Your Love’s Breadth

Your Love’s Breadth

This sonnet draws its inspiration from Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-21.

What strikes me about the passage is that Paul invites the Ephesians to do what they cannot in fact, do. He prays that they “may have strength to comprehend” the size of God’s love when we know that though we may apprehend God’s love, we could never fully get our minds around it. Secondly, he prays that they might know the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” How can one know what is beyond knowing? Of course, this is the point.

Paul is not praying for their capability to quantify God’s love, he is inviting them to marvel in the massive, unknowable, cosmic, stunning, out of this world size of God’s love. He is inviting them to imagine it. In making use of their imagination, the Ephesians will begin to apprehend in fresh ways and greater insight. And here, in a fresh experience with something of which we thought we already knew the answer, we step out of the dingy familiar and onto the barefoot, holy ground. This is where we worship with Paul, and we bow our knees and give God glory.

I bow my knees before the Father of
All, in whom we all live and to whom we
All return to stand uncovered, stripped of
All our self-stuff, stark as a winter tree.
Naked at first, in Eden unashamed,
But we deceived ourselves with lying arts,
Running, we hid behind the good He made,
And in stealing His gifts, greed grabbed our hearts.

But Your love’s breadth reached, stretched out on a cross
Climbed to the height, hanged naked on the tree,
Descended in death, entombed, paid the cost,
Went to any length to bring us mercy.
I praise You who has abundantly done
More than we can ask, think, or imagine.

© 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 (www.backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: artwork: Maximilien Luce [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Maximilien Luce  (1858–1941), Le bon samaritain, oil on canvas, signed ‘Luce’ (lower right); signed again and dated ‘Luce 1896’ (on the stretcher)

Falling Fire

Falling Fire

This sonnet is based on Acts 2:1-13 and the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost which the church will celebrate this coming Sunday. Pentecost seems to be an under-realized holy day in the church. One it seems, cannot trust to rely on anyone relegated to “spirit” status. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is the gift which the Father gives without begrudging (Luke 11:13). Shouldn’t we ask for the river of the water of life to well up in us to spilling over? Sounds messy, I guess. But better that kind of mess than the powerless wasting and vacuum of self-concern, eh?

Happy Pentecost! Come Holy Spirit, come!

Suddenly, like a mighty, rushing wind,
Love fell upon us as fire and flame,
Winding and binding, empowering to send
Us to the nations proclaiming his Name.
The exalted Name, above all others,
The only Name by which one may be saved
Whose salvation unites, makes enemies brothers
Whose dying gives life, frees the enslaved.

Light and Life, the crystal river flowing,
Effulgence, increase, pours out, spills over,
Enwraps, enfolds, breath of life, breeze blowing,
Love welling up, beloved and lover.
Falling fire in tongues, Babel’s blather breaks
With word of the Word whose voice Kadesh shakes.

© Randall Edwards 2017.
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: Jean Restout le jeune (1692–1768) Oil on canvas 1732.

Had You Not Gone

Had You Not Gone

Tomorrow is Ascension Thursday which marks the fortieth day after Easter Sunday and is the day we remember when Jesus led his disciples out to the Mount of Olives, and after giving last instructions, ascended up into heaven as Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:1-14 record.

The practical, encouraging, benefit of the ascension is oftentimes missed. The Heidelberg Catechsim explains the blessing in Question 49 which reads,

Q49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A. First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven: a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The Ascension early on in my walk with Christ seemed a bit anticlimactic. Though it seemed to be an important day in the Scriptures and in the Gospels and Acts, I couldn’t really understand how it could be better. The Heidelberg Catechism answer helps me some. Over the years, the thought that my life is with Christ there even as he is with me here has grown to be of great value. Enjoy your Thursday. He holds you fast as an anchor beyond the veil.

Had you not gone away, ascended on high,
You would have remained and still be here;
The tale of your rising, none deny—
Proof forever, age to age, year to year.
Had you not gone our faith would now be sight,
And seeing, believing, for all could see;
You could heal, stop hate, give wisdom and light
So why ascend? Why go? Why leave us be?
I must go, and bear what’s finished to heav’n
Take your life with me, hide you in love
From whence I’ll rule, sit in royal session,
Pour out my Spirit of fire from above.
Secure as an anchor, I hold you fast
For you’re with me now, till I come at last.

© Randall Edwards 2017.
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: James Tissot  (1836–1902), The Ascension; between 1886 and 1894; opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.

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)