The New Year started well, didn’t it? Civil War in Pakistan? Kenyan chaos? Not to mention Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc. It raises all kinds of questions – and all the more so, the more one knows, or the closer one is to the situation. What is going on in Kenya simply boils the blood with rage – but then of course that is precisely what has been happening and why people are DYING. How does the world deal with injustice without dealing out injustice? There is an all too fine line between righteous and unrighteous anger, between the oppressed becoming the oppressor, between the victim becoming the culprit. It is a huge problem – because when we try to do something about a problem, we tend to become part of the problem.

Well there was an unnerving resonance with all these current political events with our new preaching programme at All Souls. We’re doing something a little different at the moment – a morning series with the title ‘HAS GOOD FAILED?’ and an evening series on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Hugh is doing the evening talks and I’m doing the first two of the morning series, and with a more topical series like this, there is greater scope for doing things slightly out of the box. The result was that i got to indulge my obsession with both U2 and the questions people are really asking. The talk was called WHERE IS THE PEACE ON EARTH? and I played (and got away with playing) not 1 but TWO U2 songs during the course of the talk which was quite a laugh. Some think I’m just a sad fan, but this is of course not the case – I’m a very happy fan.

These are the two songs referred to in the talk – they never cease to blow me away.


Heaven on Earth, we need it now,
I’m sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain,
I’m sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be peace on EarthWhere I grew up there weren’t many trees,
where there was we’d tear them down and use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock will surely overtake you
And you become a monster, so the monster will not break you
And it’s already gone too far, you say that if you go in hard you won’t get hurtJesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys, no one cries like a mother cries for peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye to see the colour in his eyes, now he’s in the dirt
Peace on EarthThey’re reading names out over the radio all the folks the rest of us won’t get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda, their lives are bigger than any big idea
Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus and the song you wrote, the words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time but hope and history won’t rhyme
so what’s it worth – this peace on Earth? Peace on Earth…

And then there is this classic – which is often touted as a recognition of doubt and rejection of the old assurances of the Christian message. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just look at how it concludes: I BELIEVE… BUT I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND. The point is not that Bono has given up on his faith, but just the opposite – it is simply that he hasn’t yet seen everything that he is trusting God to bring about – which is precisely what the Bible teaches about Christian reality. Just read Romans 8:18-27 if you don’t believe me.


I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you, only to be with you
I have run; I have crawled; I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (x2)

I have kissed honey lips felt my healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire, this burning desireI have spoke with the tongue of angels; I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night I was cold as a stone
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (x2)

I believe in the kingdom come then all the colors will bleed into one
Well, yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross, of my shame (of my shame)
You know I believed it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Pete Bowman

    Many did feel that the U2 songs were a bit unnecessary and thus lost you the opportunity to focus more on the end part of your sermon (i.e. how the incarnation did effect peace on earth), as at the end of the day the Habbakuk passage had already made the same point that the U2 songs do. If I had brought a friend I would be a bit upset because of that.

  2. markmeynell

    Sorry you felt that, Pete. One is never going to please everyone every time. I agree that it left things in the air at the end – but then i think that for some people, that is what they need as a hook. And there were a number of people there that i know about for whom more would have been too much. Such are the perils of speaking in a church like All Souls! But since we do join all the dots in most sermons, it helps occasionally to leave some hanging, don’t you think?

  3. Jonathan Lewis

    Well I am not a huge U2 fan but I must say I thought the songs not only emphasized the point but made the sermon visual,bright and modern unlike some of the hymns that we sang. Indeed the woman next to me commented afterwards that she was ‘ captivated’. Other people I talked to were also impressed so sorry Pete going to have to disagree with you on this one – just gutted I had no non-Christian friends there.

  4. Pete Bowman

    Jonathan, What was wrong with the hymns? Are we to judge a hymn by its tune alone? I presume that’s what you mean, as the words of Sunday morning’s hymns were awesome – one was a version of Psalm 24, “As with gladness” is a great hymn looking for holiness and undiluted seeking after Jesus, “Joy has dawned” is a modern hymn, and “Lord, for the years” is a 60’s hymn, again full of meaning. What a shame if we overlook such deep and lovely theology for a catchy tune! It’s better if we have both, but there isn’t much of it about – it’s no wonder we sing so much Stuart Townend. As an aside, I groan inwardly every time we sing “How great is our God”, not because there is anything wrong the song’s intentions or its tune, but that it makes no sense grammatically! I don’t disagree that the sermon was visual, bright and modern or that it was captivating – I just wondered whether the Christian position on the universal peace that we lay claim to could have been slightly more to the fore (and Mark has already agreed that the dots weren’t joined as much as they sometimes are). My intention isn’t to be critical (as though preachers are to be awarded scores): I went to a gospel-believing church since birth that didn’t teach badly, but it also didn’t teach strongly in words of one syllable that a thick person like me could understand, and it was only when I came to All Souls aged 22 in 1998 that I heard the answers to all the real-life questions I didn’t know I had (with the help of some extremely godly members of the church). Until then, Jesus was an unwelcome addon to life. So I suppose I always wonder how me 10 years ago would have understood what I hear now. Then I wouldn’t have understood peace on earth because I’d never even heard of the new creation – now you can’t shut me up about it!

  5. Gavin McGrath

    Thanks for this Mark. Sometimes it is not bad to leave things just a bit ‘out there’ and without all the dots connected. It compels the listener to determine just how “interested am I?” I also appreciate that you seem to understand what unbelief is and what it also feels like.

    “It is all a matter of timing…” the now and not yet…is, I take it, the key to it all. Thanks!

    Keep playing U2.

  6. Chris Hillcoat

    I thought it was an excellent use of multimedia in a sermon, Mark. I’d raise an eyebrow if we were playing U2 every week at church, but as a one-off – and as outreach – it worked well.

  7. Josh

    Howdy Mark. Sounds like you’re stuck in a contextual paradox?! May God have mercy on your soul 😀 I just listened in and enjoyed the message, thanks.

    By the way, didn’t Jesus make a habit of letting others connect the dots (Mat. 13:10-17)?

  8. Dave Roberts

    My wife was up at All Souls for that, and she wasnt impressed… But then anything apart from Mozart isnt music to her!! I downloaded and listened to it, and I thought the U2 stuff helped reinforce what you were endeavouring to communicate. But then I am all for U2 and multimedia…

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