“There is something in every one of you that waits, listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself and if you cannot hear it, you will never find whatever it is for which you are searching…”

These words are by the great preacher and theologian, Howard Thurman.[i] The prophet Jeremiah heard the genuine[ii]

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, (it is written)
and the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah and Thurman’s vision invite us to be curious about this genuine within


Can we hear
The voice before
Our own narrative drowns it out?
Inviting us to discover
God’s invitation


In our passage
From Jeremiah
We hear echoes
Of just such
An enticement


Invites us to hear
That God
Creates Us
God Writes upon our hearts
God invites
The Genuine in one individual body
To meet
the genuine in the body of another


God invites us to see
That we are part of God’s creation
Creatures of difference
unique bodies
genuine bodies


find that which is genuine
Written with the same hand
That pre-scribes all of us


Thurman eloquently wrote, “I must wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you. I must wait. For if I cannot hear it, then in my scheme of things, you are not even present. And everybody wants to feel that everybody else knows that she is there.”


That we are present
Seen – I would add


When we look
And our eyes are opened
Or our ears unplugged


(that recognized ministry of Jesus
In so many healing accounts)


We become
Aware transfixed and transformed
And the God through me
Meets the God through you.


We come to terms
With the inscription
Written so long ago
Enlivened by
the re-interpretation of those words
the translation
the re-tracing
that reveals itself
when one gazes upon God’s
hand written cruciform body of Jesus
and receives
with clarity
what is written on
one another’s hearts
from the day before our beginning

Here then we
“Know the Lord,”
The Genuine
know The Forgiving one
know the merciful one
the loving one

And see iniquity,
For what it is
see sin
and sibling rivalry
Crossed out
Trampled like death itself
By the embracing body of Jesus

Jeremiah’s gift
Recognized by generations
Good news
That All exiles
have an opportunity
To begin again.[iii]

God invites us
To begin again

All exiles are forgiven


They had once forgotten
Each other
Especially the poor
They had forgotten to care for one another
They had forgotten
The creatureliness
And iconography
In each of us


Speaks God’s invitation –

Begin again




Dive deeper
Than our own inner dialogue
And speech
and hear the words

Inscribed on our hearts


If we are able
As Thurman writes,
To wait
To listen
To see
And know
The Genuine written on the hearts

Of mothers
Our circle of friends
And those
Who are our enemies
“people [we cannot] stand,
if [we] had the power
[we] would wipe them out.”
Says Thurman


if you can read
each others cross inscribed heart
We will discover
“that if [we] wipe them out,
[we] go with them.”


“So,” Thurman wrote,
“You fight for your own life”
by not killing them.”


Here is the sacrificial
Picking up the cross
Jesus is fond of talking about
The cross of Christ
Does not allow the Christian
To dismiss the exile in each other
Nor our pre-exilic nature


For the Christian
In another body
a vision
Of one’s own exilic nature
One’s own enslaved body


We also see the genuine
The whole arc of God’s narrative
Suggests that we are created to be
embodied relations


Dietrich Bonhoeffer
called it “anologia relationis.”
Nahum D. Chandler
and W. E. B. Du Bois called it
the “between.”


We are invited
By God’s own
Cruciform Handwriting

(Before we were in the womb)

To  Participate in a “poetics of relation”

As poet Édouard Glissant puts it


Such “Poetry is not a Luxury,”

Author and poet, Audre Lorde wrote

I draw on that work here

A poetics of relation

It Is where our names come from

The ideas which are

Until this deep connection

“nameless and formless,

“about to be birthed, but already felt.”


What is heard in the deep

Whispered in the genuineness of poetry

Lorde says

Is that which “precedes understanding.”[iv]


We glimpse an icon that speaks


That “diety is not repugnant in the cosmos”

Not repugnant to bear flesh

An icon of

our human “unicity”

phrases I am borrowing from theologian Kate Sonderegger[v]


  1. Cameron Carter,

Calls this the ante, the before.[vi]

this is a glimpse at

the para-ontological

nature of embodiment

Before it is drowned out

By the hatred



Helps us with this thick theological language


Again he refrains


We see

The Genuine


Thurman wrote with a tongue

of his own mystic prophecy,

“It is possible

for me to go down in me and come up in you.

So that when I look at myself through your eyes

having made that pilgrimage,

I see in me what you see in me

and the wall that separates

and divides will disappear

and we will become one.”


As Jeremiah prophesied

all exiles

Have the opportunity

To begin again


We are invited to a

deep turn towards

One another

Just as God has turned

To us


A turn so as to hear that genuine

Cruciform voice

Of God

inscribed on every heart


It is not

That we are to speak out

a prophecy

But that our bodies

Are to be the prophecy

That repairs

and binds


fights for the life

of the exiled in each other

that fights

the fight of


to the exiled in all of us


[i] The Sound of the Genuine–by Howard Thurman, Nov 30, 2017 https://www.dailygood.org/story/1846/the-sound-of-the-genuine-howard-thurman/  Howard Thurman (November 18, 1899 – April 10, 1981) was an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Chapel at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, wrote 21 books, and in 1944 helped found a multicultural church. Thurman, along with Mordecai Johnson and Vernon Johns, was considered one of the three greatest African-American preachers in the early 20th-century.

[ii] While we may wonder why Jeremiah remains in the scripture because of his obvious entanglement with the Babylonian court, what we see is that his words prophesy a new faith. The first Christians, without a New Testament, understood their work as community and the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the prophesy of Jeremiah.

[iii] Walter Brueggeman calls this part of the prophetic book of Jeremiah “the book of comfort.” God is watching and planting and build the new community of hope. While we may well remember the proverb that the parents sins are visited upon the children (even Jesus quotes this), we see in the passage that the people have an opportunity to begin again. The proverb is “null and void” says Brueggeman. All exiles have the possibility of the new. Walter Brueggeman, Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, (Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, MI, 2003), 504.

[iv] Audre Lord, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” in Sister Outsider (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 36.

[v] Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God, (Fortress Press, New York, 2015), 14.

[vi] Karl Barth described this bodily disruption as a “counter logos.”