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.

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.


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

February 28, 2015

A Sonnet of Tearful Hope

Posted in Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Incarnation, Kingdom, Love, Resurrection, Suffering, Thankfulness, The Eucharist tagged at 4:50 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

When we must leave, we grieve to say goodbye,
Or when we part with others who must go,
If tears flow not, we heave a weighty sigh
To think the miles between us now must grow.
But time and space and every vale or hill
That separates sincere companion souls
Cannot erode the love that binds them still
Nor take the hope that constantly consoles.
Yet hope would be in vain, except for trust
In Him whose tender love surrounds us all.
His life ennobles feeble forms of dust
And reunites them in his banquet hall
In Heaven, where there is an end to grieving;
For it is the place from whence there is no leaving.

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


This poem is dedicated to Bill and Kathy, and to all who have suffered great loss and yet cling to an even greater hope.

September 19, 2014

Mark 7, A Play in Three Acts

Posted in Bread of Life, Christology, Creator, Grace, Hope, Kingdom, Obedience, Redeemer, Resurrection, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life, Word tagged , , at 6:56 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The curtain rises as the scribes and Pharisees,
Incensed that their traditions are not kept,
Stand blind and deaf to what the Water means.
They rail about the eating of the bread
With unwashed hands, yet take no thought
Of the condition of their stony heart.

He that hath ears must heed the Gospel call.
Take care lest you who think you hear should fall.

The Gentile knew traditions all too well,
For they excluded her and all her kind.
And yet He spoke to her, the Lord of all,
Giving her hope her daughter could be saved.
She was content to be a puppy underfoot
And share in eating of the Kingdom bread.

She that hath ears shall heed the Kingdom plea
To sit at table with His children and be free.

The man born deaf who spoke with halting tones
Was brought to Him, the Word who must be heard.
Now with His touch and water, and a sigh,
His ears are opened and his tongue made whole.
The Word creative spoke and it was done,
Just as at Lazarus’ tomb His word brought life.

He that hath ears must have them opened by the One
Whose very Words can heal: God’s only Son.

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


This poem has been trying to form in my brain for several weeks, but the cares of life almost prevented it. The story of the Gentile woman and that of the deaf man were Gospel readings a few weeks ago, and when I looked at the context, I could not help but notice the progression of events found in Mark 7. The religious leaders of that day simply did not understand the full import of what God wanted to do in their lives. In the words of Christ, they did not have ears to hear. They thought it was enough to demonstrate outward obedience to easily measurable rules such as, “Wash your hands before you eat.” Of course, we know that washing hands is a good practice for the purpose of sanitation. But that is certainly not the only cleansing that should concern us. God’s design is to cleanse our souls of the sin that would overtake us, apart from His grace. Washing hands as a ritual is indicative of a much greater need, expressed in Psalm 51:10—“Create in me a clean heart, O God.” I wrote a line that I could never quite place in the grand scheme, but it sums up the condition of the scribes and Pharisees: Clean hands or no, they shall not touch the Bread.

By contrast, the Gentile woman—an outcast—was invited to share the Kingdom blessings precisely because she knew she needed cleansing. She did not deny her desperate condition, but in her identification of herself as a little dog under the table, she expressed knowledge of a truth that the religious leaders had totally missed: the purpose of the Kingdom of God in this world is to be a blessing and light to the surrounding nations. Her faith showed that her ears were open to God’s true call and purpose. The Pharisees went away hungry. The Gentile woman received all that she needed, so very much more than crumbs under the table!

Finally, the deaf man (he had ears but could not hear) is brought to Jesus for healing. He is helpless, in that he could not hear instructions, even if someone were to give him the instructions of the scribes: “All you need to do is wash your hands, and you’ll be cleansed.” Nor could he ask for healing; he was virtually mute. As do we all, he approached the Lord completely helpless. And the Creator of the world repaired the brokenness, just as He does in our lives. He gave the deaf man ears to hear and a tongue to speak of the glory of God. It is no coincidence that the following words are found in Psalm 51:15, part of David’s humble confession of his great sin: “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”


As for form, don’t look for rhyme in this one. I tried briefly to make it rhyme, but the ideas just would not be harnessed in that way. The “Greek chorus” lines following each verse contain the only intentional rhyme. Otherwise, I followed the model of a Shakespearean play and used iambic pentameter. Mostly. And if you see a double intention in the words incensed and rail, you are correct.

April 20, 2014

First Light

Posted in Creator, Darkness, Eastertide, Light of the World, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , at 2:05 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The first day of the week, the Sabbath ended,
The women brought sweet spices at first light.
Determined that His corpse would be attended,
They made their way to Jesus’ burial site.

But who would roll away the ponderous stone
Or break the seal the Romans had required?
They reached the tomb to find it overthrown;
An angel sat, in brilliant white attired.

Creation’s First Light had issued forth in power;
And Death’s dominion crumbled at His feet.
He harrowed Hell, and at the appointed hour
He pierced the gloom and made His foes retreat.

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


This is a retelling of the resurrection narrative from the Gospel of Mark, with a play on words between “first light” of dawn, when the women went to the tomb, and Christ as the Light of the World, the origin of all other lights.

The term “harrowed Hell” is related to the teaching from the Creed that Jesus “descended into Hell,” which is taught in the following two Scriptures:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.” (a reference to Psalm 68:18)

(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:7-9)

__________________________

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (I Peter 3:18-22)

A blessed and joyful Eastertide awaits all those who welcome the Light of His day.

April 18, 2014

Poured Out

Posted in Atonement, Creation, Creator, Eastertide, Good Friday, Holy Spirit, Holy Week, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God, Suffering Servant, The Church, Water of Life tagged , at 10:17 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The river that poured out from Eden’s garden
And wound its way through time and history
Now flows from heaven’s throne, the font of pardon;
Its water holds the sacred mystery.
Its healing stream delights God’s city;
His people find refreshment for their soul.
Its cleansing power can restore the guilty;
In mercy it will every grief console.
On Golgotha its Source was manifest
When the Creator-King poured out His life.
The soldier pierced the heart of Heaven’s best,
And blood and water flowed to end our strife.
The Temple, briefly razed, would rise again.
The river from its threshold covers sin.

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


Today is Good Friday. At last evening’s Maundy Thursday mass I was struck by the concept of Jesus’ soul being poured out, mainly because it made me think of two related concepts. The first is the water and blood that flowed from His side when the soldier’s spear pierced through both His soul and that of His dear mother. The second was the prophecy in Ezekiel 47 of a river that would flow from the threshold of the Temple, would grow in influence, and would heal the sea when its water reached that far. That passage is one of my favorites, and it reads much like the creation story, which is only appropriate since it is the prophecy of the re-creation accomplished through the atonement.

Listed below are links to the Scripture passages on which the poem is based.

Genesis 2:8-17

Revelation 22:1-5

Psalm 46:4-5

Isaiah 53:11-12

Psalm 22:13-15

John 19:33-35

Ezekiel 47:1-12

His soul was poured out unto death, but in so doing, He drowned death with life. It is finished, and He is the victor. And thanks be to God, we share in His victory.

April 13, 2014

Fourth Day

Posted in Atonement, Creation, Creator, Eastertide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Lent, Original Sin, Palm Sunday, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, The Church at 8:41 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Sprawling sycamores and emerald fields,
With apple trees and every plant that yields
Rich food for man to gratefully receive,
Recoiled in horror as our mother Eve
Reached up and grabbed the fruit of doom.
With one swift bite great sorrow she consumed.
Though still the source of myrrh and frankincense
And spikenard for Christ’s feet, the plants were hence
Cursed, cursed for Adam’s sake by their own kind:
Food-yielding plants were choked by thorns that bind.
But at the appointed time Creation’s Lord
Entered Jerusalem, greatly adored.
Tall, graceful palms were hewn to smooth His way
And shouts of “Save now!” echoed for a day.
But all too soon the shouts were “Crucify!”
So on that woeful tree they lifted high
The Carpenter who formed the universe.
The King was crowned with thorns to heal the curse.
Third-day creation, plants that ne’er drew breath
Were made complicit in His gory death.
The third day Mary brought sweet oil and spice
To honor Him who paid sin’s awful price.
Her weeping ended when the Gardener she found;
Her sad laments in morning’s joy were drowned.
The Vine whose third-day triumph ransoms all
Bears fourth-day branches rescued from the Fall.

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

14 April: I’m returning to annotate some of the scripture references. Sycamore trees are mentioned several times in the Scriptures, but most people remember them in connection with Zacchaeus, who climbed into a tree because he was having trouble seeing Jesus because of the crowd. The fields suggest the harvest that Jesus mentioned when He saw the multitudes and had compassion on them. Apple trees are mentioned in Song of Solomon (in reference to The Beloved), but also in Joel 1, withered apple trees (and other plants) demonstrate the effect of sin, and this idea is reinforced as the topic turns to creation and the fall.

But in the vein of Genesis 3:15, we are not left in despair because the next plant products that are mentioned are two of the gifts brought to our Lord at His birth. The poem then echoes the spiritual battle that has plagued the world since the Fall, finding its climax in the Cross.

That battle is demonstrated in the outcries from the final two crowds that swarmed around our Lord. The Palm Sunday crowd, by yelling “Hosanna!” (which means “Save now!”), was actually yelling “Crucify Him!” and didn’t even realize it. We could not be saved without His death on the cross. Was that crowd one-for-one the same as the crowd at the cross? No point in answering that question because it is not the point. What is true is that both crowds were representative of mankind. I was not there, but my sins nailed Jesus to the cross. What is also true is that there were faithful followers of Christ who stood at the foot of the cross and neither deserted Him nor called for His death. But nevertheless, He died for them.

The final references I want to highlight are Mary’s mistaking Jesus for a gardener (an event I’ve written about before), which calls the Garden of Eden into remembrance, and the reference to John 15, in which our Lord declares Himself to be the True Vine and His people to be the branches. Between those two images is a reference to Psalm 30:5, which is one way to summarize the events that occurred from Good Friday to Easter Sunday:

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Thanks be to God that the morning is coming.

Next page

%d bloggers like this: