I find at a Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue a book with the title “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know” and I am right away drawn to this title. It has a subtitle “The fascinating stories behind great works of art, literature, music, and film.” So who wouldn’t want to see what’s there? There are images on the cover: Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (which happens to be 7 blocks north of this Barnes and Noble, at the Museum of Modern Art), a cathedral, a photograph of Mahalia Jackson, an image of the Tanner painting of the Annunciation, and there in the far left corner, the album cover of “The Joshua Tree” by U2.
Later in the week I find a used copy of that U2 album and I play it on my CD player. It was a huge hit for the band in 1987, when I was much younger than I am now…:), and I remember seeing the band play the Orpheum Theater in Boston in 1983, getting tickets for a group of friends and me for $12 each, being in the balcony on that night, and the sound of a band that was on the rise.
And knowing, also, that there was something spiritual about them, that their soaring sound carried a kind of longing or yearning or searching, and that their song lyrics referred to the band members’ own Christian spirituality. And on “The Joshua Tree” – a song called “Mothers of the Disappeared” which is about the mothers of those who were “disappeared” during the war in El Salvador in the 1980s; a song called “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with the lyric “I believe in the kingdom come/and all the colors, bleed into one, bleed into one…” It’s that lyric, with that song title, that stays with me: the title of the song is about searching and looking and longing and hoping, and in what? Some kind of kingdom to come, in which all the colors (of what? Humanity, right?) bleed into one – and it’s an achingly beautiful song that expresses hope that, amid everything going on every day in the world, there is a kingdom to come that God will usher in, and we are all still hoping and searching for it.
And so the “75 Masterpieces” book has me looking for more, and what’s there? Bob Dylan, Flannery O’Connor, Emily Dickinson, Rembrandt, Graham Greene, Willa Cather…and more. The world in all its beauty speaks to us.