“Redemption” (George Herbert)

“Redemption” by George Herbert, paraphrased by Art Eschenlauer

As long-time tenant to a wealthy Lord,
not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold
and make suit to the Owner to afford
a new, reduced-rent lease, and cancel th’old.

At Heaven’s manor, thus, my Lord I sought:
They told me that my Lord was lately gone
about some land on Earth, so dearly bought
quite long ago, to take possession.

Returning, knowing of my Lord’s great birth,
I searched accordingly in great resorts;
in cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts:

At length, I heard a ragged noise and mirth
of thieves and murd’rers: there my Lord I spied,
who said, “Your suit is granted,” and then died.


I paraphrased George Herbert’s poem “Redemption” (published in 1633 in The Temple; see e.g. https://tinyurl.com/GeorgeHerbertRedemption) because I wanted more modern language (more gender-neutral and less confusing), but I wanted to try to preserve the “feel” and meaning as best I could.

License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Cross Purpose

Cross Purpose:

A response to George Herbert’s “Redemption”

At Heaven’s manor’s door I stood and knocked
to ask my Lord about this mystery.
I hoped my loving Lord would help me see
how, from my sin, my spirit is unlocked.

“My cross is where your condemnation ends,
so you can view your past without despair,
and, freed from Satan’s sway, you can repair
relationships and start to make amends.”

It seems I want to have a better past
with facts that are much less unsettling.
I want my Savior’s precious blood to bring
me far from those regrets which hold me fast.

“My child,” my Lord said,  “that can never be.
Accept your past, and know you live with Me.”


“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall
keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:7 KJV


The Greek and Hebrew words term translated as “sin” both literally are the archery term meaning “missing the mark”[1].   It is not the error that hurts me the most, but rather the impact on the person whom I have hurt, along with its effect on our relationship (which is changed even though my victim may have forgiven me).  This makes it difficult to be fully present when reconciling with my victims while I am at the same time feeling wracked with guilt.  How does redemption change my relationship with the fact of what I have done?  I wrote this sonnet as I reflected on this question.

I like the sonnet as a way to structure thought: the form classically begins with contemplation of an issue (“the argument”) and then moves on to proposing how the issue might be addressed (“the resolution”) [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia#In_Christian_theology
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet#Petrarchan_sonnet

 

License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Two Days After

Two Days After

Beside a boulder, Mary Magdalene
stands looking through the tomb’s door and dark space
at empty grave cloths lying in the place
where Jesus’ lifeless body last was seen.

And Crucifixion I see all the time
as Christ-within-all suffers at the hand
of scared folks like me who don’t understand
that they themselves are victims of their crime.

An empty tomb! So rare, bewildering.
Her hopes and dreams are shattered; with her there
comes grief and will to show the corpse the care
that, to the living, people would not bring.

So, blind with grief, by Mary now I stand,
Not recognizing Jesus-now-at-hand!


“… she turned around and saw Jesus standing there,
but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
– John 20:14 NRSV


License: CC BY-SA 4.0