Illuminating Lent: I Am Sayings

February 28, 2016 – March 5, 2016



Exodus 3:1-8A, 13-15

What word stands out to you?




Theophany is a “big word” for the manifestation of God to man. In Exodus 3, God first manifests to Moses as a burning bush ablaze without consumption. God also reveals himself to Moses in voice. He speaks, calling to Moses. Moses listens. God tells Moses that he will free the Israelites in Egypt, and reaffirms that he is their God. Moses, like many of us, is unsure. What is he to do? Does God have a name?

God responds to Moses’ questions by answering him, “I am who am” (Exodus 3:14). How can he go to his people and say, “I am who am sent me to free you”? How can Moses explain who God is? God simply is. Moses is in the presence of presence. In this passage, God is a verb. God is.

God’s “is-ness” is as impossible to grasp as his name.  In our human experience, we can scarcely comprehend the supernatural, metaphysical, transcendental nature of God, of YHWH. The Tetragrammaton, which means four letters, or YHWH resides at the bottom of our illumination. Resting on top of the letters, we see the words: the bread, the gate, the way, the light, the truth. Jesus, the Word made flesh, often spoke these words with the phrase “I am.”

I am (who am) the bread.
I am (who am) the gate.
I am (who am) the way.
I am (who am) the light.
I am (who am) the truth.

Like Moses before us, we have both a visual and linguistic theophany, telling us who God is. Trusting in the words Jesus proclaims, we know that he is. He is all of these and more for us.




In Exodus 3:14 God reveals himself as “I am who am.” God knows who God is. Do we know ourselves? How do we come to know ourselves? During his ministry, Jesus revealed to us that he is the bread, the way, the gate, the light, and the truth. How does God being these for us help us figure out who we are? Looking at the illumination, ponder the way in which Jesus acts in your life through one or more of these five manifestations.

The bread nourishes us, the way leads us, the gate opens to us, the light illuminates us, and the truth comforts us. How does Jesus nourish you? How does he lead you, and where? What gates have been opened for you by Christ? In which way does the brightness and glory of God illuminate your world? How does truth comfort and ground your essential self? Jesus helps us to know ourselves through being all of this and more for us.




This illumination showcases abstract fractals of color, blossoming discs of light, and cubist expressions of words. The frenetic interaction of words, colors, and shapes help illuminate the words God said to Moses: “I am who am.” At the base of the page, the Tetragrammaton, or YHWH grounds the composition. Word made flesh, Jesus is the bread, the gate, the way, the light, and the truth. Intertextuality of word and form reveal connections between word, spirit and flesh. The energetic juxtaposition of the shards and curves summon us to reimagine both the divine and human natures of Christ.

How does one understand being? What does God mean by “I am who am?” Looking at this illumination, how can we find what it means to be bread, way, gate, light, and truth? In what way does the interplay of light and form on the page reveal the meaning of the Word made flesh? How does that meaning inform the words we use in daily life? Life itself is an energy that transcends the material world. By grounding our life in YHWH, in Christ, we can find and understand our own being.




For some people, prayer is as easy and unconscious as a beating heart. It happens naturally and organically. For others, it is more like breathing; it still happens automatically, but it can also be consciously controlled. And for many, prayer comes hard. This is a prayer for all.

O God, my God, you are
You are in heaven
You are on earth
Be with me, be with us as we come to know you through the words you share
Help us to understand who we are by walking nearby
Be with us, be with us, be with us
You who are the bread, nourish our journey
You who are the gate, be ever open to us
You who are the way, guide us on the path
You who are the light, shine forth brightly upon your creation
You who are the truth, comfort us in our sorrow, draw near in our brokenness
Be with us always





Moses first encounters the burning bush while tending his sheep. He sees it and continues apace.  Soon, however, his thoughts turn to contemplation: What is that bush, which burns without being consumed? The bush is outside the realm of the natural, the possible! It stops Moses in his tracks. When the voice reveals to Moses that the bush is God, Moses turns away in fear. But the bush burns on, without being consumed. In this encounter with God, Moses begins his relationship with I am who am.

Contemplation draws us into relationship with YHWH. When we look at the page and ponder the words and images, how do we move our perception of such into an intimate conversation with ourselves and God? Jesus wants to be in relationship with us. Using the words and the images, be in relationship with Christ. Then letting go of these things, encounter I am who am.



Becoming Christ-like

In his work “On Free Will,” Saint Augustine wrote about the desire for being: “If you begin by wishing to exist and add a desire for fuller and fuller existence, you rise in the scale and are furnished for life that supremely is…If you wish more and more to exist, you will draw near to him who exists supremely.” Listen to I am who am, meditate on the words I am who am, see in the illumination and in others I am who am, pray often (if you are able) to I am who am, contemplate the nature of I am who am. Doing so on our Lenten journey draws us closer to Christ.

Being more Christ-like involves much as is revealed in this illumination. Be the bread that nourishes your friends, family, and community. Keep the gates of your heart always open – embrace the strange, the poor, the needy, the sad, and the lonely. Blaze forth a (path) way for others to follow in your imitation of Christ. Be the beacon of light in an often confusing and shadowed world. Enjoy the truth of true being in order to be “furnished a life that supremely is.” Through our encounters with the Word and our being in the world, we reflect Christ by our very being. Our being is grace given by God. Praise him.


Pamela Larson Sherlock is a M.A. candidate studying systematics at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. She is a wife and mother. A former trainer of thoroughbred race horses, librarian, and herder of sheep chickens, cats, dogs, and goats, she lives in New Prague, MN with her family and Wonder Dog Melvin.


One thought on “Illuminating Lent: I Am Sayings

  1. I have read just two reflections thus far and say THANKS! It has spurred these ideas:

    I AM and YHWH as names, are two incredibly vulnerable and loving names our God has given us. I am only touching the surface in my own understanding of how close God wishes to be with each of His/Her human beings. When I become and remain humble, if only for a short while, the ramifications of this possible close personal relationship with God as Friend, (if I may borrow the often used term), can be overwhelming. So, I ask God to be patient with me, continue to love me, and show me how to love in return. Thanks again! Greg Spofford, Little Falls

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