March 19, 2016

Once for All: A Good Friday Poem

Posted in Atonement, Good Friday, Lamb of God, Liturgical Calendar, Redeemer, Resurrection at 4:25 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

One wretched curse embraced by Him, the spotless Lamb,
One bloody death He faced, the Eternal, Great I AM.
This one death for all time perfected guilty men;
Remitted every crime and purged the stain of sin.
By this one offering life freely was bestowed
On us in darkness dying, who bore sin’s heavy load.
Now perfect, we still grow in grace that sanctifies.
Our burdens gone, we trust that with Him we will rise.
Shadows dispelled, He reigns, seated at God’s right hand.
And loosed from sin’s dread chains, before Him now we stand.
Invited to draw near, we join the covenant feast
And serve Him without fear, our ever-blessed High Priest.

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


Inspired by Hebrews 10Ephesians 2:13Matthew 11:28-30, and Luke 1:70-74


The epistle reading at evensong this Wednesday was from Hebrews 10. I have read and heard this passage many times, but it seemed that I was hearing it with new ears. The sorrow that I felt upon being reminded that the old covenant required daily sacrifices for sin, yet never completely dispatched its effects, was overcome by the powerful statement that on the cross Jesus served as both the sacrifice and the High Priest, and as the perfect Son of God who was also fully man, He broke the chains that had held mankind since the time of Adam. His sacrifice being sufficient, He sat down, as none of the old covenant priests had ever been able to do.

The verse that really captivated me was this:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)

It was a much needed reminder that although I am saved, I am being saved and will be saved. Counted as a member of God’s family, I still fall short from time to time, but by His grace, He is sanctifying me. I have been through a difficult three months or so with health issues, and so I don’t need to be reminded that the flesh is weak. I do, however, always appreciate a reminder that His grace is sufficient.

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

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.

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.

April 13, 2014

Fourth Day

Posted in Atonement, Creation, Creator, Eastertide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Lent, Original Sin, Palm Sunday, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, The Church at 8:41 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Sprawling sycamores and emerald fields,
With apple trees and every plant that yields
Rich food for man to gratefully receive,
Recoiled in horror as our mother Eve
Reached up and grabbed the fruit of doom.
With one swift bite great sorrow she consumed.
Though still the source of myrrh and frankincense
And spikenard for Christ’s feet, the plants were hence
Cursed, cursed for Adam’s sake by their own kind:
Food-yielding plants were choked by thorns that bind.
But at the appointed time Creation’s Lord
Entered Jerusalem, greatly adored.
Tall, graceful palms were hewn to smooth His way
And shouts of “Save now!” echoed for a day.
But all too soon the shouts were “Crucify!”
So on that woeful tree they lifted high
The Carpenter who formed the universe.
The King was crowned with thorns to heal the curse.
Third-day creation, plants that ne’er drew breath
Were made complicit in His gory death.
The third day Mary brought sweet oil and spice
To honor Him who paid sin’s awful price.
Her weeping ended when the Gardener she found;
Her sad laments in morning’s joy were drowned.
The Vine whose third-day triumph ransoms all
Bears fourth-day branches rescued from the Fall.

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

14 April: I’m returning to annotate some of the scripture references. Sycamore trees are mentioned several times in the Scriptures, but most people remember them in connection with Zacchaeus, who climbed into a tree because he was having trouble seeing Jesus because of the crowd. The fields suggest the harvest that Jesus mentioned when He saw the multitudes and had compassion on them. Apple trees are mentioned in Song of Solomon (in reference to The Beloved), but also in Joel 1, withered apple trees (and other plants) demonstrate the effect of sin, and this idea is reinforced as the topic turns to creation and the fall.

But in the vein of Genesis 3:15, we are not left in despair because the next plant products that are mentioned are two of the gifts brought to our Lord at His birth. The poem then echoes the spiritual battle that has plagued the world since the Fall, finding its climax in the Cross.

That battle is demonstrated in the outcries from the final two crowds that swarmed around our Lord. The Palm Sunday crowd, by yelling “Hosanna!” (which means “Save now!”), was actually yelling “Crucify Him!” and didn’t even realize it. We could not be saved without His death on the cross. Was that crowd one-for-one the same as the crowd at the cross? No point in answering that question because it is not the point. What is true is that both crowds were representative of mankind. I was not there, but my sins nailed Jesus to the cross. What is also true is that there were faithful followers of Christ who stood at the foot of the cross and neither deserted Him nor called for His death. But nevertheless, He died for them.

The final references I want to highlight are Mary’s mistaking Jesus for a gardener (an event I’ve written about before), which calls the Garden of Eden into remembrance, and the reference to John 15, in which our Lord declares Himself to be the True Vine and His people to be the branches. Between those two images is a reference to Psalm 30:5, which is one way to summarize the events that occurred from Good Friday to Easter Sunday:

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Thanks be to God that the morning is coming.

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.

March 2, 2013

Firstfruits

Posted in Atonement, Good Friday, Holy Week, Hope, Incarnation, Liturgical Calendar, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist at 11:22 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our mother, Eve, stood gazing at the tree,
Then reached to pluck the firstfruits that hung there.
Deceived by him who hated liberty
And sought to separate her from God’s care.

Her via dolorosa into hiding led,
But Mercy bridged the chasm sin had cleft
And paved the way to resurrect the dead,
Returning hope to those who were bereft.

Through years of pain and hope the promise grew
Of One who could roll back the blight of sin.
Then at the darkest hour the Light shone through
To scatter night, restoring life again.

This Light, the Firstfruits of our righteousness,
Hung in disgrace upon a barren tree.
Suspended, bridging earth with heaven’s best,
While His dear mother stood in woe to see.

But in the moment that He bowed His head,
He lifted us to heaven’s lofty height.
The Fruit of Calvary’s tree, the wine and bread,
Is the sacrament of life that ends our plight.

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

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.

December 29, 2012

A Question Answered

Posted in Atonement, Christmastide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Hope, Incarnation, Original Sin, Redeemer at 10:56 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He had given all they ever needed:
Sumptuous food and shelter, life and breath.
But His solemn warning went unheeded:
They disobeyed His word, begetting Death.
Here where their Father’s blessings freely flowed,
They had squandered life and sought a hiding place.
But in the Garden, Love’s voice echoed:
“Where are you?” Then Adam understood disgrace.
Looking past their vain equivocation
God saw souls in need of mercy mild.
He took fig leaves to clothe them with compassion,
And promised to provide a Saving Child.
So from the Cross we hear the cry resound:
“It is finished!” Thus the lost are found!

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


During Christmastide the emphasis is rightly on Bethlehem, but we should never forget that Golgotha looms in the distance, casting a cross-shaped shadow over the manger.


I started this poem on 25 March 2012, when I formed the question and answer concept (“Where are You?” combined with “It is finished!”) and completed it this morning (29 December 2012).

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