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 guests take their repast in peace
Beside the crystal river’s gentle flow
Where limbs of the Tree of Life hang low,
Supplying succulent fruit and soothing leaves
So the nations can be cured of all that grieves.
Though enemies may survey the scene,
Nor harm nor fear can intervene between
The Son of God and His beloved Bride
For whom He bears wounds in His hands and side.
He is the Manna, he 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

April 2, 2014

To See the Kingdom

Posted in Bread of Life, Kingdom, Laetare, Lent, Son of God, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Eucharist at 11:15 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

They had watched the water transformed into wine,
And later saw Christ heal Bethesda’s thrall.
But the twelve could see no remedy at all
When the hungry multitude approached to dine.

They had no money, nor could food be bought
For those who came for signs and benisons.
Just five small loaves from one of Judah’s sons,
A meager gift, but he gave all he brought.

How could this paltry portion feed the scores
Who hungered for the very Bread of Life,
Who lived their days in bitter toil and strife,
Who looked for manna from the heavenly stores?

Christ made the men sit down and take their rest
In verdant pastures while He blessed the food.
They ate until their hunger was subdued.
The prodigals received the Father’s best.

Seated on earth cursed for their crime,
These sons of Adam sweated not a drop
Yet ate like princes on the mountaintop
And glimpsed the Kingdom coming in their time.

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

The Gospel lesson for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (sometimes called Refreshment Sunday) is one I have written about before, but this year as I listened to it I was struck by additional connections to other scriptures, in part thanks to an excellent sermon by our priest. This poem carries the same connection between John 6, Genesis 3, and Isaiah 55 that I have used in the past. Those concepts are all so interconnected that to leave any out would do the Gospel a disservice. This year, our priest brought in the connection between the Gospel and Psalm 23, so that has found an emphasis in verse 4. The other addition is the emphasis not only on “free bread” which rolls back the curse of sweaty work, but on the fact that Jesus has them sit down on the very earth that was cursed because of them. Now, however, the bread, the people, and the earth are all blessed by the presence of the Bread of Life.

The thread that runs throughout the poem is that of seeing. I once heard a speaker say that when Jesus said those who are not born again cannot see the kingdom of God, He didn’t just mean that they would be denied entrance into heaven. He meant that they also do not recognize the kingdom here, in the people of God, the Church.

One final word about scripture references in the poem. I have always been fascinated by Exodus 24, a passage in which God calls Moses and 73 of the elders to “come up” and worship Him. Verses 10 and 11 in particular have a striking connection with John 6:

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

Thanks be to Him who calls us up to worship, to rest from our labors, to dine with Him in the everlasting Eucharist, to see His Kingdom in all of its life-giving glory!

March 21, 2012

The Miracle of the Loaves

Posted in Holy Spirit, Laetare, Lent, Sanctification, Son of God, Son of Man, The Eucharist at 6:38 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The hillside, covered with the hungry host
Who had walked far into the wilderness,
Was glad to lift its eyes and bless
Its Maker as He blessed the barley loaves.

The young old Adam offered all he brought
But found it insufficient for the mass.
Mere loaves and fish are not a meal that lasts.
For man craves food that is not sold and bought.

But taking this small offering from the earth
Our Lord invoked the Spirit’s life and breath.
His Bread invites us to a holy death,
Yet in this death His people find new birth.

Then after every pilgrim had his fill,
They gleaned twelve baskets of the table crumbs:
Now to this feast the hungry world yet comes,
And Gentile folk eat from those baskets still.

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

The miracle of the loaves and fishes is as vastly underrated now as it was then. In Mark 6, the sequence of events is given as this: Jesus shows His dominion over the material world by feeding the multitudes. He sends His disciples away in a boat while He goes into a mountain to pray. The disciples are tossed about by the material elements of wind and water. Jesus walks out on the water and calms the winds because He has dominion over the material world. The disciples, who have been an integral part of the feeding of the multitude, become agitated because they think the figure walking on the water is a ghost (non-material). How could anything, material or not, destroy them while they were under the care of the Almighty? Mark 6:52 indicts their fear as follows:

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

It is no coincidence that the next event recorded is that of Jesus healing the sick, again showing again that He has dominion over the material world. The prayer that He taught His disciples was being lived out. He was demonstrating how His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, where His will is perfectly carried out. The invasion of earth by heaven does not negate the material world but rather blesses and restores it to its proper status.

But so what? And what connection does that concept have with this poem? The Eucharistic liturgy also demonstrates our Lord’s dominion over the material world, represented by the bread and wine, as well as by those who consume them. In a sense, every Eucharist is a creation and an incarnation, and it is most certainly the evidence of unity between God and His people, and by extension, of God’s people with each other.  The first line of the poem, which refers to the people as a “host” reflects not only that there were many of them but also that God’s people ARE one bread and one body becauase we partake that one Bread (I Corinthians 10:17). The entire first verse personifies the hillside (to represent all of the created order) as blessing our Lord because He saves not only the souls of mankind but also restores all of creation.

This poem was started in my head during the sermon on Sunday (March 18) and I’ve worked on it every morning since then. The final pieces fell in place today, March 21, which also happens to be the Feast of Archbishop Cranmer. I was told in seminary that Cranmer died for the sake of the words from the eucharistic liturgy which appear in bold italic below:

Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.

The Eucharist, as with Creation and the Incarnation, is where heaven meets earth, where the breath of life combines with the dust of the earth.

August 31, 2011

Daily Bread and Kingdom Come

Posted in Egypt, Incarnation, Kingdom, Laetare, Lent, Original Sin, The Eucharist at 6:34 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Their fathers had craved bread from Egypt’s store
And spurned the manna sent from God above.
Now seeing wine from water vessels pour,
Sons thronged to hear the words of Light and Love.

Since they had stayed till setting of the sun,
He had compassion on their hungry souls.
The Bread of Heaven fed them everyone
With one child’s meal of fish and barley loaves.

He fed them without money, without price,
As with the barley gleaned by faithful Ruth.
He, the better Boaz, made the sacrifice,
Revealed Himself as Way and Life and Truth.

By rolling back the stone of sin, providing
Bread and wine not earned by sweat of brow,
He shows us that in Him abiding
We can glean His Kingdom blessings now.

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

One of my favorite themes is the Eucharist, and having all of the bread themes in the Scriptures pointing to the Bread in some way makes for a broad palette for poetic images. Part of the curse that Adam endured was having to toil for bread by the sweat of his brow, but Isaiah 55:1-3 tells of a time of effortless bread, provided through the “sure mercies of David.” The bumpy ride that the Israelites gave Moses throughout the Exodus is replayed by the finicky followers who clung to the Lord Jesus for as long as He was providing bread and miracles. But in that one child who offered up his food, we see other children (whose faith we should emulate), including Isaac on the altar briefly, Moses in the river briefly, and ultimately the Child who served up the Bread of life even as early as the age of 12 as He stood teaching the teachers in the temple.

Also mentioned is the beautiful love story between Ruth and Boaz, which mirrors the relationship between Christ and the Church. Boaz provided food for Ruth and then stepped forward to become her kinsman redeemer. All of these ideas are bound together in the poem’s final verse, which proposes the Resurrection as the final resolution of the Adamic curse. The poem ends with a reminder that we may abide in Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 15) who connects us to God’s Kingdom here and now. The word glean brings back the image of Ruth, the Church fed by her Boaz until the final redemption is complete. The poem’s title binds all of these ideas in the cord of the Lord’s Prayer, where we ask for daily bread (and daily Bread) and that the will of God be done as perfectly on earth as it is in Heaven. It is only God who can make that happen, which is why the words are given as a prayer and not a commision to us, but we have the holy invitation to participate in the work of accomplishing God’s purpose on earth. May God grant us grace to trust in the work of Bread and Spirit and Father, giving thanks daily that we have been invited to be part of the heavenly Family. The Eucharist is our down payment for better communion to come, when we see Him face to face.

I don’t have much personal background for this poem, other than some dates. It was completed 30 June 2007 and edited 16 February 16 2008. That last date would have been a few weeks after my son’s death, and the one thing I do know is that after we buried him, I buried myself in the Word and in contemplation on the things of this life that have eternal value. For those who know the Bread, there is confidence that we will be fed then as now, and always perfectly. Otherwise, the loss of a dear one would be unbearable.

When I posted the poem, I changed one word in the last verse. It had originally read “rolling back the curse of sin,” but I wanted to reinforce the image of resurrection, so curse became stone.

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