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 19, 2014

Saturday’s Sorrow

Posted in Atonement, Cain, Darkness, Good Friday, Grief, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, Hope, Judas, Redeemer, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant at 2:53 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The room was silent, save for somber weeping
And weary feet that found no purpose now.
The faithful few their watch were keeping;
They could not bear their Lord to disavow.

But He was dead, and they began to wonder
If they had spent the past three years in vain,
For they had seen the blood and heard the thunder
Of “Crucify Him!” and “Release the son of Cain!”

To trade the Perfect Man for vile Barabbas
Confounded justice to its very core.
What evil had He done that He should die thus?
What were His deeds that we should so abhor?

Yet worse by far was Judas’ treason
For with the Lord his life was intertwined.
He walked with them but for a season
Till envious greed consumed his peace of mind.

In shock, the twelve were left to wait and ponder
The path that led them to this woeful night.
Was there a reason or did they just wander?
As darkness fell, they longed for morning’s light.

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

Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, a time of reflection upon the sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Lent has brought us to this climax of horror at our sin, of sorrow that death is its reward, and of recognition that we were Cain and Barabbas but yet the perfect Son of God was the One who died.

If this poem feels disjointed and incomplete to you, then it has done its job. Anyone who has endured a major loss will understand those early responses in which deep pain circles back on numbness, in which the mind runs rampant with memories but cannot produce coherent a single coherent thought. This is where the disciples were on that Saturday that followed Good Friday.

But the last two words pull the poem up before it crashes completely. For no matter how dark the night, we have every reason to hope, just as the disciples did. The hope may be as dim as the promise of morning’s light, but it is real nonetheless.

September 12, 2011

It Is Finished

Posted in Atonement, Cain, Good Friday, Suffering Servant tagged at 9:11 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Weeping, Eve beheld her murdered son,
Slain as he was by treacherous transgression.
Lost forever to her, he was cursed,
And she was left to mourn for family dispersed.
Two sons, one slaughtered thus by sin but living still,
Who had in envy sought his brother’s blood to spill.

Though drowned in grief, her eyes of faith could see
Another mother weeping just as she.
Her Son, too, killed by sin one dreadful day,
But by His blood the curse is washed away.
Sweet Mary gazing back at Eve through woe
Says “My Son’s death will crush our common foe.”

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

The juxtaposition of the images of Eve and St. Mary standing beside their murdered sons sets the stage for a dialog that “squints” across time, in much the same way that the curse on Satan looks across history from Eve to St. Mary. The first verse slowly unfolds events from Genesis 4 in reverse chronology, briefly misleading the reader to think that when Eve’s “murdered son” is mentioned, the intent is Abel. Instead, the phrase refers to Cain. Eve’s sin unleashed an enmity that has been played out in the heart of her own family; in pain she brought forth children and in even greater pain she lost two of them. When Cain killed his brother, the righteous son died to life, but Cain lived to die, murdered by his own sin. Perhaps the saddest verse in the Bible is Genesis 4:16, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD.” We simply have no idea of the damage we do to our own souls when we war against righteousness.

We also have no idea how much suffering our sins brought upon the righteous Son of God, who was the Son of Man, Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15. St. Mary’s Son was like righteous Abel, in that His blood was shed because of sin, but whereas Abel’s blood could only cry out from the ground to be avenged, the blood of Jesus “speaks better things” (Hebrews 12:24), as it covers our sins and provides atonement. Finally, the poem provides some hint of the suffering of St. Mary in watching her Son die an ignoble death, taking on the sins of the world. She, too, brought forth a child in sorrow, and her sorrow was mingled with joy when the sword pierced through her own soul as the sword pierced the side of her Son, bringing forth blood mingled with water. (Those ideas need their own poem!)

The original date on this poem is 13 July 2007 (time-stamped 6:23 AM!), which would have been a few months after I started seminary. There have been several revisions along the way, but except for St. Mary’s sentence, the changes involved mostly a word here and there. The title clause was originally included in the final line, but in posting it today, I changed St. Mary’s brief speech to echo the curse that God placed on Satan, the curse that mentioned the Seed of the woman. Making “It is finished” the title emphasizes the work of Christ as He accomplished all that was required for our atonement.

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