One of my favorite bands is Mumford & Sons, the English folk rockers whose new album Babel (2012) has recently set sales records here in the US. As is well known, Mumford’s lyrics are filled with biblical allusions – nearly every song has some kind of reference to biblical images or stories, often to the book of Genesis. Mumford’s songs are thus a contemporary example of Wirkungsgeschichte, the continuing “history of effects” of the biblical text millennia after its writing.
Mumford’s music has come to mind this week as I’ve been preparing a sermon on the parable of the seeds/soils (Mark 4:1-20 pars). Listening to Sigh No More (2009) in my car, I was struck by the lyrics of “Thistle & Weeds.” While the “meaning” of the song is undoubtedly polyvalent, I do think there are clear allusions to this parable. The chorus to this song begins, “But plant your hope with good seeds / Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds.” This sure sounds like the seed falling among the thorns (Mark 4:7). This connection is strengthened with the line “Corrupted by the simple sniff of riches blown,” which parallels the interpretation of the parable, which states that the seed that falls among the thorns are those who hear the word of God but fall away because of the “seductiveness of wealth” (Mark 4:19). That Marcus Mumford was drawing on the Gospels for at least one line of this song is nearly certain on account of the direct quotation of “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt 8:22), so I think this allusion to another dominical saying is reasonable.
Here’s a link to the song so you can judge for yourself. Enjoy!