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

January 4, 2015

The Presentation of Christ

Posted in Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Original Sin, Presentation of Christ, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , , , at 8:40 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Their footsteps echoed in the temple court,
He whose faithful heart with hope was swelled
And she whose greatest hopes had been cut short.
Her husband gone, she in the temple dwelled
To serve the Lord of Hosts both night and day.
An Eve and Adam waiting to be freed
From power of sin that led mankind astray,
In prayer they waited for the promised Seed.

When Simeon’s gaze fell on Messiah’s face,
He blessed the Lord to see salvation’s day
And hailed the coming of the gift of grace,
This Son whose life and work shall grief allay.
Here now Christ would receive the sacrament,
Thus sanctifying earth to heaven afresh.
God’s mysteries dwell in corporal element,
Immortal Son abides in human flesh.

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


The accounts of Mary and Joseph obeying the law, first by having Jesus circumcised and then by bringing Him to the temple to be presented, are too significant not to consider as important to our redemption; otherwise, why would they have been recorded? For one thing, these events show that His life reflected perfect obedience to the Law.

But there is another important point in both of these events, and that is their sacramental nature. Both in circumcision and the presentation of the firstborn (which was also a pronouncement of the purification of the mother), earthly elements (which God pronounced good at their creation) are being set apart, sanctified, made holy for the service of Heaven.

It is in that context that we see the lives of Simeon and Anna, devoted as they were to the practice of their faith (not just the mental assent to abstract truth). They were living a sacramental life and thus were privileged to be witnesses to the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah who would save His people from their sin.

The sacraments are by very nature anti-Gnostic, for instead of separating the material from the spiritual, they join earth to heaven. The finest statement against the Gnostic heresy is found in John 1:14–”And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Let us never forget that the physical, material world belongs to its Creator and should always be offered back to His service. Anything else is ingratitude of the basest sort.

November 30, 2014

The Curse Undone

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Bread of Life, Grace, Original Sin, Redeemer, Serpent, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , at 10:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Hiding their faces from the evening sun,
They stood ashamed among the shuddering trees
And heard the bidding voice of God, the One
Whose judgment brought the sinners to their knees.

“You will give life, but mingled with deep woe,”
He said to Eve, who sold her children into war
With him who on his belly now must go,
His fangs poised for destruction near and far.

To Adam, careless watchman, God then said,
“And you will earn your food by toil and sweat,
The dirt shall thwart your quest for daily bread,
While children doomed for death you shall beget.”

But of the woman’s pain a Seed would come
Just at the moment of earth’s darkest night.
This promised Seed to sin could not succumb,
The Second Adam, who all wrongs would right.

For He would freely give Himself for food,
The Bread of Life to take the curse away.
His agony the grieving world renewed
As death gave way to life at break of day.

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


This is the companion piece to The Advent of Grace.

The idea that I could not let go in writing that piece was that the remedy for the curse is not only as real as the physical effects of sin have been upon mankind, but also is like in kind to the Fall and its results. Stolen food was the undoing of man; Food given freely now gives us life and nourishment. The Eucharist is the meal that we may have without money or price (Isaiah 55:1). Pain, toil, and death were sin’s reward; the Son of God bore all of these on our behalf, then threw them back into the face of the wily serpent as He crushed its wicked head.

I suddenly realized that reading most of my poems is like attending an abbreviated version of Lessons and Carols or The Great Vigil. This one starts with the Fall of man and ends with the Resurrection of the Man, Christ Jesus, which was the undoing of the Fall. Even the first and last lines are bookends of sorts, the first ending at evening and the last at dawn. Though it may not seem like it when you read the newspaper or watch the news, the victory has already been secured. Day has broken; let us walk in the light. Food has been provided; let us meet Him at His table.

May 24, 2014

True Vine

Posted in Cain, Darkness, Liturgical Calendar, Original Sin, Rogation, Suffering Servant, The Church, Thorns/Thistles/Tares tagged , , , , at 11:10 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In the beginning every plant was good,
Bursting with food, and weeds remained at bay.
But Adam disobeyed, so on that day
Before the Lord in ruined shame he stood.
Rebellion produced loss and scarcity.
Abundant now are thistles, thorns, and pain:
Darkness and death began their cruel reign,
And sons would die through much adversity.
Now parched and tired, we fight the thorns, our foe,
And they retreat, but only to regroup.
Their sly advance outstrips desired fruit,
For true branches require time to grow.
To garden ably, we must persevere
In cultivating all that will endure.
Though tares abound, the harvest is secure.
The Vine’s good fruit will certainly appear.

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


Little explanation is required for the theology, but I wanted to make a note about word choice. The words “produced” and “abundant” were chosen to emphasize that Adam’s sin had an opposite harvest from that of God’s good creation. Also, though it is true that both sons and daughters are now subject to death, the primary reason for the phrase “sons would die” is to juxtapose the death of righteous Abel against that of Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Tomorrow is Rogation Sunday 2014, and this is certainly a Rogation theme, but the nearer occasion for this poem was that I did yard work today, and I realized that in a manner of speaking, the weeds were laughing at me. I know quite well that they will be back next week. But a day is coming when all the thorns and thistles of this life will be gone, swept away by the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

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.

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).

October 20, 2011

The Locust Eaters

Posted in Atonement, Golden Calf, Original Sin, Redeemer, The Eucharist at 5:20 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The deadly fruit hung glistening on the tree,
So tempting that our mother reached aloft
To pluck and eat the curse of earth and sea.

The curse of locusts smothered Pharaoh’s land
Devouring all of Egypt’s nourishing grain.
But those who ate the lamb stayed death’s dark hand.

While Moses talked with God, the children played.
And so, displeased with their ingratitude,
God made them eat the golden calf they made.

Then, dressed in death of camels and of kine,
The Baptist came announcing kingdom come,
And on the curséd locust he did dine.

He preached repentance and the healing dew
Of sins forgiven by the Lamb of God,
The curse washed clean, and earth and sea made new.

Twice cursed the Lamb who hung upon a tree
To bear the shame of sin that’s not His own,
To make twice blessed those whom His death sets free.

Their food the Body and the Blood divine.
They take and eat the heaven-sent meal:
Not curséd locusts, but His bread and wine.

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


Until I began posting these poems and writing about them I hadn’t realized how many panoramas I had written and how much I had repeated certain Scriptural themes. I do realize that events other than the Fall, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection have occurred. But some of the books of the Bible lend themselves better to poetry than others (Numbers, for example, is not my favorite poetry fodder).

Consuming the Fruit: The first verse is another reference to the Fall as recorded in Genesis 3. The word aloft was carefully chosen. As I mused on the fact that Eve would probably have had to reach up into the tree to pluck the fruit, I realized that her physical act mirrored the spriritual act of reaching higher than she should, as she longed to be as God rather than merely made in the image of God. I always find it sobering to remember that our first parents’ sin affected all the earth.

Consuming the Lamb: The second verse fast forwards to Exodus 10, the plague of locusts here serving as a synecdoche for all the plagues, none of which were visited upon those who were under the protection of the Lamb. The locusts as a curse ate up all the crops in Egypt, yet eating the Passover lamb was the antidote. So a pattern of eating and curses begins to emerge.

Consuming the Golden Calf: In one of the most inscrutable passages ever, Moses gets really angry with the children of Israel for not keeping faith while he went up on the mountain to get the law, so he ground up the golden calf, sprinkled it over water, and made them drink it. There is also the curious cereemony described in Numbers 5 by which an accused adultress could prove her guilt or innocence by drinking water sprinkled with dust from the floor of the tabernacle. If guilty, she knew she was drinking her own judgment.

Consuming Locusts: In Matthew 3, we read that John Baptist breaks onto the solemn Jerusalem landscape eating locusts and wild honey. Of course, this statement raises eyebrows and sends scholars scurrying to find out whether locusts were on the “clean food” list for the Israelites. Some have conjectured that he was actually eating locust bean, or carob. But one thing we know: the Scriptures do not give any unimportant details, so the symbolism of eating (or triumphing over) the evil devourer that had been a sign of the curse against Egypt, and eating this food along with the honey that represents the gifts of the Promised Land, makes a powerful connection. John Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet and herald of the Kingdom, straddled that period of time between Malachi (which tells of his coming as the messenger and ends with the word “curse”) and Matthew, when he declared Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Consuming the Lamb of God: The final image of the Eucharist pulls all the shadows together. The fruit that hung glistening from the tree in the first verse is connected irrevocably with the perfect Son of God who was crucified. He who knew no sin became accursed for our sakes and died on a tree. Again, that detail is no accident; hanging from a tree was a curse, according to the law (Deuteronomy 21:22; Galatians 3:13). But his resurrection unraveled the curse against those who would look to Him and live. Now, in both comparison and contrast to the manna He provided to sustain the children of Israel in the wilderness, He gives us His own body and blood as the heaven-sent Eucharistic feast to sustain our lives in His Kingdom.


This is one of the few poems that I haven’t adjusted since writing it. My notes show that I completed it on January 14, 2007 (a seminary year), and I didn’t change anything when posting it today. It still seemed to say exactly what it needed to say.

September 17, 2011

The Gardener’s Song

Posted in Eastertide, Obedience, Original Sin at 5:53 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Eve, in the perfect garden, craved to know
Some tender morsel that might make her god.
Yet, knowing, found the path of pain and woe.
Thus plunged in bitterness of night she trod.

Another to a garden brought sweet herbs
Gently to tend the lifeless Lamb of God
Who had from her removed all that disturbs,
Had borne for her the cruel, chastening rod.

Seeking and finding not, she wept aloud,
Though holy angels she did hear and see.
She turned from them in tearful cloud
And asked the Gardener where her Lord might be.

The Maker of all gardens then replied
With the same question that the angels posed:
“Woman, why weepest thou?” And so she sighed
And asked if He the Body had disposed.

One word—her name—came from the Lord;
Bright tears of joy eclipsed her night of loss,
For this blest morn had hope restored,
And empty tomb o’ershadowed rugged cross.

Her glad response, “Rabboni,” was replete
With Eve’s desire to know the ways of truth.
But Mary humbly learned at Jesus’ feet.
Eve’s crop was death, while Mary bore good fruit.

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


Another poetic comparison between an Old Testament woman and a New Testament woman, this poem looks at Eve and Mary Magdalene and compares two moments of grace in gardens. The first verse sets the stage in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), with the temptation of Eve, who got what she asked for (her eyes were opened to new knowledge- Genesis 3:5) and found out it was not what she wanted. All the knowledge in the world cannot make us wise, nor can it save us from our own dark desires. But thanks be to God that He provides Salvation.,

The second verse flashes forward to the scene at the Lord’s tomb, where the women had gathered with aromatic herbs to dress the body of our Lord. The reference to him as the Lamb of God mentioned shortly after the “sweet herbs” looks back at the Passover Lamb and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). (I have another poem that talks about Jesus’ death and resurrection banning forever the bitter herbs.) The next line talks about other bitternes he had banned from Mary’s life in the “evil spirits and infirmities” (Luke 8:2) that He had driven away.

The next verse begins in John 20:11 with Mary’s sorrow that her Lord was missing, and even though she now saw angels instead of demons (think of that!), she could not process the information that finding an empty tomb was a good thing, not a bad one. As she turned, away from the question, “Woman, why are you weeping?” she heard it again, this time from someone she assumed was the gardener. He was a sort of Gardener, actually.

But for me the heart of the poem was that when she realized it was our Lord, her sorrow instantly turned to joy, and she called him “Teacher.” Not Lord or Savior or King or Friend or Son of God or Son of Man or even His name, but Teacher.

So what?

Go back to the fact that she was twice in this passage called “woman.” And in her culture, learning was not women’s work (remember Mary and Martha). But Jesus was willing to teach women. He saw them as having not only the capacity to learn of Him but the responsibility to do so. This woman who had formerly been possessed by seven demons was now possessed by a deep hunger for knowledge, but not in the sinful way that Eve had done. Eve selfishly hungered for personal power so that she wouldn’t need God. Mary hungered for knowledge of Jesus Christ, to lose herself in Him so that she could be found by Him and in Him, to be hid with Christ in God.


On December 23, 2008, I completed the final paper required for the M.A.R. degree. I wrote the poem “The Gardener’s Song” as an expression of my gratitude for the CTH professors who faithfully taught me the Word of God.

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