February 10, 2016

Fasting to Feast

Posted in Eden, Lent, Original Sin, Shepherd, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist at 3:18 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Surrounded by a surfeit of life-giving food
That would sustain them while replenishing the earth,
Our parents spurned His gifts in gross ingratitude
And ate the fruit that plunged them into pain and dearth.
That stolen meal tastes bitter to this very day;
It set our teeth on edge and left us desolate.
Now in the wilderness of Lent we fast and pray,
Finding our starving souls on every side beset
By dainties that can never meet our heartfelt need
To eat the food of Eden at His table spread
In pastures green where we may safely feed
While resting on the Shepherd who removes all dread.
He suffered Lenten loss so that we may return
To the great feast for which our spirits yearn.

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


Genesis 3

Psalm 23

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.

December 11, 2014

David’s Other Sons

Posted in Advent, Bread of Life, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Redeemer, Shepherd, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, The Eucharist tagged , , , , at 7:10 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Out in the fields where David penned the psalms
And tended wounded sheep with soothing balms
The shepherds kept their watch with diligence,
Straining their ears for sounds of violence:
For lions who would kill the precious lambs
Or thieves who’d take the finest of the rams.
Then as they watched, the news from heaven fell
Like snow in winter; then the sky did swell
With piercing light from realms of glory bright
And news of One who would dispel their night.
Then heaven rained down songs of praise and peace,
The promised advent of the earth’s release.
In Bethlehem, the lowly house of bread,
Lay the Messiah in a manger bed.
Then going forth with joy, they obeyed
The angel’s word and were no more afraid.
They left the ninety-nine to find the Lamb,
Who is the Son of God and Great I AM.
These words the angel gave they told abroad
To bring all nations to the house of God.

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


This piece is a deliberate intertwining of Luke 2 and Isaiah 55, with a few other references along the way. As for Isaiah 55, it is one of my all-time favorite passages. Who could resist reading about a time when the mountains and hills will break forth in song?

If you’re wondering what the title means, it’s multifaceted. (This is poetry, after all). Throughout the gospels, our Lord is known as the Son of David, as He is a physical descendant of David. Some of the other sons of David are the shepherds, who are residents of the city of David and who spent their time protecting sheep, as did David in his early years. But even we who are not physical children of David have been made fellow heirs to the covenant that God made with David (Isaiah 55:3). Though the wise men and not the shepherds are usually associated with the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s covenant, the account of the shepherds’ faithfulness and obedience has been recorded for all nations to read.

December 24, 2013

Sonnet to Bethlehem

Posted in Christmastide, David, Incarnation, Shepherd, Son of God, The Eucharist, The Trinity, Word at 4:45 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

House of Bread, be chancel to the Bread of Life tonight,
Receive the blessed body of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Enfold the Word proceeding from the Father up on high,
And tune your soul to hear the sounds that fill the starry sky
As shepherds hear the angel tell of peace and God’s good will
Brought by the Shepherd who protects His sheep from every ill.
The second Adam, sent to bear the burden of our toils,
With bloody brow our bread will win and take the Victor’s spoils.
Man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God,
Yet here the Bread and Word converge, and every heart is awed.
Birthplace of David, bend the knee to David’s greater Son,
For in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead three in one.
O Bethlehem, once lowly town, now rise to greet your King.
Naomi’s night of grief has passed, and now hosannas ring.

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


This morning I was dwelling on the idea of Christ as the Bread of Life, born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “House of Bread.” I had written about eight lines of the poem before I had to leave for noon mass, but I was struggling to find a conclusion. So when the priest mentioned the Hebrew name of Bethlehem in his sermon, I came home with renewed zeal to finish the poem today.

The imagery of bread pervades the Scriptures, and so it also pervades the poem, even when it is not as obvious as it is in the first few lines. The reference to David should bring to mind the story of his taking the shewbread (“the bread of the presence”) for his starving soldiers, an act which Jesus links with His disciples’ gleaning on the Sabbath. The concept of gleaning should bring to mind Naomi and Ruth, who would have died from lack of bread had it not been for the generosity of Boaz, who was a type of Christ.

Just as physical life is sustained by food, for which bread is used as a synecdoche (sorry, non-literary folks), our spiritual life is sustained by Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, in the Eucharist:

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

December 19, 2013

Song of the Christmas Sheep

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Sheep, Shepherd at 8:19 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

From the days of shepherd Abel
Our lives were paid as sacrifice:
Savory offerings on the table,
Signifying sin’s dread price.
Cursed by Adam’s sin, we waited
For the coming of the Lamb,
When misery would be abated
By the perfect, spotless Ram.
When the time had been fulfilled,
While we grazed in pastures green
And deeply drank from waters still,
The sky exploded with a scene
Of brilliant light and thunderous sound
As angels chimed the glorious song
Of peace to flood the whole world round
To end all woe and right all wrong.
Then leaving us, our shepherds went
To see their Shepherd, filled with grace,
Who from the heart of heaven was sent
As sacrifice to take our place.

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


I attended a sweet Christmas pageant at church last night, and when the actors in sheep’s clothing turned to listen to the “angel,” my heart was pierced with the realization that this glorious news of peace on earth, which we often take as completely man-centric, spoke of the animals’ freedom too. Just as the whole of creation was blighted by Adam’s sin, the coming of Christ to roll back the curse speaks freedom to them, but especially to the gentle sheep that had been slain as sacrifices. As the beloved Christmas hymn tells us, “He comes to make His blessings known far as the curse is found.”

The older I get, the stronger is the longing in my heart to see all things restored to their natural glory and to see death swallowed up completely in the victory of Christ. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The only poetry note I’ll add is that the word our in the last line should be read as referring not just to the sheep but to them and the shepherds, and indeed, to the entire world.

P.S. I just thought of another poetry note. The short, choppy lines are meant to signify the motion of sheep. Somehow all my poems about sheep end up with a short-metered line.

January 11, 2013

All for the Bride

Posted in Atonement, Bridegroom, Eastertide, Epiphany, Hope, Redeemer, Sheep, Shepherd, The Church, Water of Life tagged , , at 9:29 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He lay down with a stone under his head
And in his sleep to heaven’s gate was led.
Then Jacob traveled east to Laban’s land.
Arriving there, he met the shepherd band.
He saw sweet Rachel leading thirsty sheep;
Her gentle beauty caused his heart to leap.

The shepherds would have waited for the rest,
But Jacob saw the purpose of his quest.
So by himself he rolled away the stone,
Securing her whom he would call his own.
He freed life-giving water for the herd
And won a bride by honoring his word.

Another stone was rolled away that day
When Jesus proved He was not Satan’s prey.
Now on Christ’s Bride all blessings He bestows,
And for the Shepherd’s flock pure water flows.
His tomb appeared deserted, but it served
To swallow up the death that we deserved.

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


The resource for the first two stanzas is Genesis 29, with parallels drawn to the Gospel accounts of the the Lord and His Resurrection. The significance for the First Sunday after the Epiphany is the willingness of Rachel to be about the business of her family, and the parallels between Jacob and Jesus as the bride’s champion.


Started on 1 January 2013 with this idea: “His tomb was empty only for a while, for it has swallowed up our death.” As I began to research the idea of rolling away a stone, I was both amazed and pleased to find another story of a stone being rolled away.


August 25, 2011

Regarding Sheep

Posted in Obedience, Sheep, Shepherd at 10:45 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Sometimes they are so hurt,
So smudged with dirt,
A careless shepherd might
Forget they’re white
And beautiful when neat.
But hear them bleat!
They’re always needy,
Even greedy,
And rarely do they crave
The things that save,
Yet foolishly they blame
The one who came
To gently pasture them
And bring them home to Him.

Their Chief Shepherd, through the years,
Instructs their feeble ears
To heed His firm but tender voice,
So that they make the choice
To find contentment in the fold,
His safe, secure stronghold.
Then as they learn to trust,
Avoid the mire and dust,
And feed in pastures richly green,
Their lives become serene.
Beside the crystal waters still,
They deeply drink their fill,
Then follow Him down any road
For His way leads to His abode.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


I have always been fascinated by the Biblical concept of God’s people as sheep and Himself as their Shepherd. I think if we were going to describe ourselves we wouldn’t choose anything as mundane as sheep. We would want to be known as sleek racehorses, perhaps willful, but even in our willfulness a creature to be admired for strength and beauty. But that is not who we are. Having wandered away on the thorny, treacherous mountain of sin, we are neither lovely nor admirable. We are scuffed and bloody and tangled with thorns. What’s even worse is that we are silly enough to be prone to wander away from the very love and goodness that should drive us home. We have all gone astray like lost sheep (Isaiah 53:6). But there is hope, for there is a Good Shepherd who fills our every need, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Furthermore, He has risen to the heights of heaven and intercedes for us. Though it is ultimately the Chief Shepherd who leads His people, there are earthly shepherds who assist Him with keeping us from going astray, and I thank God for those who take their ministry seriously enough to seek after the sheep with whom they have been entrusted.


One of my favorite pieces in Handel’s Messiah is the setting for Isaiah 53:6-7, in which Handel uses tone painting first to represent the light, airy, staccato movement of sheep skipping over the meadows and mountains. But then the tone of the wording turns somber, along with the music, which continues in a minor key with long, drawn out phrases repeated by the various voices, all resolving in a tragically beautiful harmony for the words “The iniquity of us all.” I certainly had that piece in mind when I wrote my first long verse of short, quick staccato lines. Then in the second verse, each line is longer and the words are chosen for a more peaceful, less frantic sound, just as our lives become when we follow the Shepherd. Finally, the title has a triple meaning. I’ve used regarding to mean “about,” “to look on,” “to show concern for,” and “to esteem.” There is nothing in us that would cause our Lord to esteem us, yet He gave His Son to redeem us.

My notes indicate that this poem was written on 2/7/03 at 6:09 PM. I’m not quite sure why I thought it important to record the time, but there it is. I then revised it on 4/7/03, 02/16/05, and 07/01/07. I wish I could remember why it needed so much revision. And what time of day it was revised on those days.

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