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)

Your King Comes

Your King Comes

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and marks the beginning of Passion Week. Palm Sunday remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the procession of his followers waved palm branches and cried, “Hosanna, son of David!”

The processional Psalm 118:25-26 which is being chanted by the crowd along with the images of Solomon’s procession after being declared king by King David and the procession of the Maccabees after the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes become the imaginative fuel for the moment: Israel’s king and deliver has arrived! And even as the throng processes, in the temple the worship leaders are chanting Psalm 24. In five days the crowds would be shouting other words. This sonnet is based on Mark 11:1-11. 

Behold! your king comes, O Jerusalem
Midst the festal throng, waving palms and praise;
“Son of David!” you cry in unison
Behold your king, with voice Hosannas raise!

This is the sudden coming. Now, the hour;
He rides a donkey’s colt; he brings salvation;
No longer secret but coming in pow’r
To tread his winepress, rescue the nation.

Lift up your heads, O gates! Swing wide, let in
The king who ascends to the Holy Place
The Lamb of God, without blemish or sin
The mighty, strong king of glory and grace

What heart of stone could not shout his renown?
Who seeing disown? Deny him his crown?

© 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: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem (Le cortège dans les rues de Jérusalem), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 8 7/8 x 6 15/16 in. (22.5 x 17.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.194 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.194_PS2.jpg)

The Fullness of Your Love

The Fullness of Your Love

I have been writing poetry to include as part of an art installation that is taking place in conjunction with Lent and Easter entitled, Ashes to Eternity.

This villanelle is a re-working of an earlier poem and is written from Peter’s perspective and begins with the washing the disciple’s feet, and continues with Judas’ presence at the table of the last meal, going with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane, and Peter’s realization of his own betrayal. What always catches me, is that none of what transpires over the next days is a surprise to Jesus.

I appreciate the NIV’s rendering of John 13:1 which reads, “…he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Most translations render (and correctly) that “he loved them to the end”, but there is something to not merely loving all the way to the end, but to what length he would go to show his love.

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

You knew it then; you knew love’s way,
When you broke the bread and poured the wine
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

And kneeling as a scullion that you may
Wash our feet with tear-stained brine?
You knew it then; you knew love’s way.

Bought with thirty pieces of silver to betray,
Yet you shared the table, with him dined
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

To Gethsemane you took us to watch and pray
That we might encourage, help, hold the line,
You knew it then; you knew love’s way.

And you cried out, “Father, take this cup away!
But even so, your will, not mine.”
The fullness of your love, you showed today.

Then catching my eye at dawn’s first ray,
I weep with horror, to see the sign;
You knew it then; you loved anyway.
The fullness of your love, you show today.

© 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: A an etching by Jan Luyken from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations housed at Belgrave Hall, Leicester, England (The Kevin Victor Freestone Bequest). Photo by Philip De Vere.

The Widow’s Best

The Widow’s Best

On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples return to the Temple where Jesus teaches and debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus also witnesses a commendable act of faith and devotion.

This villanelle is based upon the story of the Widow’s Mite found in Luke 21:1-4 which reads,

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.”

John Tissot’s painting of the same account choses to imagine the moment a bit differently than I. I imagine the moment of her offering being one that is ignored by all except Jesus. Tissot, however, imagines how the widow may have experienced her giving in this public place being watched by all. In his painting, Tissot, has one of the wealthy depositing his offering just as the woman walks away with her child. What is one to make of the position of the hand of the man making his offering behind the widow? It is an unusual intersection, my wife says and must be deliberate. What may Tissot be saying about one who is giving and this widow with her child who is walking away.

If it’s helpful, 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.

© 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), 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum.