Categories
poetry

Another Tree

At Grace Kernersville, Artist Keaton Sapp has installed the fifth piece in his series, “The Stations of the Cross.” His pen and ink drawing is titled, “The Crucifixion.” Through the series, Keaton tells the story of Jesus’ passion week through the image of a fig tree. The imagery of the violence of the crucifixion is clear in these drawings.

crucifixion

Jesus’ suffering in the crucifixion in some way gives an answer to the question of whether our own sacrifices are of any value. The question asked by the disciples when Mary anoints Jesus at the beginning of Passion Week, “Why all this waste?” is often echoed in our hearts, “Is this just a waste or is this doing any good?”

When under the pressure of a great trial and in the midst of even greater need, the cynicism of whether there is any meaning or point creeps into our hearts and minds. We begin to imagine that there is no point or meaning. Granted, we may never come to see a point as to why something has happened, but that does not mean that whether we respond in faith is of no meaning or value. If Passion Week means anything, if Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean anything, they do mean, that faith in God is not in vain. What Jesus sets out to do, he accomplishes. His accomplishment is validated by his resurrection, and his victory means our victory, that our ‘labor in the Lord is not in vain’ (1Cor 15:58).

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

I wonder sometimes if I might be
A pointless, fruitless, cursed fig tree,
If my waiting in faith matters at all,
If blessing from heav’n will ever fall.

Will in this moment of sacrifice,
In receiving the cup, laying down life–
Will it matter at all? Will anyone care,
Or see the burden which I freely bear?

Men kick with boots, on The Holy, tread;
Crown with thorns; thresh with flail; beat till red;
Crush the tender leaf; snuff out the wick;
Step upon the broken; beat and kick;
And break in anger; uproot and tear
The life from Him who is life — is dear.
These men raise up another tree
To take in hand their own destiny.

Laid at the root is judgment’s ax.
I see now You hear, know what I ask;
For me You bore the blade, were cut down
That You might rise, share with me Your crown.

The punishment which brings me peace
Was born by You whom I counted least
That doing good I shall never be
Fruitless in faith, as a cursed fig tree.

© Randall Edwards 2020.
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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Crucifixion” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
poetry

She Gave More than They

During his passion week, Jesus traveled daily to the Temple in order to teach and preach. During a private moment with his disciples, Jesus takes note of a widow who placed her offering in the offering box. Here, two, small lepta (worth about the 1/4 of penny together) become the example of giving which surpasses the giving of all the others.

We read about her gift in Luke 21:1-4.

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

James Tissot’s rendering of the same moment is one of my favorite depictions. There is so much going on in the painting. The rich who give while on their way into the dark, the hand of one hidden by the widow’s retreat as if he were picking her pocket, the stark, sharp clarity of the widow carrying her child as she moves towards the light…magnificent.

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.

© Randall 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

Categories
poetry

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)

Categories
poetry

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)

Categories
poetry

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.