Grapes

Grapes

This is an ekphrastic poem drawing its inspiration from the art of artist, Adah Freeman, who is a member of the congregation in which I minister . She is such a gifted artist and has taken up the theme of grapes from Numbers 13 in which spies are sent into the land of Canaan to explore and report back on the people, cities, and fruitfulness of the land.

When we returned from the land of flowing
Milk and honey — full and green and growing,
We carried the abundance, the grapes bursting
With the fruit-full promise: no more thirsting.

But then doubt set in, underneath a mumbling
That welled up into a fount of grumbling:
The people, giants; their cities tow’ring
And the land full of enemies devouring.

Have we come this far only to die?
To be cursed? Skins left out under the sky?
How will the death of a generation
Bear the fruit: a promised, holy nation?

What pressing and crushing will remove the sin?
What life poured and trod, that we enter in?

© 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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Grapes” acrylic on canvas.

Slingshot

Slingshot

Through the Advent season, I am working with a local artist who is painting abstract pieces which correspond to the sermon series I am preaching on. The first of that series was on the young shepherd David’s defeat of Goliath as found in 1 Samuel 17. In the project, I am writing poems which refer not only to the passages but also to the artwork which is being created. This genre of poetry is called “ekphrastic poetry“.

The painting is the work of an exceptional young artist named Adah Freeman. Her piece is entitled, Slingshot.

IMG_3881

Here is my poem, entitled the same.

Once the world was shining-new, golden-bright,
Untouched by shade or stain but brilliant-white;
Then an enemy came
To steal by dark deeds, claim.

The menacing darkness blurred, broke, and scarred—
Tore with violence, crossed, mangled, marred
The field of shimmering gold
Whence all was lost or sold.

The darkness continued to blur and streak,
Sent giants: Despair, Dementor, Defeat
Who laughed at our fear, scoffed,
Defied our Lord, and mocked.

But God’s Shepherd descended in between,
Went outside the camp where he was last seen—
For our glory-sealing,
Bearing stripes for healing.

He flung himself at death, and slew the Night
And with his arms he slings us up in life.

© Randall Edwards 2019. 
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: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Slingshot” acrylic on canvas.

Success

Success

Sometimes poems come quickly, and you don’t know from where or sometimes fully comprehend what they even meaning. (This sounds like a disclaimer). All the same, here it is.

It must be that people are called to succeed
By the way that they pull up and leave,
Run from sadness, do anything but grieve
Rather than stay, hold forth hope, love, believe.
We must be called to succeed.

For if people aren’t called to success
How on earth could they live their best
Life now? Excel? Rise above the rest?
How be envied in how they’ve been blessed?
The happy are called to success.

By the measure of most, the Son was outside
The blessings promised. No doubt someone lied—
That if you’re faithful, if you love your bride,
It ends happy. But him? He died.

© 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: “Love” abstract weaving by © Jennifer Edwards 2017, (jenniferedwards.com) Photo by Hazel Kuehn. Used with permission.

More

More

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
― G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The making and creating continue;
The abundance seems prodigal,
Why wild flowers on an unseen alpine meadow,
Or the bizarre creatures of the Laurentian abyss
That go unseen for no one to pic,
Monetize, harvest, or like?
Who sees? Who receives the delight
And claps their hands?
Waving, cheering, More! More! More! Again! Again!
Why all this waste?

And yet there is more.

And you who in the pressing smallness
Of either meagerness or the famine of misfortune,
You, make–
Put this and that together, join and
Connect the pieces and parts
Into something new,
Saying something more about
The yearly yearning for fullness.

The Maker sees and claps.
And cries More! More! More!
Like children running circles in the sanctuary
Thrilled with the space and eager to fill it all,
Eager with chasing one another.

© 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: Original linoleum print by Randall Edwards.

Heavy Emptiness

Heavy Emptiness

The heavy emptiness:
One’s lightness of being,
The loss of substance and purpose,
The clarity of vision for the day and week.

And then one’s lost
Which is an eternity of loss or at least
An indefinite hole in the future.
The empty arms that held and hugged
Now holding this urn–
This heavy square,
This dense packet of person.

Then the tears I feel and cry,
The regret of so much
Lost.
Lost words and ones too hastily spoken,
Unsaid, or unrepented.
The sadness over how much
And how easily I resented
The trouble and time.

© Randall Edwards 2019.

Just So

Just So

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. This was written a couple of years ago after I heard someone talk about leaders and how they liked them ‘just so’. The line caught my attention and rolled around in my head for a few days.
Oftentimes there is an attempt to position ourselves in terms of us and them: us pastors and them parishioners or us who appreciate pastors and them who don’t. But when it all boils down there is really only us and Him. And well, He’s really just so…

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 serve without putting on a show.
Not pretentious, 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-conceived 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 cursing, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So, you’ll have to do better;
You’ll have to 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.

Mere Mortals

Mere Mortals

In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis has this to say about those people with whom we come into contact and who are themselves immortals. He writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

It is the span between humanity’s dignity and depravity which so shocks and devastates us. To know that each individual may be both gloriously godlike and yet an insufferable tyrant? And to know that the flip between each may occur in such proximity and with such an ease? Ugh.

Yet the grand hope of the gospel, the resurrection, and the new creation means that what we count awful, shall grow in us so that we will be full of awe for the glorious weight that shall be, and is even now, ours.

This earth in which you’re wrapped is as a tomb,
Holds only the frame, the bones of one’s fame
But hides also a secret place, a womb,
Where in darkness life may spark into flame.

Dear brother and sister, in you Christ dwells
By faith. You are filled with resurrection;
United to Him, your soul, limbs, and cells
Are filled with Him who is love, perfection.

On the surface, each saint’s quiescent
Life seems unchanged, but beneath, glory swells
And bubbles with New, the effervescent
Which cannot hold, shall not be kept in shells.

These ord’nary, mere mortals you walk past
Shall shatter this world when raised at last.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
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.
Original photo by Randall Edwards. The Beasley Family cemetery in Francisco, NC.