Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let the river run

Carly Simon recently released a new album, Never Been Gone, in which she covers and reinterprets some of her greatest songs. Within the collection is, "Let the River Run." The compelling melody delivers a lyric charged with imagery.
Let the river run
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation
Come, the new Jerusalem.

Some might enjoy the song without understanding the allusion. In fact, Ms. Simon seems to appropriate the allusion to convey her own Utopian vision. Nevertheless, the song alludes to Scripture, and the literary minded will want to understand the origins. For the faithful, the words "Let the river run" and "Come, the new Jerusalem" elicit hope more intensely than Carly Simon might imagine. The allusion derives from the Book of Revelation.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21:1-7 (NIV)
The river to which the song alludes is found after the chapter break,
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5 (NIV)
After listening to "Let the River Run," again last night I was reminded how lyricists in the '60's would often allude to Scripture even when their message was not particularly Christian. The imagery from the Bible was part of the common vocabulary. My perception is that the culture is now different. Scripture no longer provides the foundation for literature that it once did.

When I listen to "Let the River Run" I do not feel nostalgic for the time when Scripture laid a foundation for literature. Scripture stands alone. I do long for the day when the river will flow from the throne of God. I long for the New Jerusalem where "the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain."

Let the river run . . . Come, the new Jerusalem.

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