This sonnet continues in the series, So That You May Believe, from the Gospel of John and is a meditation on John 10:11.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
If it is helpful, you may listen to me read via the player below.
Thieves and robbers climb over, go around,
Wreak havoc, rob joy, deal destruction;
They burden the lambs, with rules weigh them down,
Shamelessly steal through guile and seduction
The hireling runs doesn’t stay with the sheep
When danger comes or a wolf steals in;
The hand does not defend but grasps to keep,
Pilfer, and pocket — just a wolf in sheep’s skin.
The Good Shepherd lives the same as his own
Walks the same way, leads in humility;
He enters with them, faces danger alone
Stands fast between threat and hostility.
So that all may rest, be kept safe, be found,
The Shepherd calls his sheep then lays his life down.
This is a reposted sonnet for Ash Wednesday entitled, You Are Dust. The poem is based on the lines spoken when ashes are imposed on the forehead for Ash Wednesday; those lines are a quote of Genesis 3:19 which reads,
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Hos. 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
“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.
This sonnet is next in the series That You May Believe. It is based on John 3:22-36 when John’s disciples come to John with the complaint that Jesus is baptizing and all are going over to him. John corrects his disciples and shows them how they have become disconnected from the gospel and King to whom they are to bear witness and in whom, rejoice.
If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
Blinded by jealousy — a joyless hour
Is his coming. Instead, resentment fills
And boils bubbling over bilious and sour;
Though giv’n all things, I’m empty, unfulfilled.
Don’t you know who I am, know what I do?
How hard I’ve worked and faithfully served
In the heat of the day? It’s me who’s due
The honor and respect of being heard.
What thou needest is to learn, receive grace, Give up, lay down, get low, humility; Learn to behold with joy the bridegroom’s face, Die to demands, trust his ability. In welcome and rejoicing thou shalt see That thou art his bride, that he comes for thee.
In the United States February 2 is Groundhog Day. For many Christians, February 2 is Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The Presentation is found in Luke 2:22-38 which records the events forty days after the birth of Jesus. At that time, Mary and Joseph go to the Temple so that Mary may be declared ceremonially clean and so that they might pay the redemption tax of the first born which is laid out in Exodus 13.
Simeon was righteous and devout man who was waiting for the “consolation of Israel. It was revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Simeon came in the Spirit to the temple, received Jesus in his arms, and blessed God. Luke records his response in a song which is entitled the Nunc Dimittis (now dismiss). Later Anna the prophetess greeted the couple and Jesus. Overwhelmed with joy, she praised God and told everyone who was also awaiting the redemption of Israel.
Andrey Mironov’s “Saint Simeon with the Christ child” is a contemporary imagining of this event. It is a striking painting. It’s all about the eyes. Examine the look between Simeon and the baby Jesus. There seems to be a connection. Though you can’t see Simeon’s eyes, what does his look communicate? What is he thinking? What emotion is he projecting? Next, look at the baby Jesus. What are in his eyes? How is he responding to Simeon? You’ve noticed the woman’s eyes in the background by now. (How can one not be struck by that look?); this is Mary. Mary’s eyes beg a reaction. Are they asking a question? Do they invites a response? What is she asking of us? I think the question Mary is asking is for Mironov the most important question.
This sonnet was previously posted and tweaked a bit.If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
The Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who long-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.
Next in the series So That You May Believe is a sonnet based on John 3:1-20. In this passage the elder of Israel, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus inquiring of his identity. Nicodemus apprehends that Jesus is somebody, but he doesn’t see who he is clearly.
Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ questions and confusion with a riddle of sorts which we read in John 3:11-14,
Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Jesus identifies himself and his purpose with two Old Testament passages: Daniel 7 and Numbers 21. In effect he is saying, I am the Son of Man, the cloud rider, who has stood before the Ancient of Days (Dan 7), and I am the reality of which Moses’ bronze serpent was only a shadow (Num 21). It’s as if he is saying, You will see Nicodemus, when you see the Son of Man lifted up as the bronze serpent was lifted up and that will identify the full measure of the love of God for the world and my love for you.
The mystery, and that which needs seeing, is that the Son of Man took the place of the serpent for us. The Seed who was to crush the serpents head (Genesis 3:15) was himself crushed as the serpent. Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The question is what did Nicodemus come to see. He appears along with Joseph of Arimathea (another disciple in secret) in John 19. Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body, anoint and wrap it, and place it in the tomb.
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
I came to him at night hoping to hear
A word which would confirm, dispel my doubt,
Justify the risk, and assuage my fear
That the price would get me in, not leave me out.
He said one must be born again to see
God’s Kingdom in its beauty, love, and light,
But I can’t understand how that can be;
Can one be made a child? Can that be right?
Three years later with a child’s eyes I see
A bronze serpent’s likeness, crushed Nehushtan*
I gaze upon healing his life for me,
The exaltation of the Son of Man.
Oh, what new mercies may the morning bring,
Turn lament to joy, give a song to sing?
*Nehushtan was the name given to the bronze serpent which likeness was kept in Jerusalem. 2Kings 18 says that Hezekiah had it broken into pieces because it became an object of worship.