Another poem! Or rather, a series of poems.
I’m part of a church called the Jeremiah Community. Shortly after I joined the community, I decided to read the book of Jeremiah to see what our patron prophet was all about. I got about halfway through before getting totally discouraged. Jeremiah is a hard read – chapters upon chapters of condemnation of Israel’s faithlessness and injustice, and prophecies of imminent doom. And yet it is full of poetry, touching the heights and depths of human experience. Here’s my attempt at rendering that poetry.
Before I was born, you called my name,
Filled my mouth with words and my heart with flame:
A call to knock down and overthrow,
A call to build and a call to grow,
Courage to speak your truth to all,
To warn a nation of its coming fall.
To Jerusalem, the Lord says this:
I remember our tender early days,
When together we walked the desert ways,
When I brought you to a land unsown,
Gave you fertile fields to call your own.
I led you through desert, valley and plain,
Through drought and through darkness you called on my name.
What have I done wrong, that you ruin my land
And desert me to worship the gods of your hands?
What nation would do this? The heavens will cry
That you’ve left living water for wells that run dry.
I made you free, you made chains of your own
To bind yourselves to gods of wood and stone.
Now you cry for forgiveness, claim hearts that are pure,
But your rich robes are stained with the blood of the poor.
Your gods will fail, your allies turn,
Your people die, your cities burn,
Before you will turn back to me.
I gave you eyes but you cannot see!
Wherever I go I see hunger and pain,
We can bear no more, God, send your rain.
Sorrow consumes me, my heart grows weak,
Harvest is past and the winter is bleak.
My people cry for help, for you,
Terror and darkness grip me too.
Where is healing for a wound so deep?
Day and night for the slain I would weep.
Still I must shout your words of doom,
Helpless prophet of my people’s tomb…
In your name I will not speak!
They mock your words, my life they seek.
But in my bones a fire burns –
From your call I cannot turn.
And so I raise my voice anew,
For I can only trust in you.
But for my bitter shame I mourn
And curse the day when I was born.
To the exiles brought to Babylon:
Build houses, marry, settle down,
Plant gardens, live a way of peace,
Flourish here and do not decrease.
Pray for the city where you’ve been sent,
For on its welfare yours depends.
Do not mourn your dishonoured name,
Exile brings grief but bears no shame.
Trust in my promise, call and I’ll hear,
Search for me truly and I’ll be near.
From all the lands where you have roamed,
I’ll gather you in, I’ll bring you home.
In the wilderness you will find grace,
There we will come face to face.
I’ve kept my faithful love for you,
Come home and let us build anew.
I’ll bring you from the ends of earth,
Both weak and strong, to know new birth.
You’ll come with tears and prayers and dreams,
I’ll lead you gently to fresh streams.
You’ll come back dancing – mourn no more!
You’ll all be filled, both rich and poor.
So dry your tears, there’s hope for you,
Come back and we’ll make something new.