All These Tears

All These Tears

I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, and I came across this quote which like a seed in a sidewalk crack germinated and sprouted, not in leaf, but as a poem.

“All these tears are gathered up and absorbed in the tears of Jesus.”

All these tears which trace the sad goodbyes of
Friends, who came to a fork, and took instead
The other way, and though every step tread
Grows the gap, it does not lessen the love.

All these tears cried in regret for the missed
Opportunity, the squandered chance to
Change, the scandal which you drug others through,
Leaving you wishing you did not exist.

All these tears a mother cried for her son
Whose coming she marveled, gladly received,
And bore him nine months, delivered, believed–
To stand at the foot of his cross undone.

All these tears which the Good Shepherd, like sheep
Gathers. His eyes search out and calls them his own
As his heart breaks, cries, Forsaken! Alone!
And absorbs all these tears with those he weeps.

Though sad in this world, we shall on that day
Meet the One whom all these tears, wipes away.

© Randall Edwards 2019
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: Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Brought Near

Brought Near

This poem is based on Ephesians 2:11-22 and is a part of a series entitled Grow Up. Specifically, I was inspired by the inscription which was posted at the temple in Jerusalem and marked the boundary between the the court of the Gentiles and the inner courts in which ceremonially clean Jews were invited. The inscriptions were warnings not to enter under pain of death.

The translation of the inscription on the stone pictured reads, “Let no foreigner enter within the parapet and the partition which surrounds the Temple precincts. Anyone caught [violating] will be held accountable for his ensuing death.” This screen, parapet, or dividing wall is what the Apostle Paul likely visualized when he wrote in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility….” And it was the accusation that Paul himself had violated this ordinance by taking several of those who had traveled with him from Asia and Greece to bring the relief offering to Jerusalem. (See Acts 21 and 22) that ultimately landed him in the chains in which he now writes the Ephesian church from Rome.

Remember what it was like to be
Known for what you weren’t? For your
Shortcomings? For what you tried but
Couldn’t do? Remember what you
Wanted but were denied? Or how you failed when
Trying? Let alone that, no matter how hard you
Tried, it didn’t matter because you were
Born that way? Being separated, shewed away as an
Unclean dog, alienated and a
Stranger and counted among the
Hapless, hopeless, godless, lost?
Do you remember?

And then?
But.
That blessed
Interruption which a child
Learns soon after learning to say, ‘No’.
‘But Mom…but Dad..but why…but when?’
“But now
You have been brought near”
Not through your
Excellence or having secured your own
Access BUT, by the passive activity of the
Reception of a gracious gift. You are
Brought near. Though you had been far off,
Peace has been secured by a
Blood-bond and payment;
And the hostility
Drained from the veins of wrath as a butchered
Lamb prepared for the spit.

No more walls,
No more sore warnings,
Nor taking your life in your own hands.
For you have been taken in hand,
And those scarred by nails.
That hand joins yours and theirs and ours
Each of us smeared with the same blood
And ears pierced with the same awe-full word
And eyes lifted, to the full-bore, blazing
Sunrise smile of blessing.
To stand in the presence of THE ONE whose mere
Presence pacifies, stills, and quiets. Makes no-matter
The questions which burned before.
Hand in hand, by that hand, knowing as we are
Known, wanted as we have always been, and
Reborn.

© Randall Edwards 2019
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.
Picture: Istanbul Archaeology Museums [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Blessed Be God

Blessed Be God

This first in a series of poems based on Ephesians. This poem takes its inspiration from Ephesians 1:1-3. Ephesians 1 is especially trinitarian. From the Father who lavishes to the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have every Spiritual blessing, blessing is blessing cubed.

Blessed be God who from that which was not
Made all that is: the moon cold and sun hot,
Whose Word spoke the atoms, the mountains high,
Who creation Covers, makes, earth, sea, sky.
Blessed be the God who made all that is!

Blessed be the Father who all things gives,
Who lavished in love, showed no ascesis,
And before we were, before THEY’d spoken
He loved us, and loves even though broken.
Blessed be our Father who gives all things!

Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ our king —
Midst shout and song, swing bells, let them ring;
Announce his ascension, his coronation,
Conqueror of death, first in resurrection.
Blessed be Christ, let creation cry!

Blessed be the Spirit who o’er us flies,
Descends as a Dove, with fire baptize,
Who covers and shields as a hen her wings,
Whose embrace is holy, who gives speech and sings.
Blessed be the Spirit of peace and love!

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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.
Photo: Froaringus [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

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]