Goodness Reached Out

Goodness Reached Out

Luke 6:1-11 contains two passages on the sabbath. In the first (which I’ve commented on in the previous post) the disciples pluck heads of grain while walking with Jesus on the sabbath. In the second passage (Luke 6:6-11), Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and heals a man with a withered hand. Luke 6:6-11 reads,

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

In each case, Jesus exposes the idolatry which occurs when the Law is misapplied or co-modified as a means of control of the variables of blessing rather than pointing to the Lawgiver who is blessing.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

I sat there each sabbath in that same place
Pitied and lonely with my withered arm;
Friends couldn’t even look me in the face
For them a target of subtle alarm
That Providence’s purpose and pleasure
Is not easily read or understood:
Why not all judged with the same measure?
Why the wicked thrive though doing no good?

But goodness reached out on this sabbath day,
Freed me from power’s weighty, withering yoke
His question left them with nothing to say;
He worked with a word; he healed when he spoke.

To what length will this rabbi stretch out to take,
The broken in arm whom the powerful forsake?

© 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: Christ heals the man with paralysed hand. Byzantine mosaic in the Cathedral of Monreale.

Fullness II

Fullness II

This is a reworking of the previous sonnet which I felt had too much going on in it. I continually try to say everything I can rather than limit to the focus of what is needed. Alas. The sonnet’s form, which is Spenserian is not the Shakespearean I’m more comfortable with, is also a bit more of a challenge for me. Here’s to mulligans.

At any rate, I think it’s a bit more focused though sadly, doesn’t capture all that I can imagine is going on in the passage from Luke 6:1-5 which reads,

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

An easy Sabbath walk in the lengthened light
Of evening wading through a sea of wheat,
Which swelled with wind, waving, rolling in flight
Across the field where we gather to meet.
We’ve retreated from the village’s heat
With One who left us hungering for more
Our bellies talk, we pluck the grain and eat
Rub the kernels free on this threshing floor.

We feed on His words, whose grain fills, restores;
Gives life to the hungry, strengthens, and stays
Welcomes the outcast, throws open the door
But offends the proud, sends the full away.
But to us, Sit down, says, You are the blessed
Who’ve hungered and thirsted, sought out my rest.

© 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: Gustav Dore

Fullness

Fullness

Note: This turns out to be a first draft. Who says you ever finish a poem? Why isn’t ‘done’? Well, I’m trying to do too much, especially with 14 lines.

This sonnet takes its imagining from Luke 6 when the Pharisees’ charge that Jesus and his disciples are doing what is unlawful on the sabbath by picking heads of grain as they walk.

There are a couple of thoughts I am teasing out. One has to do with a memory of an evening in which I was traveling by car after a weather front had passed through. My route took me through a rural part of the county where the golden, winter wheat was about ready to be harvested. The wind was blowing waves across the grain and the shadow of clouds moved across the fields with the waves. It was beautiful, and that memory stays with me.

Secondly, with the wind there is the Spirit. You will recall that in biblical times both Greek and Hebrew words for “wind” and “spirit” are the same. In this encounter, there are definite spirits at work. There is the spirit in which those who are moved to walk and talk with Jesus and who are hungry for more, even as they are hungry at the end of the day. The Pharisees are of another spirit as they use the Law to control and manage themselves, others, and particularly, blessing. I would say The Spirit is the difference.

In regard to the sonnet’s form, it is a Spenserian sonnet. It’s a form I am trying to learn, and its rhyme scheme is challenging. So here’s to taking a swing at it.

Luke 6:1-5 reads,

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

An easy Sabbath walk in the lengthened light
Of evening wading through a sea of wheat,
The wind swells, a cloud’s shadow in flight
Crosses the field where we’ve gathered to meet.
Retreating from the village’s heat
To the One who left us hung’ring for more
Our bellies are talking, so the grain we eat
Rubbing kernels free on this threshing floor.

Feeding on His words, whose seeds grow, restore;
The Spirit blows the scribe’s grumbling chaff away
As fullness rushes to us, blows open the door
Gives the bread of his presence does not delay
Tells us, sit down, tells us, we are the blessed
Who’ve hungered and thirsted, sought out his rest.

© 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: Gustave Dore

Of Tax Collectors and Whiners

Of Tax Collectors and Whiners

At Grace Presbyterian we are in the midst of a series this spring called, “Walking with Jesus” in which we are following Christ to Jerusalem and beyond. Tomorrow’s passage is from Luke 5:27-39 for which I have previously written sonnets and which I include below.

The painting is by Jacob van Oost (I) (1603–1671). The Calling of Matthew is cast in a contemporary Flemish setting for Oost, and it’s amazing. What do you see as you scan the characters which van Oost has captured?

jacob_van_oost_-_the_calling_of_st_matthew

Here’s what I see. Front and center is a soldier with his back towards us who seems to be moving to stand. As he looks at Christ is he moving to confront? Jesus, is to the far left and almost out of the frame. He seems to not be confronting or eliciting any sort of threatening posture which would warrant to the soldier’s reaction. In fact, Jesus seems merely to be walking past and away from Levi. Nevertheless, he beckons Levi to follow. Levi is harder to see. He is seated behind at his table, surrounded by his business, assistants, and those from whom he is collecting. He has his hand to his body as if to say, “Who, me?” And then there is that arresting woman on the far right. Staring at you and me. She holds in her hand the money changer’s scale and seems to be asking, “And what about you?”

These sonnets are for Christ’s church. If they are 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

The first sonnet, Levi’s Table, is based upon Luke 5:27-31 which reads,

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

You may listen to me read the sonnet here.

He stopped at my table, stood and stared
At me and the extorted wealth I’d taken;
He discerned in me how poor and scared
That my collector’s kingdom would fin’lly be shaken.
He called, “Follow me.”  I arose and followed after,
Abandoned booth and scales, cast them each aside,
And welcomed to my home light and love and laughter;
No longer marking other’s debts in the ledger of my pride.
And reclining with this rabbi, at the table of the least
While my betters stood despising, scoffing from outside,
My Master in the presence of mine enemies set a feast
Of lordly leisure and this promise: to never leave my side.
My mission now is to carry news, calling from east and west,
“Come to the table of this King, be found, be filled and rest.”

© Randy Edwards, 2016.

The second sonnet, Blessing has Burst, is based upon Matthew 9:14-17 which is paralleled in Luke 4:33-39. The passage in Matthew reads,

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

You may listen to me read the sonnet here.

They pour a pitiful whine about His disciples not fasting–
A bitter tasting brew of mercies grown stale and old,
Like an unprepared patch which makes worse the fast’ning,
Pulling brittle devotion from a heart that’s grown cold.
“There can be no sorrow” he said, “while the bridegroom tarries
No grieving or renting one’s garments in shame
For the joy of His presence lifts their hearts and carries
Them forward in celebration to the praise of his name.”
But one day they did mourn as the Groom was led away
To pour out his life into a stone wineskin’s shell.
Stopped up and sealed fast in silence for three days
Till Mary brought the news which no guest tires to tell,
“Rejoice for the New Wine the Groom’s resurrection pours
The Bridegroom’s bubbled blessing has burst open death’s door!”

© Randy Edwards 2015
artwork: Jacob van Oost (I) (1603–1671), “The Calling of St Matthew’, 1648. Church of Our Lady, Bruges.

Forty Days (The Fourth Temptation)

Forty Days (The Fourth Temptation)

This is a sonnet about what I imagine was the fourth temptation of Christ in the wilderness in Luke 4:1-13. Granted there are only three interaction with the devil, but the forth is really the temptation which preceded those temptations.

Forty days alone, fasting in the desert was not merely hard because of the not eating, but even more so by the loneliness and boredom. Anyone may find that forty minutes alone with their thoughts to be hard enough, but forty days? Most of us can’t even go forty minutes without looking at a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen. Our fear of boredom and the distractions we employ to avoid it are slowly making us more lonely and anxious.

Ivan Kramskoy’s painting, Christ in the Wilderness, brilliantly imagines what Jesus’ struggle may have been like: the boredom, the loneliness, and the mental struggle to keep on, and his painting was the starting point of this poem. What passed through Jesus’ mind during his time in the wilderness? What did he focus upon? What strengthened and encouraged him in the midst of the trial? In this sonnet I imagine Jesus in the wilderness remembering the events of his baptism which preceded his being driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. How did his baptism help him? And after having finished the trauma of that trial, why did he later in ministry, seek out the quiet of a solitary place? Granted he went to pray, be strengthened, gather his thoughts, but could it have also been to recapture the clarity and preciousness of the nearness and love the Father in the midst of the trial in order to stay and strengthen him for what was coming?

And what of us when left alone? Do we seek out solitude to be strengthened? Or do we avoid it at all costs? Does our addiction to connectivity actually screen us from the intimacy and love for which we long?

If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Forty days with the wild beasts alone
And the mind’s chatter of words and fear,
Waiting in silence, no company but his own
With only the memory of the clear
Water running off his cheek, dripping from hair,
When the Spirit descended as a dove to alight
How The Voice thundered, split the air,
“You are my beloved son in whom I delight.”
What did he in that boring waste learn
That he would later seek solitude to pray?
Was it to hear again, in memory return,
Bathe in the blessing of what his Father did say?
How can I hear that word, the blessing from above
When I’m screened from solitude, intimacy, and love?

© 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: Christ in the Wilderness, by Ivan Kramskoy, Google Cultural Institute.jpg, Created: 31 December 1871

Better than None (The Third Temptation)

Better than None (The Third Temptation)

This is the third of three sonnets based upon Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke 4:9-13 records the third temptation this way,

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

In each of the temptations, Jesus shows himself as standing with those whom he will save, not exempting, but successfully undergoing the trial of the heart – the revealing of the true self before God (Deut 8:2).

If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below,

Jerusalem is the destination
To look down from the Temple’s height
And using God’s promise by implication
The devil tempted with a subtle slight
“Show how precious are you to heaven’s plan;
Cast yourself down; show me your trust;
You are its center-piece, the Son of Man.
They’ll not let you fall; save you, they must.”
But he would not respond to the Tempter’s baiting
He resisted, counted himself better than none
The matter of his glory, in His Father waiting
To be lifted up, cast down, for His will to be done.
Just begun is his trial, he will yet cry from the tree
“My God, my God, why? Why hast Thou forsaken me?”

© 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.

Down (The Second Temptation)

Down (The Second Temptation)

This is a sonnet based upon the second temptation of Christ in the wilderness. In this temptation, the devil offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world in exchange for his worship. Though he answers in the moment with, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'”, he shows the full measure of the extent he was willing to go in that worship and service during his passion week. I imagine Peter’s reflection upon both Jesus’ temptation and his washing his feet at the Last Supper and what that must’ve worked in Peter.

If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet below.

The devil sweeping the Son of God away
Up out of the moment, crossing out of time
Showing the kingdoms of every realm and day
And a path to have them without a hill to climb.
“To you, I will give all that you can see
Glory, authority, the kingdoms and their worth
It’s mine to give; it was delivered unto me
If you will worship me, kneel down to the earth.”

Three years later, he did get down upon his knee
Set aside his cloak, took up a towel and bowl
Became a servant’s servant, my master serving me
To wash my dirty feet, cleansing to my soul.
This sweeping down begins his ascent above
To deliver him to his cross, the answer of his love.

© 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: William Blake: ‘The Second Temptation’ from Milton’s “Paradise Regained”, c. 1816-25, object 7 (Butlin 544.7). Pen and water color over pencil on wove paper. Fitz- william Museum, Cambridge, UK. blakearchive.org