I have begun a series of sermons at Girton College Chapel on the mysterious ‘I AM’ sayings in John’s gospel. I started the series with the strange saying that perhaps provides the key to all the others, in John 8:58: ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’. Scholars agree that this is no mere confusion of tenses but rather a proclamation by Jesus that he is indeed the great I AM, the one who disclosed himself to Moses at the Burning Bush as the God of Abraham and who named himself ‘I AM’. We know that this is how his first hearers interpreted this saying, for they heard it as blasphemous and tried to stone Jesus for having said it (John 8:59).But for those of us who accept that Jesus is the great I AM, that revelation is the very root of our faith. The first and primal reality, the foundation of the Cosmos, is ‘I AM’, not ‘it is’. The deepest reality is not a collection of meaningless objects, but a personal God who speaks in the first person and shares the gift of personhood with us. When we turn to Christ we turn towards the great I AM, the source and origin of our own little ‘I-Amness’. Turning and returning to that source is always a great refreshment. No longer do we toil to ‘make ourselves’, no longer are we anxious about who we are, we simply receive our being as what it has always been: a gift. For this reason link this saying in my mind with Jeus beautiful call ‘come unto me all ye who labour and I will give you rest’. You can hear the sermon Here. I have brought both sayings together in this sonnet which will be part of my forthcoming Parable and Paradox collection with Canterbury Press.
As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. John 8:58
Oh pure I AM, the source of everything,
The wellspring of my inner consciousness,
The song within the songs I find to sing,
The bliss of being and the crown of bliss.
You iterate and indwell all the instants
Wherein I wake and wonder that I am,
As every moment of my own existence
Runs over from the fountain of your name.
I turn with Jacob, Isaac, Abraham,
With everyone whom you have called to be,
I turn with all the fallen race of Adam
To hear you calling, calling ‘Come to me’.
With them I come, all weary and oppressed,
And lay my labours at your feet, and rest.