St. John the Apostle

St. John the Apostle

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

Submission Could Ever Be

Because of abuse, there is justified concern about teaching on the subject of submission as it relates to the Christian life and Christian marriage. Submission as I understand it, is a gift even as it is a discipline. In times of trouble when pain and confusion overwhelm, submission is a gift. In other times, the heart which is able to submit itself to the will of God, is better able to receive reality as it is and as such can live soberly and wisely.
I am thinking a lot about weddings and marriages this week. Here is a sonnet based on the Apostle Paul’s words on marriage from Ephesians 5.

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:32, 33

We love love, its intoxicating draught;
Our hearts swim and sway as we fall,
And we reach for the other as a life raft;
In their eyes we are lovely, no longer small.
And no dignity that self-respect affords
Could ever stoop so low as to admit
That submission could ever be a lovely word;
We recoil embarrassed and flatly reject it.
Yet the True, the Beautiful, and Good, lays aside
Records no wrongs nor insists in its own way
Submission in love does not shamefully deride
But rejoices and respects does not deny or betray.
Do not despise love that in weakness steps down;
You’re kneeling with the One who set aside his crown.

© Randy Edwards
artwork: The Formation of Eve by Gustave Dore

Greater Than Our Hearts

Greater Than Our Hearts

Here is another sonnet from the series on passages from 1John. The sonnet itself is based on 1John 3:11-24 but the title comes from 1John 3:19-20.

You can listen to sonnet being read via Soundcloud below.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

In this world’s repeating ruin, the eye
Of evil (envy’s hateful gaze) falls
Upon our brother whose blessings we spy
As resentment rises like prison walls.
And thus imprisoned we ask, “Where’s the love
We had when we just didn’t talk the talk,
But forbore, forgave, joyfully lived out of
Each morning’s new mercy, walking the walk?”
What shall we do with our weak flailing affection
When our own hearts condemn, ruthlessly mock
Can assurance be ours, from death, resurrection?
Can truth become pleasure, salvation unlock?
Yea, greater than our hearts Beloved, is he
Who answers faith with love, abides, sets us free.

© Randy Edwards
artwork: Gustav Dore

What Kind of Love?

This villanelle is based on 1John 3:1. In it I connect the adoption which John revels in and employ the parable of the Prodigal Son to reflect upon the significance of that adoption.
1John 3:1 reads,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

See what kind of love the Father has shown
Though orphaned in the world and left to die,
To be adopted as your child, by your name, known.
And finding me lifeless nearly dead as a stone,
You gathered me close, having heard my cry;
See what kind of love the Father has shown.
Raised as your child, nevermore alone,
I walk the wide world neath my Father’s blue sky
As your adopted child, by your name, known.
In desperate delusion, I set off to roam
To seek a better blessing, to taste and to try
To see what kind of love the Father has shown.
In cunning deceit, in rebellion I’d flown
Defamed the family name, lived hiding in a lie
Though your adopted child, by your name, known.
Now broken and shoeless, I return home,
Offering my life, my redemption to buy.
I see what kind of love the Father has shown,
Am your adopted child by your name, known.

© Randy Edwards
artwork: Gustave Dore

The Beginning Abides in You

This roundel is based on 1John 2:23-24 which reads,

Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.  24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

I was particularly taken with the twist of the phrase, “the beginning abides in you” which takes on a double meaning as St John is talking about what was first heard, but the new beginning in new creation.

The beginning abides in you. Do not doubt and fear
When the father of lies seeks your heart to hew
With disappointed looks, the aren’t-you-ashamed sneer.
What you heard from the beginning abides in you.

For in eternity past long before you knew
There was a Judge who sat above the world’s sphere,
He donned our humanity making one from us two.

Continue confessing, Christ who makes God’s love clear
Though the world makes ugly what is beautiful and true.
Abide in His love; his holiness draws near.
What you heard from the beginning abides in you.

© Randy Edwards 2016
artwork: Gustav Dore, The Creation of Light

The Old Becomes New

This is the third in a series of sonnets based on John’s first letter to the churches. This one is based on 1John 2:7-14 though it is particularly based on verses 7-8 to read:

7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

The darkness is passing away;
The True Light already shines.
The night flees, gives way to day;
The Word His wolde and ware refines.
But deceit darkens when we hate;
Confusion dulls our heart’s clarity.
We throw down hands refusing the weight–
Of life’s unyielding responsibility.
Yet the rebel, the Word has forgiven;
He explains to us the Timeless One;
Names a new family, reconciles the riven,
Inhabits our hearts, makes us strong.
“Beloved little children, what is old becomes new
When you love one another as I have loved you.”

(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: Gustave Doré, The Last Supper (1865), engraving, from La Sainte Bible.

Light

This is a sonnet based on 1John 1:5-10 which reads

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

There is no darkness in God—only light
Who shines truth in every place, does not deceive,
Is veiled in glory, in burning brilliant white —
This is the Word we received, hear and believe.
But in fear our hearts neither rightly move or stand;
Deceit blinds our eyes we pose and pretend
That we ourselves in act and success have spanned
The gulf of our guilt and make reality bend.
Locked in shame, anger turns on me to bite
With wounding resentments, embittered, locked in lies,
Cut off from your creatures, myself, and the Light
In the drowning dark of bitterness this sinner finally dies.
But in confession’s light, I am lifted from the flood,
Am cleansed, restored, forgiven by the Son’s most precious blood.

(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: The Vision of the Lamb in the Midst of the Four Living Creatures and the Twenty-Four Elders; London, England; c1255-1260. From The J Paul Getty Museum