November 20, 2017

The Advent of the Law

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Bread of Life, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Moses, Redeemer, Sanctification, Son of God, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , at 11:12 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

On Sinai, Moses held the perfect heart of God
Inscribed on two smooth stones to testify abroad
God’s Law, carved by His very finger on the stone,
Front and back, to fill them with His Word alone.
But stony human hearts can never perfect be,
And Adam’s ruined children yearned to be set free.
Who can deliver us from Death’s unyielding bands?
The Perfect Lamb with nail scars in His feet and hands,
Whose heart of flesh, pierced through by soldier’s cruel blade,
Poured forth sweet mercy even though He was betrayed.
His holy blood transforms our stony hearts to flesh,
His bread, His holy body, will our souls refresh.
The Advent of the Son of God new life imparts,
And His Spirit writes His law upon our hearts.

Copyright © 2017 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


So many scriptures are distilled in this poem; here are a few of the references:

Exodus 31:18

Exodus 32:15

1 Samuel 17:40

Ezekiel 36:25-27

Jeremiah 31:33

Hebrews 8:10

Hebrews 10:16

 

August 7, 2016

Selling Doves

Posted in Dove, Holy Spirit, Lamb of God, Sanctification, Son of God, Trinity at 8:21 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our Lord went to the Temple to the feast;
The Lamb of God would bring a sacrifice.
And entering His courts, the Great High Priest
Found His own Father’s house teeming with vice.
He saw the place where sin was to be purged
Corrupt and reeking with the greed of gain.
So He the Righteous Son prepared a scourge
To cleanse the temple from its awful stain.
Then pouring out the coins He arraigned
The moneychangers for their blasphemy
In profiting from sacraments ordained
To show God’s people He must set them free.
Lord, cleanse the temple of my wayward heart,
So that Your Holy Dove will not depart.

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


Reference: John 2:13-17


Last Sunday’s Gospel was the counterpart to the scripture on which this poem is based. Jesus cleansed the temple of moneychangers twice, once at the beginning of His ministry and once shortly before He was crucified. The passage in John refers to the first of those events.

It is sobering to find the One who is the original for the types and shadows of the Temple being mocked through price gouging that took advantage of the people for whom He had come to offer Himself as a free sacrifice. It is even more sobering to note that the religious leaders of his day had never rebuked the greedy merchandisers but rebuked Him for doing so. It is most sobering to realize that three years later, after having the benefit of His teaching and His miracles, not to mention the glory of His presence, the hearts of the scribes and pharisees were even harder than before they met Him.

May He ever guard our hearts from all that is not holy.

 

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.

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?


February 14, 2013

Rest in Returning

Posted in Grace, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Obedience, Parables, Prodigal Son, Sanctification, Self-Discipline tagged , at 9:58 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He made a bed of self-pity and foul hay
Amid the rowdy pigs, his only comrades now.
Then he, the noble son, in sorrow lay
And dreamed of all that he had disavowed.

His dreams were fitful, for his hunger gnawed
So deeply he would steal the husks to eat.
Then waking up, he set out on the path unshod
To seek his Father’s blessed mercy seat.

Humiliated by the world, he ran
In humble penance to the Father’s arms
And there, enfolded, his new life began,
No longer tempted by the world’s false charms.

A robe of righteousness he then received
From Him who met him while he was far off.
Unbounded love flowed from the One he grieved.
Here ends the shame of dwelling in the trough.

Thou, Lenten fast, our tutor for these days,
Return us from the pigsty of our sin.
Make clean our hearts and cause our eyes to gaze
Upon our Father; help us rest in Him.

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


Based on Luke 15:11-22. The story is so well known that the poem needs no explanation. The title is a slight alteration of a line in one of my favorite prayers in the BCP:

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


As much as I am able to squeeze into a poem, so many things must still be left unsaid. I wanted to revisit the idea of sin leaving him shoeless by stating that the Father put sandals on his feet, but I figured since the Scripture takes care of the second half of the equation, I only needed to supply the first. I also wanted to state that hunger drives us back to God, but it never found a place in the structure. The idea is there even if the words are not.


I completed this poem on 14 February 13. I started it last night and fell asleep shortly after asking the question “What rhymes with pig sties?” As you can see, I worked it out so that the rhyme was unnecessary.

February 13, 2013

The Lenten Call

Posted in Holy Spirit, Hope, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Obedience, Sanctification, Spiritual Warfare at 6:36 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

And now resounding through the turbid earth
The solemn call to keep a holy Lent
Would lift our eyes from things of little worth
And bid us find in Jesus true content.

As Spirit hovered over formless void
Dispelling chaos by the Word decreed,
He clears the wilderness that sin destroyed;
He fills our hearts with all we ever need.

Beauty for ash, and love to conquer fear,
The days of Lent teach us to comprehend
That all else fades when Jesus is what we hold dear.
We throw off worldly weights in order to ascend.

Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Begun on the evening of Shrove Tuesday and completed this morning, Ash Wednesday, 2013.

January 21, 2013

Peace Offering

Posted in Bridegroom, Epiphany, Marriage, Sanctification, Thankfulness, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life at 12:12 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Long days ago when sacrifice made conflict cease,
The people brought a perfect offering to kill
And then consumed the sacred flesh and grain in peace.
Communing with both God and man, they ate their fill.

God to His holy people grace and mercy showed.
His goodness showered bounty unconfined
Where in the temple blood and water freely flowed
To purify them soul and body, heart and mind.

Long days ago stone water jars in Cana stood
In silent witness that the people must be purified.
The guests regaled themselves with wine and food,
Quite unaware the groom would soon be mortified.

The news was grim: the wedding wine was failing fast,
And powerless, he sought in vain to find a remedy.
The old wine spent, the celebration could not last.
How could his bride forgive such insufficiency?

But then the Great I AM said “Let there be” again:
From stony jars, now purified themselves, flowed better wine.
The feast thus rescued, grateful bride and groom attain
Your better feast in latter days on which to dine.

For from the site of Your sufficient sacrifice
Water and wine now flow to cleanse our hearts of stone.
Our peace is made in You, whose death has paid the price.
The Better Groom directs His feast from Heaven’s throne.

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


The Gospel for The Third Sunday after Epiphany (or the Second after, depending on the lectionary that your parish follows) is the beautiful story from John 2 about the wedding in Cana. So much, so very much, is demonstrated in this miracle, but this time the concept that captivated me was that of better wine. I think we miss the point if we just see the surface truth that this wine was tastier than what had been served during the earlier part of the feast. It seems also to be a narrative demonstration of the concepts found in Hebrews 1, where we read that our Lord was better than the prophets and better than the angels. Purifying water flows in baptism, to replace the blood of circumcision, and the Eucharist of bread and wine supersede the Passover Lamb.

I also took some liberties by parallelling the wedding feast with the feast that would follow the Peace Offering. They are not the same thing, I know, but I think in both we see a beautiful picture of the Eucharist, where our peace with God and man is celebrated. Technically, the purpose of the Peace Offering was to invoke God’s blessing, but that could not happen unless Atonement had been made so that conflict would cease. In Christ, the Perfect Lamb, all the sacrifices are fulfilled and all their purposes achieved.


Started on The Second Sunday after The Epiphany, 2013, and completed the next day, 21 January 2013.

December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents

Posted in Christmastide, Faith, Herod, Holy Innocents, Hope, Sanctification, Suffering at 7:33 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our lives, O Lord, rest safely in Your hand,
And nothing on this earth can thwart Your plan.
Your enemy—and ours—has many spies.
He sends his minions forth to spread his lies.
They plot against the Kingdom You hold dear;
They strut and roar to cause your people fear.
They would have even murdered Lazarus;
Most certainly they rage and threaten us.
Herod conspires to murder innocents,
While Pilate washes hands in wickedness.
Teach us, O Lord, to trust Your endless grace
And every joy or sorrow to embrace.
We are the clay and You the Potter kind,
The fire strengthens what You have designed.
For in the furnace one thing burns away:
Our fetters fall, Your glory to display.

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


The collect for the Feast of The Holy Innocents contains a line that many find offensive. It speaks of God having made “infants to glorify [Him] by their deaths.” But this phrase most certainly does not mean that He is using us for some dark and selfish purpose. To the contrary, that phrase should give us hope that none of our suffering is wasted and that nothing our enemies can say or do will destroy us. We can trust in Him to bring about all things to our good and His glory. The passages this poem should bring to mind are Genesis 3:15, John 12:9-11, Matthew 2, Matthew 27, Isaiah 64:7-9, Daniel 3, and Romans 8:28.


I started this poem on 25 October 2012, and completed it this morning during my meditations on this solemn day of remembrance. May God bless all the Holy Innocents who suffer for His sake.

November 4, 2012

Bride’s Room

Posted in Advent, Bridegroom, Holy Spirit, Lent, Sanctification, Spiritual Warfare, The Trinity tagged , , at 2:38 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Comb out her matted hair and wipe her face.
Then wash her hands and cleanse her filthy feet.
Becalm her restless soul; fill her with grace.
Give her fine wine to drink and bread to eat.
Take every spot and wrinkle from her dress,
And beautify her feet with shoes of peace.
Strengthen her heart; increase her righteousness.
Shield her with faith, and every fear release.
Spirit of God, take this unworthy Bride,
Transform her thoughts and thus renew her mind.
Be thou her comfort; never leave her side.
Teach her all truth, or else she will be blind.
Prepare her for the coming of the Groom,
Who in His Father’s house prepares her room.

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


This morning we celebrated the Feast of All Saints at the parish I attend. The sermon was about heaven, and one of the passages that the priest expounded was John 14:2, where Christ assures His disciples that although He has to leave them, their separation will not be forever, and that He will not only be waiting for them but will also have a special place prepared for them. I started thinking about how wonderful it is to have a Lord who will prepare a place for His Bride in heaven and who has sent His Spirit to prepare us in the meantime.

At that point, the image of a Bride’s Room came to mind, that lovely spot in any church or wedding chapel where brides are curled and swirled and pearled, to make them beautiful for their special day. The Holy Spirit does for us in a spiritual sense exactly the kinds of things that take place in a Bride’s Room because being sanctified is the process of being made ready for our Groom. Those are the ideas that unfold in the first 10 lines of the poem using various images from Scripture, but especially two from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

  1. Ephesians 6:14-16, where St. Paul lays out the spiritual armor that prepares us for the battles we will endure until that day when all tears are wiped from our eyes.
  2. Ephesians 5:25-28, where St. Paul delineates the connection between marriage and the relationship that Christ has with His Church.

There are also references to Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; John 16:13; and any verses that talk about the Eucharist, for can there be sanctification if we neglect the Body and Blood?


On the Feast of All Saints, I always think about my loved ones who are in heaven, but today in particular my father was on my mind. He went to heaven 33 years ago today, and I still miss him. But I take comfort in knowing that our Lord had a place prepared for Daddy and that I will someday see them both. And even now we are knit together in that holy fellowship which includes everyone whom Christ’s blood has redeemed. I prefer to think of 4 November 1979 as the day my father stopped dying. We are all born dying, and only when we reach Heaven’s shores are we safe forever more from the ravages of decay. No moth, no rust, and nothing that can cause corruption. In heaven, there is only life and light. By God’s grace, I can bear anything here because I know that is what awaits me there.

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