November 18, 2018

Thanksgiving Frost

Posted in Hope, Liturgical Calendar, Suffering, The Great Physician, Trinity at 10:42 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

To see them now you would not realize
That in the longer days they were consumed
By green bathed in the tears of summer skies
And flowers bursting forth in fragrant bloom.
Then vibrant buds gave way to sumptuous fruit
That harvesters brought safely in for food
Before they turned the plants up by the root,
Abandoning the fields in quietness to brood.
But on November mornings cold and brown,
The fields yield harvest of a different kind:
As frigid air descends on fertile ground,
A cloud of glory blankets for a time
The naked fields forgotten and forlorn,
In witness of the life that they have worn.

Copyright © 2018 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

The last half of my drive to work runs through a rural area with fields on both sides. Over the past ten years I have enjoyed the beauty of this land in each season. There is something holy about the fields after the harvest has been taken and the cold begins to settle in. Almost every morning they have breathed up a cloud of fog as though they are giving up the ghost.


November 12, 2018

The Great Physician

Posted in Hope, Liturgical Calendar, Suffering, The Great Physician, Trinity at 11:06 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

His healing touch had made a leper clean again.
He raised a servant with the power of His Word
And stilled a storm and cast out demons from two men.
Then driven from that place, forgiveness He conferred
Upon a paralytic and a publican.
Chastised for breaking bread with sinners He proclaimed
That mercy is God’s greatest gift to fallen man.
Then to his knees a troubled ruler fell unshamed
And heard the blessed news his child would live anew.
Meanwhile, a weary woman followed silently,
Half mad with fear yet holding onto hope that grew.
And though unclean, she pressed in close enough to see
His garment’s fringe, which she in eager faith took hold.
Dispelling fear, His words spoke healing manifold.

Copyright © 2018 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

This poem loosely follows the narrative given in Matthew 8:1-9:22. The portion about the woman with the issue of blood was the Gospel reading for the 24th Sunday after Trinity, and although I wanted the main focus to be on that moment of healing that the woman experienced, I thought it was important to see what had led up to this event, which was multiple instances of healing, administered in various ways, as well as a demonstration of His control over His creation in the calming of the storm. In each case, Jesus gave the petitioner exactly what was needed. His healing power was not distributed through some magic hocus-pocus formula. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and His solutions were as varied as the problems.

But what was also varied were the responses to His grace. He had driven out demons, and for His trouble was driven out Himself. And though it was not recorded that this dear woman spoke a word, her grasping the tassel of Jesus’ prayer shawl spoke volumes of the faith she bore in the Christ who could heal when He would and as He would.

Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.


August 7, 2016

Selling Doves

Posted in Dove, Holy Spirit, Lamb of God, Sanctification, Son of God, Trinity at 8:21 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our Lord went to the Temple to the feast;
The Lamb of God would bring a sacrifice.
And entering His courts, the Great High Priest
Found His own Father’s house teeming with vice.
He saw the place where sin was to be purged
Corrupt and reeking with the greed of gain.
So He the Righteous Son prepared a scourge
To cleanse the temple from its awful stain.
Then pouring out the coins He arraigned
The moneychangers for their blasphemy
In profiting from sacraments ordained
To show God’s people He must set them free.
Lord, cleanse the temple of my wayward heart,
So that Your Holy Dove will not depart.

Copyright © 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

Reference: John 2:13-17

Last Sunday’s Gospel was the counterpart to the scripture on which this poem is based. Jesus cleansed the temple of moneychangers twice, once at the beginning of His ministry and once shortly before He was crucified. The passage in John refers to the first of those events.

It is sobering to find the One who is the original for the types and shadows of the Temple being mocked through price gouging that took advantage of the people for whom He had come to offer Himself as a free sacrifice. It is even more sobering to note that the religious leaders of his day had never rebuked the greedy merchandisers but rebuked Him for doing so. It is most sobering to realize that three years later, after having the benefit of His teaching and His miracles, not to mention the glory of His presence, the hearts of the scribes and pharisees were even harder than before they met Him.

May He ever guard our hearts from all that is not holy.


June 7, 2015

The Beggar

Posted in Trinity at 6:36 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Certain man, so certain of your place among elite;
Dressed fine, your larder brimmed with choicest fare.
Too often in your rounds you paused to glare
At Lazarus, the beggar lying helpless at your feet.
Disgusting man, his dirty sores oozed poverty.
Why should your crumbs be shared with one so base?
And what cared you that hunger marred his face?
He had no right to any of your hard-earned money.
But sumptuous fare was waiting for him in another land.
His God rewarded him with heaven’s best.
In Abraham’s bosom Lazarus found rest,
Yet you entreated comfort from his now-healed hand.
Demanding favors from your well-earned place among the damned,
You still believed that you deserve the good,
Yet never once showed mercy while you could,
Thus you are nothing like the gracious God of Abraham.

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

From the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday after Trinity – Luke 16:19-31

This morning I heard an excellent sermon on this passage. The priest was careful to point out that the story of the rich man and Lazarus cannot be interpreted as a diatribe against riches. Lazarus did not go to heaven because he was poor, and the rich man was not doomed by his riches. Salvation comes only through God’s grace, and those whom God redeems by grace are made like Him. In his life, the rich man was perfectly situated to show forth the love of God by sharing his worldly goods. That he refused to do so is proof that he was not a child of God, who is loving and merciful.

I haven’t commented recently on poetic form, but with this one, the form is part of the full effect. The story of the rich man and Lazarus is that of a reversal of fortune, and the rhyme scheme of a-b-b-a, with the “a” lines having seven feet and the “b” lines having five feet, is intended to convey that concept.

Also, the phrase “disgusting man” at the beginning of line 5 is deliberately unclear in its reference, the point being that the rich man would have thought Lazarus disgusting, while all the time, his own selfishness was the most disgusting thing of all. And you’ve already guessed that the title has a dual meaning as well.

March 5, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come!

Posted in Atonement, Faith, Kingdom, Obedience, Son of God, Suffering, The Eucharist, Trinity at 6:43 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Thy kingdom, God, is strange indeed:
By Your Son’s death the slave is freed;
No more a slave, but Your own child,
Adopted from the raging wild.
But once a child, a servant too,
To wait the table set by You.
And You the Host and You the Bread,
And You the Firstfruit from the dead.
But not just child or servant, we
Are soldiers marching joyfully,
Enduring hardship in the fray
For God and kingdom, and the day
When pain and tears shall be no more
And we, with You, reign evermore.

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

No wonder the Kingdom of God is a stumblingblock for those who are not a part of it! From an earthly standpoint, these things don’t make sense. Those who are not children of God believe that they are the ones who are free, while all the time they are slaves to sin. And we who have been freed are invited to take up our cross and to take on the yoke of Christ and to do battle, using the sword of the Spirit.

But the thought that kept running through my head this week was that as soldiers of the cross, we are promised a share in the kingdom for which we fight. Our battles are not endured for the sake of a despot but for our own heritage in the glorious kingdom of God, at whose right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

If that doesn’t raise your courage level, I’m not sure what will.


January 9, 2012

Body of Christ

Posted in Holy Spirit, Lent, Pentecost, Sanctification, The Eucharist, Trinity at 9:41 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Through God’s holy mysteries,
Living water flows into these
Imperfect vessels, dull and bleak,
Chipped and tarnished, frail and weak.
But, filled with grace and not regret,
Such jars can honor Heaven yet.
For Christ converts them into gold
And bids them His pure treasure hold.
The change is not just bread and wine
But souls transformed to health divine.
No longer banished, child of Eve,
A place of honor now receive,
And to the Master taking heed,
Prepared for every holy deed.

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

Satan loves to trick us with sleight of hand. Much ink has been spilled over exactly what happens to the bread and wine when the priest consecrates them. The much more important question is, What happens to us when we are consecrated to God’s purpose? The bread, the body of Christ, is not the goal. The Church, the body of Christ, is the goal, sanctified by baptism and the Spirit, and fed by the very life and presence of our Lord Himself.

The imagery of potter and clay surfaces multiple times in Scripture. Perhaps the most intriguing of these passages is 2 Timothy 2:19-21, where two things are at work. What is necessarily first is that “the Lord knows those who are His.” Being made alive by the calling of God through the Holy Spirit, we are His. But that does not relieve us of the responsibility to seek after holiness, for the very next words in this passage are a solemn injunction: “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Yes, He calls, and if He didn’t we would never rise up out of the pigsty of our sins. But when He calls, we must turn, depart from iniquity, and run home to our Father.

There is also an element of Romans 12, in that we present these cleansed vessels to God as our “reasonable service.” This is another passage in which the theme of sanctification is prominent. It is not enough for us to be hidden away somewhere, set apart in holiness. No, wee are to be counter-cultural. Transformed by Christ, we are to transform the world, rather than being conformed to the world around us.

The original version of this poem is dated September 19, 2002, and it was revised 25 June 2007. Tonight, the main change has been in the final four lines, which I realized didn’t really follow from the preceding lines. In addition, the final two lines were terribly trite, and that will never do. The revision more closely follows the thoughts in the passage from 2 Timothy than did the previous version.

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