Waking to Our Fear

Waking to Our Fear

A friend reminded me that today is World Poetry Day, and so I am posting one which I continue to re-work but is based on a scene from Mark’s gospel which continues to both mystify and encourage me.

One night while crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples find their boat foundering in one of the severe storms which frequents the Sea of Galilee when the cool air from Mount Hermon rushes down its slopes in the sea’s valley and the warm air rises. Mark 4:35-41 reads,

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

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

It was because you wanted to that we
Started for the other side that evening–
Crossing at night Galilee’s fitful sea
When the cool of Mount Hermon comes beating.

And as we’d seen a hundred times before:
You lose when caught in the night-storm’s billow;
Reeling in fear, we pulled and pushed to shore
While you slept sound on the tiller’s pillow.

And shouting, Lord! Don’t you care if we die?
We did as you asked! Ignored our warnings!
Waking to our fear, he spoke to the sky
Which fell still as a spring Sunday morning.

Who are you that into the storm you lead
Permitting despair, that your friends be freed?

© Randall Edwards 2016
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). Jesus Sleeping During the Tempest (Jésus dormant pendant la tempête), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 5 1/2 x 7 11/16 in. (14 x 19.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.101 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.101_PS2.jpg)

Watch with Me

Watch with Me

This ekphrastic poem is based on the Second Station of the Cross piece drawn by Keaton Sapp entitled, “Watch with Me.” It is part of a larger collection which is being installed at Grace Kernersville through Lent. The entire exhibit will be the pieces which will form Stations of the Cross which may be walked during Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The picture and poem are based on Matthew 26:36-45 which reads,

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

The picture which Keaton has drawn, reminded me of the words from Psalm 121:3-6. It reads,

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

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

Come a little further and stay with me.
Let us watch and pray ‘neath the orchard tree.
Leave me not alone here in my crying;
My soul is breaking, of sorrow dying.

Kneeling in prayer in the grove, he bent down,
Set aside his will, set aside his crown,
Prayed, Father, please let this cup pass from me,
Yet not my will be done, but your will be.

Weak, we fell asleep, did not understand
That we slept in the shade of God’s right hand
Who watches, who neither slumbers nor sleeps,
Who is our shield, who ever-prays and keeps.

In this garden, he kept his word of love.
Arose and faced the serpent as a dove.

© 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 Anointing.” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

A couple of years ago I participated in my first Ash Wednesday service as a pastor. I was surprised at how imposing the ashes effected me. There is something deeply intimate with touching a person’s face. And to smear ashes on their face and look them in the eye and speak the words in Genesis 3:19,”…you are dust, and to dust you shall return” was especially sobering. The event inspired the following sonnet which is entitled, “You Are Dust.”

May God bless you as you embark on your pilgrimage to Easter.

“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.

“You are dust,” words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.

“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.

© 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.
Photo: by Hazel Kuehn Photography of original abstract weaving by Jennifer Edwards which is a part of her series, Ashes to Eternity.

The Presentation

The Presentation

February 2 is not only Super Bowl. Nor is it only Groundhog Day. It is Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ. You may read more about the events in Luke 2:22-38 which tells of the day in which Jesus was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem and Mary and Joseph paid the redemption tax of the first born. While in the Temple, Mary and Joseph are greeted by Simeon and Anna who both recognize Jesus and praise God for the gift of seeing the consolation and hope of Israel.

This sonnet is entitled, “Suddenly He Comes”.

Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who waited,
The refiner’s fire, promised fuller’s soap;
Simeon and Anna, made young again
Seeing Israel’s consolation and hope.
Lord, in the light of Candlemas I see
In the heart of my own mid-winter way
You gave your wealth, to become poor for me
That I might be young and long for the Day
When the sudden shaking of your revealing
Dashes the proud, but the poor and pierced, healing.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
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 Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (La présentation de Jésus au Temple), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.27 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.27_PS1.jpg)

A Voice Loudly Cries

A Voice Loudly Cries

This sonnet is based on Matthew 2:16-18. There have been many Herods who have stood in opposition to the King of kings, and these tyrants use many weapons. However, the vulnerable are the ones who always pay, and the most vulnerable are the children.

This is the world where every king chances

To control and do what they can to win,

Where choice vindicates all circumstances,

Where the cost of that choice pays with children.

Oppressors force marriage to dominate,

Defile with sex, make the victim a villain,

Use rape to terrorize, humiliate,

And the price that is paid? Paid by children.

A voice heard in Ramah, she loudly cries:

Rachel lamenting for all her children
As a king’s arm kills till ev’ry child dies,

Ev’ry parent’s arm emptied, ev’ry grave filled in.

Rachel, unconsoled shall weep for her lost

Until they return, and the king’s arms crossed.

© 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: Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Nativity

The Nativity

This is the final poem in a series for Grace Kernersville’s Jesse Tree project. The poems in the series are attempts at ekphrasis. A gifted artist in the congregation in which I pastor have provided abstract paintings from which the poems have derived their inspiration. This painting is entitled, The Nativity.  Have a look at the painting, How do you read it?The Nativity Here’s my reading of the painting in poetic form.

Gathered ‘round the manger, the shepherds there
Had each struggled through their own unbelief—
Groping through this world’s dank and dingy air,
Jaded by dejection, wearied by grief,

But now they are bathed in color and light
Where, with this mother, they behold, ponder
The tidings foretold by angels that night.
Un-wintered by joy and warmed with wonder:

What Grace gathers us to this treasured place?
Is salvation created, swaddled here?
Are we beholding the look of Love’s face?
Is desire answered in the cry we hear?

Behold Emmanuel, David’s Lord and Key;
New life is come from the stump of Jesse’s tree!

© 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, “The Gentle Shepherd” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.

King of Nations

King of Nations

In a society and world which seems to be falling down or torn apart, today’s antiphon is particularly poignant. The antiphon for December 22 is King of Nations or Rex Gentium. The antiphon reads, “O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.”

The antiphon draws it inspiration from two scriptures. Haggai 2:7 reads, “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty.” And Isaiah 28:16 reads, “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”

King of Nations, king of our desiring,
Come to your creation, square it and right,
Mend the marred, rebuild, be never tiring
Of pulling out darkness, ripping out night.
Builder and joiner, dovetail and make one;
As keystone, bridge the pillared-arched ceiling,
Tear down hatred’s walls, make righteousness run;
And cross-armed, gather, make whole, bring healing.
In concretion, cohesion, hold us, King;
Sustain us by your presence and power;
Make us yours, seal in promise as as ring,
Wed us in love beneath banner and bower.
The King of desiring climbs in the clay
Lays as cornerstone midst manger and hay.

© Randall Edwards 2015.
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.