O Wisdom III

O Wisdom III

December 17 marks the beginning of the step towards the Nativity in which the Great O Antiphons are sung in the liturgy. Many know the Antiphons through the advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Each of the antiphons is based upon a messianic promise in the Old Testament which points to the coming of one who will reveal and make right.

The first of the antiphons is for Wisdom who is embodied in the book of Proverbs. The antiphon’s text reads, “O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

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

In the silence, before words, songs, or speech
The Spirit breathes over the water’s night;
The Most High speaks, Wisdom readies to teach,
Drive away darkness, sing, “Let there be light!”

O’er Sinai, I AM in glory thunders;
Wisdom speaks again, makes her precepts known,
Reveals the way, writing worded wonders,
Her purpose and promise on tablets of stone.

David’s Branch shall come, rule with right wisdom.
Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God of Might,
O’erturn the proud, exalt in His Kingdom
The meek and low whom he heals, mends, makes right.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world’s wild–
Inhales to speak through the cries of a child.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: Benedictine monastery of Podlažice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Light Shown Forth

A Light Shown Forth

This poem is based on John 10:22-39. Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. The irony in the passage is that the shepherds of Israel, in the portico dedicated to Solomon, son of David and wisest of kings, are in the dark about the identity of the one whose presence they question. What caught my attention were John’s first words, in verse 22 which are both the first words and become a form of sorts for the whole.

At that time the Feast of Dedication
Took place at Jerusalem.
It was winter.

Jesus was walking in the temple,
in the colonnade of Solomon,
The word-wise king.

“How long will you keep us in the dark?
If you are Messiah, David’s son,
Tell us plainly.”

I have said, and saying I have said,
Will not make you open your eyes
Or see the light.

What I do, I do in my Father’s name.
See for yourself, my works speak for me,
But you won’t see.

I am a shepherd, and my sheep know me.
They hear my voice. I know them, call them,
They follow me.

I lead them in light, into life, safety.
With me they rest, find their salvation
Safe in my arms.

For the One whose hand is greater than all,
My Father, with whom I am one,
Gives them to me.

A spark, light shines bright in the colonnade.
At last, they see, and hear his words.
They reach for stones.

In the cold of Jerusalem’s winter
Her shepherds raise hands to extinguish
The Light of Life.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon (Jésus se promène dans le portique de Salomon), 1886-1896.

The Promise

The Promise

The book of Jeremiah is hard reading. In much the same way as Lamentations, Jeremiah has at its heart promises of great consolation in chapters 30-33. These chapters will serve to be the source of reflection in a series for Advent which begins today. This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 31:31-34.

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

The days are coming. Look, they are coming —
The days of The New Promise though the old
was broken, though run out with the drumming
And din of jeers, sneers, enslaved, shackled, sold.

This Promise is a promise of the heart,
A promise which He will write from within,
His Will and Word, New Creation, New Start
And forgives us, He will forget our sin.

Do not fear where you are, where you must walk
Whether going or the one left behind,
For He draws near in love, shepherds His flock —
Lovingkindness becomes, loving in kind.

Bearing our exile will hearts break to see
The Promise who comes to climb Calvary?

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain]

King of Peace

King of Peace

This sonnet is a bit reworked. (Is any poem ever finished?) It is based on Hebrews 7:1-8:1 in which the author of Hebrews explains the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ in light of the priest and king, Melchizedek, who appears in Genesis 14 blessing Abraham and giving him bread and wine.

Of all the weekends of the year, this weekend embodies the clash between the city of man and the city of God. For the church in the United States, Thanksgiving Thursday is coupled with Christ the King Sunday. This culmination leads to the recapitulation of the church calendar in which the church returns to imagining a time when the coming of the Messiah was only a promise and his people waited expectantly for the coming of the King of Peace.

In between those two days, the city of man holds two of its highest holidays: Black Friday (did you know Google has Black Friday as a US Holiday?) and college football’s rivalry week; these two days mark the beginning of the holy season of consumption: (me getting stuff for you; and my team giving it to them). James K.A. Smith book, Desiring the Kingdom first exposed me to the spiritual formation taking place in our cultural liturgies. The city of man has its offer of promise and hope of peace as well. If you give the perfect gift, you’ll be blessed; if you buy it at the perfect price, you’ll be blessed; if your team wins, you’ll be blessed, etc….

The question begging to be answered this weekend is, what and who will bring us lasting peace and satisfy the desires of heart?

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

Consumption’s cathedrals host The Holy Day
When pilgrims seek out their perfect offering,
Consummate their duty on Black Friday
Wed profit and promise, right price and thing.

Saturday brings what pigskin pilgrims seek
Teams do battle, win despair or delight
In the coliseums of Rivalry Week
For the victor’s joy of bragging rights.

And on Sunday the church will stand and sing
“At the Name of Jesus,” “Come, ‘mighty King”
Full of the spoils of the holiday’s feasting,
Or hungover, hapless, stuffed but keening.

Whoever you are, to the King come, dine,
Taste the richest of fare: His bread and wine.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: Nicolas, French painter, French enamelist, 16th century

A Friend

A Friend

The psalms introduce “the princes” of the Old Testament who are the middle-managers of ancient Israel. Traditionally the role of a leader but not the king, the prince is a person who had some authority, but is not the king.

Jeremiah speaks of them in chapters 37 and 38 as they are the ones who have conspired to imprison him. Their pressure and nationalistic furor have led Jerusalem down the path to ultimate destruction at the hands of Babylon. King Zedekiah is afraid of them, the people follow them, and the false prophets curry their favor.

The princes make Jeremiah enemy number one. Funny, it’s not their unbelief, their sin, their idolatry, their injustice, but it is Jeremiah who is the enemy, the only one to tell them the truth.

There is one who stands apart from them, and he alone takes up Jeremiah’s cause. He is given a name, but I believe that it isn’t his real name, for it is really the title of his job. The Scriptures call him Ebed-melech. His name means “king’s servant”. Jeremiah also notes that he is an “Ethiopian” (or more likely a Cushite), and Jeremiah notes that he is a eunuch. The no-name, family-less, ethnic outsider, an alien from Cush, who is the king’s servant — he is the one who has the stomach for truth, compassion, and justice. It is probably all those things which excluded him from “prince-hood,” that enabled him to see righteousness more clearly.

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 37:12-38:28. If it is helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

The Princes, a meddling flock of liars,
A murder of crows whose cackle chatters,
Whose cawing chides and sneers safe from their wires
Whose tangled tales leave the truth in tatters.

A King who seems to want to hear, receive
Some word, is earnest for news, some token
Of truth, but controlled by fear he will not believe,
Cannot, for his courage fails, is broken.

A Friend, who is only known, by what he
Does, by where he’s from, by the price he’s paid;
Boldly he speaks the truth, who courageously
Fights for the right, who in friendship displayed
Reaches down, who does the good, does not tire,
Pulls me from the pit, out of muck and mire.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Jeremiah in the Pit (from the Bible Series), 1958.

Words Alone

Words Alone

Eugene Peterson quotes Abraham Heschel in his chapter on Jehoiakim in the book Run with Horses. Heschel, speaking of the word and the scriptures, writes,

“Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and in time? Of all things on earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning. . . . God took these Hebrew words and breathed into them of His power, and the words became a live wire charged with His spirit. To this very day they are hyphens between heaven and earth. What other medium could have been employed to convey the divine? Pictures enameled on the moon? Statues hewn out of the Rockies?”
— Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man

I am really taken with his description of the voiced breath which speaks: “the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit” — that’s beautiful.

The word throughout Jeremiah’s book is active and alive. It is true. When we pretend that words don’t live (“Of all things on earth, words alone never die”), we delude ourselves by taking up the very means to silence accusations or deny their reality. We swim in words which were spoken long ago, which we regret, which we hope to hear.

Malcolm Guite in his poem, “What if?” gets at some of the same thoughts albeit as a warning against those idle words we speak.

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 36:22-24 in which the word which has been written on a  scroll and read to Jehoiakim is cut up into pieces and thrown on a fire. What of the word then? Can that word die? Will it ever come again?

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

Words alone never die. Of all things on
Earth, they linger, rumble, ring, and grumble
In our hearts throughout life, give voice, run on—
A prattling ‘gainst which we murmur, mumble.

You may cut off, stop the conversation
Silence the words in a rage yelling, run
Away, dismiss with gesticulation,
With nonchalance turn away, shun.

But with words, the Word comes to speak with you
Wrapped in flesh, counting everything a loss,
The wisdom of God whom you count a fool,
Cut him dawn, cut him off, hang on a cross
Where that Word speaks one word, “Father forgive…”
Dies alone that by His word, we may live.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: By the Providence Lithograph Company (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1905/jer36.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Persistently

Persistently

This is a meditation on Jeremiah 25:1-7 and 35:14b-16.

Each morning I wake from night’s sleeping death
Through a resurrection from where I lay
Last eve mourning, sad, life a labored breath,
Enshrouded in the stuff of yesterday.

And yesterday, having died already to the King,
I face the world for what it is, begin
To die again to self, to live, His praises sing,
And fight again for life putting to death my sin.

Again and again, I persistently
Seek the the joyful, exuberant encore
Of living each moment by faith obediently
Content, at peace, and always wanting more.

I forsake my shroud; gain your love for me
Which rises new each morn full of mercy.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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: Edwin Lord Weeks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons