saturday

There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed. So, because it was Sabbath preparation for the Jews and the tomb was convenient, they placed Jesus in it. John 19:41-42 (The Message)

God’s dead body. A borrowed tomb. Not a day of rest, but a day at rest. Endless speculation as to what happened to Jesus on this day. In reality, of course, we can never know. He was dead.

Two songs this time, again both on the same post.

I’ve loved Nirvana’s music. I was a student when they were the biggest band in the world, so it was perfect timing. This cover version of Leadbelly’s song, meditating on death and possible murder is haunting and beautiful, establishing for me that sense of coldness, of loneliness and fear around this day.

Lyrics

What were the disciples doing this day? Again, speculation. Guilt, fear for their own safety would surely have figured. Futility, I’m sure. This song expresses the sense of giving up I imagine them to be experiencing.

Lyrics

Also in this series: 

Introduction

Palm Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Good Friday

Music For Holy Week, Good Friday

Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. Matthew 27:50 (The Message)

Crucifixion day. Rejection, framed, spit, nails, whips, anger, buck-passing, violence, fear, denial. All this and more are where we are today. A murderer freed, Jesus killed.  It should be a hard day. It is.

It’s hard to pick music. Most of it seems too obvious, too trivial, too offensive. But here’s a few that speak to me of this day. I’ve put all today’s choices on one post, rather than do a separate post for each one.

There’s a rich Biblical and theological tradition of saying that we are crucified with Christ. That is to say, that if we are to enter into all that Easter can mean for us, we have to allow ourselves to die a death before we move to new life. This is different to physical death; it’s a dying to a sense of our own sufficiency and ‘good-enough-ness’, letting go of the capacity to prove ourselves, accepting that Jesus somehow does for us what we do for ourselves. Every yes requires a no, every life a death.

Tori Amos would be horrified to know her work was being used in this context. Her music shows her to be someone deeply hurt by religion in general and Christians in particular. Her anger towards a God she doesn’t accept is palpable. Her first album, Little Earthquakes, from which this track is taken details much of her personal pain. It’s one of my all-time favourite albums. It articulates pain and suffering, and somehow turns it into beauty. At times it’s almost impossibly painful to listen to; at others it’s breathtakingly beautiful. This song takes the language of crucifixion and applies it to her own suffering and her own search for healing. Which makes it, in my view, dangerously appropriate for this day.

Lyrics

Most of us have no real answer to the question of what it means to have someone die for you or to die with someone. It’s a strange concept, really. Florence + The Machine are a band it’s taken me several goes at to ‘get’; but now I find their music deep, rich and true. If the spirituality of their music is anything then it’s some vaguely flavoured soup … but it’s beautiful and intoxicating and occasionally (like this song), disturbing. In a way I can’t explain, it speaks to me of something I experience on Good Friday.

Lyrics

Today should end with a sense of finality. It should feel like a defeat. I love the simple, mournful beauty of this song; a tinge of hope, but achingly sad.

Lyrics

Also in this series: 

Introduction

Palm Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Music For Holy Week, Thursday

Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Matthew 26:38

Thursday is the day of the Last Supper; of betrayal; of arrest; of blood; sweat and tears in a garden at night. The night before everything changes is a night of gradual abandonment, of looming mortality, of sleeplessness, of fear. It’s not a time for the faint-hearted. It’s tempting to skip over the next few days to Sunday’s trumpet blast of hope. But to do so is to fail to do justice the reality of the cost, the presence of death in life; to do so robs Sunday of true joy because you won’t really have gone to the depths.

Johnny Cash was the Man In Black; mourning colours whenever he performed singing country songs telling stories of murder and love, life and hope, death and loss. A Christian who wore his sin on his sleeve, his career underwent a strange kind of renaissance in his last years. This song is not his own, as was the case of much of his recorded work. He made it his own, however; written by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, an altogether different (if very gifted) musician, in Cash’s hands this becomes an epitaph, a confession and acceptance of mortality. One of the very last works he recorded, it stands as one of those rare pieces of music which demands silence in its wake, the better to echo and reverberate. It’s the song of a man who’s lived, who knows he’s to die. The video only develops and enhances this, to startling effect.

Lyrics

Also in this series

Introduction

Palm Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday