December 27 is the Feast of St. John the Apostle, and this sonnet interprets John’s introduction to his first epistle, 1 John (1:1-4) which reads,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
John’s gospel, letters, and apocalypse make use of what I personally see as a poetic sensibility. In using imagery, irony, and paradox, John takes up Jesus’ compassion for those who have a difficult time believing and receiving. In his gospel, John draws attention to Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, all the apostles, the blind man who receives his sight, Thomas, and even Mary. John takes time to show his readers, and to ask again and again, Do you see?
I believe it’s John’s compassionate burden for those who did not have opportunity to witness what he witnessed and to assure them that Jesus was one whom one the could trust with their life and death that fueled his gospel ministry. Seeing the gospel grow in others gave John such joy as he says in the opening to his first letter.
The sonnet is entitled, Joy Complete. You may listen to me read the sonnet by clicking the player below.
Our own ears heard the first voice of The One
Through whom in tri-toned harmony spoke, “Light!” —
The voice which decreed dominion for the sun
And separated the day from the night.
Our own eyes saw His hands break and bless bread,
Watched him tie a whip, watched him unwind strife.
Our hands held his hand who raised the dead.
We saw love’s face, and touched the Word of Life.
Yet you have not, could not have seen:
The blood stained brow, the tomb where he lay,
And so I share words on which your hearts may lean
That you may have life, share eternal day.
A table is set, wine to drink, bread to eat
Come, sit, be welcomed and filled, make our joy complete.
© Randy Edwards 2016
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, St John at Patmos