Thursday, June 26, 2008

Here I Am

Last night our church conducted the fourth of five nights of our annual Vacation Church School. The week's theme is "We Want a King," and last night we learned about Samuel and how God called him out of a slumber and how Samuel had a special purpose in anointing Israel's first king--Saul. In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel answers God with three simple words, "Here I am." This peculiar call and response happens in three's as so many important "God-talks" occur in scripture. "Here I Am"--these are the same words uttered by Moses before the burning bush(Exodus 3:4) and Isaiah at his call to prophecy (Isaiah 6:8). The words are so utterly different than the way in which Adam cowers from God who comes to find him when all Adam can say is "When I heard your voice, God, I was afraid and I hid" (Genesis 3:10). "Here I Am"--these three simple words, which give a location and then the simplest of subject-verb clauses, these three words are so similar to the words God uses for God's self in Exodus 3:14 when he tells Moses his proper and mysterious name. God says, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" or "I Am Who I Am." At least in part, it is as if Samuel, Moses, and Isaiah answer God in the affirmative by the simple utterance of God's name.

When God calls you, will you have the courage, despite your greatest fears, to say, "Here I Am. Send Me"?

Monday, June 2, 2008


You are a good God
of that I feel sure.
You kept saying that we were
good, in the Creation.
You keep making concessions,
Flood, Manna, Cross.

Though none of it comes on our terms.
You will be what you will be
You are gracious on your terms
You will be merciful on your terms
If I see your face, or I do not,
your prerogative.

Criminals ask for a crumb of your memory,
and you say to felons,
today you will be with me in Paradise.
Can this be?

Some pick grapes for only 60 minutes,
they too, get the usual?
All your grace? Same as me?
This can’t be.

An old Cherokee word,
Hante, means, “I went away and learned.”
Tells of a sojourner with tales of a distant land.
but you raise up a boy who went away
and slept in filth.
When do I get mine for staying?
More importantly,
when does he get his for leaving?

So this is what it looks like to follow a good God.
Hard work.
Difficult to comprehend.
Seemingly unfair
But, you did raise the dead, so I guess you could show mercy
to bums like these and me.

*Biblical references include: Gen 1, 6. Ex 16, 3, 33. Lk 23, Matt 20, Lk 15.
**This was written with the help of a sermon by TEK (9/21/08) and the Holy Family book club (9/22/08).

June 1, 2010, preached and taught this poem at the Durham County Detention Center by reading the poem once, then reading the scriptures that were referenced and finally, reading the poem a second time. Roughly 15 men joined for worship and it was a joy to bless the Lord with them. I was inspired to use this poem and method by David Whyte who spoke at Duke on May 21 regarding The Power and Place of Poetry as part of a conference called, Lifelines: Poetry for Our Patients, Our Communities, Our Selves.