May 22, 2012

Ascensiontide

Posted in Ascensiontide at 6:56 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In the days of the eleven,
Huddled hope looks toward tomorrow
From the waiting room of heaven
And the sting of new-felt sorrow.
Never getting back what was,
Not yet knowing what will be,
All their work was placed on pause
For a time of wait and see.
Barely able now to breathe,
Longing for the promised One.
Watching, praying fervently
For the Breath of Life to come. . .

Copyright © 2012, 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


I’ll fill in the discussion later, but the idea for this poem was born during the sermon I heard on the Sunday after Ascension.  The ending ellipse looks toward Pentecost.

May 14, 2016: I just read this poem again as part of my meditations for this evening of the last day of Ascensiontide, and I didn’t like one of the lines, so it has been updated. I am not sure why I thought they might be afraid they would miss the promise. But that has now been remedied.

December 29, 2011

He Is Not Here

Posted in Ascensiontide, Atonement, Christmastide, Eastertide, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , at 8:37 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Why stand you here to gaze and seek His face?
He’s gone from Bethlehem, the house of bread.
Now broken ‘round the world, the Bread brings grace
Surpassing cattle stall and manger bed.

He stands not in the temple to amaze,
Nor sits upon the hill to bless and teach.
But as the Word is preached and voices praise,
His Father’s business o’er the earth will reach.

Gethsemane does not confine His prayers,
Nor does the Court of Pilate bind His love.
From heaven He invokes aid for His heirs
And to His Bride He sends the Holy Dove.

The Cross from whence He cried the end of woe
Is empty now, but there He did atone.
The empty tomb dealt death its lethal blow.
His rising raises you to heights unknown.

Why stand you here to gaze, you earth-bound ones?
Earth cannot hold the Sovereign Lord.
But rather, over all His glory runs,
Till heaven sings with earth in one accord!

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


This morning I was overcome by a phrase: “The manger is as empty as the tomb.” The concept quickly grew in my head, and I began to recount all of the places on earth where the physical presence of Jesus isn’t anymore. But it is precisely because He won the victory and then returned to Heaven to prepare a place for us that we have hope beyond this world. He tells us in John 15 and 16 that His leaving is for our own good and that He will send the Holy Ghost to empower the Church to carry out His work throughout the earth. We are idolators at heart and would have latched onto His physical presence and completely forgotten our greater purpose.

As wonderful as Christmas is, and as important as it is for us to dwell at times on the various events of the life of Jesus, we must never forget that He transcends all of that, for if He doesn’t we are of all men most miserable! The poem title is a bit deceptive. To be sure, the physical Jesus is not here. But He is always with us, in the Spirit, in the Church, in the Word. And He has given us the awesome commission to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20). But He has also given us His promise that the Gospel will succeed: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21). “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).


Written 29 December 2011. The interesting thing about the poem is that I kept trying to work in the line that got it all started in my head, and I found that it just didn’t fit.

August 26, 2011

Ascension

Posted in Ascensiontide, Christmastide, Creation, Eastertide, Incarnation, Original Sin, Pentecost, Son of God at 9:12 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Once noble, earth’s dust heard the Lord’s command
To burst forth with abundant sustenance.
Thus grass and trees and all food-bearing plants
Were ready for the lively creature band.

Then, hallowed even more, the lowly dust
Was touched by God to make in His likeness
Mankind to take dominion and to bless
The earth, to be obedient and just.

Had Adam trusted Providence, then Eden’s sod
Would ever have produced enough for all.
Yet reaching up too high, he then did fall
And brought upon mankind the wrath of God.

The serpent, for his part, received the blight
Of eating dust and making violent war
With those in whom God’s image he did mar
By tempting them to turn from God’s pure light.

Then He who breathed His life into the earth
Condemned it to grow thistles with the wheat,
Compelled the man to labor in the heat,
And cursed the woman with great pain in birth.

Now dust we are and go to it again,
And dust and ashes mark our deep regret.
But the Covenant God would not forget dust yet,
For as the dust will number Abraham’s kin.

Awake, and sing, O you who dwell in dust,
For earth has given back the Holy Dead,
And through the One who took away our dread,
We rise again from deadly sin and lust.

For God’s own Son took dust to be His frame
And sanctified the earth by treading here.
He breathed again on those that He held dear
And cleansed them from their deepest dusty shame.

Now blessed are we who would have died alone.
All who receive the Word as fruitful soil
Are noble through the God Incarnate’s toil,
For in Him earth’s dust sits on heaven’s throne.

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


This poem has a sweeping Scriptural scope, beginning joyfully as it does in Genesis 1 with Creation and ending triumphantly with re-creation in the risen, ascended Lord Jesus on the throne of Heaven. Between those happy bookends, it deals with the dusty death proclaimed in the curses of Genesis 3 and announces the hope that is offered in Genesis 13 when the Covenant God promises Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the dust particles on earth. Interestingly enough, in Genesis 15, when God repeats His promise to give Abraham many descendents, He says they will be as numerous as the stars in the heaven. This theme of raising dust to heaven is completed in the sanctification of dust that was accomplished in the Incarnation. Our salvation is secured by the holy life, bloody death, glorious resurrection, and triumphant ascension of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

The Fall of man is a fact of life (actually a fact of death, I suppose), yet an even greater fact of life is that our hope is found in the ascension made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. Through Him, we die to sin and rise to newness of life. We ascend every time we are raised to commune with Him, and we will eventually be raised to see Him face to face in our glorified bodies. And with St. John, we hear Him say, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:17b-18)


I suppose if I had to choose a favorite of my poems, it would have to be “Ascension.” The last line is purposely difficult, with lots of consonants banging against each other to slow down the rhythm and make the reader think about the concept of earth’s dust (almost a tongue twister!) dwelling not just in the heavenly places, which would be amazing enough, but on heaven’s very throne. This poem began with my reflection on an Ascension day sermon preached by Father Stuart Smith in 2007. He is now a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth, and I am quite certain he is still preaching the Truth.

On a personal note, while I was finishing this poem on September 7, 2007, I was at the bedside of my son James who was enduring a two-day medical procedure in a futile attempt to discover the cause of his seizures. Once I finally had all the words the way I wanted them, I handed James the laptop so that he could read it, and he broke out into that handsome smile that would light up a room and put everyone at ease. Less than five months later he died from complications of a seizure. In my grief, I have found it a great blessing to know that God is not limited by the fragility of these earthen vessels; He chose to work through the Son of Man’s earthen vessel to accomplish our redemption. That is a great comfort to me today of all days. James would have been 33 today.

To God be the glory.

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