She Gave More than They

She Gave More than They

During his passion week, Jesus traveled daily to the Temple in order to teach and preach. During a private moment with his disciples, Jesus takes note of a widow who placed her offering in the offering box. Here, two, small lepta (worth about the 1/4 of penny together) become the example of giving which surpasses the giving of all the others.

We read about her gift in Luke 21:1-4.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

James Tissot’s rendering of the same moment is one of my favorite depictions. There is so much going on in the painting. The rich who give while on their way into the dark, the hand of one hidden by the widow’s retreat as if he were picking her pocket, the stark, sharp clarity of the widow carrying her child as she moves towards the light…magnificent.

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

From her poverty she gave more than they
Who gave of their wealth, who gave from their best.
All she had to live on, she gave away.

Their offering was a giving display
Giving to show they had more than the rest.
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

For they fill their hearts with what other’s say
The real treasure buried ‘neath their vest.
All she had to live on, she gave away.

The crashing of shekels like a surf’s spray
Washes in praise as they empty their chest.
From her poverty, she gave more than they.

Round the Temple’s court, the Rabbi’s eyes stray
To one who gives from how much she’s been blessed;
All she had to live on she gave away.

He wonders at one who gives, freely lays
Down her living, no trouble or unrest;
From her poverty, she gave more than they
All she had to live on, she gave away.

© 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: James Tissot, The Widow’s Mite (Le denier de la veuve), Created: between 1886- and 1894, Brooklyn Museum

The Presentation

The Presentation

February 2 is not only Super Bowl. Nor is it only Groundhog Day. It is Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ. You may read more about the events in Luke 2:22-38 which tells of the day in which Jesus was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem and Mary and Joseph paid the redemption tax of the first born. While in the Temple, Mary and Joseph are greeted by Simeon and Anna who both recognize Jesus and praise God for the gift of seeing the consolation and hope of Israel.

This sonnet is entitled, “Suddenly He Comes”.

Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who 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.

© Randall 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (La présentation de Jésus au Temple), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.27 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.27_PS1.jpg)

With All His Heart

With All His Heart

A friend of mine died three years ago today. From the very beginning, she had a life of struggle. Ultimately, that battle took its toll, and as is the case for all, she succumbed to that struggle. The elf queen, Galadriel, in Lord of the Rings speaks of “the long defeat”. Talking this way may sound morose, but it is comforting for me because this is how I experience the world. My friend struggled with the long defeat.

Many moving through this world don’t seem to know an end is coming. Fewer of our fellows seem to slow for funeral processions. Nevertheless, you can’t get around it. In my town they still slow, stop, and honor the departed and their family. But in many places, the procession is passed by drivers who are in a hurry to get somewhere else. They could do with the lesson they’d be afforded if they could recognize it. The lesson being, Where do you think you are headed so fast?

My friend was a writer and poet. She fought her battle with words and phrases, and she inspired me and the congregation of which she was a member. One of those poems, “With All My Heart” was put to music by our our congregation’s worship leader, Michael Kuehn. You may listen to the song via the player below.

Tonya’s last days were physically uncomfortable. She didn’t want visitors. Though for those of us who ventured into expressing our love for her by visiting, she did what is often the case of those for whom we are grieving, she comforted us. In my grief for her, I wrote this sonnet for her several days before she died. In her poem, she has a line in which she expresses her love for Jesus, (“…with all my heart”). I turned that line into an expression of Jesus’ love for her. His love for us is no less eager, zealous, pleading, or desiring. I make use of the story of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:40-56 to help imagine the love Jesus expressed for her.

See you soon, Tonya.

Arise now, stand strong and healed
Safely home, never to depart;
Welcome to the broad and spacious field
Of His expansive love filling all your heart.
Come now, made whole and see
With your own eyes the One —
The Poet who speaks thought into reality
Whose mercy shines as morning sun.

With all His heart, he welcomes you,
Whispers your name, speaks to your fear
Whose salvation searches, makes you new
As he gently wipes away every last tear.
And taking your hand, “Little one, awaken in my light
What was imagined in thy heart is now given in thy sight.”

© Randall Edwards 2016
Artwork: Gabriel Max. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter , oil on canvas, 1878.

Goodness Reached Out

Goodness Reached Out

This sonnet is from my chapbook collection of poems inspired by the Gospels and is entitled Walking with Jesus. This sonnet is based on Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11 when Jesus enters the synagogue and heals the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.

I sat there each Sabbath in that same place
Pitied and lonely with my withered arm;
Friends couldn’t even look me in the face
For them a reason of subtle alarm
That Providence’s purpose and pleasure
Is not easily read or understood:
Why not all judged with the same measure?
Why the wicked thrive though doing no good?

But goodness reached out on this Sabbath day,
Freed me from power’s weighty, with’ring yoke
His question left them with nothing to say
He worked with a word. He healed when he spoke.
To what length will this rabbi stretch out to take,
The broken in arm whom the powerful forsake?

© 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.

Had You Not Gone

Had You Not Gone

This sonnet is is for Ascension Day and is based upon Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:1-14 regarding Jesus’ ascension into heaven on the 40th day after Easter.

The question why Jesus ascended is a worthy question. It seems that so much could have be dealt with and handled if he had stayed. Aside from his saying that it was needful for him to go so that he might send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, it is important to see what his going means for us. Rather than grieving his departure, we may enjoy a deep consolation because of his Ascension. For though he is not physically present with us here, we are spiritually present with him there. Our life, as Paul says in Colossians 3, is “hid with Christ in God.” The author of Hebrews says that the reality of Jesus ascension is in fact, an anchor for the soul.

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

Had you not gone away, ascended on high,
You would have remained and still be here;
The tale of your rising, none deny—
Proof forever, age to age, year to year.
Had you not gone our faith would now be sight,
And seeing, believing, for all could see;
You could heal, stop hate, give wisdom and light
So why ascend? Why go? Why leave us be?

I must go, and bear what’s finished to heav’n
Take your life with me, hide you in love
From whence I’ll rule, sit in royal session,
Pour out my Spirit of fire from above.
Secure as an anchor, I hold you fast
For you’re with me now, till I come at last.

© Randy 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: James Tissot  (1836–1902), The Ascension; between 1886 and 1894; opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.

What Love

What Love

This poem imagines a few texts from the scriptures. Primarily it is an imagining of the parable of the prodigal sons (younger and elder) from Luke 15:11-32, but I have also drawn from Ezekiel 16:6, Romans 8:32, and 1 John 3:1.

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

See what kind of love the Father has shown
Though orphaned in the world and left to die,
You adopt me as your child, make me your own.

You found me lifeless, cast off like a stone,
And gathered me close, having heard my cry;
See what kind of love the Father has shown.

Raised as Your child, nevermore alone,
I walk the wide world beneath Your blue sky
As your child, having made me your own.

But wanting as I would have, off I roam
To the wild wood, other loves to try
Just what kind of love has this Father shown?

From your presence into hiding I’ve flown
I could’ve stayed, hiding, serving up a lie,
Denying I’m your child, pretending I’m my own.

Broken and shoeless, shall I return home?
Shall I enter the joy? Or remain outside?
What love is left that the Father hasn’t shown?
Would He give His all, not even sparing His own?

© Randy 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: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661–1669. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Woe to You

This sonnet is based upon Luke 11:37-12:3 where Jesus pronounces woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers. The passage reads,

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

For both the Pharisees and the lawyers (scribes), the glory they seek or the power of counsel they offer only leads to one place: death. It will be the glory of unmarked graves for the Pharisees who love to sit in the seat of honor and be greeted in the marketplace, and it will be judgment and accountability for the oppression and bloodshed which the scribe’s counsel leads to and inspires. Neither the scrupulous avoidance of taboos, nor rigorous application of legal guidance will lead to liberty, purity, and life. One has come however, who will make clean, who will honor with love and bring light even into the darkness of death.

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

He invited the teacher to dinner
In a pious show of hospitality;
“But not washing?” He thought him a sinner;
“A dirty messiah? How could he be?”
When the scribes claimed he was being too hard,
He opened the door to their brutality–
Who rather than unlock, hindered and barred;
Instead of loosing the lock, losing the key.
The honor you lust, is as unmarked graves
Woe to you who wash in that devotion;
Shackled to self, you’ll sink ‘neath those waves
Swallowed by night in pride’s pitiless ocean.
But in the dirt of his death, becoming sin, He makes right
Washes free the tomb’s terror, and floods us in light.

© 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.
Artist: James Tissot, Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens (Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees), between 1886 and 1894, opaque watercolor.