December 11, 2011

Sonnet of the Better Ark

Posted in Advent, Creation, Eastertide, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of God at 7:19 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

You know how many lions roam the plains.
You shepherd from the clouds the quenching rains.
You make the meadows laugh with betony
And revel in the birds’ cacophony.
Your tender care o’er fields and cattle-kin
Blankets the earth and all that dwell therein.
The hills stand watch in loyalty to You
While trees reach up, embracing skies of blue.
Creator, God, Your whole earth sings of love.
You see each sparrow fall or soar above.
Though birds may hush and men fall silent too,
What You have made, You will create anew.
The rising of your Son who did descend,
Gives confidence this frail world’s not the end.

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

I have been thinking a lot lately about sparrows falling and what that means in a couple of contexts. First, if God takes note when every sparrow falls, then “this frail world’s not the end.” It would be futile for God to count the sparrows if all He’s doing is keeping some sort of cosmic score to report when the “Game Over” sign flashes on the screen. The end of life in this world does not mean the end of life, or else what would be the point of counting sparrows? But the final word of the poem has a squinting meaning. I also mean that this world is not an end and purpose in itself. We live in a place where moth and rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal (Matthew 6:19-20). If we put all our time and effort into accumulating material things, we miss the point entirely. That is not to say that the material world has no value, for we do not deny the goodness of creation and the great gift that God has provided in the material world. It is to assert that this world has no meaning apart from the purposes of its good and kind Creator.

Second, the concept of sparrows falling means something for the whole “problem of pain” as it is often called. The passage in Luke that reassures us we are much more important than sparrows says that a fallen sparrow is not forgotten before God (Luke 12:6). The parallel passage in Matthew says that sparrows do not fall apart from the will of God (Matthew 10:29). How could a good and loving God will that a sparrow fall? The real question is, How can we creatures question the goodness and love of our Redeemer God? If He loves the sparrows (and us) and yet sparrows fall and children die, then death must not be the worst thing in the world and there must be something else besides the world that we can see. And so there is. There is the irrevocable hope that the God who made the world is making it again, that a day is coming when no one shall hurt or destroy in all His holy mountain (Isaiah 65:25), that His great love will prevail over every pain and every grief, but more important, over the sin that causes them. The painful path of re-creation is outlined in the Litany:

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgement,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Deliver us, indeed, O Christ, who pioneered the way of sacrifice, for You offered yourself before the foundation of the world. Thanks be to God!

This was written today, 11 December 2011. The passage from Isaiah 65 was the Old Testament reading in the parish I attend.  I had trouble with the title, as I generally do, but it seemed to me that if the ark was a type of salvation, then it also represents the fact that God is saving and will save His whole creation. New heaven, new earth, and a promise better than the rainbow. Perhaps another poem is brewing.

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