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)

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

Yesterday, March 25th, was the Feast of the Annunciation which remembers Gabriel appearing to Mary to tell of God’s plan for her. It also marks nine months before Christmas.

This sonnet is based on Luke 1:26-35. I have been taken with Malcolm Guite’s sonnet of the same event in which his last line says, “The Word himself is waiting on her word.” I love that. Meekness meets meekness.

In addition, another imagining that I have been taken with is Henry Ossawa Tanner‘s painting of the moment. In a predawn, lamplit moment, as a young maiden in an obscure village is interrupted in her prayers, an angel appears and speaks. The expression on the woman’s face is one of wonder, modesty, and curiosity if not a little skepticism. Yet she takes her calling in hand, not grasping in self-will or determination, but in humble faith saying, “Let it be to me as thou has spoken.”

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

In a no-where’s stillness while at thy prayers,
By thy lamp’s light came a presence holy
Who drew thy life into cosmic affairs
Mary, the Nazarene maiden lowly.

Gabriel hails, Lo, the Lord is with thee,
Favored one. Blessed, be ye not afraid,
For at thy word new creation is conceived
From thy womb’s waters the world is remade.

Mary, in this moment ‘neath Nazareth’s sky
We await thy word when all words come true
When thy meek willingness undoes the lie
By bearing the Son who makes all things new

Taking in hand what is giv’n unto thee,
As thou hast spoken, let it be unto me.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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: Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain]

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

This sonnet is based upon Luke 9:28-36 and Mark 9:2-8 which tells of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

On the Mountain’s predawn height, time’s ticked line
Is stretched round upon itself from the thin
Experience of events to entwine
The moment all is new, when we begin.
The Face of Love shines in burning likeness;
His hands clasped in prayer this hour of the turn
T’ward his departure where in that brightness
Two have stepped through time from God’s Mount to learn.
Three others now awake enter the cloud
The disciples hear the Majesty bless
With choosing, loving, and delight enshroud.
Commending they listen, his word possess.
And what of us, shall we enter that ring
Exalt in his Glory, join the dance and sing?

© 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.
Artwork: Transfiguration of Christ, Bellini, 1490

Two Blind Men

Two Blind Men

This sonnet is based on Mark 8:22-9:1. Interestingly in the passage there are actually two blind men from Bethsaida for Bethsaida is Peter’s hometown too. The blind man finds his healing in two stages, and Peter too must find his own healing in stages. Both see something, but they do not see everything.

Two blind men of Bethsaida came to see
Jesus. One for healing, from blindness freed
The other came with him whom he believed
Would be King, bring a glory guarantee.

The first when healed saw people as trees
The second, a king, opportunity
For the triumph he saw as his destiny;
Of the two from Bethsaida, only one sees.

But the second will see: the glory cloud,
See his chance to fight, to wield the sword,
Will see the day he denies with three words,
See his Christ’s shame, rejected by the crowd.

This second is healed when he comes to see
The Son of Man as his life-giving tree.

© Randall Edwards, 2019
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: Christ and the pauper. Healing of the blind man. 2009. Canvas, oil. 100 x 55. Artist A.N. Mironov. Andrey Mironov [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
GraceArt_lowres-2
Ash Wednesday
abstract weaving by Jennifer Edwards (jenniferedwards.com)
photo taken by Hazel Kuehn (hazelkuehn.com)

Ash Wednesday is today and marks the beginning of the Lenten season which is a season of preparation for the remembrance of passion week and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. A traditional text often quoted as ashes are imposed on the foreheads of those coming forward at Ash Wednesday services is from Genesis 3:19 which reads, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This sonnet remembers the first time I imposed ashes during an Ash Wednesday service. It was a moving service for me. The intimacy of touching someone on their forehead, looking them in the eye, and telling them they are going to return to the dust from which they were formed (that is, to die) was a profound pastoral moment.

You Are Dust

“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.

“You are dust”, words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.

“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.

© 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.

The Widow’s Best

The Widow’s Best

Reposting for Holy Week.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4

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 others 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 chests;
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.

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

The Good Shepherd III

The Good Shepherd III

This sonnet continues in the series, So That You May Believe, from the Gospel of John and is a meditation on John 10:11.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

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

Thieves and robbers climb over, go around,
Wreak havoc, rob joy, deal destruction;
They burden the lambs, with rules weigh them down,
Shamelessly steal through guile and seduction

The hireling runs doesn’t stay with the sheep
When danger comes or a wolf steals in;
The hand does not defend but grasps to keep,
Pilfer, and pocket — just a wolf in sheep’s skin.

The Good Shepherd lives the same as his own
Walks the same way, leads in humility;
He enters with them, faces danger alone
Stands fast between threat and hostility.
So that all may rest, be kept safe, be found,
The Shepherd calls his sheep then lays his life 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: Thomas Cole [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons