March 9, 2013

Mercy’s Robes

Posted in David, Good Friday, Grace, Holy Week, Liturgical Calendar, Prodigal Son, Redeemer, The Eucharist at 10:15 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Forgiveness is clad in robes of linen white
And wears a signet ring and chain of gold.
He had a lesser robe he dropped in flight
From her who caused him pain with lies she told.

A many-colored robe he lost before
When jealous brothers sold him as a slave.
In all these tribulations Joseph bore,
He trusted it was God’s good will to save.

Sometimes forgiveness rends its battle robes
To know its enemy has fallen to his death.
Though Saul had sworn against him many oaths,
The mournful David raised laments and wept.

Forgiveness also sees past hardened hearts
Who laid their robes down so they could begin
Their vengeance on St. Stephen, who imparts
A prayer God would not charge them with their sin.

But when the lots were cast for our Lord’s robe
His great forgiveness fell like morning dew.
An avalanche of love flowed ’round the globe.
It is the selfsame mercy tendered you.

Repentant prodigals, we now approach
Our Father’s house and bask in His embrace.
Clad thus in mercy’s robes, without reproach
We join the feast prepared by hands of grace.

Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The theme of clothing throughout the scriptures is worth studying in a larger context, but I have limited it to its relationship to forgiveness. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were clothed in God’s righteousness, and when they sinned, He made them coverings that reminded them not only of their former glory but of the blood-price of restoring them from their sin back to glory. But the fact that He was willing to pay the price Himself showed His great mercy, and it set the tone for our dealings with each other. Since He has so freely forgiven us such great sins, how dare we withhold forgiveness from our fellow man!? As those whose sins have been rolled away, we should in turn freely dispense mercy, though we must always remember that it is to a much lesser degree than our Father in heaven has done.

The message that this poem tries to convey is that those who live the life of forgiveness and love become like their Father, as is our goal. We are clothed in the righteousness of God when He forgives us of our sin, and that great gift obligates us to offer mercy freely to others. The three historical examples in the poem—Joseph, David, and Stephen—are prime examples of God’s people being exalted as they forgive their persecutors and allow God to fight their battles for them.

Joseph could have become bitter at his brothers or at the pharaoh’s wife, but he patiently endured suffering, and God exalted him to a level of honor and then gave him the perfect opportunity to show mercy to his brothers.

David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but he chose instead to honor Saul as the Lord’s anointed king, despite the fact that Saul had fallen into disobedience.

And then there is Stephen, who faithfully preached the Gospel, despite the cost of his own life. His dying words were filled with grace, love, and mercy for the very people who were killing him. They had removed their outer garments, which would symbolize their purposely shedding the robes of righteousness, in order to be freer to commit their atrocious sin. But the sinfulness of their deeds could not keep God from exalting Stephen.

We are always lifted up when we humble ourselves to forgive in the name of the One who forgave us everything.

The final verse was added during Lent of 2014. In re-reading the poem, it struck me how the first two lines resonate with the story of the prodigal son. And I realized that bringing in the reference would complete the thought that we forgive because we are forgiven.

February 14, 2013

Rest in Returning

Posted in Grace, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Obedience, Parables, Prodigal Son, Sanctification, Self-Discipline tagged , at 9:58 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He made a bed of self-pity and foul hay
Amid the rowdy pigs, his only comrades now.
Then he, the noble son, in sorrow lay
And dreamed of all that he had disavowed.

His dreams were fitful, for his hunger gnawed
So deeply he would steal the husks to eat.
Then waking up, he set out on the path unshod
To seek his Father’s blessed mercy seat.

Humiliated by the world, he ran
In humble penance to the Father’s arms
And there, enfolded, his new life began,
No longer tempted by the world’s false charms.

A robe of righteousness he then received
From Him who met him while he was far off.
Unbounded love flowed from the One he grieved.
Here ends the shame of dwelling in the trough.

Thou, Lenten fast, our tutor for these days,
Return us from the pigsty of our sin.
Make clean our hearts and cause our eyes to gaze
Upon our Father; help us rest in Him.

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


Based on Luke 15:11-22. The story is so well known that the poem needs no explanation. The title is a slight alteration of a line in one of my favorite prayers in the BCP:

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


As much as I am able to squeeze into a poem, so many things must still be left unsaid. I wanted to revisit the idea of sin leaving him shoeless by stating that the Father put sandals on his feet, but I figured since the Scripture takes care of the second half of the equation, I only needed to supply the first. I also wanted to state that hunger drives us back to God, but it never found a place in the structure. The idea is there even if the words are not.


I completed this poem on 14 February 13. I started it last night and fell asleep shortly after asking the question “What rhymes with pig sties?” As you can see, I worked it out so that the rhyme was unnecessary.

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