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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

18 November 2020: Rev'd Stephen Wright, Petersfield Methodist Church

Bruce Springsteen; looking for redemption

Bruce Springsteen has been on my must listen to list, well, since cassettes were in their heyday! It was not just the music or the energy that he brought to his live shows that set Bruce apart – it was also the brilliant way he expressed the yearning for something more.

He often dealt in redemption songs, raising the possibility of escape from the mundane drudgery of ordinary working life – usually through girls or fast cars. As time passed, it is probably true to say that these particular vehicles of redemption became less common.

Even so, the possibility of hope beyond immediate disaster and difficulty continued to characterise Springsteen’s work. This was never more obvious than in his album The Rising, which was written in the wake of 9/11. As well as being an extraordinary response to those horrors, there were hints that spirituality might transform.

Like an old-time preacher, he encourages the listener to pray, to offer God their hands that they might be used to raise up a city of ruins. His most recent album, Letter to You, also makes moves in this direction. At the age of 71 and mindful of former band members who have passed away, it is in many ways, a meditation on mortality.

In the year of Coronavirus, more than a little pertinent. The old habits of looking for redemption remain. The final track has the lyric: ‘

When all our summers have come to an end,
I'll see you in my dreams,
We'll meet and live and laugh again,
I'll see you in my dreams,
Yeah, up around the river bend,
For death is not the end.’

It might not be conventionally expressed, but Springsteen’s penchant for redemption songs remind us where this can eventually bring you – to nothing less than the Christian hope of the defeat of death and the expectation of something more.

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