Mary of Bethany

Mary of Bethany

This sonnet is based on John 12:1-3. which recalls the moment Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus both as coming king but more significantly as one whose mission was to die for the sins of his people. This event occurred on the day before the triumphal procession or Palm Sunday.

Carolyn Custis James was the first, who many years ago, drew my attention to the first great Christian theologian, Mary of Bethany. There is much in Mary’s experience with Jesus that is full of pathos: her sitting at Jesus’ feet, her brother, Lazarus’ resurrection, and here, her pouring out of her material wealth in a gesture of love and recognition for who Jesus was and what he was to do.

He came at last, but too late for healing
My brother for days, sealed up behind stone
My heart grieved between riot and reeling
With a shout he healed, gave life to these bones.
Now from my alabaster heart, broken
Pours the fragrant passion of love and life
Upon his feet, a running devotion
For my savior bearing my sin and strife.
But worse than I feared my king did for me
Faced death in silence as a Pascal Lamb
My stone-heart breaks again, tears flow free
Is there yet hope for this child of Abraham?
My treasure now in a stone vial is sealed
Awaiting a breaking when love is revealed.

© 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Meal in the House of the Pharisee (Le repas chez le pharisien), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 4 13/16 x 8 1/8 in. (12.2 x 20.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.120 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.120_PS2.jpg)

A Light Shown Forth

A Light Shown Forth

This poem is based on John 10:22-39. Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. The irony in the passage is that the shepherds of Israel, in the portico dedicated to Solomon, son of David and wisest of kings, are in the dark about the identity of the one whose presence they question. What caught my attention were John’s first words, in verse 22 which are both the first words and become a form of sorts for the whole.

At that time the Feast of Dedication
Took place at Jerusalem.
It was winter.

Jesus was walking in the temple,
in the colonnade of Solomon,
The word-wise king.

“How long will you keep us in the dark?
If you are Messiah, David’s son,
Tell us plainly.”

I have said, and saying I have said,
Will not make you open your eyes
Or see the light.

What I do, I do in my Father’s name.
See for yourself, my works speak for me,
But you won’t see.

I am a shepherd, and my sheep know me.
They hear my voice. I know them, call them,
They follow me.

I lead them in light, into life, safety.
With me they rest, find their salvation
Safe in my arms.

For the One whose hand is greater than all,
My Father, with whom I am one,
Gives them to me.

A spark, light shines bright in the colonnade.
At last, they see, and hear his words.
They reach for stones.

In the cold of Jerusalem’s winter
Her shepherds raise hands to extinguish
The Light of Life.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon (Jésus se promène dans le portique de Salomon), 1886-1896.

I Go

I Go

Based on John 14:1-14

Why all this talk of leaving, betrayal?
Where are you going? How could Peter deny?
We’ll go where you go. We’ll remain loyal.
Tell us true, no matter, even to die.

Way? But we don’t know the place you’re going;
We’d follow you, but you always rush in.
Can’t you see that their hatred is growing?
You’ll be alone, bear the brunt of their sin.

Let not your hearts be troubled, trust, believe;
My Father’s house has space enough and room.
I go, prepare for you a place with me
Where you’ll come live as a bride with her groom.
Though I go, you’ll have me, all in my name,
Glory and presence as pillar of flame.

© Randy 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: Duccio di Buoninsegna  (1255–2018), Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, between 1308 and 1311
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do You Want to Be Healed?

Do You Want to Be Healed?

This sonnet is based on John 5:1-17.

For thirty-eight years I have been bound, lame
In this body which failed, gave way, betrayed
My dreams to nightmares, my illness a shame;
My heart’s hope of wholeness, each year delayed.
I lie on my mat ‘side Bethesda’s pool
Where I wait for the waters to bubble
And by chance, might prove wrong the rule
That this man reaped what he deserved, double.

“Do you want to be healed?” the stranger said.
“Really? Are you mocking me? Can’t you see?
I’ve slaved, waited, to angels begged and pled
That bathing here might bring Sabbath to me.”

But this Sabbath, mercy like a shower broke
in blessing on my head, when the stranger spoke.

© 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: Carl Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Water Who Thirsted

The Water Who Thirsted

based on John 4:1-26 and Psalm 1

Thirsty, the Water spoke to the woman
Who had come to the well in the day’s heat,
“Give me a drink,” though she, a Samaritan,
Not caring whether he seemed indiscreet.

“But you have nothing by which I may draw
Water for you, though it’s clean, still it’s deep,”
And he wound me with questions, as if to draw
Me up out of darkness, rouse me from sleep.

Thirsty, this woman to whom Water spoke;
My dammed story poured, my life leaking out
I could feel joy well till suspicion broke
Through into knowing, flood, ending my drought.

Blessed, I’m become the unwithered tree
Because of the water who thirsted for me.

© 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Woman of Samaria at the Well (La Samaritaine à la fontaine), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 10 5/16 x 14 13/16 in. (26.2 x 37.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.69 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.69_PS2.jpg)

With His Life’s Wage

With His Life’s Wage

The passages of John 6:1-14 and 21:1-14 mirror each other. In both instances a crowd is gathered, full of expectancy but hungry and weary. In one a meager meal of some fish and five barley loaves is more than enough in Jesus’ hands, and in the other, Jesus’ presence with a small amount gives the disciples as much as they can handle. In one you have Philip’s comment that a years wage wouldn’t be enough to give all even a little. In the second, one man’s wage is more than enough to fill all.

‘Look at this crowd, where’s food enough to feed?’
The Rabbi questioned Philip as a test,
Who says, “A years wage wouldn’t meet the need
Feed some a little, leave nothing for the rest.”
A boy shares what he has (bread and some fish);
Andrew brings to Jesus, filing through the ranks,
And Jesus blesses more than one could wish
Feeding famished thousands, filling them with thanks.

By that sea after the Son in full measure
Had poured out his wealth for our wage of woe
And having turned His weakness into treasure
He breaks their night’s fast shares himself to show
That with his life’s wage he buys fish and bread
Gives life, fills full, unto rising from the dead.

© 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (La multiplicité des pains), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum. No known copyright restrictions.

Unless I See

Unless I See

This sonnet is based on John 20:25 which reads, “So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.'”

‘Unless I see the marks the nails left,
The scars of his hands, place my fingers in
Those iron wounds, place my hand in the cleft
Of his side where the spear went in?
I’ll not believe. I’ll not be taken in.

I was ready to lose my life in off’ring,
Gladly die with him, give everything.’

‘Thomas, I know you would’ve gladly given
Your life with me if you could. Nor do I
Doubt that you would’ve resisted, striven,
Remained true, not run away, nor in fear fly,
You’d have stayed by my side, lent a hand, died.

Embrace my death, but more, my life receive
Take my hands, touch my side, see, live, believe.

© 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: Béla Iványi-Grünwald [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. (PD-1923).