“When I See You”

“When I See You”

When I see you, I see my brother.
When I see you, I see my sister.
When I see you, I see the spark of God inside your life.
I see God when I see you.

When I see you, I see new promise.
When I see you, I see tomorrow.
When I see you, I see the possibility of love.
I see hope when I see you.

When I see you, I see a light within your heart,
No matter who you are.  No matter who you are.
Cause when I see you, I see a child of God.
A child of God!  A child of God!

When I see you, I see my brother.
When I see you, I see my sister.
When I see you, I see the spark of God inside your life.
I see God when I see you.

(c) 1998 Todd W. Harris

A long, long time ago, I was just graduating from law school and divinity school.  I had accepted a clerkship working for a federal judge in Birmingham, Alabama (my hometown) that would last only a year.  Sometime during the spring semester, I got a call from the pastor of the large United Methodist congregation where I’d grown up.  It seemed that the neighborhood had grown racially diverse, finally, but Sunday morning church services hadn’t.  Sadly, they were as segregated as ever.  In fact, some all-white congregations in the neighborhood had sold their buildings and built new ones further outside the city, where their existing white congregants had moved.  This United Methodist congregation, however, wasn’t interested in that.  It wanted to open its doors and welcome its increasingly diverse neighborhood.  So, the pastor explained, the congregation wanted to undertake a number of initiatives to be more inviting to its diversifying community, and a new, non-liturgical (aka “contemporary”) worship service would be one of those initiatives.  Would I consider leading it, he asked, for the year I planned to be in Birmingham, just to help get the new service off the ground?  It seemed like a safe approach both for the congregation and for me:  After all, if it didn’t work, I already had a job at a law firm waiting for me in DC after the one-year Birmingham clerkship, and the church wouldn’t have to take the big risk of hiring a permanent pastor.

So, for a year, I was a sort of interim pastor/worship leader (one staffer among many) at this re-imagined Methodist congregation.  And we attempted to become a welcoming, racially integrated community.  I wish I could say it had been more successful immediately (it was a slow process), but it planted some seeds that seem to be bearing fruit these days.  Oh, how I love seeing pictures on Facebook nowadays from the congregation’s summer Vacation Bible School, full of a beautiful rainbow of young faces.  I know that God was at work back then, starting something that we could only trust would come to fruition one day.

Early in the “Heartsong” days (that’s what we called the new, “experimental” worship service), I wrote a little song to express a core value we all shared.  It was a reminder that God’s image is stamped on each life, and that we glimpse the “spark” of God when we look at each neighbor, no matter who they are.  “When I see you, I see my brother,” we sang.  “When I see you, I see my sister.”  Can you imagine how “charged” these simple words felt and sounded when we first sang them to each other in those early Heartsong worship gatherings?

These days, given the political climate that surrounds us, the very air seems filled with a rejection of these lyrics.  We need to be reminded of them.  When I see you – yes you, the one reading this — I see a child of God and a brother or sister.    I hope you will embrace these words as your own.

[Gentle reminder:  The recording is just a “basement tape,” a rough recording I put together one recent afternoon after some Facebook exchanges with a former churchgoer who had been excluded from his denomination just because of the way God created him.  No one in his church, it seems, believed these words about him.  I wanted him to hear the song, so I spent a couple of hours putting the tape together.  Please be kind in your musical reviews. 🙂 ]

-T

 

 

1 Comment


  1. Thanks for this effort, Todd. I think it’s just what the doctor ordered (“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”). I will be following it.

    We should be aware of, and resist, those who are trying to divide our social fabric and faith for their own gain.

    Reply

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