A poem by Ruthann Knechel Johansen shared as part of the Bible study on the afternoon of July 7 at Annual Conference 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What does it mean to be “surprised by the Spirit?” How can poetry help our imaginations to be surprised?
I write lyrics for certain scriptures when I can’t find one that suits. Most of them are one-offs, but I’ve had people ask me if they can share this one with others, and of course the answer is yes. It’s set to the tune of the hymn “Will You Let Me Be Your Servant?” It goes with Luke 13:1-9, about the Galileans, the Tower of Siloam, and the parable of the fig tree and the gardener.
Life, death, awe in the face of creation, alarm at the sins of humanity, anger, despair, lament, complaint, faith, hope, and love standing side by side–these are not only the qualities of the Psalms, but they are also found in the profound poetry of 86-year-old novelist, environmentalist, farmer, and poet Wendell Berry. Last fall, Joelle Hathaway, the new assistant professor of Theological Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary, taught a course about Berry’s Sabbath poetry, which plumbs the heights and depths of human experience.
“God Talk” can result in many different outcomes: conflict, terror, transformation, human flourishing, or human cruelty. So, he wondered, “Can theopoetics lead to more artful discourse? Can our hearts grow roomier and our lives become more radiant?”
Irvin Heishman was inspired by a photo of Martha (Mattie) Cunningham Dolby to write this poetic blessing.