You Are Dust

You Are Dust

This is a reposted sonnet for Ash Wednesday entitled, You Are Dust. The poem is based on the lines spoken when ashes are imposed on the forehead for Ash Wednesday; those lines are a quote of Genesis 3:19 which reads,

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Hos. 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.

“You are dust”, words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.

“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.

© 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.

Your Good Deeds

Your Good Deeds

This poem is based upon Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 which is the lectionary reading for this coming Ash Wednesday.

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

Your good deeds should be so secret that you
Don’t even know what you do,
Nor notice and watch in self-satisfaction
How with skill you avoid the infraction
But do all you were supposed to,

When gratitude wells up for how you’ve been,
How you aren’t like other men,
How you alone stood strong, kept straight, and right,
Let your good deeds shine as light
Before them again and again.

Let not your left hand know
The right that your right hand does,
But plant the good seed, let it grow
Leave it there, don’t watch, because
The Lord shall bring forth from that little seed
Not only the good, but its fruit which feeds
And fills with joy — a feast that needing needs.

© Randy Edwards 2018.
This poem 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: Frans Francken the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Learn to Behold

Learn to Behold

This sonnet is next in the series That You May Believe. It is based on John 3:22-36 when John’s disciples come to John with the complaint that Jesus is baptizing and all are going over to him. John corrects his disciples and shows them how they have become disconnected from the gospel and King to whom they are to bear witness and in whom, rejoice.

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

Blinded by jealousy — a joyless hour
Is his coming. Instead, resentment fills
And boils bubbling over bilious and sour;
Though giv’n all things, I’m empty, unfulfilled.
Don’t you know who I am, know what I do?
How hard I’ve worked and faithfully served
In the heat of the day? It’s me who’s due
The honor and respect of being heard.

What thou needest is to learn, receive grace,
Give up, lay down, get low, humility;
Learn to behold with joy the bridegroom’s face,
Die to demands, trust his ability.
In welcome and rejoicing thou shalt see
That thou art his bride, that he comes for thee.

© Randy Edwards 2018.
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: Yelkrokoyade [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Suddenly He Comes

Suddenly He Comes

In the United States February 2 is Groundhog Day. For many Christians, February 2 is Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The Presentation is found in Luke 2:22-38 which records the events forty days after the birth of Jesus. At that time, Mary and Joseph go to the Temple so that Mary may be declared ceremonially clean and so that they might pay the redemption tax of the first born which is laid out in Exodus 13.

Simeon was righteous and devout man who was waiting for the “consolation of Israel. It was revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Simeon came in the Spirit to the temple, received Jesus in his arms, and blessed God. Luke records his response in a song which is entitled the Nunc Dimittis (now dismiss). Later Anna the prophetess greeted the couple and Jesus. Overwhelmed with joy, she praised God and told everyone who was also awaiting the redemption of Israel.

Andrey Mironov’s “Saint Simeon with the Christ child” is a contemporary imagining of this event. It is a striking painting. It’s all about the eyes. Examine the look between Simeon and the baby Jesus. There seems to be a connection. Though you can’t see Simeon’s eyes, what does his look communicate? What is he thinking? What emotion is he projecting? Next, look at the baby Jesus. What are in his eyes? How is he responding to Simeon? You’ve noticed the woman’s eyes in the background by now. (How can one not be struck by that look?); this is Mary. Mary’s eyes beg a reaction. Are they asking a question? Do they invites a response? What is she asking of us? I think the question Mary is asking is for Mironov the most important question.
796px-Simeon._Mironov

This sonnet was previously posted and tweaked a bit.If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
The Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who long-waited —
The refiner’s fire, promised fuller’s soap;
Simeon and Anna, made young again
Seeing Israel’s consolation and hope.

Lord, in the light of Candlemas I see
In the heart of my own mid-winter way
You gave your wealth, to become poor for me
That I might be young and long for the Day
When the sudden shaking of your revealing
Dashes the proud, but the poor and pierced, healing.

© Randy Edwards 2018.
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: Saint Simeon with the Christ child. 2014. Oil on canvas. 90×70. Artist A.N. Mironov. By Andrey Mironov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

With a Child’s Eyes I See

With a Child’s Eyes I See

Next in the series So That You May Believe is a sonnet based on John 3:1-20. In this passage the elder of Israel, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus inquiring of his identity. Nicodemus apprehends that Jesus is somebody, but he doesn’t see who he is clearly.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions and confusion with a riddle of sorts which we read in John 3:11-14,

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus identifies himself and his purpose with two Old Testament passages: Daniel 7 and Numbers 21. In effect he is saying, I am the Son of Man, the cloud rider, who has stood before the Ancient of Days (Dan 7), and I am the reality of which Moses’ bronze serpent was only a shadow (Num 21). It’s as if he is saying, You will see Nicodemus, when you see the Son of Man lifted up as the bronze serpent was lifted up and that will identify the full measure of the love of God for the world and my love for you.

The mystery, and that which needs seeing, is that the Son of Man took the place of the serpent for us. The Seed who was to crush the serpents head (Genesis 3:15) was himself crushed as the serpent. Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The question is what did Nicodemus come to see. He appears along with Joseph of Arimathea (another disciple in secret) in John 19. Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body, anoint and wrap it, and place it in the tomb.

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

I came to him at night hoping to hear
A word which would confirm, dispel my doubt,
Justify the risk, and assuage my fear
That the price would get me in, not leave me out.
He said one must be born again to see
God’s Kingdom in its beauty, love, and light,
But I can’t understand how that can be;
Can one be made a child? Can that be right?

Three years later with a child’s eyes I see
A bronze serpent’s likeness, crushed Nehushtan*
I gaze upon healing his life for me,
The exaltation of the Son of Man.

Oh, what new mercies may the morning bring,
Turn lament to joy, give a song to sing?

*Nehushtan was the name given to the bronze serpent which likeness was kept in Jerusalem. 2Kings 18 says that Hezekiah had it broken into pieces because it became an object of worship.

© Randy Edwards 2018.
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: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Woman, Behold

Woman, Behold

This Sunday’s passage is the basis for this sonnet which I wrote last year, have tweaked, and am reposting as next in the series, That You May Believe. It is based upon John 2:1-11 where Jesus and his disciples attend the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The passage begins,

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'” (John 2:1-5)

This passage is mirrored later in John’s gospel when Mary, the mother of Jesus, makes her only other significant appearance. The irony of the interaction may easily be overlooked. Though John is explaining how Mary came to be in his care, it is reductionistic to see the exchange as only Jesus looking out for his mother’s well-keeping. As is the case in John’s gospel, John wants us to look closer, and he does so through a literary device called a prolepsis. The passage from John 19:25-26 reads,

“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”

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

Finding us outside as we waited on
Our master who brought us to the wedding,
His mother, not asking, telling her son
The shameful news the bridegroom was dreading.
“The wine has runout,” in question she eyed
Looking for what he might say and do.
“Woman, what’s that to me, my time’s not arrived.”
To the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

It’s been three years since he turned water to wine;
We stand at the feet of his vintner’s frame
Twisted round a stake like trellised vine
Is her son who saved a wedding from shame.
“Why?” pours from her eyes with sobs overcome;
The wine saved last, “Woman, behold your son.”

© 2017 Randall Edwards
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: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross (After the Ninth Hour), 1862; pencil and watercolour with bodycolour and gum arabic on paper laid on linen

You Will See

You Will See

This sonnet is a part of the series, That You May Believe. It is based on John 1:35-51 and imagines the first disciple’s skepticism about the identity of Jesus. It especially imagines a response such as Nathaniel’s to Philip whose words I borrow, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

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

‘Come, meet the One whom John identifies
As the Messiah whose coming begins
New birth through fire by the Spirit baptize,
The Lamb of God who takes away sin.’

‘Can anything good come from Nazareth…
The calloused hands of a carpenter’s son?
Can a bearer of wood breathe life and breath
Into the ruined hope of our setting sun?’
What sign could he give plumb, true beyond doubt
That our life hangs on his header and frame,
Will he show his work let fingers trace out
The sum of his figures, see his plans and way?’

The Son of Man speaks, ‘You shall see in one day.
Heaven’s door opened, Israel’s sin borne away.’

© 2018 Randy Edwards
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 [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons