“A Flame Within Us”

We who live in the Midwest, and south of Chicago, have so far had only a small fall of snow to contend with unlike so many other others close to the great lakes and Buffalo in particular. However, winter has not yet run its course! Edward Hirsch in his book Poet’s Choice in just 400 pages offers an amazing collection of poems from ancient times to the present. With each poet he writes a brief overview. Of the English poet Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) he wonders why she isn’t better known and that she deserves more readers, and writes “She was part Victorian, part modernist, and her work is ‘God bothered.'”

Do take time to ponder Mew’s poem The Call below. This poem is best read when you are sitting close to the fire on these cold winter nights! On this weekend here in the USA we recall the prophetic voice of Martin Luther King Jr. His words and actions coupled with the countless others who have worked and those who continue to work for social justice, remind us that we need to “arise and go” for the work is far from over! Perhaps we might be encouraged to pay attention to “the flame within us” What is the flame within you?

The Call
From our low seat beside the fire
Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow
Or raked the ashes, stopping so
We scarcely saw the sun or rain
Above, or looked much higher
Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire.
Tonight we heard a call,
A rattle on the window pane,
A voice on the sharp air,
And felt a breath stirring our hair,
A flame within us: Something swift and tall
Swept in and out and that was all.
Was it a bright or a dark angel? Who can know?
It left no mark upon the snow,
But suddenly it snapped the chain
Unbarred, flung wide the door
Which will not shut again;
And so we cannot sit here any more.
We must arise and go:
The world is cold without
And dark and hedged about
With mystery and enmity and doubt,
But we must go
Though yet we do not know
Who called, or what marks we shall leave upon the snow.
Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)

God of justice and mercy,
hear our prayer this day.
Might we as a community and as a nation
never tire of seeking to do what is right so that
right can be done for all.
Lord God,
remind us of the prophet of long ago
who reminds us the the Lord requires
that we seek to do justice, to love kindness and
to walk humbly with God.
Open our eyes and our ears so that
our hearts become full of goodness and grace.
Forgive us when we have been slow of heart and
encourage us to do more. Amen.

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