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

December 27, 2015

Angliverse on TNAA

Posted in Holy Spirit, Noah, The Church, The Trinity, Water of Life at 2:58 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Merry Christmas! An Angliverse poem was featured on The North American Anglican today.

Edit: Since TNAA is having some technical difficulties as of October 8, 2016, I’ll repost the text of the poem here. I’ll leave the link for when the site has been restored Baptism

Baptism

The dove surveyed the vast expanse of sea,
Yet found no branch on which to rest her feet.
The world lay dead, covered in water thoroughly,
Until God’s solemn judgment was complete.
Then she, by bringing back one olive leaf,
Preached grace and mercy as the floods withdrew.
At God’s word, Noah stepped out in belief;
The task of earth-replenishing began anew.
Then in due time the Dove engulfed a virgin maid
To plant in her the holy Olive Tree
For whom the faithful ones had daily prayed.
In whom God’s grace and truth the world would see.
At Pentecost the Dove released a deluge on the Church.
The glory of God now flows throughout the earth.

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

 

October 6, 2015

Thy Son Liveth

Posted in Atonement, Bread of Life, Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Redeemer, Resurrection, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life tagged , at 11:30 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Hot breath of famine dried the brook
That once had quenched Elijah’s thirst,
And so God sent him on to look
For one whose fate seemed doubly cursed.

A widow and her one beloved son,
With oil and meal barely enough for two,
Faced certain death, for hope and bread were gone.
One final supper ere they bid the world adieu.

But when the prophet came, the widow fed
Him with the first fruits of her scant repast.
And from that day, she never lacked of bread;
Her faith was blessed with food enough to last.

So when her child fell ill and met his doom,
She felt betrayed by all the prophet said
Until Elijah took him to an upper room,
Entreating God, who raised him from the dead.

Outside the gates of Nain a widow walked
In sad procession with her only son.
Her hopes lay dead, her footsteps balked,
To stay the moment when goodbyes were done.

Another widow’s Son noticed her there,
And in compassion bade her weeping cease,
He raised her son and lifted all her care,
Restored her child to live in perfect peace.

But soon this Son would in procession go
Outside the gate to die as though a thief.
This perfect Son offered Himself to bear our woe,
Dying and rising, He would end our grief.

Though evil may beset our souls with strife,
Though brooks dry up, and meal and oil decay,
Treasures of Living Water, Bread of Life,
Are spread for us in His new Eden day by day.

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


Scriptural context:

Luke 7:11-17

I Kings 17

Isaiah 53

John 19


This poem does not need explanation, but at the risk of stating the obvious, I would point out that it begins in the wilderness and ends up in the new Eden. The lectionary reading about the widow of Nain has always spoken to my heart, but much more so since I lost my son James.


September 7, 2015

Sonnet of the Samaritan

Posted in Atonement, Hope, Parables, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Good Samaritan, Thieves tagged , , at 10:50 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Half dead I lay, blood mingling with the roadside dirt,
Victim of brutal thieves who left me there to die.
I sensed someone draw near, but seeing I was hurt
He rushed to cross the road and passed on by.
And still another paused but left me to my doom,
Fearing that care of me would complicate his day.
Forsaking hope, I waited only for my tomb.
But then another traveler came my way,
Bound up my wounds, and showed me tender care,
Conveyed me to the safety of this cordial inn,
Paid all my costs and promised more to spare.
Thus resurrected, I find mercy’s face herein.
This Outcast stooped to save me from the grave;
Despised, rejected, yet His all He gave.

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


Scriptural context:

Luke 10:25-37

Isaiah 53

Luke 2:7


Last week’s Gospel reading was the passage that is often called “The Good Samaritan.” There is much to be learned from this parable: that the priest and Levite were bound by the old covenant responsibility to keep from becoming unclean, that the Good Samaritan was a neighbor to the wounded man because he showed mercy to him, and that the inn represents the Church. But the focus I have chosen is that the outcast Samaritan represents our Lord. For Him there was no room in the inn, but He has prepared for us the Church as the Last Homely House here on earth, as well as a mansion in heaven with plenty of room for His family. For Him there was nowhere permanent to lay His head; He traveled from place to place to seek and to save that which was lost. For Him, there was only suffering: He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, and by His stripes we are healed. Yet for us there is the sweet comfort of His Church and the promise that His Spirit is always with us and that He will come again for us.

But here is the final takeaway from this parable, which is no doubt a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New. The priest and Levite were concerned about becoming unclean if they touched the wounded man, for he might die while they attended to him. Yet our Lord was never afraid of dealing with death, for it is His touch that makes us clean.

March 25, 2015

Breath of Life

Posted in Breath of Life, Creation, Eastertide, Holy Spirit, The Church, Word at 6:34 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Entombed
Within four walls they hid,
Like Lazarus in his four-day grave.
In grief,
With dreadful doubts and halting hopes,
They waited for the storm to end.
They hung
Suspended between then and when,
Not even daring to ask why.
He died.
Of that they could be very sure.
Sure, some had said He lived again.
But how?
Who could have said the words for Him
That He had spoken in Bethany?
Come forth!
Creator-Word: “Let there be life!”
Now suddenly He speaks again
Sweet peace,
There in the midst of them.
And once again Creator’s breath
Ignites
The dust of earth with Spirit’s flame,
Foreshadowing Great Pentecost,
From whence
His Church breathes forth the Word
To call the dead to life anew.

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


Based on John 20:19-23, the Gospel reading for the First Sunday after Easter

March 19, 2015

Mercy’s Meal

Posted in Bread of Life, Laetare, Lent, Redeemer, Son of God, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life tagged , , at 8:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The table overflows with a princely feast,
The Host and His guests take repast in peace
Beside the pure crystal river’s flow
Where the limbs of the Tree of Life hang low
To supply sweet fruit and soothing leaves
So the nations are cured of all that grieves.
Though enemies may survey the scene,
Nor harm nor fear can intrude between
The Son of God and His cherished Bride
For whom He bears wounds in His hands and side.
He is the Manna, the living Bread
On which great multitudes are fed.
With goodness and mercy behind, before,
They safely dwell in the house of the Lord.

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


Exodus 16:15

Exodus 24:9-11

Psalm 23

Matthew 14

Revelation 22

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.

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 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.

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