Categories
poetry

Suddenly He Comes

In the United States February 2 is Groundhog Day. For many Christians, February 2 is Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The Presentation is found in Luke 2:22-38 which records the events forty days after the birth of Jesus. At that time, Mary and Joseph go to the Temple so that Mary may be declared ceremonially clean and so that they might pay the redemption tax of the first born which is laid out in Exodus 13.

Simeon was righteous and devout man who was waiting for the “consolation of Israel. It was revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Simeon came in the Spirit to the temple, received Jesus in his arms, and blessed God. Luke records his response in a song which is entitled the Nunc Dimittis (now dismiss). Later Anna the prophetess greeted the couple and Jesus. Overwhelmed with joy, she praised God and told everyone who was also awaiting the redemption of Israel.

Andrey Mironov’s “Saint Simeon with the Christ child” is a contemporary imagining of this event. It is a striking painting. It’s all about the eyes. Examine the look between Simeon and the baby Jesus. There seems to be a connection. Though you can’t see Simeon’s eyes, what does his look communicate? What is he thinking? What emotion is he projecting? Next, look at the baby Jesus. What are in his eyes? How is he responding to Simeon? You’ve noticed the woman’s eyes in the background by now. (How can one not be struck by that look?); this is Mary. Mary’s eyes beg a reaction. Are they asking a question? Do they invites a response? What is she asking of us? I think the question Mary is asking is for Mironov the most important question.
796px-Simeon._Mironov

This sonnet was previously posted and tweaked a bit.If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
The Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who long-waited —
The refiner’s fire, promised fuller’s soap;
Simeon and Anna, made young again
Seeing Israel’s consolation and hope.

Lord, in the light of Candlemas I see
In the heart of my own mid-winter way
You gave your wealth, to become poor for me
That I might be young and long for the Day
When the sudden shaking of your revealing
Dashes the proud, but the poor and pierced, healing.

© 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: Saint Simeon with the Christ child. 2014. Oil on canvas. 90×70. Artist A.N. Mironov. By Andrey Mironov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Categories
poetry

With a Child’s Eyes I See

Next in the series So That You May Believe is a sonnet based on John 3:1-20. In this passage the elder of Israel, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus inquiring of his identity. Nicodemus apprehends that Jesus is somebody, but he doesn’t see who he is clearly.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions and confusion with a riddle of sorts which we read in John 3:11-14,

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus identifies himself and his purpose with two Old Testament passages: Daniel 7 and Numbers 21. In effect he is saying, I am the Son of Man, the cloud rider, who has stood before the Ancient of Days (Dan 7), and I am the reality of which Moses’ bronze serpent was only a shadow (Num 21). It’s as if he is saying, You will see Nicodemus, when you see the Son of Man lifted up as the bronze serpent was lifted up and that will identify the full measure of the love of God for the world and my love for you.

The mystery, and that which needs seeing, is that the Son of Man took the place of the serpent for us. The Seed who was to crush the serpents head (Genesis 3:15) was himself crushed as the serpent. Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The question is what did Nicodemus come to see. He appears along with Joseph of Arimathea (another disciple in secret) in John 19. Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body, anoint and wrap it, and place it in the tomb.

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

I came to him at night hoping to hear
A word which would confirm, dispel my doubt,
Justify the risk, and assuage my fear
That the price would get me in, not leave me out.
He said one must be born again to see
God’s Kingdom in its beauty, love, and light,
But I can’t understand how that can be;
Can one be made a child? Can that be right?

Three years later with a child’s eyes I see
A bronze serpent’s likeness, crushed Nehushtan*
I gaze upon healing his life for me,
The exaltation of the Son of Man.

Oh, what new mercies may the morning bring,
Turn lament to joy, give a song to sing?

*Nehushtan was the name given to the bronze serpent which likeness was kept in Jerusalem. 2Kings 18 says that Hezekiah had it broken into pieces because it became an object of worship.

© 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: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Categories
poetry

Woman, Behold

This Sunday’s passage is the basis for this sonnet which I wrote last year, have tweaked, and am reposting as next in the series, That You May Believe. It is based upon John 2:1-11 where Jesus and his disciples attend the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The passage begins,

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'” (John 2:1-5)

This passage is mirrored later in John’s gospel when Mary, the mother of Jesus, makes her only other significant appearance. The irony of the interaction may easily be overlooked. Though John is explaining how Mary came to be in his care, it is reductionistic to see the exchange as only Jesus looking out for his mother’s well-keeping. As is the case in John’s gospel, John wants us to look closer, and he does so through a literary device called a prolepsis. The passage from John 19:25-26 reads,

“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”

If helpful, 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 bridegroom 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 feet of his vintner’s frame
Twisted round a stake like trellised vine
Is her son who saved a wedding from shame.
“Why?” pours from her eyes with sobs overcome;
The wine saved last, “Woman, behold your son.”

© 2017 Randall Edwards
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: 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

Categories
poetry

You Will See

This sonnet is a part of the series, That You May Believe. It is based on John 1:35-51 and imagines the first disciple’s skepticism about the identity of Jesus. It especially imagines a response such as Nathaniel’s to Philip whose words I borrow, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

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

‘Come, meet the One whom John identifies
As the Messiah whose coming begins
New birth through fire by the Spirit baptize,
The Lamb of God who takes away sin.’

‘Can anything good come from Nazareth…
The calloused hands of a carpenter’s son?
Can a bearer of wood breathe life and breath
Into the ruined hope of our setting sun?’
What sign could he give plumb, true beyond doubt
That our life hangs on his header and frame,
Will he show his work let fingers trace out
The sum of his figures, see his plans and way?’

The Son of Man speaks, ‘You shall see in one day.
Heaven’s door opened, Israel’s sin borne away.’

© 2018 Randy Edwards
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: James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Categories
poetry

Woman, Behold

The Lectionary reading for the fourth Sunday of Epiphany comes from John 2 when Jesus and his disciples attend the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The passage begins,

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'” (John 2:1-5)

This passage is mirrored later in John’s gospel when Mary, the mother of Jesus makes her only other appearance. Most often the significance and irony of the interaction is looked over reducing the exchange as merely Jesus looking out for his mother’s well-keeping, but as is the case of John’s gospel, he wants us to look closer. The passage from John 19:25-26 reads,

“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”

If helpful, 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.”

© 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.

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