Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Broken Hallelujah

A few months ago, when our youth group learned about David and Bathsheba, one of the kids said - oh, it's like that song. He was remembering a verse from Leonard Cohen's 1984 song, Hallelujah.

"You saw her bathing on the roof" was the lyric. It refers to King David lusting after Bathsheba. The same sinning King David wrote Psalms in our Holy Scripture. Sin and grace reside together in"the baffled king composing Hallelujah."

I knew the song because a few years back my younger brother made me a CD with the Jeff Buckley version. I fell in love with it immediately. This time around, I'm noticing how heartbreaking it is and how hopeful. It intertwines those two realities - longing and fulfillment, love and heartache, sorrow and hope.

I am moved by the Cohen song because he gets something about this faithful life that I need to remember: it's not simple. It's not all arrival or victory and sometimes it's terribly hard. But sometimes it's terribly fulfilling. It's always resounding with grace.

"There's a blaze of light in every word, it doesn't matter which you heard, the holy or the broken Hallelujah."

Watching our youth sing Hallelujah, I imagine all the heartache, longing, fears and sorrow that echo inside of them. They pour them out into this song and I find I can pour mine out too. And in the end, what's left is "nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

So Pastor Sarah, can we hear it? Yep - at church tomorrow (8:30 and 11) and also online. There are loads of versions - the most popular is Rufus Wainwright's for Shrek. But I'm taken with a video with Leonard Cohen singing that I found on Utube. It's cheesy, but I love it. Also, to read more about the process of this song (it took him 5 years to write), check out this interesting interview with Leonard Cohen.



  1. Definitely not what I was expecting to hear at 8:30 this morning. :) The youth's version was lovely. What a haunting, thought-provoking song - hope the youth will be bringing more non-traditional church music to future services.

  2. It was wonderful to hear and see the youth on Sunday perform this song! I agree that it is heartbreaking and it is hopefull as well. Much like life. Thanks for sharing some insight on the song.

  3. beautiful...we absolutely loved it and so did our boys. we came home and listenend to several versions on Utube. seeing the youth at sunday service is such a treat for our boys, perhaps they see a connection in the middle of it all...thank you.


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