Pulverulentis Siccus

The title is a name which C.S. Lewis employs as an author of a children’s grammar in his book, Prince Caspian. The name means, “full of dry dust” which is just what Lewis thought of a good bit of what was being written from young minds.

The poem itself is a reflection on John 7:38 which reads, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” “Water of life” sure sounds a lot better than the “full of dry dust” which I sometimes experience.

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

A desert, full of death — the driest dust —
Is my life, imagination, heart, and soul;
Bleached white as bone, the golden bowl turned rust
And bitter, where my heart was, now a hole.

A fissure forms in my self-protection,
A sober moment of vulnerability,
I expect judgment, sure without question
But am given impossibility.

For the rod of judgment on the rock fell,
Smiting my second who stood in for me,
Flooding with grace from an eternal well
Washing me clean in His love and mercy.

This angry fool who sought other’s applause
Still wallows in cisterns of demanding;
I’m now humbled, contrite for what I was,
And I see clearer, drink understanding.

For from his pierced side water pours with blood
My stone heart breaks open with tears of love.

© Randy 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: Francois Perrier (1590 – 1650) Moses draws water from the Rock. Capitoline Museums [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Learn to Behold

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.

© Randy 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: Yelkrokoyade [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

With a Child’s Eyes I See

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.

© Randy 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: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Woman, Behold

This Sunday’s passage is the basis for this sonnet which I wrote last year, have tweaked, and am reposting as next in the series, That You May Believe. It is based upon John 2:1-11 where Jesus and his disciples attend the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The passage begins,

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'” (John 2:1-5)

This passage is mirrored later in John’s gospel when Mary, the mother of Jesus, makes her only other significant appearance. The irony of the interaction may easily be overlooked. Though John is explaining how Mary came to be in his care, it is reductionistic to see the exchange as only Jesus looking out for his mother’s well-keeping. As is the case in John’s gospel, John wants us to look closer, and he does so through a literary device called a prolepsis. The passage from John 19:25-26 reads,

“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”

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

Finding us outside as we waited on
Our master who brought us to the wedding,
His mother, not asking, telling her son
The shameful news the bridegroom was dreading.
“The wine has runout,” in question she eyed
Looking for what he might say and do.
“Woman, what’s that to me, my time’s not arrived.”
To the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

It’s been three years since he turned water to wine;
We stand at the feet of his vintner’s frame
Twisted round a stake like trellised vine
Is her son who saved a wedding from shame.
“Why?” pours from her eyes with sobs overcome;
The wine saved last, “Woman, behold your son.”

© 2017 Randall Edwards
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: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross (After the Ninth Hour), 1862; pencil and watercolour with bodycolour and gum arabic on paper laid on linen

You Will See

This sonnet is a part of the series, That You May Believe. It is based on John 1:35-51 and imagines the first disciple’s skepticism about the identity of Jesus. It especially imagines a response such as Nathaniel’s to Philip whose words I borrow, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

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

‘Come, meet the One whom John identifies
As the Messiah whose coming begins
New birth through fire by the Spirit baptize,
The Lamb of God who takes away sin.’

‘Can anything good come from Nazareth…
The calloused hands of a carpenter’s son?
Can a bearer of wood breathe life and breath
Into the ruined hope of our setting sun?’
What sign could he give plumb, true beyond doubt
That our life hangs on his header and frame,
Will he show his work let fingers trace out
The sum of his figures, see his plans and way?’

The Son of Man speaks, ‘You shall see in one day.
Heaven’s door opened, Israel’s sin borne away.’

© 2018 Randy Edwards
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 [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons