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.

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.

July 7, 2013

Naaman the Blind

Posted in Faith, Grace, Leprosy, Obedience, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Thankfulness, Water of Life, Word tagged , , , , at 7:03 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Respected man, much favored by his lord,
Fearless in battle, an expert with the sword.
Though skilled in war, one fight o’ercame his soul,
For pride had Naaman in its grim control.
It blinded him to God’s life-giving word
Delivered by the prophet he had heard.
A leper with the remedy supplied:
The Jordan? Why not a river clean and wide?
Ignoble water for a man of high esteem!
The prophet mocked his greatness, it would seem.
But with no other cure in sight, he deigned
To do as God had said, and health regained.
Now one more lesson Naaman had to learn:
That gifts of God cannot be bought or earned.
His leprous skin was clean; his pride was tamed,
No longer blind, God’s promises he claimed.
Thus baptized in the Jordan, like our Lord,
Through whose obedience we are restored.

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


This morning, the Old Testament reading was 2 Kings 5:1-14, which is the story of the healing of Naaman the leper. Apparently leprosy was not viewed the same in Syria as in Israel because it does not appear that Naaman was ostracized because of his condition. To the contrary, he was commander of the army of Syria and very highly regarded for his successes on the battlefield. Yet his pride in his success was his primary ailment. When given the opportunity to be free of leprosy, he balked at the humble nature of the cure. He wanted Elisha to make a big production, to wave his hands, say noble and compelling words, and order God to cure Naaman. What a disappointment to this great man to be told to do something so humiliating as bathe in God’s dirty stream. If there was to be no grand, theatrical production, why could it not at least be a beautiful, clean river in his own country? His anger revealed his blindness, caused by pride in his own accomplishments. It took his servants, who had no aspirations to greatness, to teach him that he needed to obey God, regardless of the ignominy.

But even after humbling himself enough to take a chance that the dirty waters could make him clean, Naaman still didn’t fully understand the nature of God’s grace. He tried to pay Elisha for the cure. God had done something for him, and he would settle the debt and be back on equal footing, perhaps. But the prophet wisely refused any payment. How could we ever hope to repay God? We owe Christ our service out of gratitude, not out of any notion that we can repay a debt. And thanks be to God, Naaman finally saw exactly what was required: obedience in all things that were within his power to do.

I could not leave Naaman’s story without pointing us to the Christ, the perfectly obedient Son. He humbled himself to be baptized in the Jordan, not to be cleansed but to cleanse the water and open the way for us to be healed from all our afflictions. He took on our shame so that we might be set free from sin and shame.

Glory be to thee, O Lord!

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.

April 7, 2012

Enough

Posted in Sanctification, Thankfulness, The Eucharist at 7:17 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Though God had said the rest would be enough,
Eve saw the tempting tree and ate.
Since then, the banished world has in its wilderness
Craved food that cannot satiate.
We ask, “Can God provide?” while looking past
His never-ending banquet store.
Though nothing good is kept from those He loves,
Our wanton appetites seek more.
So choosing husks instead of manna sweet,
We sift through garbage greedily.
While heaven rains its good and costly gifts,
We barter, yet the feast is free.
Preferring pottage to the perfect Lamb,
We seek the now and miss the great I AM.

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


The readings for Maundy Thursday inspired this poem. I’ve written much about the Fall of mankind, and specifically Eve’s part in it, but her act is only the beginning of a long line of ungrateful acts, whereby the fallen heart of man considers all that God has given and pronounces it “Not Enough.” The word rest in the first line deliberately squints. On the one hand, it means that everything else in Eden—all the rest—was freely given to mankind, yet it seemed not to be enough. But the other meaning of the word rest is also at play here. Although Adam and Eve were always intended to work, their initial state would have involved such profitable labor that it would have seemed to be rest when compared with the consequences of rebellion. For both Adam and Eve, God’s rest was traded for difficulty and pain. That is why Jesus offers rest for our souls, rest from sin and rest from sin’s effects.

But the actual reading that started the thought process for this poem was Psalm 78:17-25, which is a commentary on the days that the Israelites spent in the wilderness. God had provided everything they needed, including freedom, and He had done so in an amazing way. Yet their response was not gratitude but bad attitude:

And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also?” (Psalm 78:19-20)

Audacity! And yet, if we admit it, that is our response to God’s gifts all too often. God shall supply all our needs, but we doubt His goodness. Like the prodigal son, we leave the father’s fold, where there is always enough, and we waste our days in riotous living. Like Esau, we trade our birthright for a bowl of stew. Because we refuse to be grateful for enough, we are the disturbers of our own peace. Paradoxically, we may seek lesser things forever, but if we seek outside Christ, whatever we find can never be enough. 

Can He give us bread enough? He gives us Himself. He is enough. I think I’ve said that before. It’s still true.


I try very hard to focus on the liturgy and sermon during worship, but when my mind is captivated by a word or phrase in the readings, I have to jot down enough of it to return to the thought later and finish it. As a result, my bulletins are sometimes very messy. So a few lines of this poem were written during the Maundy Thursday service, but the poem did not take its full form until about 6 a.m. on Good Friday. A blessed Eastertide to all.


November 24, 2011

Eucharist

Posted in Grief, Suffering, Thankfulness, The Eucharist at 8:15 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

With open hands I will abide
Ready to take what You provide
Or to release what You require,
Following You through flood or fire.
For Your kind mercies heal my soul
When pain and sorrow take their toll.
Your brightest blessings bring delight
Even when terrors pierce the night.

Though cruel is the curse of sin,
You send Your peace to reign within.
And therefore will I thankful be
For all You give or take from me.
Your mercies are forever new;
My weary heart finds rest in You.
With open hands I’ll trust You, Lord,
Praising You now and evermore.

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


This is one of those poems that doesn’t emanate from a specific passage but draws together various threads throughout the Scriptures. My purpose was to define the nature of the Christian life as essentially one of thanksgiving. (The word in Greek that means “thanksgiving” is the one from which we derive the word “Eucharist.”) In Christ, our lives are to be filled with such deep faith in the goodness of God that we remain grateful and content in our circumstances, no matter how dark they may seem (Philippians 4:11; II Timothy 6:6-8). This was the faith of Joseph, who understood that all his trials were designed not to break him but to sanctify him. This was the faith of Paul, whose writings are filled with the message of faith that is not merely an abstract belief in the facts of salvation in Christ but in a living, breathing trust that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (if I may borrow from St. Julian of Norwich).

Each of us carries a weight of one kind or another. It is either the weight of sin, made heavy by doubt, fear, and separation from the God in whose image we were created, or it is the blissful weight of glory, which enables us to be pressed on every side but somehow never crushed (II Corinthians 4:8). The weight of sin will eventually break and undo us. The weight of glory will make us what we were always supposed to be. How can we not be grateful for that?

As we live with open hands, trusting that God will give us exactly what we need and will not take away anything that is necessary for our life in Him, we find contentment in the midst of great trials, and we show forth the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

(Posted on Thanksgiving Day, 2011)


The original version of this poem was written February 6, 2008, one short week after my son died. No matter how much time passes, I will always miss him. But I will also always trust that God was working for him and for me exactly what each of us needed.

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