February 10, 2016

Fasting to Feast

Posted in Eden, Lent, Original Sin, Shepherd, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist at 3:18 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Surrounded by a surfeit of life-giving food
That would sustain them while replenishing the earth,
Our parents spurned His gifts in gross ingratitude
And ate the fruit that plunged them into pain and dearth.
That stolen meal tastes bitter to this very day;
It set our teeth on edge and left us desolate.
Now in the wilderness of Lent we fast and pray,
Finding our starving souls on every side beset
By dainties that can never meet our heartfelt need
To eat the food of Eden at His table spread
In pastures green where we may safely feed
While resting on the Shepherd who removes all dread.
He suffered Lenten loss so that we may return
To the great feast for which our spirits yearn.

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


Genesis 3

Psalm 23

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

February 15, 2015

A Sonnet for the Lenten Journey

Posted in Grace, Hope, Lent, Sanctification tagged , at 4:47 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Oppressed by heat, I slow my pace
And search the skyline for a friendly tree.
But in this desolate and lifeless place
Is naught but sand as far as eye can see.
After a while, my thoughts melt into pain
Of hunger unfulfilled and burning thirst.
Then feeble knees cannot my weight sustain;
I stumble, fall, and feel myself accursed.
But pressed against my face are grains of sand
Real as the promise made to Abraham.
With hope and strength renewed, I rise and stand
In courage flowing from the Great I AM.
This desert would my heart and soul consume
But for the promise that a Rose would bloom.

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


The companion passages for this piece are Genesis 22, Isaiah 35, and Matthew 4. There are days when I seem only to see the wilderness, but we walk by faith and not by sight. Because of God’s promise, I know that I am not alone, and I know that the desert will blossom as a rose because Living Water flows from the side of the Lamb who was slain.

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.

April 2, 2014

To See the Kingdom

Posted in Bread of Life, Kingdom, Laetare, Lent, Son of God, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Eucharist at 11:15 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

They had watched the water transformed into wine,
And later saw Christ heal Bethesda’s thrall.
But the twelve could see no remedy at all
When the hungry multitude approached to dine.

They had no money, nor could food be bought
For those who came for signs and benisons.
Just five small loaves from one of Judah’s sons,
A meager gift, but he gave all he brought.

How could this paltry portion feed the scores
Who hungered for the very Bread of Life,
Who lived their days in bitter toil and strife,
Who looked for manna from the heavenly stores?

Christ made the men sit down and take their rest
In verdant pastures while He blessed the food.
They ate until their hunger was subdued.
The prodigals received the Father’s best.

Seated on earth cursed for their crime,
These sons of Adam sweated not a drop
Yet ate like princes on the mountaintop
And glimpsed the Kingdom coming in their time.

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


The Gospel lesson for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (sometimes called Refreshment Sunday) is one I have written about before, but this year as I listened to it I was struck by additional connections to other scriptures, in part thanks to an excellent sermon by our priest. This poem carries the same connection between John 6, Genesis 3, and Isaiah 55 that I have used in the past. Those concepts are all so interconnected that to leave any out would do the Gospel a disservice. This year, our priest brought in the connection between the Gospel and Psalm 23, so that has found an emphasis in verse 4. The other addition is the emphasis not only on “free bread” which rolls back the curse of sweaty work, but on the fact that Jesus has them sit down on the very earth that was cursed because of them. Now, however, the bread, the people, and the earth are all blessed by the presence of the Bread of Life.

The thread that runs throughout the poem is that of seeing. I once heard a speaker say that when Jesus said those who are not born again cannot see the kingdom of God, He didn’t just mean that they would be denied entrance into heaven. He meant that they also do not recognize the kingdom here, in the people of God, the Church.

One final word about scripture references in the poem. I have always been fascinated by Exodus 24, a passage in which God calls Moses and 73 of the elders to “come up” and worship Him. Verses 10 and 11 in particular have a striking connection with John 6:

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

Thanks be to Him who calls us up to worship, to rest from our labors, to dine with Him in the everlasting Eucharist, to see His Kingdom in all of its life-giving glory!

March 13, 2014

Foolishness

Posted in Christmastide, Epiphany, Herod, Incarnation, Lent, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant at 12:04 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The Magi trudged long miles from East to West,
Chasing a star and notions of a king.
Convinced a palace was the object of their quest,
They proudly bore a princely offering.

The dreaded tyrant roused his scribes and seers
To learn the prophecy of his own doom.
The wise men’s message fed his deepest fears.
So he resolved the true King to entomb.

Dismissed to Bethlehem, the wise men trekked
With hope revived; but found no palace there.
The star had led where they did not expect:
The Child-King in a lowly mother’s care.

But through the eyes of faith the wise men saw
That Mary held the King of heaven and earth,
That David’s Son deserved their deepest awe
For He left heaven to live in deepest dearth.

Such foolishness to yield allegiance to a Lord
Who for a Lenten time gave up His throne!
Who wields His power not by brutal sword
But by the heart of mercy He has shown.

Yet we would foolish be, for His dear sake
Whose precious blood can cleanse our every stain.
And giving up our selves, His cross to take,
As living sacrifices we will rise again.

Copyright © 2014, 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


It may seem odd to write about an Epiphany text during Lent, but Matthew 2 has been on my heart this week.  I’m not sure why, but I began to consider how much faith it took for the Magi first to leave their own country to seek the “King of the Jews” (Why, we might ask?), but then also to leave Herod’s splendid palace to search for a King in Bethlehem of all places. Furthermore, it took great faith upon finding Him in a cottage for them to fall down and worship Him. There was a Lenten quality about their giving up their ideas of grandeur and simply following the star that I found intriguing.

The reference of their traveling East to West has a two-fold meaning here. First, it must put the reader in mind of Psalm 103:12, where we are assured that God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. (Think about it: If you go far enough north, you will eventually go south again. But that can never happen if you go from east to west, or vice versa.) Second, the direction they traveled is the opposite of the direction that the earth turns on its axis. It adds to the idea of “foolishness” or being backward from the rest of the world.

Another concept with an intended double meaning is that of calling Herod “fearful.” It can either mean “being very afraid” or “causing fear in others.” Which of those applies to Herod? Both, as with any who usurp authority.

There are also some intentional devices used in the second verse. In speaking of the tyrant Herod, the last two lines switch to present tense from past tense. This, along with the fact that Herod’s name is never used, is meant to suggest that he is representative of the spiritual warfare that has been waging since the Fall. He is of that seed described in Genesis 3:15 which will war against the Lord and His people until He finally puts all opposition in the past tense.

The Hebrews 12:1 reference on which the poem ends is another of those “foolishness” passages along the lines of losing one’s life to find it. These are the things that don’t make sense to the world. St. Paul said they wouldn’t (I Corinthians 1:18). To those who are perishing, it doesn’t make sense to embark on a Lenten journey, to give up selfish desires, to throw all our lot in with a Lord who lived in poverty and died a humiliating death. But this is the foolishness that leads to life. It is the foolishness of truly wise men.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? (II Corinthians 2:14-16)

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.

April 4, 2013

Sonnet of the Forty Days

Posted in Eastertide, Lent, Moses, Resurrection, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, Tempter tagged , , at 11:04 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

For every day Your judgment’s raindrops fiercely poured
To cleanse the earth from evil spread by wicked man;
For each day Moses in the cloud lived on Your word;
For every day the spies searched out Your Promised Land,
Goliath petrified the army led by Saul,
Elijah journeyed on the strength of angel’s bread,
And Jonah counted time before Your wrath would fall;
For every day Ezekiel marked the coming dread;
You spent a day of testing in the wilderness,
Midst clever invitations to be Satan’s thrall.
And though tormented, You would never acquiesce.
Then when it seemed that he had conquered all,
You left an empty tomb that echoes endless praise
And roamed the earth triumphantly for forty days.

Copyright © 2013, 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The period of forty days is charged with theological meaning, specifically with the concepts of judgment and redemption. The forty days of temptation that directly followed Christ’s baptism can also be considered in light of the forty years spent by the Israelites, as discussed below. All of the Old Testament events referenced in the poem are listed below with the their scriptural references. These offer plenty of food for further thought and study.

  • Exodus 24:18; 34:28. Moses on the mountain, obtaining the Law of God. As with Jesus’ time in the wilderness, this was a period of fasting from food but not from the Word of God.
  • Numbers 13 and 14. The account of the spies scouting out the land of Canaan: This was the Israelites’ opportunity to trust God, despite the apparent dangers of the land, and they failed the test. They were given one year of wandering in the wilderness for every day the spies spent in the land, ten of them not believing in God’s power. That is why Jesus’ period of temptation could be forty days and not forty years. He would be faithful.
  • I Samuel 17. For forty days Goliath strutted out in his armor and his gargantuan height to terrify God’s army. They were tested, and this time there was redemption, in the form of David’s slingshot. The stones that struck Goliath were made of the same stuff as the stone that was rolled away from the empty tomb.
  • I Kings 19:7-9. After his spiritual battle with the prophets of Baal, Elijah was spiritually exhausted, one might say he was in spiritual shock. God took pity on him and sent an angel to minister to him, feeding him bread and water. The strength he obtained from this meal sustained him for a forty-day journey to Horeb for his encounter with God’s still, small voice.
  • Jonah 3:3-5. Once Jonah was finally obedient to God’s command, he went to Nineveh and announced that they had a period of forty days before judgment would fall. They repented, of course, but their probation period was in line with the judgment/redemption theme.
  • Ezekiel 4:5-7. Ezekiel was given several dramatic acts to perform as demonstrations of the prophecies with which God had entrusted him. One of those was to lie on his right side for forty days, as a prophecy of the impending siege of Jerusalem.

As we reflect on the Lord’s triumph during this Eastertide, we should remember that both of the forty-day periods which serve as bookends of His ministry are essential to the Gospel. His triumph over temptation in the wilderness is as important as His victory over the grave, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by His continual appearances to those who knew and loved Him.


The ideas for this poem have been clattering around in my head for several days, but only now have I had the opportunity (and the discipline!) to pull it together. I think this may end up being a more fragmented and obtuse piece than I have written in a while, but that may be appropriate. I can just imagine that the forty-day period after the resurrection felt fragmented and disjointed and exciting all at the same time. It was also a time in which a fuller understanding of all the Old Testament prophecies came pouring over the disciples.

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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