April 12, 2015

My Lord and My God

Posted in Eastertide, Faith, Feast of St. Thomas, St. Thomas, Suffering Servant, Word tagged , , , , at 3:32 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Apostle Thomas, faint of faith,
How did you come to know about His piercéd side?
Were you not one of those who ran away
When soldiers stormed the garden while He prayed?
You once had said that you would die with Him,
So were you there when He was crucified
To see the sword release the water and the blood?
When rich men took His body from the cross,
And wrapped it carefully in swaddling cloths
Infused with bitter scent of myrrh,
Did you assist them in the solemn task
Of carrying His lifeless form away
To place Him in the virgin tomb?
Or did you hear the rumor that He had appeared
Behind closed doors to others whom He loved
And showed to them His wounded hands and side?
You missed so many opportunities to see
But soon regarded faith as slave to sight
Until His voice broke through your wall of doubt
And drew from you confession that did not require
Plunging your hand into His riven side.
Thomas, I am your twin when faith would ebb,
So I rejoice with you that all our doubts
Are answered by the patient voice of Love.

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


John 11:16

John 19

John 20

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 25, 2015

Breath of Life

Posted in Breath of Life, Creation, Eastertide, Holy Spirit, The Church, Word at 6:34 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Entombed
Within four walls they hid,
Like Lazarus in his four-day grave.
In grief,
With dreadful doubts and halting hopes,
They waited for the storm to end.
They hung
Suspended between then and when,
Not even daring to ask why.
He died.
Of that they could be very sure.
Sure, some had said He lived again.
But how?
Who could have said the words for Him
That He had spoken in Bethany?
Come forth!
Creator-Word: “Let there be life!”
Now suddenly He speaks again
Sweet peace,
There in the midst of them.
And once again Creator’s breath
Ignites
The dust of earth with Spirit’s flame,
Foreshadowing Great Pentecost,
From whence
His Church breathes forth the Word
To call the dead to life anew.

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


Based on John 20:19-23, the Gospel reading for the First Sunday after Easter

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.

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)

July 7, 2013

Naaman the Blind

Posted in Faith, Grace, Leprosy, Obedience, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Thankfulness, Water of Life, Word tagged , , , , at 7:03 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Respected man, much favored by his lord,
Fearless in battle, an expert with the sword.
Though skilled in war, one fight o’ercame his soul,
For pride had Naaman in its grim control.
It blinded him to God’s life-giving word
Delivered by the prophet he had heard.
A leper with the remedy supplied:
The Jordan? Why not a river clean and wide?
Ignoble water for a man of high esteem!
The prophet mocked his greatness, it would seem.
But with no other cure in sight, he deigned
To do as God had said, and health regained.
Now one more lesson Naaman had to learn:
That gifts of God cannot be bought or earned.
His leprous skin was clean; his pride was tamed,
No longer blind, God’s promises he claimed.
Thus baptized in the Jordan, like our Lord,
Through whose obedience we are restored.

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


This morning, the Old Testament reading was 2 Kings 5:1-14, which is the story of the healing of Naaman the leper. Apparently leprosy was not viewed the same in Syria as in Israel because it does not appear that Naaman was ostracized because of his condition. To the contrary, he was commander of the army of Syria and very highly regarded for his successes on the battlefield. Yet his pride in his success was his primary ailment. When given the opportunity to be free of leprosy, he balked at the humble nature of the cure. He wanted Elisha to make a big production, to wave his hands, say noble and compelling words, and order God to cure Naaman. What a disappointment to this great man to be told to do something so humiliating as bathe in God’s dirty stream. If there was to be no grand, theatrical production, why could it not at least be a beautiful, clean river in his own country? His anger revealed his blindness, caused by pride in his own accomplishments. It took his servants, who had no aspirations to greatness, to teach him that he needed to obey God, regardless of the ignominy.

But even after humbling himself enough to take a chance that the dirty waters could make him clean, Naaman still didn’t fully understand the nature of God’s grace. He tried to pay Elisha for the cure. God had done something for him, and he would settle the debt and be back on equal footing, perhaps. But the prophet wisely refused any payment. How could we ever hope to repay God? We owe Christ our service out of gratitude, not out of any notion that we can repay a debt. And thanks be to God, Naaman finally saw exactly what was required: obedience in all things that were within his power to do.

I could not leave Naaman’s story without pointing us to the Christ, the perfectly obedient Son. He humbled himself to be baptized in the Jordan, not to be cleansed but to cleanse the water and open the way for us to be healed from all our afflictions. He took on our shame so that we might be set free from sin and shame.

Glory be to thee, O Lord!

June 5, 2013

A Sonnet of Sweat

Posted in Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Lent, Moses, Obedience, Original Sin, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, Word tagged , , , at 6:53 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our father Adam tilled the stony ground;
In chains of sin and grief he stumbled, bound.
Anointed by the sweat of his own face,
His efforts could not merit God’s free grace.
In linen garments that prevented sweat,
The Levite servants never could forget
Their labor could not pay the price of sin,
But pointed to the One who can save men.
Our Saviour, deep in prayer, sweat drops of blood.
In anguish He endured the wrathful flood,
Though never disobedient, He became
The price of sin to wash away our shame.
And when His work was finished, He proclaimed
Salvation to all men who trust His name.

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


Recently I became interested in the parallel between the pronouncement on Adam that he would earn his living through the sweat of his brow and the account of Jesus in the Garden sweating great drops of blood. The title of the poem is not glamorous, but neither is sin. There is such profound grace to be found in the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians: “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:9)

May we always glory in the Cross, for there is no glory in our own frail frame.


I started this about a week ago and completed it this morning, 5 June 2013.

May 28, 2013

Peace Meal

Posted in Darkness, David, Incarnation, Maundy Thursday, Moses, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God, Son of Man, Word tagged , , , , , at 11:23 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Piecemeal the plan unfolded from creation to the Cross:
Through Abraham and Moses sacrifices showed the cost.
Then David served as king, anticipating Jesus’ reign,
But kings who followed spoiled the sacred, making it profane.
And time and time again the prophets preached the truth of God
To those who spoke of justice but whose hearts were hiding fraud.
Then the worst, the years of silence with no prophet, priest or king;
No word from God to kindle hope, though darkness loomed foreboding.
Until an angel broke the silence to proclaim Immanuel
In whom all offices were gathered in one Man to dwell:
The Word of God and Prophet bold, who was the Truth and Way,
To pierce the darkness, He was Light and brought us endless day.
As God with man, the Son of Man, both Sacrifice and Priest,
King David’s greater Son whose righteousness will never cease.
He lived and died and lives again, His people’s wounds to heal.
And now enthroned, He is the Host who serves the great Peace Meal.

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


This is another sweeping summary of the story of redemption. The underlying concept is that only in Christ is found all three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. Only in Him are all the pieces and threads brought together in a perfect whole.


A couple of weeks ago I was giving a devotional about the Eucharist at choir practice, and I called it the Peace Meal. In the back of my head, the homonym “piecemeal” started rattling around, and this poem is the result.

February 24, 2013

Battlefield

Posted in Eastertide, Good Friday, Holy Spirit, Holy Week, Hope, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Obedience, Original Sin, Redeemer, Resurrection, Sanctification, Self-Discipline, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, Tempter, Word tagged , , at 12:11 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In the beginning, the battle line was drawn
When rebels stole what God had disallowed.
The evil one had used them as his pawn,
Pretending he could elevate the proud.
Then God in mercy banished them from Paradise
And charged an angel with a flaming sword
To guard them from the tree that would entice.
The tree of life could not be their reward.
Not life but death was due for their offense,
Yet as the battle raged throughout the years
Kinsman-redeemers came to their defense.
In expectation of the One who ends all fears.
Though dying on a tree, He won the day,
Pierced through by sword of Roman soldier rude.
And three days in the silent tomb He lay,
Till with His rising all things were renewed.
This time the Father charged the angel guard
To speak His peace to those who love the Son,
Soldiers of Christ armed with the Spirit’s Sword,
The Living Word who has the conquest won.
Now marching on to songs of victory
His army keeps the disciplines of war
Until all prisoners have been set free
And God is glorified on every shore.

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


This may be the most epic piece I’ve ever written because it spans all of history. A few days ago I started thinking about the three swords mentioned in the poem, and I was especially intrigued by the idea that the Roman soldier’s sword pierced through Him who is called the Word, and the Word is called the sword of the Spirit. Then tonight I was captured by the thought that there was an angel at the gate of Eden and one at the tomb. I know it is fruitless to dwell on questions like, “Could that have been the same angel?” But I still think it’s amazing that the angels are an integral part of the story of man’s reconciliation to God.


Completed in the hours just before the Second Sunday of Lent.

February 18, 2013

Oasis

Posted in Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Sanctification, Serpent, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist, Water of Life, Word tagged at 7:59 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He, the Living Water, was baptized,
Then made a path into the wilderness
To meet the challenge Satan had devised
When thirst and hunger left Him in distress.

He yielded to no purpose but His own,
Rebuking lying words with living Word,
Thus proving that though He had left His throne,
The God-Man’s power could not be deterred.

Now in our wilderness we find Him still,
For He precedes wherever we may tread.
He freely gave Himself so He might fill
Our famished souls with living wine and bread.

The meal prepared by human hands is blessed
To be our sustenance and sure repose.
The One who fought temptation bids us rest;
The Rock was struck, and living water flows.

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


This is a companion piece to the lectionary for the first Sunday in Lent, in which the Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the Temptation of Christ. If we look only at that event in isolation, we miss so much, and even this poem does not make all of the connections that it could. Our Lord’s triumph over temptation is, of course, God’s setting right of what happened with our first parents, who did not rebuke the Opposer, but were willing to entertain the evil notion that God’s commandments were not intended for their own good.

But enough about what the poem does NOT cover. What it does bring in are references to the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, also not doing very well in resisting temptation, but still sustained by the Living Water and the manna from heaven. How unworthy we are, and yet God still loves us!

There is also some of the language of Psalm 23, for it is in the spiritual wilderness that we meet our enemy, and it is also there that Christ bids us come to His table and be filled with the Living Water of His grace. The serpent bids us come and worship him, thus securing the destruction of our souls. Jesus bids us come and dine, come and live, come and rest. Whom will you hear?


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