St. Lucy’s Day

St. Lucy’s Day

December 13 is St Lucy’s Day. This sonnet (which is a revised version) reflects on the last week of the darkest days of the year when those days are shortest and the sun is furthest from its place in high summer. The feast of St. Lucy is marked by many traditions, but the Scandinavian tradition of Lucy wearing a wreath of candles so that she might see in the dark of the catacombs where she she bears food to Christians in hiding is a lovely one.

In 2016, just before St. Lucy’s Day, terrorists massacred Christians worshipping in Egypt. The defiance of those Christians who did not chant, “Death!” or vow revenge, but instead chanted the Nicene Creed moved me. In profession we drive back darkness not in the obsession of vengeance.

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

The cloudy sky o’erwhelms the failing sun
Who does not show or shine on sleeping trees
But wintered ‘way to southern courses run
Where the warm breeze blows golden, dappled leaves.
Dear Lucy, wreathed in beauty, bearing gifts
That we dared not hope for here in the dark
And seeing your courage, our spirits rise, lift
To honor in name, remember and mark.
Again, we are lost midway through our life
Huddled ‘gainst death in catacombs of fear
Crying the Creed: “God of God; Light of Light,”
Defying darkness till our Hope appears.
Come, illumine, bear your gifts, wreathed in light
To us who await the end of winter’s night.

© Randall Edwards 2017

Only Son

Only Son

Continuing in a series entitled, Where Are You?, another poem from Genesis 22 has come together. Genesis 22:2 reads, “He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”

If we are familiar with this event and know the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, we interject what we know into the narrative without thinking about it. However, this interaction may be more dramatic and may read more ambiguously if we were reading it for the first time.

In this sonnet I try and capture the sense of a dialogue between the Lord and Abraham and also to flesh out the ambiguity about whom the Lord is speaking. [I believe it was from Dr. Timothy Keller that I first heard this; which is to say, he should get credit for the idea but not the blame of what I’ve made of it]. As the ambiguity unwinds the dramatic tension increases until the name of the son of whom the Lord is speaking is spoken.

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

The Lord spoke and said to me, “Take your son.”
And not knowing which I said, “I have two.”

And the Lord replied, “Take your only son.”
Slowly, I considered, “El Shaddai, you
Know of all that there are two that are….
I have two sons who, the same as the other,
Are each the first of numberless of stars.
Both are my sons; each, the only son of their mother.”

Pressing, the Lord said, “The son whom you love.”
And with the press I started, protested,
“Two, my Lord; both, only sons whom I love;
Neither denied, nor your sign neglected.”

“Take your only son, whom you love as life,
Your laughter, Isaac, and him sacrifice.”

© Randall Edwards 2017
Artwork: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

On the Third Day

On the Third Day

This poem is the second in a series of poems for Advent entitled, Where Are You? This sonnet is an imaginative re-telling of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.

The words of Genesis 22:3-4 are the verses which captured my imagination. They read,

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
Genesis 22:1-14

In particular when Abraham “lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar” aside from seeing where the sacrifice was to be made, did he see something more? (Hebrews 11:17-19).

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

On the first day, you were as good as dead
When commanded that you be given up
In an unknown place, on a stone bed,
Pour out my delight, drink the bitter cup.

On the next we travelled in silence
The in between world of living and dying,
Night and day, obedient or defiant,
Grieving and grateful, blessed and crying.

The third by far, is worse of the three
As time has run out, what will be, begun;
To fully give in faith without degree
My everything, all, withhold not my son.
How from this comes good, blessing the nations?
Can a dead son rise in new creation?

© Randall Edwards 2017
Artwork: Gustav Dore

Where Are You?

Where Are You?

This weekend Grace Presbyterian Church is hosting an art exhibit for Advent which will feature portraiture, pyrography and music. If you’re in the area, please stop by to take it in. Pieces will be installed each week and will walk us towards, Bethlehem and the Nativity.

Here’s the flyer for the exhibit.
Where Are You?
As the exhibit artists present their work, I will be preaching on each of the themes. This poem is based on the first subject of the Advent theme of “Hope”.

If helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

Where are you,
My enfolding twin, one who for me
Fits in embrace, who entwined and enmeshed
Completes, in coupling makes he and she,
Who is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh?

Where are you,
Who ever-present, hides, is unseen,
Who forbids one thing, though all things are good,
Gives all for food, yet forbids we glean
What delights our eyes, what we want, would?

Where are you?
We wait blushing, trying to hide
From seeing as is, not as we would be;
In enmity, driven, cast from your side,
Wrapped in self-making, clothed in your tree’s leaves?

Where are you,
My image: father-husband, mother-wife?
What bleak breeze blew, moved you to take
The forbidden fruit, eat, gamble your life,
And the lives of you children forsake?

Where are you?
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
My Father, I thirst, drink for her the cup,
For your love obey, for her take the tree
That my bride ‘neath my love may eat and sup.

Here we are Lord,
Taken by he who takes us in hand,
Whose hands hold all things, WHO IS, I AM.
We hold to nothing, make no demand.
We are here. Do your will. Work your plan.

© Randall Edwards 2017
artwork: John Roddam Spencer Stanhope [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nickabrik

Nickabrik

First of all this is a sonnet for me. It is about the dwarfish in me that is like Nickabrik, who appears in C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. Nickabrik resented both the Telmarines’ oppression and the help which Aslan sends in the children and in Prince Caspian. Nickabrik longed for days gone by when the dwarfs were feared and were close to the power who ruled Narnia for hundreds of winters with nary a Christmas. In the scene at Aslan’s How, Nickabrik gives full voice to his doubt’s imagination,

“Perhaps,” said Nikabrik in a cold voice. “Perhaps she was for you humans, if there were any of you in those days. Perhaps she was for some of the beasts. She stamped out the Beavers, I dare say; at least there are none of them in Narnia now. But she got on all right with us Dwarfs. I’m a Dwarf and I stand by my own people. We’re not afraid of the Witch.”
“But you’ve joined with us,” said Trufflehunter.
“Yes, and a lot of good it has done my people, so far,” snapped Nikabrik. “Who is sent on all the dangerous raids? The Dwarfs. Who goes short when the rations fail? The Dwarfs. Who—?”
“Lies! All lies!” said the Badger.
“And so,” said Nikabrik, whose voice now rose to a scream, “if you can’t help my people, I’ll go to someone who can.”
C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

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

We’re the slighted, the overlooked, ignored,
Abandoned, cut loose, cast aside, forgotten;
We drown in our envy, self-absorbed,
Full of shame, self-contempt, raging, rotten.
We, the peace-fakers, with a smile break faith,
Break trust, in dishonesty, blame shift, deflect,
Deny the wound, the offense, play the wraith
With shape-shifting hearts hid ‘neath stoic affect.

You’re the Reconciler, who bridges, makes,
The two one, tears down hostility’s wall
Cancels sin, cleanses, whose anointing breaks
Sin’s shaming power which reigned since the Fall.
Satan names my sin, says that sin name’s me
My Savior becomes sin, gives his name, sets free.

© Randall Edwards 2017

artwork: By Lorenz Frølich – Published in Gjellerup, Karl (1895). Den ældre Eddas Gudesange. Photographed from a 2001 reprint by bloodofox (talk · contribs)., Public Domain.

King of Peace

King of Peace

In the United States this weekend is full of holidays (or holy-days), and though they vary in degree of holiness, they all bear the marks of hope, devotion, promise, and of blessing or cursing. Black Friday marks the inauguration of the holiday shopping season, and with its sales and special offers, Black Friday offers the promised blessing of just the right gift at just the right price. Another holiday consists in the many football game rivalries which are scheduled this weekend; the victories or losses will make each team’s and their fan’s seasons. Lastly, this Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King in which the church recognizes its hope of ruling and reigning with Christ in the new heavens and new earth.

Abram in Genesis 14 found himself in the midst of battles, kings, and kingdoms. Rather than receive the blessings of the kings of this world, he instead declined what was offered in hope of a greater blessing. He tithed of the spoils of this world to Melchizedek, King of Salem (whose name means “king of righteousness” and who was “king of peace”). Melchizedek met Abram, received his tithe, and gave him bread and wine so that Abram might be strengthened to resist temptation and continue in faith.

At the end of Hebrews, the author writes that it is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace (Heb 13:9). This is a weekend full of kingdoms and the kings who are their people’s champion and who offer the promise of strength and blessing. This sonnet is about those competing realms and the promise of the King who delivers.

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

Consumption’s cathedrals host The Holy Day
Where pilgrims search stalls for the perfect offering
To consummate their duty on Black Friday,
Join profit and promise, right price and right thing.

This is the week when the pigskin pilgrims seek
To vanquish the evil whom their champion fights
In the gridiron coliseums of Rivalry Week
In hope of a year of restored bragging rights.

On this Sunday the church will stand and sing
“At the Name of Jesus,” “Come Thou Almighty King”
Either full of the spoils of victory’s feasting,
Or hungover, hopeless, stuffed and still keening.

Whosoever you are, as Abram come, dine,
Taste the richest of fare: the King’s bread and wine.

© Randall Edwards 2017

Just So

Just So

This poem or spoken word piece had its start with a sentence I heard in a meeting I recently attended. I cannot recall the specific context or who spoke it, but the sentence captured my imagination, and I wrote it down. I believe the subject of the conversation was what we expect of our leaders: how we expect them to be superhuman, heroic, and yet accessible and personable. The breadth of qualities which are encompassed in all our expectations have only been found in one man, and maybe you heard what they did to him.

Here’s a swing at working those thoughts out.

If it’s helpful 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’ll serve without putting on some show.
Not pretentious, nor 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-imagined 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 cursings, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So you’ll have to do better,
You’ll have 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.
Artwork: The image is from page 13 of Leonard Leslie Brooke’s, The Story of the Three Bears, (1900).