Coldplay, Viva La Vida & Christ's Spirit of Revolution - John Van Sloten

November 09, 2008

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Media @ New Hope CalgaryIn this message we continue our music series by looking and listening through Coldplay's Viva La Vida.

A REVOLUTION (from the Latin revolutio, "a turn around") is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Aristotle described two types of political revolution:

1. Complete change from one constitution to another
2. Modification of an existing constitution.
Wikipedia

"I am making everything new!"
Jesus in Revelation 21:5, NIV

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
Viva La Vida, Coldplay

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.
Zechariah 4:6, NIV

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
Viva La Vida, Coldplay


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17 Comments


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June 29, 2011
Kudos! What a neat way of tihnking about it.

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November 21, 2010
Love this song!
bittermelonpro
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November 11, 2008
OK.
Once last observation from me (JVS).

When I got home on Sunday and talked with my wife Fran about the service, she said she really was moved by the message, but didn't hear the words of the song as the direct voice of the Spirit (as I had inferred in the sermon).

At first I was a bit taken aback by her words. "How could those words not be, the whole message was premised on this assumption?" I asked. She responded by saying, "I heard the lyrics as being those of some past revolutionary... as opposed to the words of Christ." What she meant was that Christ's revolutionary vision and experience was far greater and more authoritative that the lyricists. The song lyrics reminded her of the greater revolutionary vision; the greatest. I sensed she had this kind of, "Yeah, but in Christ there's more" lens through which she looked/listened.

I, of course agree with that, and yet still hold onto the idea of the Holy Spirit speaking truth, in part, through the song itself. (Which doesn't make the the whole song truth, but it does claim it's truthful components as Gods).

Anyway, what hit me in processing this matter was the old idea of thesis and anti-thesis. Abraham Kuyper was an old Dutch theologian who first coined the dichotomy. Yes God speaks through common grace, authoring truth in the world, even through those outside of the faith, but right along side this reality is sin's evil presence distorting, limiting, polutting and muting that truth. Both thesis and anti-thesis present in the same reality... in the same song... at the same time.
Need to process this a bit more.


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November 09, 2008
I have actually done our homework this week! WOW.
Our family purchased the new Coldplay album a couple of weeks ago, which has given us some time to “marinade”.

For me; I was see sawing between the poignant words in “Viva La Vida” and Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”, written of course about the French revolution.
I love the description a critique gave Hugo, on his book:

“a narrator who can best be described as God masquerading as a law-abiding bourgeois….”

The book is one of my all time favourites. On each page the reader is faced with decisions which haunt, “Good vs. Bad” ~ “right vs. wrong”, “moral vs. immoral” and on and on.
(Below a brief backdrop to the book.. borrowed from the net*)

The title itself is a moral test…. Originally, a miserable was simply a pauper (misere means ‘destitution’ as well as ‘misfortune’). Since the Revolution, and especially since the advent of Napoleon III, a miserable had become a ‘dreg’, a sore on the shining face of the Second Empire. The new sense would dictate a translation like Scum of the Earth. Hugo’s sense would dictate The Wretched.

In overlaying these two powerful means of communication; I sensed such polarity ~ and found parallel struggles.

“It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?”

The same struggle occurred daily for Jean Valjean. He eventually had means, money, friendships even a child.. yet he felt it wasn’t enough ~ he just wanted peace. He was desperate for contentment.

“Does Jesus not toil for the same? He offers us Grace, peace, eternal life, yet more often than not ~ He is thrown to the proverbial curb. He still waits, loves and hopes.”
D.


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November 07, 2008
I hear you on this point.

Makes me wonder what "God moving in redemption" sounds like. A lamenting heart - grieved at the brokeness of it all, crying over creation lost, wanting so much more for us - along with a joyful love driving the act of making it all new. Strings over top of tears. Bells ringing hope even as he encounters our suffering.
JVS


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November 07, 2008
Great way of wording that. I love that point as well - the music/lyric combo. It
is what I often find in music and what I love. Thanks for putting it down in
such plain language!
K


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November 06, 2008
OK, I just reread your words K... and again, they're very insightful. Not a lot to add except that I really resonate with the pentecostal feel of that 'wicked and wild wind.' As for the phrase, 'people couldn't believe what I'd become,' I imagine this kind of incredulous reaction happening in Christ's disciples, who knew him in a (sort of) limited way when he was incarnate among them, but then got re-introduced to this totally mind blowing Spirit reality at Pentecost. I can just see their awestruck faces!

Reading your words I was reminded of what I said last Sunday re: God's truth coming to us through music as being like light hitting a prism and then heading off in all kinds of different directions in all sorts of unique colours. When first contemplating this weeks message I thought I'd re-interpret the song visually for the end of the sermon... but now I've changed my mind. Maybe I'll just play it... without any visuals... and let the Spirit do its wicked and wild work.
JVS


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November 06, 2008
Sounds awesome. I love this idea of yours John. I love the prism idea too -
and it really is amazing the way God created so many minds and imaginations.
This is a great way to see a little part of that - having everyone just throw in a
thought or two. Very cool.
Kayleigh


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November 06, 2008
what i love about this song is the way the lamenting tone of the lyrics is juxtaposed against the hopeful, redemptive tone of the music itself. even though the words are despairing, the music moves you beyond that. read only the lyrics and it sounds like a voice of despair, listen only to the music and one would never guess the dark nature of the lyrics, but together...amazing!

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November 04, 2008
Hidden track!?! How did I miss hearing that?

Just listened to it... very cool. One commenter at youtube said, "I love this so much. It makes your mind wonder about things unknown." I agree.
Reading your thoughts RA I found myself resonating at several points.

1. Where you speak of a, "person that has declined from fame and fortune to a vast emptiness and loneliness," I envision the kenosis of Christ (Jesus putting aside his god-ness in coming to humanity... willfully doing this... out of love lowering himself)

2. Where you comment on revolution being a subset of change, I remember the words I scratched on a piece of paper yesterday in regard to the places where that change occurs; in those moments when we say to ourselves, 'I'm not taking this any more'; or when we undergo a conversion experience; or when a person repents (changes direction); when we revolt and rise up against the status quo; or when we do something as simple as 'realizing' or 'recognizing' or even 'seeing' for the first time.
The spirit of revolution includes all of these things.

3. "I know St. Peter won't call my name." Obviously this image connotes that pearly gates scene, but for me I also envision St. Peter's denial of Christ. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, "I don't know the man... I don't know the man." Matthew 26:70ff

One more comment... what about that other huge biblical connection in the lyrics, the one that ties into Matthew 28:18-20?
JVS


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November 04, 2008
John - I love that. Jesus and Peter's denial. I NEVER thought of thinking of
it that way, but it puts a whole new spin on it. That's what I adore about
music - it means something different to everyone and only by sharing do we
gain a deeper understanding. Okay here's a bit more than my two-bits:

I will start by saying I first closed my eyes and imagined. Then I watched the
video. So the first bit is what I saw, the next bit is about the video, and then
I go off on some thoughts. It’s long.
The whole song seems to be looking over a life lived.

I see a man sweeping and looking about him with a light in his eyes –
shining as he remembers how he used to be on top. I picture him lonely and
watching, almost with longing, the people who are now in his place.

He had power, and enjoyed his ability to control other people. I see the
same man at a table in Vegas rolling the dice and brining in the big payouts
and enjoying the defeat of his enemies. He laughed and had a wicked glint
in his eyes. But even then he had a taste of the fleeting position he was in –
“now the old king is dead, long live the king!”

Next I see him sitting alone, possibly in a hotel room in that same Vegas
casino just desolate and lost. He has discovered that though he could win
approval on an earthly level, it doesn’t last. The “kingdom” he built crashed
down because it stood “on pillars of sand”. He is weeping and wondering
why this has happened to him.
(This also brings to mind that story of the men building their houses on the
rock or on the sand, but it brings it alive to me in a new way – in a very
vibrant and feeling way)

I see the man looking up and seeing some idea of a better way, hearing the
call to live for God. Perhaps he remembers being taught as a boy the true
way to a worthwhile life, but he can’t yet accept that. He feels that it is all
wasted, that he won’t be included. He has gone too far and the world is too
corrupt and lost. “There was never an honest word, that was when I ruled
the world.” He has been to the top; he knows how fake it is, so he can’t
believe in anything better.

The next verse has me seeing this “wicked and wild wind” as the Holy Spirit –
forceful and commanding in its entrance – just taking over the scene. An
almost Pentecostal vision. If the man is still in his hotel the windows are
smashed and he hears the great beating of the drums from on high
convicting him. “People couldn’t believe what I’d become” I take two ways:
one – the fact that someone so powerful in human terms could sink to the
bottom or two – the fact that this man made a turn around in his life.

Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate – every time I hear this line
I am reminded of John’s head being brought to the king. A way to silence
those we do not want to hear.

Just a puppet on a lonely string oh who would ever want to be king? – This
makes me thing that the man may be looking back and seeing through the
false idea of being on top being the best and realizing really you have no
control, you are alone, you are used – like a puppet on a string. Who would
want this, when there is so much better?

The next chorus sounds to me as a calling. A calling to the man – he can
hear the choirs, he can hear the bells, but somehow he is still unsure if he
can claim it for his own – if he can really be called into glory. For some
reason I can’t explain I know St. Peter won’t call my name – a place perhaps
we’ve all been where we can not seem to believe that any love could save us.
We just know we aren’t good enough.
The string component really makes this song sound holy – angelic. It’s
gorgeous and has a driving urgency to it. The whole song is urgent and full
of soul. The strings alone, without the lyrics bring a bittersweet feeling and
cause my soul to soar at times and at others fall with extreme sorrow.

The whole section with the slow, melodic “oohs” makes me picture a church
choir in a great cathedral, giving the whole song a new perspective. It is
almost as if this whole song is really a song of worship about life itself. It
has mystery and it is personal, but it is a truthful picture given up to God.

The fact that it transitions seamlessly into Violet Hill makes me wonder. I
can’t be sure, but to me these two songs are intertwined and related in a way
that makes each song hold more meaning. “If you love me, won’t you let me
know” is a plea we all have, and it seems to almost echo the cry of “I know
St. Peter won’t call my name.”

There is also a bit of reference to revolution in Violet Hill itself which fits in
with the reference to revolution in Viva La Vida “Priests clutched onto bibles,
hollowed out to fit their rifles and the cross was held aloft.”

I think someone else here said that Viva La Vida meant, “live the life” – and
on reflection as I said this song seems to be a remembrance of a life lived.
But it is also a reflection on how to really live the life.

Watching the video I noticed distinctly the colour of red. And it struck me
that if this is about revolution that revolution normally involves blood. Red.
The background uses images from the cover of the CD and each band
member has an armband or some sort of form of red on them. The French
Revolution certainly was bloody, and their armbands do have a sort of
military feel to them, but I must confess that I see that reference to be more
symbolical than really about the song (the beauty of the music is that others
will see it in there clearly where I don’t.)

But if you are asking about the Revolution of Christ in our lives it certainly
was bloody, and that is what I think of when I see the video. Red. Blood.
Pointing to change, to a better way. There was violence in the revolution of
Christ, the shedding of blood and there is certainly violence in this song with
the crashes of drums and the striking of bells. The lyrics talk of beating
drums and broken glass and waiting for a head on a silver plate. Violence.
Blood. Red. I find it fascinating.

In the video I also see a change toward the middle – the wind picks up, the
clouds swirl, and the Holy Spirit moves for a change. I can’t really describe it
because it was more of a feeling – watching those clouds swirl it was like
watching the winds of change. Revolution. That Christ can move in a life –
the wild and wicked wind. Wicked here not meaning evil, but forceful,
commanding.

The beginning of the song starts with the opening of the flower, and at the
end each band member is blown away into flower petals. I am not sure
exactly what this is supposed to symbolize, but I did like it a lot. Flowers are
a symbol of beauty, but also a way to mark the graves of those we love. Red
flowers. Perhaps a beauty within the violence? The ending sequence is
uplifting – it almost seems as if the band members are being whisked away to
something better as they float away against the soothing melodies. Freedom
is what I think. Freedom gained through the blood of another.

This is long, I realize, and I could probably blab on and on because every
time I listen or watch I hear/feel/realize something new. Which is the beauty
of music – it meets us where we are and it opens the doors. Whatever this
song was intended for, I think it is clear that it resonates something bigger to
everyone – it is a top hit – and its not because it speaks of sex or money or
having it all. It speaks of what truly matters in the end. It directs us towards
a change, and it makes us think. That is really beautiful to me, the ability
that this song has to make people think and evaluate their lives. It’s a call,
gentle, probing, and yet as urgent as the throbbing strings pulsing and
pushing the song along. Almost a whisper of the urgency of Revelations –
the time is coming, the end is nearing – or of Christ who will return like a
thief in the night. An urgent call to Revolution.

Okay, before I go off on ANOTHER direction I’ll stop.
Kayleigh S


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November 04, 2008
OK Kayleigh... aren't you just a holy imaginative soul!
Great thoughts, and well articulated!

Reading them I had many aha moments... I'm gonna wait for a day or so before responding though... let someone else talk first!
JVS


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November 04, 2008
As a P.S. to my last note -

It suddenly hit me, as I am still thinking of this, that this song is a story - a
parable. And that Jesus still uses parables to reach us. I'm done now! Honest!
Kayleigh


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November 03, 2008
Does he really sing "I know St. Peter WILL call my name" the second time? That's intereisting. I thought it was "won't"
Anonymous


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November 03, 2008
it sounds like "won't" in the video on you tube, but some lyric sites do have it as "will"
Anonymous


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November 03, 2008
Good catch. As much as I would like to beleive that the lyrics are "I know St. Peter WILL call my name" in the second chorus, I think they are the same as in the first chorus: ""I know St. Peter WON'T call my name". The reason I would like to beleive that the lyrics are "I know St. Peter WILL call my name" is becuase I think this song is fundamentally about change. Call it revolution, if you will, but it is still a derivative of change. In fact, the lyrics of the enitre album seem to transition from confusion/lostness to discovery, then to revolution, and ultimately to peace/nirvana/heaven. Check out the lyrics of the last song, "The Escapist", a hidden track on the album. They are very short, but sweet and final: "And in the end/We lie awake/And we dream/We’ll make an escape" The imagery that comes to mind for me is a person that has declined from fame and fortune to a vast emptiness and loneliness, one that he now struggles to come to terms with on his deathbed. Maybe he was once a great leader, an entertainer, a wealthy businessman, a king...who knows. It seems that now, he has lost everything that once defined him as a person and "in the end" he 'lies awake" and "dreams he'll make an escape [from this Earth to a Heaven that will wash him of his sins and accept him with loving and open arms]. But I digress. We are not talking about the last song on the album, this thread is supposed to focus on Viva la Vida...

Viva la Vida. I think that translates from Spanish to something like "Live the Life". Perhaps the message is to live life to it's fullest potential, and that 'full potential' is not necessarily defined by fame, fortune, conquests or power. Instead of defining ourselves as by what we have GOTTEN from life/others/God, we may realize 'in the end' that we wish our eulogy to list what we have GIVEN to life/others/God. The song has many biblical references as well:

"I know Saint Peter won't call my name" - he beleives St. Peter will not allow him into heaven after he dies, becomes of the sins he committed in his life. Or, maybe he beleives he is untouchable and only he will decide when he is ready to be 'called to heaven'. Not sure.

"Revolutionaries wait/For my head on a silver plate/Just a puppet on a lonely string/Oh who would ever wanna be king?"-This could be a reference to John the Baptist. His head was brought to King Herod on a Silver Platter. Even though Herod regretted this decision, saving his pride and promise to his temptress got in the way.

In reference to revolution...

"I discovered that my castles stand/Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand." - during the FrenchRevolution, the entire rule of government was crumbling, becasue the foundations upon which it had been built (feudalism, aristocracy) were fundamentally flawed, unjust and unsustainable. And so it is with us: if we choose to build our lives with unstable ingredients, we will ultimately crumble into a pile of rubble.

RA


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