Tag Archives: christianity

Before Abraham Was, I AM

The-God-who-Called-us-is-the-Great-I-AM-and-He-is-the-God-of-our-FathersI 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.


Before Abraham Was I AM


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.



Filed under christianity, Girton, Poems

A Sonnet for St. Luke

St. Luke accompanied by his ‘creature’ the winged ox

This Sunday, the 18th of October is the feast day of St. Luke the Physician and Evangelist and I am posting this a little early as there may be churches or individuals who would like to use it this Sunday. It comes from Sounding the Seasons, my series of sonnets for the church year.  My sonnets, in that series, present the four Evangelists together and the imagery in those sonnets is influenced  by the images of the four living creatures round the throne of God and the tradition that each of these creatures represents both an aspect of Christ and one of the four Evangelists.

‘...since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. ‘  St. Irenaeus of Lyons  (ca. 120-202 AD)  –  Adversus Haereses 3.11.8

For a good account of this tradition click here. I am drawing my inspiration both from the opening page image of each Gospel in the Lindesfarne Gospels and also from the beautiful account of the four living creatures given by St. Ireneus, part of which I quote above.  As always you can hear the poem by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears or clicking on the title of the poem. The photographer Margot Krebs Neale has again provided a thought-provoking photograph to interpret the poem, in this case one taken by her son Oliver.  The book with these sonnets was published by Canterbury Press  and is available from all the usual amazons etc.

As well as being himself a Physician, and therefore the patron saint of doctors and all involved in healing ministry, Luke is also the patron of artists and painters. His gospel seems to have a particular connection with those on the margins of his society. In Luke we hear the voices of women more clearly than in any other gospel, and the claims and hope of the poor in Christ find a resonant voice.


His gospel is itself a living creature

A ground and glory round the throne of God,

Where earth and heaven breathe through human nature

And One upon the throne sees it is good.

Luke is the living pillar of our healing,

A lowly ox, the servant of the four,

We turn his page to find his face revealing

The wonder, and the welcome of the poor.

He breathes good news to all who bear a burden

Good news to all who turn and try again,

The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,

A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,

The voiceless find their voice in every word

And, with Our Lady, magnify Our Lord.

Thanks to Margot Krebs Neale for this image


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Poems

Good Ground: A Sonnet on the Parable of the Sower

Van Gogh The Sower 1888

Van Gogh The Sower 1888

As many churches celebrate a Harvest Festival in these next few weeks I thought I would offer some poetry for the season. Some churches may like to use my little sequence celebrating the days of creation Seven Whole Days, but as the parable of the sower in Matthew Chapter 13 is so often set at harvest tide and is taken up in harvest hymns I thought I would also offer the sonnet I have written about that parable for my forthcoming sequence of poems Parable and Paradox, which will come out with Canterbury Press next year. Please feel free to make use of this or my other poetry in churches, and if you wish, to include it in church bulletins, just put a line to say ‘used with permission of the poet’ and, if there is space, put a link to this site. Thanks. This sonnet came to me very simply and swiftly like a song being sung, and so I have divided the sonnet form up into three four line verses, with the couplet at the end, which could itself be a kind of chorus, if anyone feels like singing it.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

 Matthew 13: 1-9

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Good Ground

I love your simple story of the sower,

With all its close attention to the soil,

Its movement from the knowledge to the knower,

Its take on the tenacity of toil.


I feel the fall of seed a sower scatters,

So equally available to all,

Your story takes me straight to all that matters,

Yet understands the reasons why I fall.


Oh deepen me where I am thin and shallow,

Uproot in me the thistle and the thorn,

Keep far from me that swiftly snatching shadow,

That seizes on your seed to mock and scorn.


O break me open, Jesus, set me free,

Then find and keep your own good ground in me.




Filed under christianity, Poems

I Am the Light of the World

it shimmers through the living leaves of summer

it shimmers through the living leaves of summer

‘Light’ is the theme for this years twenty-first anniversary National Poetry Day, which falls today, so I thought I’d share my sonnet on Jesus’ saying ‘I Am the Light of the World’. This is one of a sequence on the seven ‘I Am’ sayings in John’s Gospel which will itself be part of a longer series on the sayings of Jesus called ‘Parable and Paradox’ to be published by Canterbury Press next year. The opening lines of the poem are an allusion to a famous saying of CS Lewis, which is now carved on his memorial in Poet’s Corner:

 “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The final couplet develops the motif of turning upstream towards Christ as the source of the river of light and life, an image I first used in my sonnet Pilgrimage, in Memory of Kate Gross and which is drawn partly from St. John of the Cross’s beautiful poem ‘ Although it is the Night’

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

I Am the Light of the World

“I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12


I see your world in light that shines behind me,

Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,

The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me

Or find the child who’s hiding deep inside me.

I see your light reflected in the water,

Or kindled suddenly in someone’s eyes,

It shimmers through the living leaves of summer,

Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,

It gathers in the candles at our vespers

It concentrates in tiny drops of dew

At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,

But all the time it calls me back to you.

I follow you upstream through this dark night

My saviour, source, and spring, my life and light.

The Lewis memorial in Westminster Abbey

The Lewis memorial in Westminster Abbey

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A Sonnet for St. Francis

st-francis-of-assisiIn honour of the great saint, whose feast day falls on October 4th, and as a reflection on the new Pope who has chosen that saint’s name, and so affirmed their common task, in Christ, to rebuild his Church, I thought I would post this sonnet which reflects the way Francis responded to Christ’s call by casting away the rich trappings he had inherited and embracing holy poverty.The sonnet, which I wrote shortly after the election of the new Pope, is also a prayer that Pope Francis the 1st will enable the wider church to do the same! As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title

My sonnets for the Christian Year are available from Canterbury Press Here and on Kindle here

This sonnet for Francis is taken from my new book The Singing Bowl, published by Canterbury Press. It is also available from Amazon UK Here, and USA Here and in Canada you can order it is kept in stock by SignpostMusic

‘Francis, Rebuild My Church’; a sonnet for the Saint and for the new Pope

‘Francis rebuild my church which, as you see
Is falling into ruin.’ From the cross
Your saviour spoke to you and speaks to us
Again through you. Undoing set you free,
Loosened the traps of trappings, cast away
The trammelling of all that costly cloth
We wind our saviour in. At break of day
He set aside his grave-clothes. Your new birth
Came like a daybreak too, naked and true
To poverty and to the gospel call,
You woke to Christ and Christ awoke in you
And set to work through all your love and skill
To make our ruin good, to bless and heal
To wake the Christ in us and make us whole.

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Everything Holds Together

A while back I had an interesting, and indeed beautiful request from the talented singer-songwriter Alana Levandoski. She was making a new Album which would be a musical meditation on the great Hymn to Christ in the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, would I write a poem on Colossians 1:15-17 and read it so it could be woven into the music? I would be working alongside other poets like Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw. Would I do it? You bet I would!

here are the verses in Colossians that were the starting point:

He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, thrones, ruling forces, sovereignties, powers — all things were created through him and for him. He exists before all things and in him all things hold together.

Now the Album, Behold I Make All Things New, has come out and it is beautiful! Here is the poem. the Greek phrase in the poem ‘Eikon tou theou, means image of God and is taken directly from the Greek text of Paul’s letter

Everything Holds Together


Everything holds together, everything,

From stars that pierce the dark like living sparks,

To secret seeds that open every spring,

From spanning galaxies to spinning quarks,

Everything holds together and coheres,

Unfolding from the center whence it came.

And now that hidden heart of things appears,

The first-born of creation takes a name.


And shall I see the one through whom I am?

Shall I behold the one for whom I’m made,

The light in light, the flame within the flame,

Eikon tou theou, image of my God?

He comes, a little child, to bless my sight,

That I might come to him for life and light.

As usual you can hear me read it by clicking on the title or play button, but better still you can hear it with Alana’s music, hear the other three poems that are woven in with it and see the beautiful paintings by Julie Ann Stevens that go with the Album. You can check out Alana’s website here.



Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, paintings, Poems

Michaelmas; a sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael at Mont St. Michell -photo by Margot Krebs Neale

Continuing my sequence from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press, the 29th September brings us the feast of St. Michael and All Angels which is known as Michaelmas in England, and this first autumn term in many schools and universities is still called the Michaelmas term. The Archangel Michael is traditionally thought of as the Captain of the Heavenly Host, and, following an image from the book of Revelation, is often shown standing on a dragon, an image of Satan subdued and bound by the strength of Heaven. He is also shown with a drawn sword, or a spear and a pair of scales or balances, for he represents, truth, discernment, the light and energy of intellect, to cut through tangles and confusion, to set us free to discern and choose. He is celebrated and revered in all three Monotheistic religions. There is a good, full account of him here. And here is a bright and playful image of him by the Cambridge Artist Rebecca Merry, who has done a number of icons and other images of the Archangels. You can see more of her art here, and also in the Byard Art Gallery.

And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright

And here is a response to the poem from photographer Margot Krebs Neale, weaving the words at the heart of the poem into the heart-shaped image. More of Margot’s work can be seen here.

This poem also appears as the epigraph in the new edition of Holly Ordway’s excellent book Not God’s Type’ which I highly recommend. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or the title. Many of you have commented on how good it is to be able to hear the poems, and I’m glad thats working.


Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,

And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.

He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear

To flourish in the touch and reach of light.

Archangel bring your balance, help me turn

Upon this turning world with you and dance

In the Great Dance. Draw near, help me discern,

And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.

Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,

Drive through the deep until the steep waves part,

Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence

And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.

Unchain the child you find there, break the spell

And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.

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Filed under christianity, literature, Poems