December 27, 2015

Angliverse on TNAA

Posted in Holy Spirit, Noah, The Church, The Trinity, Water of Life at 2:58 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Merry Christmas! An Angliverse poem was featured on The North American Anglican today.

Edit: Since TNAA is having some technical difficulties as of October 8, 2016, I’ll repost the text of the poem here. I’ll leave the link for when the site has been restored Baptism

Baptism

The dove surveyed the vast expanse of sea,
Yet found no branch on which to rest her feet.
The world lay dead, covered in water thoroughly,
Until God’s solemn judgment was complete.
Then she, by bringing back one olive leaf,
Preached grace and mercy as the floods withdrew.
At God’s word, Noah stepped out in belief;
The task of earth-replenishing began anew.
Then in due time the Dove engulfed a virgin maid
To plant in her the holy Olive Tree
For whom the faithful ones had daily prayed.
In whom God’s grace and truth the world would see.
At Pentecost the Dove released a deluge on the Church.
The glory of God now flows throughout the earth.

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

 

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.


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

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 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.

November 8, 2013

Winter’s End

Posted in Advent, Christmastide, Eastertide, Incarnation, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Water of Life at 6:45 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Cruel frost will coat the desiccated leaves,
And brutal winds will harry evergreens.
Ruthless snow will smother cropless fields
While creatures flee from winter’s bitter bite.
The lengthening nights will silence laughing birds,
As shortened days steal light and joy from men,
And gloom enshrouds the flowers on each grave.
But underneath bleak snow a seed abides
And naked trees dip fingers into earth
Made holy when Immanuel came down.
In Him is hope for life to shine anew
When resurrected by the Easter’s morning dew.
For though the sun will fade and fail to glow
The constant Son’s Light melts the winter snow.

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


This poem has the same theme as Dragon Death (previous post). As I become more dreadfully aware of the spiritual battles that surround us every day, I feel the need to acknowledge their reality, but not without asserting the greater reality: Our Lord has conquered sin and death, and in Him, we are more than conquerors. As the Advent and Christmas seasons approach, I have to remind myself that Christmas finds its full meaning in Easter, and Advent looks both backward and forward. I long for the day when the Son’s light will consume all of the winter-ills that plague us: sin, sickness, pain, loss, and death.

As for the technicalities of poetry, I purposely did not introduce rhyme until the final four lines, to signify that His name brings order out of chaos.

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!

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?


January 21, 2013

Peace Offering

Posted in Bridegroom, Epiphany, Marriage, Sanctification, Thankfulness, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life at 12:12 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Long days ago when sacrifice made conflict cease,
The people brought a perfect offering to kill
And then consumed the sacred flesh and grain in peace.
Communing with both God and man, they ate their fill.

God to His holy people grace and mercy showed.
His goodness showered bounty unconfined
Where in the temple blood and water freely flowed
To purify them soul and body, heart and mind.

Long days ago stone water jars in Cana stood
In silent witness that the people must be purified.
The guests regaled themselves with wine and food,
Quite unaware the groom would soon be mortified.

The news was grim: the wedding wine was failing fast,
And powerless, he sought in vain to find a remedy.
The old wine spent, the celebration could not last.
How could his bride forgive such insufficiency?

But then the Great I AM said “Let there be” again:
From stony jars, now purified themselves, flowed better wine.
The feast thus rescued, grateful bride and groom attain
Your better feast in latter days on which to dine.

For from the site of Your sufficient sacrifice
Water and wine now flow to cleanse our hearts of stone.
Our peace is made in You, whose death has paid the price.
The Better Groom directs His feast from Heaven’s throne.

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


The Gospel for The Third Sunday after Epiphany (or the Second after, depending on the lectionary that your parish follows) is the beautiful story from John 2 about the wedding in Cana. So much, so very much, is demonstrated in this miracle, but this time the concept that captivated me was that of better wine. I think we miss the point if we just see the surface truth that this wine was tastier than what had been served during the earlier part of the feast. It seems also to be a narrative demonstration of the concepts found in Hebrews 1, where we read that our Lord was better than the prophets and better than the angels. Purifying water flows in baptism, to replace the blood of circumcision, and the Eucharist of bread and wine supersede the Passover Lamb.

I also took some liberties by parallelling the wedding feast with the feast that would follow the Peace Offering. They are not the same thing, I know, but I think in both we see a beautiful picture of the Eucharist, where our peace with God and man is celebrated. Technically, the purpose of the Peace Offering was to invoke God’s blessing, but that could not happen unless Atonement had been made so that conflict would cease. In Christ, the Perfect Lamb, all the sacrifices are fulfilled and all their purposes achieved.


Started on The Second Sunday after The Epiphany, 2013, and completed the next day, 21 January 2013.

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.


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