Grapes

Grapes

This is an ekphrastic poem drawing its inspiration from the art of artist, Adah Freeman, who is a member of the congregation in which I minister . She is such a gifted artist and has taken up the theme of grapes from Numbers 13 in which spies are sent into the land of Canaan to explore and report back on the people, cities, and fruitfulness of the land.

When we returned from the land of flowing
Milk and honey — full and green and growing,
We carried the abundance, the grapes bursting
With the fruit-full promise: no more thirsting.

But then doubt set in, underneath a mumbling
That welled up into a fount of grumbling:
The people, giants; their cities tow’ring
And the land full of enemies devouring.

Have we come this far only to die?
To be cursed? Skins left out under the sky?
How will the death of a generation
Bear the fruit: a promised, holy nation?

What pressing and crushing will remove the sin?
What life poured and trod, that we enter in?

© 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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Grapes” acrylic on canvas.

Slingshot

Slingshot

Through the Advent season, I am working with a local artist who is painting abstract pieces which correspond to the sermon series I am preaching on. The first of that series was on the young shepherd David’s defeat of Goliath as found in 1 Samuel 17. In the project, I am writing poems which refer not only to the passages but also to the artwork which is being created. This genre of poetry is called “ekphrastic poetry“.

The painting is the work of an exceptional young artist named Adah Freeman. Her piece is entitled, Slingshot.

IMG_3881

Here is my poem, entitled the same.

Once the world was shining-new, golden-bright,
Untouched by shade or stain but brilliant-white;
Then an enemy came
To steal by dark deeds, claim.

The menacing darkness blurred, broke, and scarred—
Tore with violence, crossed, mangled, marred
The field of shimmering gold
Whence all was lost or sold.

The darkness continued to blur and streak,
Sent giants: Despair, Dementor, Defeat
Who laughed at our fear, scoffed,
Defied our Lord, and mocked.

But God’s Shepherd descended in between,
Went outside the camp where he was last seen—
For our glory-sealing,
Bearing stripes for healing.

He flung himself at death, and slew the Night
And with his arms he slings us up in life.

© 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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Slingshot” acrylic on canvas.

O Oriens

O Oriens

December 21st marks the winter solstice and the accompanying antiphon is appropriately, O Oriens or O Dayspring. The antiphon reads,

O Dayspring splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The prayer finds its inspiration in several Bible passages:

Isaiah 9:2 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Here’s a sonnet for the antiphon.

Turned west, this sunset of humanity
Denies the dusk of death’s looming shadow.
Reviles the real as some profanity
Which pilfers profit and ruins workflow.

O Sun of Righteousness, make right and shine
On prisoners who dwell in dark dungeons,
On the worried who’s weeds choke and entwine,
And the pharisee who can’t see his sin.

O Dayspring, shine, flood our grey town in light
Drive back the darkness in which lurks our fears.
Dawn! Flood! Arise! Illuminate our night!
Speak tender mercies, wipe away our tears.

When with healing wings the Sun rise on all,
We bound as joyful calves from winter’s stall.

© 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.
photo: Randy Edwards, sunrise Cherry Grove, SC

O Clavis II

O Clavis II

The Great O Antiphon for December 20 is O Clavis. The text of which reads,

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The scriptural allusions in the prayer can be found in the following passages:

Isaiah. 22:22:” I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Revelation 3:7   “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

O Key of David, set my bound will free;
Unlock the door, that I may walk your way—
Cheerful, resolved, with bright alacrity
To step from the shadows into the day.

Rise! Ride your chariot, your courses run,
Rain down truth, pierce with your arrows of light;
Shine bright O Clavis, as the noonday sun!
Deliver me from death, dis-spell the night.

For resentment has rusted my hard heart–
The spring is broken, will not free the latch;
Use your key to loose, use your locksmith’s art
To turn the bolt, spring the pins, free the catch.

I behold a door hung, see his pierced side,
And the Key turns my heart, enters, abides.

© 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: from The Queen Mary Apocalypse, England (London or East Anglia), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 19 B. xv, f. 38v

O Radix

O Radix

The O Antiphon for December 19 is O Radix or O Root. The antiphon reads, “O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

The antiphon draws from passages from Isaiah 11 and elsewhere.
Isaiah 11:1 reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” and Iaiah 11:10 reads, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

O Root of Jesse, the green, tender shoot
From whom the kingdom branches, stretches, springs
Into the earth become, reach down, take root
To free the captives, lead out in blessings.

O Root of Jesse, who walked Galilee
Preaching, working wonders among your own
Stopping to heal whomever cried, “Mercy!”
To you, David’s son, no mercy was shown.

O Root of Jesse, born for us to die,
Stretched out on a tree, its wrapped thorns your crown,
Raised to life, your tomb opened to the sky–
As the stump springs green though the tree cut down.

O Root of Jesse, who comes to make free,
Take root in my heart, grow your grace in me

© 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.

O Wisdom III

O Wisdom III

December 17 marks the beginning of the step towards the Nativity in which the Great O Antiphons are sung in the liturgy. Many know the Antiphons through the advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Each of the antiphons is based upon a messianic promise in the Old Testament which points to the coming of one who will reveal and make right.

The first of the antiphons is for Wisdom who is embodied in the book of Proverbs. The antiphon’s text reads, “O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

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

In the silence, before words, songs, or speech
The Spirit breathes over the water’s night;
The Most High speaks, Wisdom readies to teach,
Drive away darkness, sing, “Let there be light!”

O’er Sinai, I AM in glory thunders;
Wisdom speaks again, makes her precepts known,
Reveals the way, writing worded wonders,
Her purpose and promise on tablets of stone.

David’s Branch shall come, rule with right wisdom.
Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God of Might,
O’erturn the proud, exalt in His Kingdom
The meek and low whom he heals, mends, makes right.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world’s wild–
Inhales to speak through the cries of a child.

© Randall 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: Benedictine monastery of Podlažice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Promise

The Promise

The book of Jeremiah is hard reading. In much the same way as Lamentations, Jeremiah has at its heart promises of great consolation in chapters 30-33. These chapters will serve to be the source of reflection in a series for Advent which begins today. This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 31:31-34.

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

The days are coming. Look, they are coming —
The days of The New Promise though the old
was broken, though run out with the drumming
And din of jeers, sneers, enslaved, shackled, sold.

This Promise is a promise of the heart,
A promise which He will write from within,
His Will and Word, New Creation, New Start
And forgives us, He will forget our sin.

Do not fear where you are, where you must walk
Whether going or the one left behind,
For He draws near in love, shepherds His flock —
Lovingkindness becomes, loving in kind.

Bearing our exile will hearts break to see
The Promise who comes to climb Calvary?

© Randall 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: Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain]