Atonement

And I, with unclean lips, cried, “Woe to me!”
As Jesus bled and did atonement make.

A sonnet for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

‘Twas in the year when Judah’s archon died
   That I beheld the Lord upon the tree,
Exalted, lifted up, and crucified,
   While seraphim were singing rev’rently
The Sanctus of the Holy Trinity,
   Which chanting made the very thresholds quake;
And I, with unclean lips, cried, “Woe to me!”
   As Jesus bled and did atonement make.
With tongs a seraph winged his flight to take
   The flesh of Him who died all-gloriously,
And touched it to my eager lips, and spake,
   “Take, eat; the body of the Lord, for thee.”
“Amen! Amen!” with clean lips I replied,
And went down from the temple justified.


The poem is something of a Spenserian sonnet (named after Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599), which would typically follow the rhyme scheme ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. This poem is a variation on that and follows the scheme ABAB BCBC CBCB AA. The octave (first eight lines) builds up to the atonement that Jesus made on the cross, then the rhyme scheme works its way backward so that the justification of man in the final line is connected by rhyme with the death of Christ in the first line. At the same time, the octave can be seen as objective justification and the sestet (final six lines) as subjective justification. In other words, the octave shows that Christ has atoned for all people objectively in dying for them. Since the benefits of this atonement are received individually, or subjectively, by faith, the sestet portrays a man receiving the fruits of Christ’s atonement as he receives the Lord’s Supper. The language of the poem was inspired by Isaiah 6:1-7 and Luke 18:9-14 (the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector).

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Andrew Richard

Rev. Andrew Richard is Assistant Pastor, Headmaster, and Upper Level Teacher at Mount Hope Lutheran Church and School in Casper, WY.

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