A Friend

A Friend

The psalms introduce “the princes” of the Old Testament who are the middle-managers of ancient Israel. Traditionally the role of a leader but not the king, the prince is a person who had some authority, but is not the king.

Jeremiah speaks of them in chapters 37 and 38 as they are the ones who have conspired to imprison him. Their pressure and nationalistic furor have led Jerusalem down the path to ultimate destruction at the hands of Babylon. King Zedekiah is afraid of them, the people follow them, and the false prophets curry their favor.

The princes make Jeremiah enemy number one. Funny, it’s not their unbelief, their sin, their idolatry, their injustice, but it is Jeremiah who is the enemy, the only one to tell them the truth.

There is one who stands apart from them, and he alone takes up Jeremiah’s cause. He is given a name, but I believe that it isn’t his real name, for it is really the title of his job. The Scriptures call him Ebed-melech. His name means “king’s servant”. Jeremiah also notes that he is an “Ethiopian” (or more likely a Cushite), and Jeremiah notes that he is a eunuch. The no-name, family-less, ethnic outsider, an alien from Cush, who is the king’s servant — he is the one who has the stomach for truth, compassion, and justice. It is probably all those things which excluded him from “prince-hood,” that enabled him to see righteousness more clearly.

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 37:12-38:28. If it is helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

The Princes, a meddling flock of liars,
A murder of crows whose cackle chatters,
Whose cawing chides and sneers safe from their wires
Whose tangled tales leave the truth in tatters.

A King who seems to want to hear, receive
Some word, is earnest for news, some token
Of truth, but controlled by fear he will not believe,
Cannot, for his courage fails, is broken.

A Friend, who is only known, by what he
Does, by where he’s from, by the price he’s paid;
Boldly he speaks the truth, who courageously
Fights for the right, who in friendship displayed
Reaches down, who does the good, does not tire,
Pulls me from the pit, out of muck and mire.

© 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: Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Jeremiah in the Pit (from the Bible Series), 1958.

Words Alone

Words Alone

Eugene Peterson quotes Abraham Heschel in his chapter on Jehoiakim in the book Run with Horses. Heschel, speaking of the word and the scriptures, writes,

“Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and in time? Of all things on earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning. . . . God took these Hebrew words and breathed into them of His power, and the words became a live wire charged with His spirit. To this very day they are hyphens between heaven and earth. What other medium could have been employed to convey the divine? Pictures enameled on the moon? Statues hewn out of the Rockies?”
— Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man

I am really taken with his description of the voiced breath which speaks: “the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit” — that’s beautiful.

The word throughout Jeremiah’s book is active and alive. It is true. When we pretend that words don’t live (“Of all things on earth, words alone never die”), we delude ourselves by taking up the very means to silence accusations or deny their reality. We swim in words which were spoken long ago, which we regret, which we hope to hear.

Malcolm Guite in his poem, “What if?” gets at some of the same thoughts albeit as a warning against those idle words we speak.

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 36:22-24 in which the word which has been written on a  scroll and read to Jehoiakim is cut up into pieces and thrown on a fire. What of the word then? Can that word die? Will it ever come again?

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

Words alone never die. Of all things on
Earth, they linger, rumble, ring, and grumble
In our hearts throughout life, give voice, run on—
A prattling ‘gainst which we murmur, mumble.

You may cut off, stop the conversation
Silence the words in a rage yelling, run
Away, dismiss with gesticulation,
With nonchalance turn away, shun.

But with words, the Word comes to speak with you
Wrapped in flesh, counting everything a loss,
The wisdom of God whom you count a fool,
Cut him dawn, cut him off, hang on a cross
Where that Word speaks one word, “Father forgive…”
Dies alone that by His word, we may live.

© 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: By the Providence Lithograph Company (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1905/jer36.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Grow Where You Are Planted

Grow Where You Are Planted

This poem is based on Jeremiah 29 in which are recorded a word from the Lord for those in exile in Babylon which Jeremiah sent to them as a letter. I have more often heard this passage preached as a strategy for church planting. Granted,it can be helpful. But to reduce it merely as a strategy misses a good bit of what it has to offer. Jeremiah’s letter, is a letter to exiles — a letter to the displaced, the lonely, the dislocated, the powerless. How can you live where you don’t want to live and doing what you don’t want to do, among people you’d rather not be around?

The Lord has many reasons for his people’s exiles, not the least of them is so that they will know that wherever they go, He will always come to them, make his place among them, and never leave them. What is needful then, is not money, influence and power, facilities, or material resources. What is needed is faith. Faith to trust, to not give up, to persist.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

I didn’t want to live here
Midst these people on this plain
Whose harsh accent grates my ears,
Where no one knows my name.

Shackled, brought to this place
Head hung low, harps hung in trees;
A song unknown, a stranger’s face,
I hear a voice call me.

Grow where you are planted
Live where you are living
Sing till you’re enchanted
Grateful, till you’re giving.

I miss the hills, the mountain side,
The songs I sang ‘neath the trees
At this river I lie beside
A new song sings to me.

Grow where you are planted
Live where you are living
Sing till you’re enchanted
Grateful, till you’re giving.

By full term you shall be ready
Delivered unto new life;
As a strong tower, made steady;
Married, husband and wife.

Until that day, bear patiently;
Through exile, keep love alive;
Walk by faith not aimlessly,
Grow old, have children, thrive.

Grow where you are planted
Live where you are living
Sing till you’re enchanted
Grateful, till you’re giving.

© 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: Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

I Am Not What I Was

I Am Not What I Was

This is a roundel based on Jeremiah 18:1-12.
In the poem I make use of two Bible illustrations: Jeremiah at the potter’s house and Jesus raising Lazarus. In the same manner that God formed man from the dust, Jesus announces the coming of new creation by raising one given over to the dust.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the roundel via the player below.

Said the clay to the hand who cut him out,
To the Potter who pulled him from decay
Smelling of earth from death wrapped about,
“I am not what I was,” said the clay.

Healing never came, for the Potter’s delay
Let me lie, untouched, harden, dry out;
Shaping without hands was his preferred way.

Time’s wheel spun four days when the mouth
Of the Potter spoke into where I lay
In my cold kiln cried, “Come forth!” with a shout.
And “I am, not what I was” said the clay.

© 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: By Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Where Do You Go?

Where Do You Go?

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 27:1-15 in which the Lord, through Jeremiah, commands his people to submit themselves to the yoke of his servant, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. If the Lord can use the king of Babylon to accomplish his purpose for his people, what might happen if we submit ourselves to the yoke of the King of Love?

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

What do you do when you lose it all?
Where do you go when there is nothing left?
Where do you run, to whom do you call
When fortune steals, leaves you empty, bereft?

How do you find your way ‘round and through
When all ways return, lead back into night?
When there’s no other…nothing to do
But press forward just because it is right?

What can one do? Where can one go?
Except to receive the sorrow and loss,
Do the work, sow again fields left fallow
Heft the weight, shoulder your yoke and your cross?

Paired with another, yoked, stripped of all pride
Love has found me here, ever to abide.

© 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 [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons