Sting’s new musical & humanity’s pilgrimage Heavenward

Sting has been following me ‘every step I take, every move I make…’ It’s a joke, but I do hear his voice wherever I go — the morning drive to work, the grocery store, the mall, the drive home from church. His music’s persistent presence has become, unfortunately, annoying. (Unfortunate because, truly, that man is gifted.)

But the Lord redeems…

Sting has written a refreshing musical about his hometown: The Last Ship, which premieres in June. Growing up, little Sting (Gordon Matthew Thomas) would look down to the street’s end and witness the construction of mammoth ships in the shipyards.

His new production’s title theme is sung by a priest character, and Sting has outdone himself in lyrical genius here, as he recounts Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ:

“Tell me where are ye going Lord, and why in such haste?”
“Now don’t hinder me woman, I’ve no time to waste!
For they’re launching a boat on the morrow at noon,
And I have to be there before daybreak.
Oh I canna be missing, the lads’ll expect me,
Why else would the good Lord himself resurrect me?
For nothing will stop me, I have to prevail,
Through the teeth of this tempest, in the mouth of a gale,
May the angels protect me if all else should fail,
When the last ship sails.”

Oh the roar of the chains and the cracking of timbers,
The noise at the end of the world in your ears,
As a mountain of steel makes its way to the sea,
And the last ship sails.
And whatever you’d promised, whatever you’ve done,
And whatever the station in life you’ve become.
In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son,
And whatever the weave of this life that you’ve spun,
On the Earth or in Heaven or under the Sun,
When the last ship sails.

Writing in the Northumbrian folk style, Sting has reminded me of that ravishing mystery, the Church — symbolized from her earliest days by a barque. Recalling the tale of Christ’s last days on earth, these lyrics highlight the raw humanity of Christ and his Church, without sacrificing their transcendent beauty.

Jesus makes haste to meet the apostles while they’re aboard what is perhaps the last ship they ever set foot in, that ghostly and glorious morning Christ cooked their breakfast.

The Church is that ‘last ship’ which sails always to the Homeland, and which will someday be the ‘last ship’. I do hope to be on that ship when it sails.

Happy Holy Week; looking forward to that Exultet.

You can watch The Last Ship in its entirety (in the U.S.A.) on PBS Great Performances.

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