What Carries?

This sonnet is based on Mark 2:1-12 which tells of a paralytic who is carried by his friends to a house where Jesus is speaking so that Jesus may heal him. When they find that they can’t get close enough to Jesus, they dig a hole in the roof of the house and lower him on a mat in front of Jesus.

It is a wonderful story about carrying. The friends carry their friend whose own legs won’t carry him to the healer, Jesus. The scribes and pharisees carry out an investigation and question whether Jesus has committed blasphemy in forgiving the paralytic his sins. Jesus declares the man’s sins are forgiven, but Jesus also carries out the healing the friends and the paralytic himself sought so that all may see he carries the authority to do just what he said. In fact, he has come to carry out what is necessary to bring the forgiveness of sins and the healing of the world. Lastly, the man carries out his mat and is carried along with the joy of new life.

Carried along, my four friends bear me to
The healer and teacher come to our town
With the hope that he might right, heal, undo
These cursed, lifeless limbs that have let me down.

But the way is barred (so many others)
Another closed door leaves me lost, reeling,
Carries me under, fear floods and smothers—
My sin surely shuts the way to healing.

Carried down, sinking, a dug hole passed through
Into dark on the bier that’s borne me here;
I lie on the earth but find him here too
Who came first, who forgives, carries my fear.

“Arise! Take your mat,’ I take my burden
Carried forth in joy, loved, forgiven.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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 Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof (Le paralytique descendu du toit), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 9 5/16 x 6 9/16 in. (23.7 x 16.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.123 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.123_PS1.jpg)

Waking to Our Fear

This sonnet is based on the account of the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus when they are overtaken by a great storm.
I’ve often thought of this passage in conjunction with Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”–except, when the disciples finally call out, he’s asleep at the wheel, or tiller. The disciples don’t shout instructions to their land lubber rabbi, they ask the most heart wrenching question of fear and doubt, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” This is one of the constant questions underneath all our questions. The answer which bolsters and strengthens is knowing the significance of how he answers it.

Here is the passage from Mark 4:35-41:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

It was because you wanted that we
Started for the other side that evening–
Crossing at night Galilee’s warm, fitful sea
When the cool air of Mt Hermon comes beating.
And as we’d seen a hundred times before,
You lose when caught out in the night-storm’s billow.
So we reeled and rowed–heaved to any shore
With an untended tiller, you asleep there on the pillow.
And shouting, “Lord, don’t you care if we die?
We did as you asked! Ignored our own warnings!”
And waking to our fear, you spoke to the sky
And all was as quiet as a holiday morning.
Who are you that into the storm you lead–
Permitting despair, that your friends may be freed?

© Randy Edwards
artwork: Gustave Dore