Ministry in poetry -- Lazarus, freedom, and the Word we were created to hear and know

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.

Below is one of my favorite poems by Dr. John McKenna and his wife Nancy. Students of theology are sometimes surprised to learn that in addition to being a theology professor at several schools and a doctrinal advisor to Grace Communion International, John is also a gifted poet. The Burning Green (1996, Wipf and Stock Publishers) is a collection of their poetry, and is available at

John and Nancy wrote in the book's Foreword in 1996,
Throughout our more than twenty years of marriage [and now more than thirty] Nancy and I have struggled to give these poems a voice that might reflect the gift of God with us. We are of a time that is deeply wounded. Our language echos its rage and folly. We are thankful to be free from its destructive power. To this freedom we hope our poems will point their readers. The Bible verses [included alongside each poem] are meant to help us hear.
Sometimes a certain type of poem speaks more than pages of prose. For me, “If You Are Lazarus” is one of those. Enjoy.

If You Are Lazarus

If you are Lazarus
And the universe is your tomb,
Body, time, and space
Your mummy clothes,
And your heart a slab of stone,
As love heals the dead
The light shall hurt your eyes,
For we are made of dust and nothingness
By the breath of God
A little less than Him,
Made to hear and know His Word
Or without Him to pretend.
Love does not live for death
And neither shall Man.
When the stone is moved,
You will hear Him call.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25