September 11, 2011

On Rocks and Bread

Posted in Holy Week, Lent, Son of God, Son of Man, Tempter, The Eucharist at 5:59 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He could have turned the stones to loaves,
Yet He refused the Tempter’s sly behest,
But then transformed a Rock to Bread
When with “This is My Body,” He did bless.
For He had been that Rock of old,
Providing water in the wilderness.
Oh, who would give his child a stone
Although life-giving bread was the request?
Our God provides both Rock and Bread
And makes us His beloved guests
After He brings our stony hearts to life.
Refreshing Rock, all evils to redress,
He is the Bread of Life, sustaining breath,
Whom lowly rocks would rise up to confess.

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

One of my favorite topics to research and write about is the Eucharist. I don’t mean getting lost in philosophications about the substance that is eaten and drunk. (It is bread and wine; it is the Body and Blood of Christ.) What I mean is being eternally grateful that the Almighty God has chosen to redeem His fallen creation; that He gives us the greatest blessing imaginable, His own presence; and that He gives us an enduring sign that the warfare is over by inviting us to feast at His table.

The poem begins with Matthew 4 and Satan’s desire to recreate the events of Genesis 3. It is no accident that this temptation occurs shortly after Jesus is baptized. In fact, the first words out of Satan’s lying lips (“If you are the Son of God . . .”) are a direct response to God’s pronouncement: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  It is also no accident that the temptation of both Eve and our Lord had to do with food. If Satan can get us to doubt God’s loving providence, then we will be in the right frame of mind to misuse God’s good gifts. Jesus’ response is fascinating. He has just been declared the Son of God by the voice of God, yet He identifies Himself with us by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, saying “MAN shall not live by bread alone.” That one word, “man,” should have been enough to cause Satan to draw back in horror to realize that he had finally met the Seed of the Woman who could defeat him. In that one day, Jesus was declared to be both Son of God and Son of Man.

The next two images of the poem combine the presence of the Son of God as the Rock who refreshed His people with the living waters of His presence in the wilderness with the presence of Christ in the Sacrament that He instituted on Maundy Thursday. (It is worthwhile to note that He was still alive and well, and separate from the bread, when He declared it to be His Body.) The poem continues with a reference to the Sermon on the Mount, where our Lord tries to get His followers to understand the ultimate goodness of the Father, who cannot be expected to do worse for His own dear children than an earthly father would do. If a beloved child asked for bread to sustain his life, no loving father in his right mind would hand that child a rock and say, “Eat up!” (Matthew 7:9). This reference sheds more light on the events of the temptation of Christ. Although He identified with us, He demonstrated His place in the Trinity by always behaving as One who sacrifices Himself to provide for His people and has no needs of His own; God is complete in Himself, and He does not exploit His creation.

There are two other references to stones in the poem. One is from Ezekiel 36:26, where God promises to do a heart transplant, exchanging our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. He promises, in other words, to make us fully human again, to raise us up to the nobility in which Adam and Eve were created. The poem ends with a reference to Jesus’ statement in Luke 19:40 that if the Pharisees could somehow manage to silence the gratitude of His disciples, the stones would cry out in praise to Him. The Eucharist which signifies the end of warfare between God and His children is also a sign of the promise that the work of Christ rolls back the curse on all of creation.

The original date for this poem poem is March 5, 2007, and it was edited February 21, 2008 during the dark times. I edited the second line again today to change the name I was using for Satan. The rhyme scheme, if you can call it that, is that every other line rhymes, making seven words that are rhymes or near-rhymes. I wish I could say that I had a lofty purpose for this method, but if I did I have forgotten it. It seems to work.

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