Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
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Ash Wednesday
abstract weaving by Jennifer Edwards (jenniferedwards.com)
photo taken by Hazel Kuehn (hazelkuehn.com)

Ash Wednesday is today and marks the beginning of the Lenten season which is a season of preparation for the remembrance of passion week and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. A traditional text often quoted as ashes are imposed on the foreheads of those coming forward at Ash Wednesday services is from Genesis 3:19 which reads, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This sonnet remembers the first time I imposed ashes during an Ash Wednesday service. It was a moving service for me. The intimacy of touching someone on their forehead, looking them in the eye, and telling them they are going to return to the dust from which they were formed (that is, to die) was a profound pastoral moment.

You Are Dust

“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.

“You are dust”, words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.

“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.

© 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.

Easter Collect

Easter Collect

This is sonnet is a repost for Easter Sunday. It is based upon The Book of Common Prayer‘s Collect for Easter Sunday. The Collect reads,

“Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.”

Sin and death is overcome
The old order vanquished, ruin undone
By the mighty resurrection of the Son.

Victorious King, by your resurrection
You silenced the Accuser’s every objection
To renew and remake us in your perfection.

Lord of all life, who is life and power
Whose glory fades not, unlike grass or flower
Shine through us unveiled, from this very hour.

May we to sin through Your dying, die
Through Your death live, be made alive.
Buried with You, in Your rising, rise—
To reign with You in humility
In love, light, and life for all eternity.

© Randy 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.
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Artwork: Abstract weaving by Jennifer Edwards (jenniferedwards.com) titled, Resurrection, from the series, Ashes to Eternity, © Jennifer Edwards 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Here are two previously reposted poems for Easter Sunday.
The first is a villanelle inspired by the prayer, Need of Jesus, which is included in Banner of Truth’s collection of puritan prayers, Valley of Vision.

In particular I meditate upon Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb on Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body. Dealing with the confusion of the empty tomb, she weeps not only for her grief for Jesus’ death, but the double wounding of not being able to honor him in preparing his body. Thinking she is talking with the garden’s gardener, Jesus speaks, calling her by name, “Mary!” and she sees that she has been speaking with Jesus — that realization must have been as bright as the dawn of creation.

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

I am blind, be Thou my light.
Speak, call me into New Creation’s Day,
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

My heart bedeviled with the night
Is faithless, wanders, loves to stray
I am blind, be Thou my light.

Rescue me; employ Thy might;
Leave no unclean spirits to remain
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

Raised upon Golgotha’s height,
God’s Lovingkindness, the world did slay;
I am blind, be Thou my light.

Now this morn, the end of night–
With spice to dress at dawn’s first ray,
And seeing Thee, I shall love aright.

My called name turns dark to sight;
Fear and sadness gives way to say,
“I was blind, Thou art my light!”
And seeing Thee, I love aright.

© Randy Edwards 2016

The second poem is entitled, We Had Hoped, and is based upon the encounter Clops and the other disciple had with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and in particular Luke 24:21 which reads,

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

When death closes the door and hope is shut
Behind a stone — sealed from every light,
When the tears of loss tear the heart and cut,
The wound is darkness, and happiness, trite.
We had hoped that he was the one to save,
And redeem Israel from bondage and pain,
But three days ago we laid hope in a grave,
And now every plan and purpose is vain.
“We had hoped,” we told the one who joined our
Weary walk, and his question broke the wound
Open again. Our sad hearts, drained of power
When hope died and was buried in the ground.
But hope sparked anew with each word he said;
Blindness became seeing when he broke bread.

© Randy Edwards 2016

These poems are 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.

Good Friday

Good Friday

Here are two poems which have been previously posted which deal with themes of Good Friday.

The first is a poem titled, The Dragon, and it is based upon Revelation 12:15 which reads, “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.” The flood is a river of lies and deception about the gospel in which the serpent seeks to sweep away the church (the woman). However, it is not only the serpent, but we too are caught up in that flood of lies when we engage in the management of our reputation by lying or manipulating others with our words. The apostle Peter succumbed to that flood on this day so many years ago. His denial is the subject of the poem (Luke 22:54-62).

You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

From the Dragon’s mouth words pour out
Like a river in which truth seems to shout:
The shameful curse and accusation,
The legalistic judge’s condemnation,
The victims raging imprecations,
To drown and make you his prize.

In desperate deceit we lie. We make
Excuses for self-preservation’s sake.
We deflect with condescending over-simplification
To manipulate another’s expectations,
Managing with half-truths our own reputation,
Denying there could be any association
Between our actions and the Father of Lies.

And in these moments when we double-speak—
Fearing the loss of the fame we seek
And terrified of the cost of the implication—
We deny the very insinuation
Of any merit of the accusation,
We call down curses and condemnations
That we have any association
With this Teacher condemned to die.

It is then and there, at dawn’s first light
When the rooster’s cry breaks the silence of night
We remember our confident exaggeration:
Defiant against any prognostication
That we could be tempted to any prevarication
Or withhold sincerely offered oblation,
Denying our love — our chosen vocation
Merely to protect our own reputation?
And we see through Another’s knowing eyes.

And from this horrified, humiliated heap
A flood of tears pours out in words we weep
Of the hasty vows we swore in the commotion,
Of the sting of exposure and anger at the notion,
That one could be guilty of such insincere devotion…
Drowning in shame and regret and resentful emotion
No more words, no excuses, no alibis.

© Randy Edwards 2016

The second poem is a sonnet which links Mary’s encounter with Jesus at the Wedding in Cana in Galilee from John 2:1-5 with her presence at the crucifixion in John 19:25-26. They are book ends of a sort of John’s good news about Jesus’ ministry and mission. The question which Jesus asks of Mary at the wedding, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” is answered by his words from the cross, “Woman, behold your son.”

You may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Finding us outside as we waited on
Our master who brought us to the wedding,
His mother, not asking, telling her son
The shameful news the steward was dreading.
“The wine has runout,” in question she eyed
Looking for what he might say and do.
“Woman, what’s that to me, my time’s not arrived.”
To the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It’s been three years since he turned water to wine;
We stand at the foot of his crushing shame
Twisted round a stake like vintner’s vine
Her son who saved stewards from blame.
And so, “Why?” pours from her eyes in sobs overcome
The wine saved for last, “Woman, behold your son.”

© Randy Edwards 2016 and 2017.
These poems are 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: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross (After the Ninth Hour), 1862; pencil and watercolour with bodycolour and gum arabic on paper laid on linen

The Fullness of Your Love

The Fullness of Your Love

I have been writing poetry to include as part of an art installation that is taking place in conjunction with Lent and Easter entitled, Ashes to Eternity.

This villanelle is a re-working of an earlier poem and is written from Peter’s perspective and begins with the washing the disciple’s feet, and continues with Judas’ presence at the table of the last meal, going with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane, and Peter’s realization of his own betrayal. What always catches me, is that none of what transpires over the next days is a surprise to Jesus.

I appreciate the NIV’s rendering of John 13:1 which reads, “…he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Most translations render (and correctly) that “he loved them to the end”, but there is something to not merely loving all the way to the end, but to what length he would go to show his love.

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

You knew it then; you knew love’s way,
When you broke the bread and poured the wine
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

And kneeling as a scullion that you may
Wash our feet with tear-stained brine?
You knew it then; you knew love’s way.

Bought with thirty pieces of silver to betray,
Yet you shared the table, with him dined
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

To Gethsemane you took us to watch and pray
That we might encourage, help, hold the line,
You knew it then; you knew love’s way.

And you cried out, “Father, take this cup away!
But even so, your will, not mine.”
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

Then catching my eye at dawn’s first ray,
I weep with horror, to see the sign;
You knew it then; you loved anyway.
The fullness of your love, you show today.

© Randy 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: A an etching by Jan Luyken from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations housed at Belgrave Hall, Leicester, England (The Kevin Victor Freestone Bequest). Photo by Philip De Vere.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

This sonnet is for Palm Sunday and serves as both a part of a series for Lent entitled, Ashes to Eternity (which is an art exhibit) and is also a part of a series of Sunday sermon passages from the Gospel of Luke entitled Walking with Jesus. The sonnet is based upon Jesus’s Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem as recorded Luke 19:28-40.

In this sonnet I try and capture both the expectation of what he will do over the course of the next week, but also touch on the irony of what will actually happen.

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

Time’s Fullness comes to Jerusalem
Midst the throng of waving palms and praise;
“Son of David!” we all cry in unison
Beholding our king, our hosannas raise!
This is the sudden coming, the long-awaited hour —
Riding on a donkey’s colt, bearing our salvation;
No longer secret, now wielding his power,
In this display of prophecy, he unites a nation.
Now is the fullness; now, the expectation.
The rumor becomes real, promise becomes plan;
Our enemies, shall kneel, shall see the revelation,
Lift up the King of kings, exalt the Son of Man.
Who could not Hosannas bring, not welcome his renown?
Who seeing would disown him, deny to him his crown?

© Randy 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: Albrecht Dürer, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, probably c. 1509/1510. woodcut

Wilderness

Wilderness

This is a sonnet from a series I am doing as a part of a collaborative effort with artists: Asher McClain and Jennifer Edwards entitled Ashes to Eternity. Each Sunday through Lent, the three of us are installing a piece which corresponds to a weekly theme. These themes of Lent and Easter are: ashes, baptism, wilderness, temptation, pilgrimage, palm, love, rent, and resurrection. The installations include a poem which I am contributing, a wood burning which denotes the theme by Asher McClain, and an abstract tapestry weaving by Jennifer Edwards.

This  week’s theme is “wilderness”, and I’ve written a sonnet for it. In this poem, I imagine our own wanderings in places of isolation and difficulty in the way in which the Israelites wandered in the desert. We do not willingly choose the wilderness, but it is thrust upon us. In the wilderness, that for which we desire and long is oftentimes frustrated or delayed, and we must come to surrender to the confession, “Thy will be done.”

In the sonnet I make use of a play on the words: “wild”, “willed”, “would”, and “wold”. I can’t quite explain it, but I continue to be captivated by George Herbert’s uses of the same which in his day could have been spelled the same and read as interchangeable because spelling had not been codified. Malcolm Guite comments masterfully about Herbert’s poem, The Pilgrimage” in his Lenten devotional, Word in the Wilderness.

Our “wills” and “woulds”, those things which denote our plans, purposes, and conditions, ultimately find their exposure and surrender in the transposition of the wilderness, but thankfully we are not left there. In the wilderness, though we find our hearts laid bare, we also find that God, in Jesus Christ, has laid bare his heart for us and that his heart pours itself out in love to us.

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

I was driven into this wilderness
By threat pursued. I had no other choice;
Turned out of comfort, to drink bitterness;
Stifled in silence, none hearing my voice.
I cried my willed plans there in the wild;
My tears of would littered, watered my wold;
Dejected, alone, helpless as a child,
Struggling to keep my heart from growing cold.

But Your will in this wild, I now can see
O’ershadows above as cloud and fire;
Your presence, a banner of love over me
Foretasting my thirst’s hope and desire.
For you, in the wild of my want and thirst
Brought water from a Rock, who for me was cursed.

© Randy 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: Francois Perrier (1590-1650) Moses draws water from the Rock, oil on canvas, 1642.