December 10, 2016

Even So

Posted in Advent, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Light of the World, Redeemer, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant tagged at 9:20 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our path meanders through a barren land
Where lowering clouds press in on every side,
With gales so swift that we can hardly stand,
Rain so pervasive that we cannot hide.
Then storms give way to scorching desert heat.
Now parched, we long for mists to calm our thirst
And seek a haven for our weary feet.
Yet though we journey through a land accursed
Despair is not our answer to this plight
For sure and certain hope steadies our gait.
Relentless gloom can never quench the Light.
Unyielding joy belies our sad estate
Because the Son of God who shared our pain
Will come again to heal our every bane.

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


For Advent

November 26, 2016

Dirge at Dawn

Posted in death, Eastertide, Grief, Hope, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering at 6:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

I must sit beside the road a while and rest
For I am wearied by this constant fray.
Our warriors are on all sides sorely pressed,
And darkness threatens to devour the day.
Today’s news from the front has torn my heart:
Our leader has succumbed to wounds sustained
By every soldier when the Opposer’s art
Brought down the curse of death and God ordained
We would in enmity live out our days.
Yet from a distant shore a shout resounds
As our courageous leader joins the praise
Echoing in a mighty chorus that now drowns
The noise of battle and the cries of woe.
So I will rise betimes and fight anew
Since Christ has dealt to death a deadly blow
And will restore all things when time is due.

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


This poem is fondly dedicated to the memory of The Most Reverend Royal U. Grote, Jr., a faithful shepherd of the flock who went home from the war on Thanksgiving Day. I have no doubt he heard the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

August 3, 2015

Twelve Stones

Posted in Cleansing Fire, Elijah, Holy Spirit, Hope, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , , at 6:57 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In evil times a famine seared the land,
The feeble clouds hung mocking in the sky
And arid fields produced no wholesome food.
But worse, the Word of God was banned,
The king and queen His power did defy;
They sought the death of righteousness and good.

But by a brook the ravens fed God’s man.
And when the brook ran dry Elijah found
A faithful widow who would share her bread.
Then in God’s time Elijah took his stand
On Carmel where arose a dreadful sound
Of Baal’s dupes who cut themselves and bled.

The frantic prophets flailed about and cried
For their deaf god to hear and win the day.
But no voice answered them, no fire came.
Elijah mocked them as they prophesied
Till evening when he took twelve stones away,
Prepared the altar, and called down God’s flame.

We join our voices with the faithful there
Proclaiming that the Lord is truly God
And train our ears to hear the blessing of the rain.
We fear not flood nor famine for we share
The vision of the altar and are awed
At Him whose cleansing Fire shall ever reign.

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


I was in a hurry when I made the original post, so I’m adding the scriptural context. Besides I Kings 17-18, which covers the main account of Elijah, I would refer you to the following additional references for the title:

Exodus 28:21; 39:14

Joshua 4


We live in evil times, much like those of Elijah. God’s Word is mocked, and many lose hope. But the account of the events that culminated in the showdown on Mount Carmel should bring us infinite hope in the Spirit of God, who sustains His people and restrains the wicked.

December 11, 2014

David’s Other Sons

Posted in Advent, Bread of Life, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Redeemer, Shepherd, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, The Eucharist tagged , , , , at 7:10 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Out in the fields where David penned the psalms
And tended wounded sheep with soothing balms
The shepherds kept their watch with diligence,
Straining their ears for sounds of violence:
For lions who would kill the precious lambs
Or thieves who’d take the finest of the rams.
Then as they watched, the news from heaven fell
Like snow in winter; then the sky did swell
With piercing light from realms of glory bright
And news of One who would dispel their night.
Then heaven rained down songs of praise and peace,
The promised advent of the earth’s release.
In Bethlehem, the lowly house of bread,
Lay the Messiah in a manger bed.
Then going forth with joy, they obeyed
The angel’s word and were no more afraid.
They left the ninety-nine to find the Lamb,
Who is the Son of God and Great I AM.
These words the angel gave they told abroad
To bring all nations to the house of God.

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


This piece is a deliberate intertwining of Luke 2 and Isaiah 55, with a few other references along the way. As for Isaiah 55, it is one of my all-time favorite passages. Who could resist reading about a time when the mountains and hills will break forth in song?

If you’re wondering what the title means, it’s multifaceted. (This is poetry, after all). Throughout the gospels, our Lord is known as the Son of David, as He is a physical descendant of David. Some of the other sons of David are the shepherds, who are residents of the city of David and who spent their time protecting sheep, as did David in his early years. But even we who are not physical children of David have been made fellow heirs to the covenant that God made with David (Isaiah 55:3). Though the wise men and not the shepherds are usually associated with the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s covenant, the account of the shepherds’ faithfulness and obedience has been recorded for all nations to read.

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.

November 23, 2014

The Advent of Grace

Posted in Advent, Redeemer, Serpent, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, Thorns/Thistles/Tares tagged , , , at 8:57 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The sibilant voice poured pride into her soul
While her protector, silent, shirked his role.
The perfect garden at her feet, Eve reached
To pluck forbidden fruit, and thus she breached
The kind decree that promised life and breath,
And opened up her home to pain and death.
For when she said, “Take, eat,” and Adam took,
The curse unfurled, and seas and mountains shook.
Their stolen meal brought famine yet unknown,
Dearth earned for taking what is God’s alone.
The outlaws hid, believing all was lost,
Their eyes now open to the dreadful cost
Of plundering God’s throne, for with that hand
They had instead laid waste to Earth’s fair land.
Still worse, they had estranged themselves from Love,
But God took pity on them from above.
At His appointed time, His Word rang out
To say, “Where are you?” and to bring about
Undoing of the curse that fell upon their head,
Of pain in birth and sweat poured out for bread.
The garden lay in ruins many a year,
Till Advent bells rang out unbridled cheer.
For the power and the glory man had sought
Rest in the Man whose blood their lives has bought.
He freely left His throne to seek and save
The lost; God’s Son was traded for the knave.

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


I often provide detailed explanations of my poems, but this time, I would suggest that a reader who wants to know more should pay very close attention to the word choices. In some cases, you should be reminded of other scriptures, in other cases to the Eucharistic liturgy, and in still others, to the liturgical calendar. I’ve purposely conflated time in a couple of places and added an anachronism at the end in the reference to Advent, but I will blame it on poetic licence. If you don’t get anything else from the poem, remember that the Father who would not forsake the criminals in the Garden, but sought them out, sent His Son to die for them, and in so doing forsook His only Son for a brief period on the cross.

Adam and Eve never had to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The first two lines refer to the fact that many scholars believe Adam was present during the conversation between Eve and the serpent. I have also attempted to pull together two concepts that have been used in contrast to each other through the years. At the risk of oversimplifying the argument, the Western Church looks at sin as a judicial matter. The  law has been broken, and a penalty is to be paid. The Eastern Church looks at sin as a breach in the relationship between God the Father and the children He created. I do not see any conflict between these ideas; there are scriptures that support each view. They are, in fact, both true. But Grace consumes it all. The penalty is paid and the relationship is restored. Thanks be to God.


I’ve been trying to finish this poem for several weeks now, and the ideas would not fall together until today. It always amazes me to see how the ideas unfold as I meditate on the concepts from Scripture. I actually started with a slightly different idea, so there is a poem yet to be written….

June 14, 2014

Work of Grace

Posted in Cleansing Fire, Grace, Hope, Moses, Pentecost, Spiritual Warfare, The Church tagged , at 5:52 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Surrounded by the swirling sea, the Upper Room
Held those who rested, waiting for the promised Gift.
Their enemy lurked near to orchestrate their doom,
To shake their confidence and set their hearts adrift.
But they were not in danger from his frail design.
This room, the ark of safety for the Lord’s elect,
Was hallowed ground where Love and Law would intertwine.
The Captain of salvation would their souls perfect
By unconsuming Flame in this high, holy place.
Isaiah’s coal fell on the branches of the Vine,
And Breath of Life ignited cleansing fire of grace,
The sea around them parted, as they saw the sign
Of Word made comprehensible to every ear
And Heaven’s Kingdom bursting into now and here.

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


The primary inspiration for this poem is the account of Pentecost in Acts 1 and 2, and the concept began with meditation on how Pentecost relates to other Scriptural events. I first had the notion of comparing the events of the Upper Room with the escape of the children of Israel through the parted waters of the sea. In Scripture, the sea is often used to represent the masses of the ungodly on this earth, and it seemed reasonable that the few faithful who went to Jerusalem to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit might have felt themselves completely surrounded by a sea of unbelievers. Their opposition, of course, finds its focus in Satan the Opposer, who is constantly seeking whom he may devour. But I used the term “rest” to refer to the disciples because our Lord had called them into the rest that He provides, even though the stormy seas rage about us (Matthew 11:29).

Other passages that inform the poem are these:

Exodus 3, where Moses is commissioned at the burning bush
Isaiah 6:5-8, where the natural response to the cleansing power of the Lord is an offer of service to God.

All of these connections show why the key to the poem’s message is found in the title. Quite simply, there is no truly good work that we can do unless God’s Holy Spirit is working in and through us.


This is not exactly a sonnet, other than rhyme scheme and number of lines, because the meter is one foot too long for each line. My usual method of expression is iambic pentameter (sometimes even my grocery lists), but I couldn’t get all the required ideas into five feet per line.

I am not satisfied with the final line because the wording seems a bit trite, but it does accomplish one thing: it turns a cliché upside down. That the Kingdom of Heaven is upon us in the presence of the Church was made very tangible to me this week as I saw friends from around the world who are serving Christ faithfully, and as I saw the investiture of a new presiding bishop for the REC. The peaceful and orderly succession of leadership is one of the greatest gifts Christianity has given to this world.


I began writing this poem during a break at the REC General Council this past week, and I completed it today after arriving home, twelve hours later than planned due to storms.

April 27, 2014

Sonnet of the Restless Dove

Posted in Spiritual Warfare, The Church, The Eucharist at 11:48 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Sent forth to find a pleasant dwelling place
She spread her graceful wings and soared away
Both far and wide she searched, yet found no trace
Of unsoaked ground day after weary day.
Finding no place to rest her foot, she flew
Back to the safety of the blesséd Ark
To be restored, her vigor to renew.
For as long as judgment waters left their mark,
The appointed refuge was her home secure.
While we traverse this earth much plagued by sin,
Let our feet find no rest in its allure.
May we return unto Your Ark again:
Your Holy Church, where we would be content
To feast upon your Word and Sacrament.

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


I had another poem in mind to write today, based on the Gospel reading from this morning, but the idea of the restless dove crowded it out. Perhaps it was the torrential rain that started me thinking about the dove that was released from the Ark, only to return because she could find no rest for the sole of her foot (Genesis 8:9). There is scriptural basis for seeing the Ark as a type of the Church (I Peter 3:20-21, for example), and St. Augustine makes this connection as well. Church architecture bears this out also; the large area where the congregation sits is known as the nave, or ship.

So tonight as I sit writing after today’s storms, some of which have taken lives in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and as I await a new wave of thunderstorms and the possibility of tornadoes, I thank my heavenly Father for the protection of the Church against the storms of life. I also thank Him for sending the Holy Dove, His Spirit, to draw me back to His Church for rest and refreshment.

April 20, 2014

First Light

Posted in Creator, Darkness, Eastertide, Light of the World, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , at 2:05 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The first day of the week, the Sabbath ended,
The women brought sweet spices at first light.
Determined that His corpse would be attended,
They made their way to Jesus’ burial site.

But who would roll away the ponderous stone
Or break the seal the Romans had required?
They reached the tomb to find it overthrown;
An angel sat, in brilliant white attired.

Creation’s First Light had issued forth in power;
And Death’s dominion crumbled at His feet.
He harrowed Hell, and at the appointed hour
He pierced the gloom and made His foes retreat.

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


This is a retelling of the resurrection narrative from the Gospel of Mark, with a play on words between “first light” of dawn, when the women went to the tomb, and Christ as the Light of the World, the origin of all other lights.

The term “harrowed Hell” is related to the teaching from the Creed that Jesus “descended into Hell,” which is taught in the following two Scriptures:

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.” (a reference to Psalm 68:18)

(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:7-9)

__________________________

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (I Peter 3:18-22)

A blessed and joyful Eastertide awaits all those who welcome the Light of His day.

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.

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