Only Son

Only Son

Continuing in a series entitled, Where Are You?, another poem from Genesis 22 has come together. Genesis 22:2 reads, “He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”

If we are familiar with this event and know the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, we interject what we know into the narrative without thinking about it. However, this interaction may be more dramatic and may read more ambiguously if we were reading it for the first time.

In this sonnet I try and capture the sense of a dialogue between the Lord and Abraham and also to flesh out the ambiguity about whom the Lord is speaking. [I believe it was from Dr. Timothy Keller that I first heard this; which is to say, he should get credit for the idea but not the blame of what I’ve made of it]. As the ambiguity unwinds the dramatic tension increases until the name of the son of whom the Lord is speaking is spoken.

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

The Lord spoke and said to me, “Take your son.”
And not knowing which I said, “I have two.”

And the Lord replied, “Take your only son.”
Slowly, I considered, “El Shaddai, you
Know of all that there are two that are….
I have two sons who, the same as the other,
Are each the first of numberless of stars.
Both are my sons; each, the only son of their mother.”

Pressing, the Lord said, “The son whom you love.”
And with the press I started, protested,
“Two, my Lord; both, only sons whom I love;
Neither denied, nor your sign neglected.”

“Take your only son, whom you love as life,
Your laughter, Isaac, and him sacrifice.”

© Randall Edwards 2017
Artwork: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

On the Third Day

On the Third Day

This poem is the second in a series of poems for Advent entitled, Where Are You? This sonnet is an imaginative re-telling of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.

The words of Genesis 22:3-4 are the verses which captured my imagination. They read,

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
Genesis 22:1-14

In particular when Abraham “lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar” aside from seeing where the sacrifice was to be made, did he see something more? (Hebrews 11:17-19).

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

On the first day, you were as good as dead
When commanded that you be given up
In an unknown place, on a stone bed,
Pour out my delight, drink the bitter cup.

On the next we travelled in silence
The in between world of living and dying,
Night and day, obedient or defiant,
Grieving and grateful, blessed and crying.

The third by far, is worse of the three
As time has run out, what will be, begun;
To fully give in faith without degree
My everything, all, withhold not my son.
How from this comes good, blessing the nations?
Can a dead son rise in new creation?

© Randall Edwards 2017
Artwork: Gustav Dore

King of Peace

King of Peace

In the United States this weekend is full of holidays (or holy-days), and though they vary in degree of holiness, they all bear the marks of hope, devotion, promise, and of blessing or cursing. Black Friday marks the inauguration of the holiday shopping season, and with its sales and special offers, Black Friday offers the promised blessing of just the right gift at just the right price. Another holiday consists in the many football game rivalries which are scheduled this weekend; the victories or losses will make each team’s and their fan’s seasons. Lastly, this Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King in which the church recognizes its hope of ruling and reigning with Christ in the new heavens and new earth.

Abram in Genesis 14 found himself in the midst of battles, kings, and kingdoms. Rather than receive the blessings of the kings of this world, he instead declined what was offered in hope of a greater blessing. He tithed of the spoils of this world to Melchizedek, King of Salem (whose name means “king of righteousness” and who was “king of peace”). Melchizedek met Abram, received his tithe, and gave him bread and wine so that Abram might be strengthened to resist temptation and continue in faith.

At the end of Hebrews, the author writes that it is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace (Heb 13:9). This is a weekend full of kingdoms and the kings who are their people’s champion and who offer the promise of strength and blessing. This sonnet is about those competing realms and the promise of the King who delivers.

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

Consumption’s cathedrals host The Holy Day
Where pilgrims search stalls for the perfect offering
To consummate their duty on Black Friday,
Join profit and promise, right price and right thing.

This is the week when the pigskin pilgrims seek
To vanquish the evil whom their champion fights
In the gridiron coliseums of Rivalry Week
In hope of a year of restored bragging rights.

On this Sunday the church will stand and sing
“At the Name of Jesus,” “Come Thou Almighty King”
Either full of the spoils of victory’s feasting,
Or hungover, hopeless, stuffed and still keening.

Whosoever you are, as Abram come, dine,
Taste the richest of fare: the King’s bread and wine.

© Randall Edwards 2017

A Great High Priest

A Great High Priest

This poem is based on Hebrews 4:14-5:6.

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

There is nothing he has not gone through
Traversed the birth canal from mother’s womb
Gestating forty weeks, he broke into
His creation, lived life unto, dying, tomb.
There is nothing he has not gone through.

There is no distance he has not crossed
From beyond the zenith of the highest height.
He stretched out to the least, to reach the lost
Crossed from death to life, from dark to light
There is no distance he has not crossed.

There’s no length to which he did not go
To send the Gentle Wind, life, breath
The stirring Spirit who makes all grow
To be cut short, giving life by his death,
There’s no length to which he did not go

© Randall Edwards 2017

Just So

Just So

This poem or spoken word piece had its start with a sentence I heard in a meeting I recently attended. I cannot recall the specific context or who spoke it, but the sentence captured my imagination, and I wrote it down. I believe the subject of the conversation was what we expect of our leaders: how we expect them to be superhuman, heroic, and yet accessible and personable. The breadth of qualities which are encompassed in all our expectations have only been found in one man, and maybe you heard what they did to him.

Here’s a swing at working those thoughts out.

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

We like our leaders just so–
Not too brash, not too bold.
We like them humble, but not so much so.
We like our leaders just so.

We like them selfless
Who’ll serve without putting on some show.
Not pretentious, nor ostentatious,
Modest and humble,
Not too high but not too low.
That’s how we like our leaders.
Just so,
You know from the start
From the get go. We have no issue
With receiving, following, heeding,
We hope you got the memo.
And we like you too,
We thought you’d like to know,
We like our leaders.
Just so
We’re clear, and although
No one’s perfect, we’d like you
To be the closest to perfect
Of anyone we know—
Who’ll play their part
In our well-imagined dreams,
Lead us in fulfilling all our schemes,
Who is authentic down to their bones,
Who really is, not merely seems,
Someone we can trust more than anything,
We like our leaders.

We like our leaders just. So
You’ll need to measure up,
Exude perfection,
Reflect our fronting, our righteous reflection,
Our confident, prosperous, self-projection.
We like our leaders just.

So, why are you wearing that towel?
Why disrobed, down on your knee?
Why touch my feet, as a slave?
Why wash me?

Why don’t you speak, live up to the hype,
Do the deeds which brought you fame?
Are we to follow one so derided, disdained?
Defend yourself, why scorn the shame?
Why bear the cursings, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So you’ll have to do better,
You’ll have rise higher,
You’ll have to break out
Of this lamb of God game,
You’ll need to make a better name
If we’re to follow you into your dominion
You may not like it, but that’s our opinion
There’s just no glory for a lion laid low
Because we like our leaders just so.

© 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: The image is from page 13 of Leonard Leslie Brooke’s, The Story of the Three Bears, (1900).

What Fellowship?

What Fellowship?

I am continuing my current project of writing a series of poems based on the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). The Songs of Ascent are a collection of songs intended to guide the pilgrim in their upward ascent to God. They are traveling songs meant to encourage, challenge, and console the singer and listener. They are a map of the life of faith.

Psalm 133 is the second to last of the songs, and it sings the song of fellowship and community. If one recalls, the first of the Songs of Ascent (Psalm 120) is about the disappointment and disfunction of community, but now at the end we are rejoicing in it. The irony may feel more deep because this psalm is attributed to David. And though there was a point when the people of Israel were joyfully united under King David, much disappointment and tragedy would follow in the stories Uriah and Bathsheba, Amnon and Tamar, and David and his son, Absalom.

Psalm 133 is willfully ignorant of these events or wisely instructive about true community. It reads,

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Nothing here of disappointment, just the beauty and goodness and pleasantness of unity — which of course, is beautiful and good and lovely. It is precisely the failure to experience this sort of community which leads to such great disappointment.

A part of the psalm’s encouragement to us, is that just like everything else, if we are to arrive at our destination, we must have faith. We must believe that God is and can do what he has promised. He will make his people one. (Talk about needing faith). In addition, the psalmist reminds us that this sort of community is not the result of contrivance and manipulation, it is the fruit of God’s provision and blessing (comes down). The unity of love is a “bond of faith” and what binds us, is the atonement which God has made possible through his high priest. Just as our “at-one-ment” is made with God, it settles everything else between us and our fellows. It pours down from above and out upon others. In arriving into God’s presence, His promise is that we will arrive together.

As for this sonnet, I begin by imaging all the sorts of people God’s people are and all the names by which we tag others and ourselves. Only when our identity is identified with the one “who brings peace” are we freed from those other names so as to bear and share in his beloved name.

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

Bless our hearts, people pleasers, control freaks,
Sloppy, extroverts, neatniks, jocks, and nerds,
Authentic hipsters, awkward introverts,
Are Your peculiar people, in other words.
The defiant and stubborn, the weepy,
Stoics, passionate, patient, short-tempered,
The fringe, those keeping it weird and creepy,
They make up Your flock, us odd, little birds.

Whether Peter, Paul, Apollos, or James,
We are members of one congregation;
No matter the labels, whatever the names,
We’re bound by the Name who is salvation,
Who pours out, by our new name addresses,
Drenches in love, makes holy, and blesses.

© 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: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

The Seed

The Seed

Here is a sonnet about what happens when one reads poetry.

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

Like seed broadcast by a sower’s throw
Are the words which poets scatter around,
And those words, now dormant, will only grow
When received by ears which hear and resound
Their meaning, the wonder, through turn of phrase,
By rhyme and cadence, the incantation
Which breaks through as one freed from a maze
Into seeing through imagination.

I see your brow furrow. Till you look again
At these words which are flung across your way;
As you work your plot, try to comprehend
The worries which germinate through your day.
Stopped in this moment, amazed, you’re the ground
Who sprouts into smile by words which you’ve found.

© Randall Edwards 2017
artwork: James Tissot, The Sower, 1886 and 1894, Medium: opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum,