March 9, 2013

Mercy’s Robes

Posted in David, Good Friday, Grace, Holy Week, Liturgical Calendar, Prodigal Son, Redeemer, The Eucharist at 10:15 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Forgiveness is clad in robes of linen white
And wears a signet ring and chain of gold.
He had a lesser robe he dropped in flight
From her who caused him pain with lies she told.

A many-colored robe he lost before
When jealous brothers sold him as a slave.
In all these tribulations Joseph bore,
He trusted it was God’s good will to save.

Sometimes forgiveness rends its battle robes
To know its enemy has fallen to his death.
Though Saul had sworn against him many oaths,
The mournful David raised laments and wept.

Forgiveness also sees past hardened hearts
Who laid their robes down so they could begin
Their vengeance on St. Stephen, who imparts
A prayer God would not charge them with their sin.

But when the lots were cast for our Lord’s robe
His great forgiveness fell like morning dew.
An avalanche of love flowed ’round the globe.
It is the selfsame mercy tendered you.

Repentant prodigals, we now approach
Our Father’s house and bask in His embrace.
Clad thus in mercy’s robes, without reproach
We join the feast prepared by hands of grace.

Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The theme of clothing throughout the scriptures is worth studying in a larger context, but I have limited it to its relationship to forgiveness. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were clothed in God’s righteousness, and when they sinned, He made them coverings that reminded them not only of their former glory but of the blood-price of restoring them from their sin back to glory. But the fact that He was willing to pay the price Himself showed His great mercy, and it set the tone for our dealings with each other. Since He has so freely forgiven us such great sins, how dare we withhold forgiveness from our fellow man!? As those whose sins have been rolled away, we should in turn freely dispense mercy, though we must always remember that it is to a much lesser degree than our Father in heaven has done.

The message that this poem tries to convey is that those who live the life of forgiveness and love become like their Father, as is our goal. We are clothed in the righteousness of God when He forgives us of our sin, and that great gift obligates us to offer mercy freely to others. The three historical examples in the poem—Joseph, David, and Stephen—are prime examples of God’s people being exalted as they forgive their persecutors and allow God to fight their battles for them.

Joseph could have become bitter at his brothers or at the pharaoh’s wife, but he patiently endured suffering, and God exalted him to a level of honor and then gave him the perfect opportunity to show mercy to his brothers.

David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but he chose instead to honor Saul as the Lord’s anointed king, despite the fact that Saul had fallen into disobedience.

And then there is Stephen, who faithfully preached the Gospel, despite the cost of his own life. His dying words were filled with grace, love, and mercy for the very people who were killing him. They had removed their outer garments, which would symbolize their purposely shedding the robes of righteousness, in order to be freer to commit their atrocious sin. But the sinfulness of their deeds could not keep God from exalting Stephen.

We are always lifted up when we humble ourselves to forgive in the name of the One who forgave us everything.

The final verse was added during Lent of 2014. In re-reading the poem, it struck me how the first two lines resonate with the story of the prodigal son. And I realized that bringing in the reference would complete the thought that we forgive because we are forgiven.

5 Comments »

  1. robstroud said,

    Very nice, and I thought the addition of your thoughts about the poem itself.

    Like

    • Teresa Roberts Johnson said,

      Thank you. I have people remark that my poetry is “obtuse,” so I thought it might help to provide some explanation. Besides, as an English major, I’m accustomed to writing papers about literature and trying to guess what the writer was thinking. At least I don’t have to guess about my intentions!

      Like

  2. […] Mercy’s Robes, by Teresa Roberts Johnson […]

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  3. Excellent! Took me a minute to figure out who told the lies, then Joseph came up.

    Like

    • Teresa Roberts Johnson said,

      Thank you. I sometimes keep you guessing on purpose. It can increase the impact of the story.

      Like


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