One Day

One Day

Life this week has me longing for resurrection. Brutality, disease, folly, and well, sin, has got me longing for that for which I have only had glimpses.

In February, artist Keaton Sapp and I began a project which would take us through Lent and to Easter. As we planned in November of 2019, how could we have imagined how February would turn and March and April play out? Much of life has gotten away from me. Learning about new things and new ways to do old things have also played into the cumulative weariness of this season. I hadn’t even finished my part of the project. I had one more poem to write before the online reception we are planning for next weekend. And then came this week.

It is Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Mary Magdalene whose experiences in John’s gospel speak to me of the utter heart break of life without a resurrection. These last weeks, have reminded me of the heart break.

Repeatedly throughout the Scriptures, the cry is, “How long, Lord?” That we are still crying, “How long?” does not mean that the waiting is unending. For some, and my hope is with their hope, they have seen with their own eyes the beginning of the new day. And though we still wait, they wait with us, and tell us, “One day….”

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

When will the killing stop? When will the crying
Be given over to joy, tears wiped away?
When will laughter replace our sighing—
The night’s fear cleared by the rise of new day?

When will mothers no longer give their sons
To wars which always take more than their share?
When be armed with grace, not hate, not guns,
Nor left to die by those who don’t care?

Funerals are the last things mothers do
For those whom they’ve carried, delivered, lost—
For those whom they’ve raised and prayed over too;
Their tears are the price paid by love’s cost.

One day with them Surprise shall call in Grace
And Resurrection wipe the tears from our face.

© Randall Edwards 2020.
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: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Kiss.” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

What Now Can Be Done?

What Now Can Be Done?

This is seventh in the series, “The Stations of the Cross” and takes its inspiration from artist, Keaton Sapp’s addition to the series which is titled, “The Earth Shook.”

Throughout the series Keaton has make use of the symbol of a fig tree to tell the story of Jesus’ passion. The Stations of the Cross, themselves are a pilgrimage of sorts in which one may walk the story of Jesus’ last hours. Both Keaton and I have take some liberties with the specific stations we have picked, but if you look back, I think you see how the series unfolds and aligns with the passion narrative in the gospels — particularly the Gospel of Matthew.

Here is Keaton’s seventh station which portrays the death of Jesus.

Seventh StationMatthew 27:51-61 is the scriptural reference for the death of Christ. It reads,

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The poem which I’ve written is as much about Keaton’s artwork as it is about Christ’s death. In this way, the poem may be described as ekphrastic. The type of tree which is called the Tree of Life in Genesis is not disclosed, but what if that tree were a fig tree?

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

When all was new, lovely, shimmering bright,
When the balmy breeze of evening
Blew and satisfied the care, full, keening
Of longing, when all was clear and light,
The man took from his wife the fruit of the tree
And pulled sin and death down on you an me.

They hid themselves there among the leaves;
Naked, they covered themselves for shame
And blushing in regret and shifting blame,
They took the Maker’s making, hiding with trees
The good, lush life which they’d been given—
Hid through subtlety, rather than shriven.

Into the woods and weeds they were sent
To live as exiles cast from that place
Cursing and crying for mercy and grace.
Bowed over, broken, by their sin bent,
They bear their burden: the pain of birth,
To hoe the hard dirt, sow, reap from the earth.

The Maker came to his children cast out
Sowing blessing, life, bearing fruit to them,
But they took: on a tree’s hill, murdered him,
And mocked his suff’ring with curses and shouts.
What now can be done? Can life bud with bloom?
Is any hope left, when hope’s sealed in a tomb?

© Randall Edwards 2020.
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: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Earth Shook” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

A Voice Loudly Cries

A Voice Loudly Cries

This sonnet is based on Matthew 2:16-18. There have been many Herods who have stood in opposition to the King of kings, and these tyrants use many weapons. However, the vulnerable are the ones who always pay, and the most vulnerable are the children.

This is the world where every king chances

To control and do what they can to win,

Where choice vindicates all circumstances,

Where the cost of that choice pays with children.

Oppressors force marriage to dominate,

Defile with sex, make the victim a villain,

Use rape to terrorize, humiliate,

And the price that is paid? Paid by children.

A voice heard in Ramah, she loudly cries:

Rachel lamenting for all her children
As a king’s arm kills till ev’ry child dies,

Ev’ry parent’s arm emptied, ev’ry grave filled in.

Rachel, unconsoled shall weep for her lost

Until they return, and the king’s arms crossed.

© 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: Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With All His Heart

With All His Heart

A friend of mine died three years ago today. From the very beginning, she had a life of struggle. Ultimately, that battle took its toll, and as is the case for all, she succumbed to that struggle. The elf queen, Galadriel, in Lord of the Rings speaks of “the long defeat”. Talking this way may sound morose, but it is comforting for me because this is how I experience the world. My friend struggled with the long defeat.

Many moving through this world don’t seem to know an end is coming. Fewer of our fellows seem to slow for funeral processions. Nevertheless, you can’t get around it. In my town they still slow, stop, and honor the departed and their family. But in many places, the procession is passed by drivers who are in a hurry to get somewhere else. They could do with the lesson they’d be afforded if they could recognize it. The lesson being, Where do you think you are headed so fast?

My friend was a writer and poet. She fought her battle with words and phrases, and she inspired me and the congregation of which she was a member. One of those poems, “With All My Heart” was put to music by our our congregation’s worship leader, Michael Kuehn. You may listen to the song via the player below.

Tonya’s last days were physically uncomfortable. She didn’t want visitors. Though for those of us who ventured into expressing our love for her by visiting, she did what is often the case of those for whom we are grieving, she comforted us. In my grief for her, I wrote this sonnet for her several days before she died. In her poem, she has a line in which she expresses her love for Jesus, (“…with all my heart”). I turned that line into an expression of Jesus’ love for her. His love for us is no less eager, zealous, pleading, or desiring. I make use of the story of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:40-56 to help imagine the love Jesus expressed for her.

See you soon, Tonya.

Arise now, stand strong and healed
Safely home, never to depart;
Welcome to the broad and spacious field
Of His expansive love filling all your heart.
Come now, made whole and see
With your own eyes the One —
The Poet who speaks thought into reality
Whose mercy shines as morning sun.

With all His heart, he welcomes you,
Whispers your name, speaks to your fear
Whose salvation searches, makes you new
As he gently wipes away every last tear.
And taking your hand, “Little one, awaken in my light
What was imagined in thy heart is now given in thy sight.”

© Randall Edwards 2016
Artwork: Gabriel Max. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter , oil on canvas, 1878.

Start Again

Start Again

This sonnet is based on Nehemiah 3 where Nehemiah recounts the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem. Repair work is difficult because of the “re-” part. Having to tend again to something that was previously finished exposes the grief of the impermanence of this world. When however, we are sober, we identify the reality and hidden hopefulness in T. S. Elliot’s words from “The Four Quartets”,

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from….”

The ending necessary so that something new may start, is the most difficult step. Thankfully it is not the whole journey. Rather the new begins with a step, with picking up one thing, and putting it in its place.

How does one begin when the worst befalls?
And how does one know even where to start
When violence tears down destroys your walls
Leaves vulnerable the tender heart?
And the mind is laid bare with questions, Why?
Regret comes each night, resentment with day,
Keeps you awake, leaves you looking at sky
For an answer, some direction, or way.

Forward rather, seems going round again
Repairing the old, fitting in the new,
Filling the breaches, and facing the pain,
Not delivered from the trial, but through.
So I start again, admit I need grace,
Hand o’er my life, set the first piece in place.

© 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: Gustave Doré [Public domain]

Time’s Fullness

Time’s Fullness

This sonnet is first in a new series from the book of Nehemiah. It finds its inspiration in both Nehemiah 1 and Galatians 4:4,5. I was particularly struck by the moment word of the destruction of Jerusalem’s walls and gates reached Nehemiah. He writes that he “sat down and wept” which echos the song of the exiles in Psalm 137. Time both seems to stand still and move. Nehemiah receives the news in the month of Chislev, but doesn’t approach the king until four months later in Nisan. How might time seemed to have passed as he waited and prayed? And once he determined to make his request, how quickly did it pass to conclude with an answer?

Time sometimes turns with a question which you
Toss to a friend as he passes through;
Your world comes apart with, “Didn’t you hear?”

To crash on your head, up to your ears.

To you, time had borne your hopes as a stream;
Now blocked it pools in troubling dreams,
O’erflows its banks, puddles, makes a dammed slough,
Leaves you stuck in the moment, mired in right now.

But faith takes time and patiently bears
The mind’s burdens, the heart’s worrisome cares
To the God of heaven whose will holds the key
That turns the door’s lock and brings delivery.

When time’s fullness at last fin’lly comes,
Delivery gives birth and makes us sons.

© 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: Mobilos [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

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)