Mary of Bethany

Mary of Bethany

This sonnet is based on John 12:1-3. which recalls the moment Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus both as coming king but more significantly as one whose mission was to die for the sins of his people. This event occurred on the day before the triumphal procession or Palm Sunday.

Carolyn Custis James was the first, who many years ago, drew my attention to the first great Christian theologian, Mary of Bethany. There is much in Mary’s experience with Jesus that is full of pathos: her sitting at Jesus’ feet, her brother, Lazarus’ resurrection, and here, her pouring out of her material wealth in a gesture of love and recognition for who Jesus was and what he was to do.

He came at last, but too late for healing
My brother for days, sealed up behind stone
My heart grieved between riot and reeling
With a shout he healed, gave life to these bones.
Now from my alabaster heart, broken
Pours the fragrant passion of love and life
Upon his feet, a running devotion
For my savior bearing my sin and strife.
But worse than I feared my king did for me
Faced death in silence as a Pascal Lamb
My stone-heart breaks again, tears flow free
Is there yet hope for this child of Abraham?
My treasure now in a stone vial is sealed
Awaiting a breaking when love is revealed.

© Randall Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Meal in the House of the Pharisee (Le repas chez le pharisien), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 4 13/16 x 8 1/8 in. (12.2 x 20.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.120 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.120_PS2.jpg)

Your King Comes

Your King Comes

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and marks the beginning of Passion Week. Palm Sunday remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the procession of his followers waved palm branches and cried, “Hosanna, son of David!”

The processional Psalm 118:25-26 which is being chanted by the crowd along with the images of Solomon’s procession after being declared king by King David and the procession of the Maccabees after the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes become the imaginative fuel for the moment: Israel’s king and deliver has arrived! And even as the throng processes, in the temple the worship leaders are chanting Psalm 24. In five days the crowds would be shouting other words. This sonnet is based on Mark 11:1-11. 

Behold! your king comes, O Jerusalem
Midst the festal throng, waving palms and praise;
“Son of David!” you cry in unison
Behold your king, with voice Hosannas raise!

This is the sudden coming. Now, the hour;
He rides a donkey’s colt; he brings salvation;
No longer secret but coming in pow’r
To tread his winepress, rescue the nation.

Lift up your heads, O gates! Swing wide, let in
The king who ascends to the Holy Place
The Lamb of God, without blemish or sin
The mighty, strong king of glory and grace

What heart of stone could not shout his renown?
Who seeing disown? Deny him his crown?

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem (Le cortège dans les rues de Jérusalem), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 8 7/8 x 6 15/16 in. (22.5 x 17.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.194 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.194_PS2.jpg)

Who for Love

Who for Love

This sonnet is based on Mark 10:17-22 when a rich young ruler approached Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The rich young ruler shows an earnestness and a deep feeling about his question and its related concerns. When he meets Jesus he drops to his knees. When he leaves, he goes away sad. There seem to be many contradictions at work within him. If one really has everything, how could they want anything more? If one has done it all, what could be done for them? And what can you receive with hands that are already full?

He looked at him and seeing, he loved him–
This man waiting for the answer to come,
This man who hoped in the law of his limbs,
Who held everything, left nothing undone.
But he was undone with the teacher’s word,
“One thing you still lack,” the poor rabbi said,
“Sell all you have–be delivered of your hoard
Make God your only treasure instead.”
In this miserly, moneyed moment of time
His dis-heartened heart chose to trust
Only the good which he could call “mine”.
And he gave himself to that which would rust.
Away in sorrow his heart’s wealth he bore
Empty of the treasure: Who for love became poor.

© Randall Edwards 2016
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful (Le jeune homme riche s’en alla triste), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 6 9/16 x 9 9/16 in. (16.7 x 24.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.159 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.159_PS2.jpg)

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

Yesterday, March 25th, was the Feast of the Annunciation which remembers Gabriel appearing to Mary to tell of God’s plan for her. It also marks nine months before Christmas.

This sonnet is based on Luke 1:26-35. I have been taken with Malcolm Guite’s sonnet of the same event in which his last line says, “The Word himself is waiting on her word.” I love that. Meekness meets meekness.

In addition, another imagining that I have been taken with is Henry Ossawa Tanner‘s painting of the moment. In a predawn, lamplit moment, as a young maiden in an obscure village is interrupted in her prayers, an angel appears and speaks. The expression on the woman’s face is one of wonder, modesty, and curiosity if not a little skepticism. Yet she takes her calling in hand, not grasping in self-will or determination, but in humble faith saying, “Let it be to me as thou has spoken.”

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

In a no-where’s stillness while at thy prayers,
By thy lamp’s light came a presence holy
Who drew thy life into cosmic affairs
Mary, the Nazarene maiden lowly.

Gabriel hails, Lo, the Lord is with thee,
Favored one. Blessed, be ye not afraid,
For at thy word new creation is conceived
From thy womb’s waters the world is remade.

Mary, in this moment ‘neath Nazareth’s sky
We await thy word when all words come true
When thy meek willingness undoes the lie
By bearing the Son who makes all things new

Taking in hand what is giv’n unto thee,
As thou hast spoken, let it be unto me.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain]

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

This sonnet is based upon Luke 9:28-36 and Mark 9:2-8 which tells of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

On the Mountain’s predawn height, time’s ticked line
Is stretched round upon itself from the thin
Experience of events to entwine
The moment all is new, when we begin.
The Face of Love shines in burning likeness;
His hands clasped in prayer this hour of the turn
T’ward his departure where in that brightness
Two have stepped through time from God’s Mount to learn.
Three others now awake enter the cloud
The disciples hear the Majesty bless
With choosing, loving, and delight enshroud.
Commending they listen, his word possess.
And what of us, shall we enter that ring
Exalt in his Glory, join the dance and sing?

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Transfiguration of Christ, Bellini, 1490

Two Blind Men

Two Blind Men

This sonnet is based on Mark 8:22-9:1. Interestingly in the passage there are actually two blind men from Bethsaida for Bethsaida is Peter’s hometown too. The blind man finds his healing in two stages, and Peter too must find his own healing in stages. Both see something, but they do not see everything.

Two blind men of Bethsaida came to see
Jesus. One for healing, from blindness freed
The other came with him whom he believed
Would be King, bring a glory guarantee.

The first when healed saw people as trees
The second, a king, opportunity
For the triumph he saw as his destiny;
Of the two from Bethsaida, only one sees.

But the second will see: the glory cloud,
See his chance to fight, to wield the sword,
Will see the day he denies with three words,
See his Christ’s shame, rejected by the crowd.

This second is healed when he comes to see
The Son of Man as his life-giving tree.

© Randall Edwards, 2019
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: Christ and the pauper. Healing of the blind man. 2009. Canvas, oil. 100 x 55. Artist A.N. Mironov. Andrey Mironov [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Come Buy

Come Buy

This sonnet draws from the episode of the Feeding of the 5,000 from Mark 6:30-44. In service and ministry, Jesus repeatedly asks of his disciples things which they cannot provide or accomplish in themselves. Over and over again, it is not as if they are a cut above the masses to whom they minister, but they are among those masses.

It seems to me that the work of faith is the “buying without cost” which Isaiah mentions in Isaiah 55:1-3. How does one take possession of something that is freely given? One merely receives it. Now, just because a thing is free doesn’t mean it is of no value. The value of what is freely given is revealed in the manner in which one receives it and how much it is treasured afterward.

Worn thin by the work, amazed but weary,
We recount our deeds healing the possessed.
Seeing our hunger, he calls us dearly,
Come ‘way with me into quiet and rest.

By boat we seek a solitary shore,
But the crowd follows and meets us hungry;
We who have left all, who have nothing more
Have become one flock, bewildered, wand’ring.

You give them something to eat, you said
As if from the sky bread falls prodigious.
How with only two fish, five loaves of bread
Can there be enough for them, you, and us?

Come buy without cost food, rich, free, and fine
Feed on what fills, is good, my bread and wine.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (La multiplicité des pains), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 7 3/8 x 10 9/16 in. (18.7 x 26.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.134 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.134_PS1.jpg)