November 20, 2017

The Advent of the Law

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Bread of Life, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Moses, Redeemer, Sanctification, Son of God, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , at 11:12 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

On Sinai, Moses held the perfect heart of God
Inscribed on two smooth stones to testify abroad
God’s Law, carved by His very finger on the stone,
Front and back, to fill them with His Word alone.
But stony human hearts can never perfect be,
And Adam’s ruined children yearned to be set free.
Who can deliver us from Death’s unyielding bands?
The Perfect Lamb with nail scars in His feet and hands,
Whose heart of flesh, pierced through by soldier’s cruel blade,
Poured forth sweet mercy even though He was betrayed.
His holy blood transforms our stony hearts to flesh,
His bread, His holy body, will our souls refresh.
The Advent of the Son of God new life imparts,
And His Spirit writes His law upon our hearts.

Copyright © 2017 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


So many scriptures are distilled in this poem; here are a few of the references:

Exodus 31:18

Exodus 32:15

1 Samuel 17:40

Ezekiel 36:25-27

Jeremiah 31:33

Hebrews 8:10

Hebrews 10:16

 

March 19, 2016

Once for All: A Good Friday Poem

Posted in Atonement, Good Friday, Lamb of God, Liturgical Calendar, Redeemer, Resurrection at 4:25 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

One wretched curse embraced by Him, the spotless Lamb,
One bloody death He faced, the Eternal, Great I AM.
This one death for all time perfected guilty men;
Remitted every crime and purged the stain of sin.
By this one offering life freely was bestowed
On us in darkness dying, who bore sin’s heavy load.
Now perfect, we still grow in grace that sanctifies.
Our burdens gone, we trust that with Him we will rise.
Shadows dispelled, He reigns, seated at God’s right hand.
And loosed from sin’s dread chains, before Him now we stand.
Invited to draw near, we join the covenant feast
And serve Him without fear, our ever-blessed High Priest.

Copyright © 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Inspired by Hebrews 10Ephesians 2:13Matthew 11:28-30, and Luke 1:70-74


The epistle reading at evensong this Wednesday was from Hebrews 10. I have read and heard this passage many times, but it seemed that I was hearing it with new ears. The sorrow that I felt upon being reminded that the old covenant required daily sacrifices for sin, yet never completely dispatched its effects, was overcome by the powerful statement that on the cross Jesus served as both the sacrifice and the High Priest, and as the perfect Son of God who was also fully man, He broke the chains that had held mankind since the time of Adam. His sacrifice being sufficient, He sat down, as none of the old covenant priests had ever been able to do.

The verse that really captivated me was this:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)

It was a much needed reminder that although I am saved, I am being saved and will be saved. Counted as a member of God’s family, I still fall short from time to time, but by His grace, He is sanctifying me. I have been through a difficult three months or so with health issues, and so I don’t need to be reminded that the flesh is weak. I do, however, always appreciate a reminder that His grace is sufficient.

December 7, 2015

Contrarieties

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Christmastide, David, Eastertide, Good Friday, Light of the World, Redeemer, Resurrection, Shepherd, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant tagged , , , at 10:57 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Heaven’s herald bore the glorious news
Of the Child a Virgin pure would bear:
Servant, yet Heaven’s everlasting Heir
And Son of David, monarch of the Jews,

Heaven’s army stormed the grassy plain
Near David’s city, lowly Bethlehem,
Overcoming shepherd-warriors, David’s kin,
With the battle cry that peace on earth would reign.

Heaven’s King walked justly among men
To heal the sick and bring to life the dead,
To feed the hungry pilgrims living bread,
To preach deliverance from every sin.

Heaven’s Face turned from the Son of Man
And plunged the earth in darkness deep
When Light and Life hung on the curséd tree
To suffer, bleed, and die, yet rise again.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

November 28, 2015

Drink Offering

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Bread of Life, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , , at 12:30 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

From the fiery altar in the temple door
Twice daily sacrifice was made from which arose
Sweet savour that was pleasing to the Lord
Who meets His people where His mercy flows.
Tried by fire, the altar sanctified the dead,
And through the death of lambs God’s hand was stayed.
But His thankless children mocked their sovereign Head;
Rebellious, in the wilderness they strayed.
Yet in the fullness of God’s time He sent
Another Sacrifice whose death would end
All types and shadows, for in His first advent
He stooped to tabernacle among sinful men.
The perfect Lamb poured out His sinless blood,
As a drink offering flowing from His riven side
To sanctify the earth with its life-giving flood,
And in His body is the bread of life supplied.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Scriptural context:

Exodus 29

John 6:35


I have had the idea of Christ’s blood as the drink offering on my mind for a while, but as Advent has approached, I felt compelled to complete the thought. The poem needs little explanation, but I do want to call one thing to your attention. I have heard many times that because Jesus is the perfect Son of God, He cannot be defiled by touching sickness or death. To the contrary, anyone who touched Him (like the bleeding woman who touched His garment) or whom He touched (like the son of the widow of Nain) became clean and was restored to abundance of life. Similarly, the earth on which His blood was shed was not defiled as it had been by the blood of Abel but sanctified instead.

But as many times as I had read the book of Exodus, I had never noticed this verse, which is a harbinger of His gracious reversal of the curse of sin:

Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy. (Exodus 29:37)

I had never considered why the presence of dead animals did not defile the altar. It was because the altar itself made them holy. Praise God for His eternal Son, who sanctifies the whole earth with His glory!

October 6, 2015

Thy Son Liveth

Posted in Atonement, Bread of Life, Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Redeemer, Resurrection, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life tagged , at 11:30 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Hot breath of famine dried the brook
That once had quenched Elijah’s thirst,
And so God sent him on to look
For one whose fate seemed doubly cursed.

A widow and her one beloved son,
With oil and meal barely enough for two,
Faced certain death, for hope and bread were gone.
One final supper ere they bid the world adieu.

But when the prophet came, the widow fed
Him with the first fruits of her scant repast.
And from that day, she never lacked of bread;
Her faith was blessed with food enough to last.

So when her child fell ill and met his doom,
She felt betrayed by all the prophet said
Until Elijah took him to an upper room,
Entreating God, who raised him from the dead.

Outside the gates of Nain a widow walked
In sad procession with her only son.
Her hopes lay dead, her footsteps balked,
To stay the moment when goodbyes were done.

Another widow’s Son noticed her there,
And in compassion bade her weeping cease,
He raised her son and lifted all her care,
Restored her child to live in perfect peace.

But soon this Son would in procession go
Outside the gate to die as though a thief.
This perfect Son offered Himself to bear our woe,
Dying and rising, He would end our grief.

Though evil may beset our souls with strife,
Though brooks dry up, and meal and oil decay,
Treasures of Living Water, Bread of Life,
Are spread for us in His new Eden day by day.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Scriptural context:

Luke 7:11-17

I Kings 17

Isaiah 53

John 19


This poem does not need explanation, but at the risk of stating the obvious, I would point out that it begins in the wilderness and ends up in the new Eden. The lectionary reading about the widow of Nain has always spoken to my heart, but much more so since I lost my son James.


September 7, 2015

Sonnet of the Samaritan

Posted in Atonement, Hope, Parables, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Good Samaritan, Thieves tagged , , at 10:50 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Half dead I lay, blood mingling with the roadside dirt,
Victim of brutal thieves who left me there to die.
I sensed someone draw near, but seeing I was hurt
He rushed to cross the road and passed on by.
And still another paused but left me to my doom,
Fearing that care of me would complicate his day.
Forsaking hope, I waited only for my tomb.
But then another traveler came my way,
Bound up my wounds, and showed me tender care,
Conveyed me to the safety of this cordial inn,
Paid all my costs and promised more to spare.
Thus resurrected, I find mercy’s face herein.
This Outcast stooped to save me from the grave;
Despised, rejected, yet His all He gave.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Scriptural context:

Luke 10:25-37

Isaiah 53

Luke 2:7


Last week’s Gospel reading was the passage that is often called “The Good Samaritan.” There is much to be learned from this parable: that the priest and Levite were bound by the old covenant responsibility to keep from becoming unclean, that the Good Samaritan was a neighbor to the wounded man because he showed mercy to him, and that the inn represents the Church. But the focus I have chosen is that the outcast Samaritan represents our Lord. For Him there was no room in the inn, but He has prepared for us the Church as the Last Homely House here on earth, as well as a mansion in heaven with plenty of room for His family. For Him there was nowhere permanent to lay His head; He traveled from place to place to seek and to save that which was lost. For Him, there was only suffering: He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, and by His stripes we are healed. Yet for us there is the sweet comfort of His Church and the promise that His Spirit is always with us and that He will come again for us.

But here is the final takeaway from this parable, which is no doubt a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New. The priest and Levite were concerned about becoming unclean if they touched the wounded man, for he might die while they attended to him. Yet our Lord was never afraid of dealing with death, for it is His touch that makes us clean.

April 4, 2015

To His Mother on Holy Saturday

Posted in Atonement, Darkness, Faith, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, Hope, Incarnation, Resurrection, Suffering, Word tagged , , , , , at 8:12 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The Holy One once hidden in your womb
Lies silent in the unforgiving earth.
Your sword-pierced heart is shrouded now in gloom,
As was foretold at His miraculous birth.
As chaos tries to overtake your soul
You dare to hope that all His words were true,
That God’s own Son holds all in His control,
And by His power will the world renew.
Dearest mother of the dearest Son,
Weep now, but not for His demise.
Weep for the sin which has this world undone,
For souls ensnared by the deceiver’s lies.
But your Son by His death has set the captives free,
And at His Word, darkness and death will flee.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

March 29, 2015

Mercy Seat

Posted in Atonement, Eastertide, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, Incarnation, Light of the World, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , , , at 10:46 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Through centuries, their vigil they maintained,
Their wings o’ershadowing the mercy seat.
Guarding the Tree of Life from desecrating feet
Of interlopers who must be restrained.

When He who dwelt between the cherubim
Shone forth into the weary, war-torn world
They hovered over earth with wings unfurled,
Holy of Holies joined with flesh in Him.

That flesh pierced through, He set His Spirit free,
Cried “It is finished!” with His final breath,
And dying, dealt the fatal blow to Death.
The temple veil was torn at His decree,

And from seclusion glory poured abroad.
The Mercy Seat in silence briefly lay
Until the angel came to roll the stone away.
Releasing from the tomb the Son of God.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Exodus 25:17-22

Genesis 3:24

Psalm 80:1

Matthew 27:51

Matthew 28:2

November 30, 2014

The Curse Undone

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Bread of Life, Grace, Original Sin, Redeemer, Serpent, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , at 10:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Hiding their faces from the evening sun,
They stood ashamed among the shuddering trees
And heard the bidding voice of God, the One
Whose judgment brought the sinners to their knees.

“You will give life, but mingled with deep woe,”
He said to Eve, who sold her children into war
With him who on his belly now must go,
His fangs poised for destruction near and far.

To Adam, careless watchman, God then said,
“And you will earn your food by toil and sweat,
The dirt shall thwart your quest for daily bread,
While children doomed for death you shall beget.”

But of the woman’s pain a Seed would come
Just at the moment of earth’s darkest night.
This promised Seed to sin could not succumb,
The Second Adam, who all wrongs would right.

For He would freely give Himself for food,
The Bread of Life to take the curse away.
His agony the grieving world renewed
As death gave way to life at break of day.

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


This is the companion piece to The Advent of Grace.

The idea that I could not let go in writing that piece was that the remedy for the curse is not only as real as the physical effects of sin have been upon mankind, but also is like in kind to the Fall and its results. Stolen food was the undoing of man; Food given freely now gives us life and nourishment. The Eucharist is the meal that we may have without money or price (Isaiah 55:1). Pain, toil, and death were sin’s reward; the Son of God bore all of these on our behalf, then threw them back into the face of the wily serpent as He crushed its wicked head.

I suddenly realized that reading most of my poems is like attending an abbreviated version of Lessons and Carols or The Great Vigil. This one starts with the Fall of man and ends with the Resurrection of the Man, Christ Jesus, which was the undoing of the Fall. Even the first and last lines are bookends of sorts, the first ending at evening and the last at dawn. Though it may not seem like it when you read the newspaper or watch the news, the victory has already been secured. Day has broken; let us walk in the light. Food has been provided; let us meet Him at His table.

April 19, 2014

Saturday’s Sorrow

Posted in Atonement, Cain, Darkness, Good Friday, Grief, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, Hope, Judas, Redeemer, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant at 2:53 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The room was silent, save for somber weeping
And weary feet that found no purpose now.
The faithful few their watch were keeping;
They could not bear their Lord to disavow.

But He was dead, and they began to wonder
If they had spent the past three years in vain,
For they had seen the blood and heard the thunder
Of “Crucify Him!” and “Release the son of Cain!”

To trade the Perfect Man for vile Barabbas
Confounded justice to its very core.
What evil had He done that He should die thus?
What were His deeds that we should so abhor?

Yet worse by far was Judas’ treason
For with the Lord his life was intertwined.
He walked with them but for a season
Till envious greed consumed his peace of mind.

In shock, the twelve were left to wait and ponder
The path that led them to this woeful night.
Was there a reason or did they just wander?
As darkness fell, they longed for morning’s light.

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


Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, a time of reflection upon the sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Lent has brought us to this climax of horror at our sin, of sorrow that death is its reward, and of recognition that we were Cain and Barabbas but yet the perfect Son of God was the One who died.

If this poem feels disjointed and incomplete to you, then it has done its job. Anyone who has endured a major loss will understand those early responses in which deep pain circles back on numbness, in which the mind runs rampant with memories but cannot produce coherent a single coherent thought. This is where the disciples were on that Saturday that followed Good Friday.

But the last two words pull the poem up before it crashes completely. For no matter how dark the night, we have every reason to hope, just as the disciples did. The hope may be as dim as the promise of morning’s light, but it is real nonetheless.

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