Your Hand

This poem draws its inspiration from Psalm 139. You may listen to me read the poem via the

player below.

 Even there your hand,
 The hand which you stretched out to deliver me,
 The hand by which you led your people through the sea
 And with which you take our hand
 And as a shepherd lead,
 That hand is the same hand 
 With which you took hers
 As she lay upon her bed
 Even though her father’s friends had said,
 ‘It’s no use, she’s already dead.’
 But you clasped her hand in yours,
 And without an audience, behind closed doors,
 You tenderly tugged and said,
 ‘Sweetie, time to get up’
 As if it were just another morning.

 Those hands are the hands with which
 You wiped your own tears as you wept 
 At your friend’s tomb 
 Though you said he only slept.

 And with those hands, you took the beam
 And with them carried it through the din
 Of Jerusalem’s cries and shouts
 And bore with it the weight of my sin;
 To that wood, they nailed
 Your hand even as they mocked and hailed
 You King of the Jews,
 And in your exaltation
 Said your kingdom had failed.

 And with your hand which you raised to you mouth
 You called the disciples from the shore
 You hailed them with a shout
 To cast our nets on the other side
 Of the boat.

 That hand beckoned Peter again from the sea
 And asked again whether of fish or men
 Would he rather a fisher be,
 Entreating three times,
 And through Peter ask me,
 Do you love me?
 Do you love me?
 Do you love me?
 More than these?

 That hand is the hand by which 
 You take mine in hand
 Whether I ascend to heaven, 
 Mount on wings,
 Or make my bed in the grave 
 With those who have died;
 Whether I dwell in the utmost part of the sea
 Even there your hand shall guide,
 Your hand shall take,
 Your right hand lead
 And hold 
 Me.
 

 © Randall Edwards 2021

Just So

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. This was written a couple of years ago after I heard someone talk about leaders and how they liked them ‘just so’. The line caught my attention and rolled around in my head for a few days.
Oftentimes there is an attempt to position ourselves in terms of us and them: us pastors and them parishioners or us who appreciate pastors and them who don’t. But when it all boils down there is really only us and Him. And well, He’s really just so…

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

We like our leaders just so–
Not too brash, not too bold.
We like them humble, but not so much so.
We like our leaders just so.

We like them selfless,
Who serve without putting on a show.
Not pretentious, ostentatious,
Modest and humble,
Not too high but not too low.
That’s how we like our leaders.

Just so,
You know from the start,
From the get go, we have no issue
With receiving, following, heeding,
We hope you got the memo.
And we like you too,
(We thought you’d like to know),
We like our leaders.

Just so we’re clear
(And although no one’s perfect)
We’d like you
To be the closest to perfect
Of anyone we know—
Who’ll play their part
In our well-conceived dreams,
Lead us in fulfilling all our schemes,
Who is authentic down to their bones,
Who really is, not merely seems,
Someone we can trust more than anything.
We like our leaders.

We like our leaders just. So
You’ll need to measure up,
Exude perfection,
Reflect our fronting, our righteous reflection,
Our confident, prosperous, self-projection.
We like our leaders just.

So, why are you wearing that towel?
Why disrobed? Down on your knee?
Why touch my feet as a slave?
Why wash me?

Why don’t you speak, live up to the hype?
Do the deeds which brought you fame?
Are we to follow one so derided, disdained?

Defend yourself, why scorn the shame?
Why bear the cursing, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So, you’ll have to do better;
You’ll have to rise higher;
You’ll have to break out
Of this lamb of God game.
You’ll need to make a better name
If we’re to follow you into your dominion;
You may not like it, but that’s our opinion.
There’s just no glory for a lion laid low
Because we like our leaders just so.

© 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.

The Incense

This sonnet is based on Isaiah 6:1-8, and is part of a new series on Isaiah titled, Full of His Glory.

I have always been brought up a bit short by the coal touching Isaiah’s lips and his subsequent eagerness to be sent. I can’t get over how painful I imagine it.

Much is made in my circles of the atonement made for Isaiah’s sin and the conviction that the coal must have come from the altar of sacrifice in the Temple’s courtyard. But Isaiah’s explicit mentioning of Uzziah at the beginning leads me to believe that the altar of incense inside the Sanctuary is what he has mind. Though I hold firmly to justification by faith, it seems that there is more going on than the battles of atonement theories.

In Isaiah more generally, but here too, the all too often malady of giving lip service to God while having a heart that is far from him seems to be more at hand. Even here, Isaiah’s preaching will fall on ears that cannot understand and be set before eyes which cannot perceive. Judah’s problem is in the heart. So this brings me back to Isaiah and his lips, and mine if I’m honest.

Burning coals and lips do not go together, but what if the image is not one of atonement but of sanctification. What if Isaiah is the incense who when ignited by God’s Spirit sends up the offering of prayer and praise –rising to heaven and suffusing everything around with the fragrant message of God’s word? What if Isaiah’s heart has been ignited in holiness and zeal and love? That he would rush forward and say, Send Me! Send Me! makes much more sense. So, here’s to Isaiah and hearts set aflame to make lips smoke with prayer and praise.

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

In the year that King Uzziah died I
Saw the Lord seated in His Temple high
Above where he speaks, makes the threshold shake
At the sound of his voice and glory’s weight.

And I shake too and break, for I am one
Who has seen the Holy. I am undone.
Unclean in heart my lips lie, lay claim
To the greedy loves of self, pride, and fame.

But from the altar where Uzziah sinned,
Comes heat and fire born on wings and wind.
I, the incense, the coal touches my lips,
Ignites his word, prayer smokes, calling grips
With grace. My heart aflame, he calls to me
To proclaim His favor, set captives free. 

© 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).

artwork: Marc Chagall, Le prophète Isaïe, 1968–1968.

Doesn’t Look Like Much

This past Sunday was the first time the church had physically gathered for worship and the Lord’s Supper. It was a morning of expectation, and I sensed deep appreciation among those gathered for the opportunity, and our worship was full of gratitude.

Yet, there was a tinge of sadness. Our numbers were limited to under thirty people. We were socially distanced and masked. We were outside in the morning heat in our picnic shelter and not in the climate controlled building worshipping in the comfort of our sanctuary. The elements of the Lord’s Supper were one of those single, prepackaged, shipped-in-box-of 250 MRE’s. It all, we all, didn’t look like much. Yet, on the other hand, it seemed to be just about perfect.

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

It doesn’t look like much, no high altar,
No stained glass; it’s just a picnic shelter:
With a concrete floor and wooden tables.

It may not have looked like much,
But God first spoke, first reached with hands to touch
Us in a village stable.

We don’t look like much, not more than thirty
In our number gathered on a Sunday,
Scattered here to hear of Him who freed us.

They may not have looked like much:
Uncouth, unschooled yet bold in the clutch—
All knew they’d been with Jesus.

This doesn’t look like much, this plastic cup
Of juice, this tasteless bread, on which we sup,
Sealed in cellophane for distribution.

It may not look like much,
But the wicked and proud ne’er fed on such
A feast of absolution.

Yes, it isn’t much, only bread and wine
Bur it’s more than food on which we dine
It speaks pledge through sign, by words unspoken.

It may not look like much,
But here is promise more than enough:
He still loves and is for you, broken.

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© 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)

Ordinary Prayer: Psalm 19

The psalms are not the high-culture language of a life lived looking down on others. They are the down to earth lyrics of God’s people. The Psalms are words penned by some of them most famous Old Testament saints, and they have worked their way into the hearts of the church for millennia. Psalm 19 is one of those songs.

This is a paraphrase of Psalm 19.

The night sky is the word of your worth, O God,
and the daytime brings all your skill to light.
Day after day something new is said
and each night more news is shared.
You can’t get away from it;
everywhere you hear it and everything has something to say.
The news goes all ‘round the globe,
and its word goes from one end to the other.
The expanse above is like a blue tent
for the sun which runs straight across the sky
like a bridegroom to his wedding or a strong man into battle;
it delights to do so.
From his rising he crosses the sky
from one end to the other
and nothing can escape its heat.

The law of the Lord is just-right, giving life to life;
the word of the Lord is dependable and makes sages of plain folk.
The things the Lord says are right, they give joy through and through;
the commands of the Lord are clear and help one see;
Knowing the holiness of Lord makes one holy forever;
the measures of the Lord are straight and completely just.
You’ll want these more than money, more than the best investments,
and these are sweeter than any honey you’ll ever come across.

And what is more, You keep me safe in their warnings
and show me the great fruit of following them.
Tell me now, who can really see?
Who can disentangle a heart from the knots of wrong?
Who can clear up one’s inner self-deceptions?
Please don’t let me stumble into presuming upon you.
Don’t let sin gain leverage against me.
Only then will I be free of blame and innocent.
Let the words I say and the thoughts on which I chew
be what would bring pleasure to you, O Lord,
the one who holds me up
and the one who has my back.

© Randall Edwards 2020. This paraphrase of Psalm 19 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
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