Psalm 14: Ordinary Prayer

Psalm 14: Ordinary Prayer

This is a paraphrase of Psalm 14 which you may read HERE.

In the inmost place of who they are,
They say, “There is no God.”
Not because they doubt,
But they imagine unthinkable things,
And do what no good person would think to do.

From the heights the Lord looks down on the children,
Looks for anyone who puts it together,
Who longing, seeks for the Other.

But they gaze at their navels,
Are turned in on themselves,
And not one does the good they’d hoped to.
It’s like they don’t even see
How the bad eats them up,
How they chew up others,
So consumed with themselves—
Just gorging on getting,
Never filled by the Lord.

There they are, feeding on fear,
Knowing something isn’t quite right,
You see, God is close to the just.

Go on, mock the plans of the poor,
But beware, it’s the Lord to Whom they run.

Now! Let it be now
That rescue comes from your Mount—
The rescue that rights and restores what was taken!
Let those who walk with a limp, rejoice.
Let the small people God loves, be glad.

© Randall Edwards 2020. This paraphrase of Psalm 14 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
Psalm 14

As for Light

As for Light

Keaton Sapp has installed the eighth and ninth stations in his Stations of the Cross series. I will turn to his ninth at a later date, but I first want to focus on his eighth which is by far the most abstract of his pieces. It is simply a white page. Whether it is a scanned image of a white page or whether it actually reflects some shading is a mystery to me, but I think it’s brilliant.

The series of pen and ink drawings he has submitted thus far are intricate and detailed. This piece makes you think he’s forgotten something. Certainly, this is a mistake. This can’t be it. But it is.

This eighth piece, titled “The Rising,” is another example in which abstract art shows its worth. Looking at this piece begs the viewer to assign some meaning, to make some sense of it. The picture itself depicts the moment of resurrection. Here it is.

station 8

What was Keaton thinking? What can it possibly be saying about the resurrection? You need to sit on that question for yourself for a moment. It’s okay. I’ll wait….

Could the empty page signify the empty tomb? That’s a great thought. How can that be further expounded upon?

Could the brilliance of the stark, white page, portray the shining of resurrection and new creation? I think that’s good too. For me, that’s where I went.

White, does not seem like a color. As a child, using a white crayon on white paper seemed frustratingly futile. What was the point? The irony about white is that it is, in fact, every color. At some point though, I learned about “negative space.” Watercolorists make use of this effect often. Color doesn’t always need to be applied. It’s not as if a page needs filling, sometimes a minimalist stroke is the best way to communicate shape and light. I received Keaton’s latest piece in this way: not an empty page, but as a page filled with the brilliance of resurrection.

As for the poem, I’ve written in response to Keaton’s work, it is a quatrain and was inspired by Malcolm Guite‘s latest series of poems which his titled, Quarantine Quatrains you should check them out. A quatrain seemed like a good challenge, so here is mine in this season of social distancing.

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

There is a saying that goodness reads white,
That value and shade, whether stark or slight,
Makes more interesting the subject, more real
Than the purity of colorless light.

We think we can see, that we can see through,
But that’s false, whatever we claim to do;
To see through something is so that we may
See something beyond, what is real, what’s true.

As for light, we don’t see it as a thing,
But by it we see the bird on the wing
Whose colors give joy as he flies above;
It’s how we know, how we see everything.

White isn’t simply the absence of hue
It is all color: red, green, yellow, blue—
A spectral rainbow bound as one
Until split by prism or splashed by dew.

The black of night is when color is gone;
It is no thing, it’s singing without song;
As music fills silence, day fills the dark
It’s the good that illuminates the wrong.

Darkness sought to grasp, put the good to flight
By thinking itself something, by its might,
But on Sunday, into that nothing of a tomb
Love drove out darkness with fullness of Life.

© 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 Rising” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

What Now Can Be Done?

What Now Can Be Done?

This is seventh in the series, “The Stations of the Cross” and takes its inspiration from artist, Keaton Sapp’s addition to the series which is titled, “The Earth Shook.”

Throughout the series Keaton has make use of the symbol of a fig tree to tell the story of Jesus’ passion. The Stations of the Cross, themselves are a pilgrimage of sorts in which one may walk the story of Jesus’ last hours. Both Keaton and I have take some liberties with the specific stations we have picked, but if you look back, I think you see how the series unfolds and aligns with the passion narrative in the gospels — particularly the Gospel of Matthew.

Here is Keaton’s seventh station which portrays the death of Jesus.

Seventh StationMatthew 27:51-61 is the scriptural reference for the death of Christ. It reads,

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The poem which I’ve written is as much about Keaton’s artwork as it is about Christ’s death. In this way, the poem may be described as ekphrastic. The type of tree which is called the Tree of Life in Genesis is not disclosed, but what if that tree were a fig tree?

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

When all was new, lovely, shimmering bright,
When the balmy breeze of evening
Blew and satisfied the care, full, keening
Of longing, when all was clear and light,
The man took from his wife the fruit of the tree
And pulled sin and death down on you an me.

They hid themselves there among the leaves;
Naked, they covered themselves for shame
And blushing in regret and shifting blame,
They took the Maker’s making, hiding with trees
The good, lush life which they’d been given—
Hid through subtlety, rather than shriven.

Into the woods and weeds they were sent
To live as exiles cast from that place
Cursing and crying for mercy and grace.
Bowed over, broken, by their sin bent,
They bear their burden: the pain of birth,
To hoe the hard dirt, sow, reap from the earth.

The Maker came to his children cast out
Sowing blessing, life, bearing fruit to them,
But they took: on a tree’s hill, murdered him,
And mocked his suff’ring with curses and shouts.
What now can be done? Can life bud with bloom?
Is any hope left, when hope’s sealed in a tomb?

© 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 Earth Shook” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

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

St. Lucy’s Day

St. Lucy’s Day

The cloudy sky o’erwhelms the failing sun
Who does not show or shine on sleeping trees
But wintered ‘way to southern courses run
Where the warm breeze blows golden, dappled leaves.

Dear Lucy, wreathed in beauty, bearing gifts
That we dared not hope for here in the dark
And seeing your courage, our spirits rise, lift
To honor in name, remember and mark.

Again, we are lost midway through our life
Huddled ‘gainst death in catacombs of fear
Crying the Creed: “God of God; Light of Light,”
Defying darkness till our Hope appears.
Come, illumine, bear your gifts, wreathed in light
To us who await the end of winter’s night.

© Randall Edwards 2017