Love bade me welcome.
Yet my should drew back
guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
by George Herbert
My friend and pastor, Ken Sikes, reminded me of this poem that offers an invitation for us all as we close out 2020 and usher in 2021. Here are Ken’s words describing the background to the poem:
“George Herbert was an ascending star in 17th Century England. He served two years in the British Parliament by the age of 32 and was known by King James. Herbert left the life of politics to become the pastor of a country parish far from the halls of power. His reflection on those times, The Country Parson, were published after his early death at the age of only 40. The book became a sort of textbook for countless seminarians. His other published work is, perhaps, less known but also came from his time as pastor.
Pastor Ken Sikes
The Temple is a collection of poems based upon the elements of the church.
It includes poems with titles like ‘Lent’ and ‘Christmas’ as well as elements like ‘The Altar’ and ‘The Windows.’ I have not read The Temple, but those who have studied it believe Herbert had a function and purpose to his work.
He used the poems as a kind of catechism to teach faith. Catechisms are not unusual, but Herbert’s approach may have been. Most catechisms tell people what to believe. Herbert took a different approach, instead of telling, he asked.
‘At Sermons, and Prayers, men may sleep or wander;
but when one is asked a question, he must discover what he is.’
Once we get past the now obvious gender bias of Herbert’s language, we are left with his means of teaching. Instead of telling, he questioned. Questions invite us in. Questions invite us to make things personal. Questions are invitations. Nowhere does this invitation shine more clearly then in what is likely his most famous poem. It is titled “Love III” but is best known by its opening line:
‘Love bade me welcome,
but my soul drew back…’”
With Ken’s reflection, I join him through this invitation inspired by Herbert’s poem: What is Love welcoming you to, into or away from in 2021? Rather than sleeping or wandering, through our questions we have from this year and into the new year, may we find ways to discover Love’s welcome.
by Mary Pandiani