December 10, 2016

Even So

Posted in Advent, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Light of the World, Redeemer, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant tagged at 9:20 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our path meanders through a barren land
Where lowering clouds press in on every side,
With gales so swift that we can hardly stand,
Rain so pervasive that we cannot hide.
Then storms give way to scorching desert heat.
Now parched, we long for mists to calm our thirst
And seek a haven for our weary feet.
Yet though we journey through a land accursed
Despair is not our answer to this plight
For sure and certain hope steadies our gait.
Relentless gloom can never quench the Light.
Unyielding joy belies our sad estate
Because the Son of God who shared our pain
Will come again to heal our every bane.

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


For Advent

August 7, 2016

Selling Doves

Posted in Dove, Holy Spirit, Lamb of God, Sanctification, Son of God, Trinity at 8:21 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our Lord went to the Temple to the feast;
The Lamb of God would bring a sacrifice.
And entering His courts, the Great High Priest
Found His own Father’s house teeming with vice.
He saw the place where sin was to be purged
Corrupt and reeking with the greed of gain.
So He the Righteous Son prepared a scourge
To cleanse the temple from its awful stain.
Then pouring out the coins He arraigned
The moneychangers for their blasphemy
In profiting from sacraments ordained
To show God’s people He must set them free.
Lord, cleanse the temple of my wayward heart,
So that Your Holy Dove will not depart.

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


Reference: John 2:13-17


Last Sunday’s Gospel was the counterpart to the scripture on which this poem is based. Jesus cleansed the temple of moneychangers twice, once at the beginning of His ministry and once shortly before He was crucified. The passage in John refers to the first of those events.

It is sobering to find the One who is the original for the types and shadows of the Temple being mocked through price gouging that took advantage of the people for whom He had come to offer Himself as a free sacrifice. It is even more sobering to note that the religious leaders of his day had never rebuked the greedy merchandisers but rebuked Him for doing so. It is most sobering to realize that three years later, after having the benefit of His teaching and His miracles, not to mention the glory of His presence, the hearts of the scribes and pharisees were even harder than before they met Him.

May He ever guard our hearts from all that is not holy.

 

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.

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

March 19, 2015

Mercy’s Meal

Posted in Bread of Life, Laetare, Lent, Redeemer, Son of God, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life tagged , , at 8:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The table overflows with a princely feast,
The Host and His guests take repast in peace
Beside the pure crystal river’s flow
Where the limbs of the Tree of Life hang low
To supply sweet fruit and soothing leaves
So the nations are cured of all that grieves.
Though enemies may survey the scene,
Nor harm nor fear can intrude between
The Son of God and His cherished Bride
For whom He bears wounds in His hands and side.
He is the Manna, the living Bread
On which great multitudes are fed.
With goodness and mercy behind, before,
They safely dwell in the house of the Lord.

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


Exodus 16:15

Exodus 24:9-11

Psalm 23

Matthew 14

Revelation 22

January 4, 2015

The Presentation of Christ

Posted in Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Original Sin, Presentation of Christ, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , , , at 8:40 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Their footsteps echoed in the temple court,
He whose faithful heart with hope was swelled
And she whose greatest hopes had been cut short.
Her husband gone, she in the temple dwelled
To serve the Lord of Hosts both night and day.
An Eve and Adam waiting to be freed
From power of sin that led mankind astray,
In prayer they waited for the promised Seed.

When Simeon’s gaze fell on Messiah’s face,
He blessed the Lord to see salvation’s day
And hailed the coming of the gift of grace,
This Son whose life and work shall grief allay.
Here now Christ would receive the sacrament,
Thus sanctifying earth to heaven afresh.
God’s mysteries dwell in corporal element,
Immortal Son abides in human flesh.

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


The accounts of Mary and Joseph obeying the law, first by having Jesus circumcised and then by bringing Him to the temple to be presented, are too significant not to consider as important to our redemption; otherwise, why would they have been recorded? For one thing, these events show that His life reflected perfect obedience to the Law.

But there is another important point in both of these events, and that is their sacramental nature. Both in circumcision and the presentation of the firstborn (which was also a pronouncement of the purification of the mother), earthly elements (which God pronounced good at their creation) are being set apart, sanctified, made holy for the service of Heaven.

It is in that context that we see the lives of Simeon and Anna, devoted as they were to the practice of their faith (not just the mental assent to abstract truth). They were living a sacramental life and thus were privileged to be witnesses to the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah who would save His people from their sin.

The sacraments are by very nature anti-Gnostic, for instead of separating the material from the spiritual, they join earth to heaven. The finest statement against the Gnostic heresy is found in John 1:14–”And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Let us never forget that the physical, material world belongs to its Creator and should always be offered back to His service. Anything else is ingratitude of the basest sort.

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.

November 23, 2014

The Advent of Grace

Posted in Advent, Redeemer, Serpent, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, Thorns/Thistles/Tares tagged , , , at 8:57 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The sibilant voice poured pride into her soul
While her protector, silent, shirked his role.
The perfect garden at her feet, Eve reached
To pluck forbidden fruit, and thus she breached
The kind decree that promised life and breath,
And opened up her home to pain and death.
For when she said, “Take, eat,” and Adam took,
The curse unfurled, and seas and mountains shook.
Their stolen meal brought famine yet unknown,
Dearth earned for taking what is God’s alone.
The outlaws hid, believing all was lost,
Their eyes now open to the dreadful cost
Of plundering God’s throne, for with that hand
They had instead laid waste to Earth’s fair land.
Still worse, they had estranged themselves from Love,
But God took pity on them from above.
At His appointed time, His Word rang out
To say, “Where are you?” and to bring about
Undoing of the curse that fell upon their head,
Of pain in birth and sweat poured out for bread.
The garden lay in ruins many a year,
Till Advent bells rang out unbridled cheer.
For the power and the glory man had sought
Rest in the Man whose blood their lives has bought.
He freely left His throne to seek and save
The lost; God’s Son was traded for the knave.

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


I often provide detailed explanations of my poems, but this time, I would suggest that a reader who wants to know more should pay very close attention to the word choices. In some cases, you should be reminded of other scriptures, in other cases to the Eucharistic liturgy, and in still others, to the liturgical calendar. I’ve purposely conflated time in a couple of places and added an anachronism at the end in the reference to Advent, but I will blame it on poetic licence. If you don’t get anything else from the poem, remember that the Father who would not forsake the criminals in the Garden, but sought them out, sent His Son to die for them, and in so doing forsook His only Son for a brief period on the cross.

Adam and Eve never had to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The first two lines refer to the fact that many scholars believe Adam was present during the conversation between Eve and the serpent. I have also attempted to pull together two concepts that have been used in contrast to each other through the years. At the risk of oversimplifying the argument, the Western Church looks at sin as a judicial matter. The  law has been broken, and a penalty is to be paid. The Eastern Church looks at sin as a breach in the relationship between God the Father and the children He created. I do not see any conflict between these ideas; there are scriptures that support each view. They are, in fact, both true. But Grace consumes it all. The penalty is paid and the relationship is restored. Thanks be to God.


I’ve been trying to finish this poem for several weeks now, and the ideas would not fall together until today. It always amazes me to see how the ideas unfold as I meditate on the concepts from Scripture. I actually started with a slightly different idea, so there is a poem yet to be written….

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 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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