February 28, 2015

A Sonnet of Tearful Hope

Posted in Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Incarnation, Kingdom, Love, Resurrection, Suffering, Thankfulness, The Eucharist tagged at 4:50 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

When we must leave, we grieve to say goodbye,
Or when we part with others who must go,
If tears flow not, we heave a weighty sigh
To think the miles between us now must grow.
But time and space and every vale or hill
That separates sincere companion souls
Cannot erode the love that binds them still
Nor take the hope that constantly consoles.
Yet hope would be in vain, except for trust
In Him whose tender love surrounds us all.
His life ennobles feeble forms of dust
And reunites them in his banquet hall
In Heaven, where there is an end to grieving;
For it is the place from whence there is no leaving.

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


This poem is dedicated to Bill and Kathy, and to all who have suffered great loss and yet cling to an even greater hope.

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.

September 19, 2014

Mark 7, A Play in Three Acts

Posted in Bread of Life, Christology, Creator, Grace, Hope, Kingdom, Obedience, Redeemer, Resurrection, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life, Word tagged , , at 6:56 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The curtain rises as the scribes and Pharisees,
Incensed that their traditions are not kept,
Stand blind and deaf to what the Water means.
They rail about the eating of the bread
With unwashed hands, yet take no thought
Of the condition of their stony heart.

He that hath ears must heed the Gospel call.
Take care lest you who think you hear should fall.

The Gentile knew traditions all too well,
For they excluded her and all her kind.
And yet He spoke to her, the Lord of all,
Giving her hope her daughter could be saved.
She was content to be a puppy underfoot
And share in eating of the Kingdom bread.

She that hath ears shall heed the Kingdom plea
To sit at table with His children and be free.

The man born deaf who spoke with halting tones
Was brought to Him, the Word who must be heard.
Now with His touch and water, and a sigh,
His ears are opened and his tongue made whole.
The Word creative spoke and it was done,
Just as at Lazarus’ tomb His word brought life.

He that hath ears must have them opened by the One
Whose very Words can heal: God’s only Son.

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


This poem has been trying to form in my brain for several weeks, but the cares of life almost prevented it. The story of the Gentile woman and that of the deaf man were Gospel readings a few weeks ago, and when I looked at the context, I could not help but notice the progression of events found in Mark 7. The religious leaders of that day simply did not understand the full import of what God wanted to do in their lives. In the words of Christ, they did not have ears to hear. They thought it was enough to demonstrate outward obedience to easily measurable rules such as, “Wash your hands before you eat.” Of course, we know that washing hands is a good practice for the purpose of sanitation. But that is certainly not the only cleansing that should concern us. God’s design is to cleanse our souls of the sin that would overtake us, apart from His grace. Washing hands as a ritual is indicative of a much greater need, expressed in Psalm 51:10—“Create in me a clean heart, O God.” I wrote a line that I could never quite place in the grand scheme, but it sums up the condition of the scribes and Pharisees: Clean hands or no, they shall not touch the Bread.

By contrast, the Gentile woman—an outcast—was invited to share the Kingdom blessings precisely because she knew she needed cleansing. She did not deny her desperate condition, but in her identification of herself as a little dog under the table, she expressed knowledge of a truth that the religious leaders had totally missed: the purpose of the Kingdom of God in this world is to be a blessing and light to the surrounding nations. Her faith showed that her ears were open to God’s true call and purpose. The Pharisees went away hungry. The Gentile woman received all that she needed, so very much more than crumbs under the table!

Finally, the deaf man (he had ears but could not hear) is brought to Jesus for healing. He is helpless, in that he could not hear instructions, even if someone were to give him the instructions of the scribes: “All you need to do is wash your hands, and you’ll be cleansed.” Nor could he ask for healing; he was virtually mute. As do we all, he approached the Lord completely helpless. And the Creator of the world repaired the brokenness, just as He does in our lives. He gave the deaf man ears to hear and a tongue to speak of the glory of God. It is no coincidence that the following words are found in Psalm 51:15, part of David’s humble confession of his great sin: “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”


As for form, don’t look for rhyme in this one. I tried briefly to make it rhyme, but the ideas just would not be harnessed in that way. The “Greek chorus” lines following each verse contain the only intentional rhyme. Otherwise, I followed the model of a Shakespearean play and used iambic pentameter. Mostly. And if you see a double intention in the words incensed and rail, you are correct.

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 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.

August 2, 2013

Veterans

Posted in Creation, Faith, Grace, Hope, Thankfulness, War tagged , , , , , , at 10:13 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Black-eyed Susans peering through the chain-link fence
Divert my eyes from razor wire that looms above.
Unlike the well-armed guard, alert to every threat,
Their faces are alight with memory and hope.
For flower-beauty graced this place before
This fence was built and tanks assembled here,
And their soft splendor will withstand war’s ugly gaze
Until the time when swords become plowshares.
Even in death their eyes drop seeds that wait for spring
To shower them with the sky’s sweet tears,
Which blend with warming earth to coax new life,
New beauty, from the barren battlefield.
They bud, then bloom, diffusing calm amid the fray
And offering themselves as healing balm.
Their incense rises in the cruelest summer heat;
Their pollen nourishes a host of butterflies.
These blooms, untutored in the deadly art of war,
Prefer the art of peace and lavish loveliness.

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


I have been pondering what it is like to live on this earth, where such incredible sadness can be countermanded by the beauty and promise that lives within a flower. I have referenced no specific Scripture within the poem other than Isaiah 2:4, but if you cannot see Christ in a Black-eyed Susan’s face, then nothing I can say will help you.

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 7, 2013

A Soldier’s Song

Posted in Eastertide, Faith, Hope, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, The Church tagged , , at 12:00 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The wargs are fierce tonight.
So painful is their noxious bite
That as sharp teeth tear into tender flesh
Their hapless victims scream and thresh.
The orcs and trolls cause terror as they chase
Their prey and pound them with a lethal mace.
Such dreadful enemies pursue my soul
And would with fear my days control.
But when I closely listen for the sound
Arising from the Valur army gathered round
In bright array to guard me from the horde,
My breathing calms and I advance toward
The gates of Rivendell, where I find peace.
For in that homely house all worries cease.

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


One of my favorite Old Testament passages is II Kings 6:8-23. It’s all about the ability to discern what is hidden from the human sight. Elisha’s servant awakens to find the city surrounded by the Syrian army. He panics, thinking there is no hope. But Elisha responds, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (II Kings 6:16). What a curious thing to say! The servant, as yet, had not seen the supporting army to which Elisha referred. So Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened: “And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” The frail Syrian army would be no match for God’s unconquerable hosts.

During Eastertide as we reflect on all that the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ has won for us, we cannot afford to forget all of the fury that the defeated Satan has unleashed upon the Lord’s followers. We read in the final chapters of St. John’s Gospel how Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for it, but they were not ready for the savagery of the opposition. Neither are we, especially since we cannot see the true nature of our foes. We cannot afford to take spiritual warfare lightly.

We also cannot afford to take lightly the role of the Church in our survival, and for it I have used Rivendell as a metaphor. I’m not sure that was Tolkien’s intention, but I don’t think he would mind terribly, just as he would not be too out of sorts for my using the Valur in reference to the angel armies that surround God’s people with protection.

I commend the remedies offered by St. Paul in Ephesians for ordering our lives in such a way as to avoid destruction. Especially the following verses should be called to mind often:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

And never forget that you are not alone. The same army that surrounded Elisha stands ready to do God’s bidding. There is great hope and peace in knowing that those who are with us are more than those who are with our foes, not only more in numbers but in strength. When darkness threatens, may God let us glimpse His army.

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.

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