Suddenly He Comes

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

With a Child’s Eyes I See

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

Woman, Behold

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

You Will See

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

Woman, Behold

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

Epiphany on the Jordan

Epiphany on the Jordan

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Epiphany. The prescribed Gospel lectionary text concerns Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Matthew 2:1-12). You’ll recall that John baptized with water, and he announced the coming of One who would baptize with fire and Spirit. When Jesus comes to be baptized, John is hesitant, but Jesus insists that his baptism is so that all righteousness be fulfilled.

In each of the gospels Jesus’ baptism signals the beginning of something remarkably new. Aside from John, there are three others present in this scene: Jesus who is being baptized, the Father who speaks his blessing, and the Spirit who is hovering over the water and descending on the Son. There in the midst of the River Jordan, the gospel writers foreshadow  Jesus’ coming judgment and  identify him as the One from whom redemption and life flows. The gospel writers want us to know that everything has changed.

In Revelation, John links Jesus’ baptism with another event in the story of the people of God: an event in which judgement took place, redemption was secured, and everything changed, and that event was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Having passed through he judgment of water, delivered to the far side where their promise awaits, Miram and Moses led the people in worship.

Helping his congregations understand the outcome of the trials in which the people find themselves, John writes in Revelation 15:2-3a,

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,

This sonnet is entitled, The Sea of Glass Mingled with Fire, and you may listen to me read it via the player below.

In primordial time in the timeless wait
The Spirit hovers over the darkening deep,
God sings in command, light bursts through the gate
Day springing with beauty and glorious heat.

In hatred and spite Pharaoh sets Israel free;
Though sheltered in glory ‘neath fire and cloud
They despair and are pinned between army and sea,
And find rescue through trial where others had drowned.

Old and new Baptizers on Jordan’s banks meet;
John, washing with water, beholds Fire’s face;
The Righteous submits all just fullness to keep
To shower the blessing of favor and grace.
And there on His shore we’ll sing by stilled seas
Washed in New Creation, at peace eternally.

© 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.

Epiphany’s Snowing

Epiphany’s Snowing

Here’s a sonnet written this morning while watching the snow fall and meditating on the Magi’s visit to the Christ child which is remembered on Epiphany. It was a lovely morning.

img_4657I have been taken with T.S. Elliot’s “Journey of the Magi” which you may read here, and you’ll be able to recognize its influence in this sonnet.

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

It was worse for them, a cold coming
Through the weary winter waste wandering,
The camels and men grumbling and running
Away from their errand, a magi’s mission found’ring.
And in the dark no less, this hard going
After some sacred celestial shining
Into the west, against the blowing
Snow to arrive, rest, to reality aligning.

Eon’s later I watch this Epiphany’s snowing;
Now past, our Christmas carols singing;
To wait for spring? It’ll be hard going
To body forth through this winter’s keening.
But hard as it was, to home they arrived kneeling
Before Him who coming homeless, be-came for our healing.

© Randy Edwards 2017.

artwork: Gustav Dore

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.