What Do You See?

What Do You See?

Last fall I preached from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah begins with the Lord calling him into ministry, but Jeremiah is skeptical of his own abilities and unsure that the Lord will continue with him. Just in that moment, the Lord asks Jeremiah what he sees. Jeremiah is looking at an almond tree (a shoqed in Hebrew). The Lord tells Jeremiah that he sees well, and that in just the same way Jeremiah sees the almond tree, the Lord himself is watching (shaqed in Hebrew) over Jeremiah. It’s a sweet, kind, and personal moment. From that day on, Jeremiah would never look at a shaqed (almond tree) without thinking that the Lord was shoqed (watching) him.

Last year, a family in the congregation I pastor, planted an almond tree just outside the sanctuary window. This spring its buds are set to flower, and I can’t help but be encouraged that the Lord is watching and keeping his promises just as he said. I hope you’re encouraged too.

I wrote a poem about the interaction between Jeremiah and the Lord and was inspired by Eugene Peterson’s translation of the encounter in The Message which you may read HERE. Peterson makes use of the pun “stick” as in a branch of an almond tree and “stick” as in, I’m sticking with you. I really like that.

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

I loved you before I made you in love
In the hidden place of your begetting;
Your mission in life comes from above,
As a watchman you’ll speak, my word spreading.

“Ah, but Lord God, don’t you know, can’t you see?
I am but a youth; I cannot speak.
No one will heed or listen to me;
I don’t know how; I’m not strong; I’m weak.”

Ah, indeed.
Do not say, “Ah!” Do you hear?

Into your mouth I put my word of power;
You shall say what I say. Speak! Do not fear;
Though they beat, you’ll stand, be my strong tower.

“But how will I know that you are with me?”
I thought to myself as I walked along.

Jeremiah, tell me. What do you see?

I replied, “I see a stick of almond.”

You see well, son! I’ll be sticking all ‘round —
Watch you work, watch my word for years to come.
You watch each spring when this stick of almond
Reminds with its blooms the sticking I’ve done.

Remember this stick. With you, I’m sticking ‘round
Whether you work to plant, pull up, or tear down.

© Randall Edwards 2020

What Do You See?

What Do You See?

This poem is based on Jeremiah 1:1-19, but it takes its inspiration from Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message of that passage. Peterson’s translation of the the Hebrew pun (almond/watching) with the English homonym/pun “stick” is brilliant.

I loved you before I made you in love
In the hidden place of your begetting;
Your life’s mission descends from above,
As a watchman you’ll speak, my word spreading.

“Ah, but Lord God, don’t you know, can’t you see?
I am but a youth; I cannot speak.
No one will heed or listen to me;
I don’t know how; I’m not strong but weak.”

Ah, indeed. Do not say, “Ah!” Do you hear?
Into your mouth I put my word of power;
You shall say what I say. Speak! Do not fear;
Though they beat, you’ll remain my strong tower.

“How will I know that you are with me?”
I thought to myself as I walked along.
Jeremiah, tell me, what do you see?
I replied, “I see a stick of almond.”

You see well, son! I’ll be sticking al-‘round —
Watch you work, watch my word for years to come.
You watch each spring when this stick of almond
Reminds with its blooms the sticking I’ve done.

Remember this stick. With you, I’m sticking ‘round
Whether you work to plant, pull up, or tear down.

© 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: original linoleum block print: © Randall Edwards 2018

To His Garden

To His Garden

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 39:1-10 which recounts the fall of Jerusalem. The account itself strikingly echoes the fall in Genesis. In both cases because of sin and rebellion, God’s people are cast from a garden. Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and Zedekiah and the people from the garden of the holy city, Jerusalem. A future king, however, would enter a garden, on behalf of his people, not to flee but to face judgment.

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

The walled carapace of self-sufficiency
Is breached by the imperial powers.
Time. Time is up for the garden city
Her midnight has come, her judgment hour.
Judges are seated where their word awaits
To condemn all, from elderly to child,
But the people’s king flees through his garden gate
In fear runs away, cast out to the wild.

One day again, judgment to a king comes
Who to a garden goes running to pray
Find help to face alone the gallows’ drums,
That the cup of wrath be taken away.
This king drinks death for us, is raised above,
That we in his garden, may drink his love.

© 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: “Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar as the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah, XXI, 4 7)” c.1956; France. 
© Marc Chagall Fair Use

What Hope?

What Hope?

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 32:36-44. The passage is found in a section of Jeremiah called the Book of Consolation. The promises in contrast with the judgment pronounced in the rest of the book seem almost impossible to comprehend. When judgment comes, we make it the final word. We believe that whatever good could come is now lost. The promises in Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation show us that the hope of peace, though impossible for us, is not impossible for God. The blessings which God has promised and planned for his people will not be in spite of their exile, but blessing will be accomplished through their exile.

What hope do you have if you’ve no hope in
Yourself, if you cannot do what is hard,
And though promising, you won’t keep your word,
Nor avoid the near occasions of sin?

What peace can you know if you are driven
Into exile, by sword, disease, famine?
How much worse then, after chasing mammon,
Find what you sought, is to what you’ve been giv’n?

What promise for the future could you dare
To dream if you would not turn from your sin?
If in that lust sacrifice your children
So consumed with desire you did not care?

Is promised hope and peace forever lost
If He who could save, you’ve betrayed and crossed?

© 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 [Public domain].

The Promise

The Promise

The book of Jeremiah is hard reading. In much the same way as Lamentations, Jeremiah has at its heart promises of great consolation in chapters 30-33. These chapters will serve to be the source of reflection in a series for Advent which begins today. This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 31:31-34.

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

The days are coming. Look, they are coming —
The days of The New Promise though the old
was broken, though run out with the drumming
And din of jeers, sneers, enslaved, shackled, sold.

This Promise is a promise of the heart,
A promise which He will write from within,
His Will and Word, New Creation, New Start
And forgives us, He will forget our sin.

Do not fear where you are, where you must walk
Whether going or the one left behind,
For He draws near in love, shepherds His flock —
Lovingkindness becomes, loving in kind.

Bearing our exile will hearts break to see
The Promise who comes to climb Calvary?

© 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: Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain]