The congregation stands and belts out the words: “I, the God of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.”
We are singing in God’s voice, listening with God’s ears, feeling the suffering all around with God’s broken heart.
By the time we get to the refrain of “HERE I AM, LORD,” we reclaim our human perspective with renewed passion.
God needs us! We’re ready to help.
A PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD
In this hymn we encounter the biblical God of Isaiah 6:8, who asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah, knowing himself flawed and pardoned, does not hesitate to answer God’s call.
Jonah and Jeremiah and others in the Bible needed to be coaxed and convinced. Not Isaiah. He’s eager to serve, abounding in enthusiasm. “Here I am!” he cries. “Send me!”
Sometimes, we treat God like a magician or a divine butler, waiting to do tricks or fulfill our every desire. We pray — help me get the mortgage/ pass the test/ find the keys. This hymn turns the tables and calls on us to serve a sacred purpose. God desires and requires our cooperation.
This concept of partnership with God is not a new one. In the 13th century Francis of Assisi prayed, “God, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”
In the 16th century, Teresa of Avila reminded the followers of Jesus, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.”
In this hymn, we boldly sing the question in God’s voice, “Whom shall I send?” and the response in our own, “Send me!”
“Ask not what God can do for you; ask what you can do for God.” So goes a paraphrase of the quote made famous by John F. Kennedy. Dan Schutte (b. 1947), the author of this popular hymn, understands that God needs us.
Schutte was a founding member of the St. Louis Jesuits who advanced a contemporary style of church music following the liturgical reforms initiated by Vatican II. Although he left the Jesuit order in 1986, he has continued to be an influential composer and performer of contemporary hymns loved by Protestants and Catholics alike.
TO GO DEEPER
“History of Hymns: Here I Am, Lord” by C. Michael Hawn on UMC Discipleship Ministries web page
“Here I Am, Lord” arrangement by Ovid Young, Sung by the Luther College Nordic Choir (Iowa)
“Here I Am, Lord” sung by the National Youth Choir of Scotland (with printed lyrics)