The Quarterly Journal of Contemporary Narrative Verse Winter 1998 Volume I Number 4


composition by Ronald Gordon Ziegler

THE LYRIC GOSPEL Composition by Ronald Gordon Ziegler, Ph.D. c 1980 to my father, Carl Raymond Ziegler 11/7/16 - 5/15/84 ONE THE BIRTH OF JESUS From the seed of Abraham, the Lord God's chosen friend, fourteen generations to King David, then again, fourteen more of that prince to captivity in Babylon, and once more fourteen until the Lord begot His Son. Out of the House of David, as written in prophecy, were born the young man Joseph and his betrothed, Mary. Now before they knew each other in sacred love's embrace, the Holy Spirit gave her child; Mary, full of grace. And Joseph, fearing reproach, sought to hide her shame, but was moved in dream by God to give the maiden his name. "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son." So the prophet had written, and so God's will was done. And thus it is the story of the Lord Jesus Christ begins: "Thou shalt call his name Jesus Emanuel; for he shall save his people from their sins." THE CENSUS AND MANGER BIRTH (FROM LUKE 2) Now it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world should be taken, and this took place while Cyrinus was governor of Syria, and all were going to their own town to register. And Joseph went out from Nazareth, the town in Galilee, into Judea to the town of David, called Bethlehem, for he was of the House of David, to register with his wife who was with child, and while there, the time came to give life. And she brought forth her first-born son, in a manger he was to begin, and she wrapped him there in swaddling clothes, for there was no room in the inn. THE SHEPHERDS AT THE CRIB And there were shepherds in the fields watching their flocks by night. And, behold, an angel stood by them and the glory of God's light shone 'round them in the pasture and they feared exceedingly. And the angel said, "Be not afraid, I bring news of great joy to thee, for today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to men, who is Christ the Lord, and your sign, if you go there you can find him lying in a manger there wrapped in swaddling clothes." And suddenly a multitude of heavenly host arose and their voices sang out praises to God and the night was filled: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will." And it came to pass that the shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe, and offered praise to them, for they marveled at all these things that the angels did empart, and they gloried God as they returned. Mary kept all this in her heart. THE CIRCUMCISION And when eight days were fulfilled for his circumcision, his name was called Jesus, the name the angel had given when conception came. And when the days of her purification were fulfilled in the Law's accord, they took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. And, behold, there was in Jerusalem a man named Simeon, and he was just and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him that he should not die before he had seen the Christ, and inspiration drew him nigh the Temple. And when his parents brought in this little babe, he also received him in his arms and then blessed God and said, "Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, to thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen salvation, what Thou has prepared to reach before the faces of all peoples; a revelation and a light and glory for the Gentiles and Thy people Israel alike." And his parents were both marveling at all these things they heard concerning the child, and Simeon blessed them and to Mary spoke these words: "Behold, this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel and for a sign that shall be contradicted plenty. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that many hearts may be revealed." There was also Anna of great age who possessed a prophet's skill, and she stayed in the Temple fasting and praying night and day, and she came up at that very hour and began to speak and say praise to the Lord, and speak of him to all awaiting redemption. And when they had fulfilled all things prescribed in the Law, there from they returned to Galilee at Nazareth, taking Jesus there with them. And the child grew and became strong. Wisdom and God's grace were on him. TWO THE MAGI Now the Magi from the east had come to Herod in Jerusalem, seeking out the newborn king the star heralded to them; and jealous of his power, he bade them to return to tell him where he might find the baby once they'd learned, that he might go to worship and offer up his prayer, though in his heart, an evil thought of jealously he did bear. The star led them to Bethlehem, as scripture had foretold a leader of all Israel would spring from out her fold. There they had found the virgin and the child born of her, and worshipped, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and the kings to warn them of the evil things Herod's fears would bring, and Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and their son, while the Magi went back another way. But Herod's wrath was done, and he sent forth his army to destroy this threat to him - - - there was weeping for all male children in the streets of Bethlehem. In time, the evil Herod died, and Joseph brought his joy back from Egypt to Israel, and settled with the boy in Nazareth near Galilee - - - the prophets had foreseen that the Savior of all Israel should be called a Nazarene. THE CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE (FROM LUKE 2) And his parents were wont to go each year to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve, according to the customs preached, they took him along, but fulfilling the days, they returned but did not know that the boy remained, but thought that he was in the caravan also, and had come a full day's journey before it occurred to them to look among friends and relatives, and then they returned to locate him. And it came to pass in three days that they found him in the Temple there sitting in the midst of teachers, listening and asking them quer- ies, and all who were listening were amazed at how he answered. And when they saw him, they were astonished and his mother asked him these words: "Son, why hast thou done so to us? In sorrow have we sought thee." And he said to them, "How is it that you came back in search of me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work?" But they did not understand, and he went back to Nazareth and stayed subject to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart, then. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before both God and man. THREE JOHN THE BAPTIST Now in those days, the Baptist John preached repentance to the wise, and cried out in the desert for the good to be baptized; "I baptize thee you with water, yet coming forth from Galilee is another who'll baptize thee with fire, who is worthier than me." Then down to the Jordan, Jesus sought baptism, but said John: "It is you who should baptize me," yet Jesus had him carry on. And a voice from heaven spoke out as over Jesus, God's dove eased, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." THE MARRIAGE FEAST AT CANA (FROM LUKE 2) A marriage took place at Cana and the mother of Jesus was there. Now, Jesus, too, was invited, and his disciples, to come and share. And the wine began to run short, so the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine," and Jesus answered, "What would you have me do, woman? For my hour has yet to come." But to the attendants, she said, "Do whatever he tells you." And the attendants of those wed placed six stone water-jars each holding two or three measures, after the Jewish manner of purification, and then he said, "Fill the jars with water," and they filled them to the brim. And Jesus said, "Take some now to the chief steward and let him taste it," and when he had, not knowing whence it came (though the attendants knew who had drawn it), he called the bridegroom's name and said, "Every man at first sets forth the good wine, and when they've done and drunk freely, he sets forth that which is the poorer one. But thou hast kept the good wine until now - - - the taste is fine." For Jesus had worked his first sign, and turned the water into wine. FOUR THE TEMPTATION IN THE DESERT Then the Spirit led this Jesus into the desert for the fast, forty days and nights of hunger until temptation came at last. And to this weakened mind and body he sought to break, Satan said, "If thou art, indeed, the Son of God, command these stones be loaves of bread." But Jesus answered, "It is written, 'It is not by bread alone man lives, but, trusting in God's love and mercy, by every word His mouth shall give.'" To the Holy City the devil took him and sat him on a pinnacle of the Temple and said to him, apparently yet cynical, "If thou art the Son of God, let thyself be thrown down, for it is written that His angels are charged by Him to gather 'round and bear thee up lest some stone dash thy foot as thou dost trod," but Jesus answered, "It's further written, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'" Still undaunted, the devil took him high upon a mountain berth and showed him all the glory of the kingdoms of the earth, and said, "All this I'll give thee, if thou shalt fall down and worship me." But Jesus said, "Begone, Satan. It is written for all to see 'Thou shalt only worship the Lord thy God and serve only His whim,'" and so the devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him. THE FIRST DISCIPLES CALLED John, 'the voice that cried out in the desert, make straight the paths of the Lord,' was delivered up at this time and threatened with the sword, and Jesus, hearing of this, withdrew then to Galilee, and left the town of Nazareth to dwell in Capharnaum by the sea where the prophet said a great light would arise for the people of that land; and from that time he preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And as he was walking down by the Sea of Galilee, he came upon two brothers casting nets into the sea - - - the fishermen Andrew and Simon Peter - - - and then he spoke onto them, "Come, if you will follow me, I will make you fishers of men." They left their nets and joined him, and going further on, he saw in a boat mending nets, two other brothers, James and John. And hearing of his message, these sons of Zebedee also left to follow him and learn his ministry. And Jesus went on teaching all about through Galilee, preaching of his gospel, and so that they might see the glory of his coming and his power and his love, he cured and healed each sickness the faithful suffered of. His fame spread all through Syria, and wherever he would go, crowds gathered to follow him, and every day they'd grow. FIVE THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT And seeing all those crowds wondering at this display, he went upon the mountain and taught them in this way: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; heaven is their right of birth. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth. Comfort shall be given to those who mourn for who have died. And blessed are they who thirst for justice - - - they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for mercy shall be theirs. Blessed are the peacemakers - - - as His children, for them God cares. Happy they are to see the Lord, those whose heart is pure. And those who suffer for justice, my kingdom shall be their cure. Blessed are you persecuted and reproached for my sake; your reward is great in heaven for false evil that they spake; rejoice and be exalted, their ways are not new, for so did they persecute the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; who shall season the world but you? You are the light of the world. A hilled city can't be hidden from view. Neither do men light a lamp and secret it away. Even so, let your light shine for men in order that they may see your good works light the world and know the Father's love, and they shall all give glory to your Father in heaven above. Think not I come to destroy the Law or the prophets, by His will, I have not come to destroy, but rather to fulfill. For amen, I say to you, till heaven and earth shall pass, nothing shall be lost from the Law till all things are done at last. He shall be least who does away with one commandment but who teaches and carries each one out shall be called great in heaven. For I say to you unless your justice surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, the kingdom of heaven is one place you shall never reside. You have heard it was said to the ancients 'Thou shalt not kill' or face the judge, but I call you liable for judgment who for your brother holds anger or grudge. Therefore, reconcile to your brother before gifts to the alter are sent, or be delivered up, for you will not come out till you have paid him every cent. 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' the ancient law said in part, but I say just to look at another in lust is adultery in the heart. So if your eye is an occasion of sin, pluck it out and cast it away, for it is better to perish a member than suffer Hell for going astray. It was said to the ancients, moreover, 'Whoever puts away his spouse, let them give a written notice of dismissal from that house.' But I say to you who will listen that, except for immorality, to put away a spouse from yourself leaves them to commit adultery; and to marry a partner who has in such manner been put aside is to commit adultery yourself with that husband or that bride. And the ancients were told not to swear false, and oaths to the Lord, fulfill. But I say to you not to swear at all; not by heaven, earth, or thy will. But let your speech be only, 'Yes, yes,' or 'No, no,' for whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one below. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,' you have heard that it was said, but I say don't resist the evil-doer; on the contrary, turn your head. And if someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other, and I tell you that if someone sues for your tunic, give them your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go a mile, for two miles with him stay, and from he who would borrow of you, I tell you not to turn away. You were told to love your neighbor and to hate your enemy, but I say love those who hate you, and do them good that thee may be children of the Father who treats all men equally. Pray for those who persecute you, as I pray for who persecute me. For He makes His sun to rise on evil and good, and trust that it is the same rain that falls on the dishonest and the just. For if you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? And if you only salute your brother, don't all do what you do? You are to be perfect, even as your Father above. You live to strive for perfection. You live to be His love!" SIX "There will be no reward with God for doing good for all to see. Therefore, when you givest alms, do not sound horns before thee as hypocrites do in the Temple to be honored by all men, for the Lord says they've received their reward, and I say to you, amen, But when you are giving alms, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing; do not give alms for show, so that they may be given secretly, for your Father sees in secret, and your Father will reward you, and He does not forget. And again, when you pray, you should not be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing for all to see, for them the same rule fits - - - they have received their reward - - - when you pray, close the door. Pray to your Father in secret and He will reward you the more. And praying, do not multiply words, like those who think they will be heard if they say a great deal - - - your Father knows before a word just what it is you need of him, so do not use their way. It is in this manner that, therefore, you should pray:
'Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth and in heaven the same. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us all our ills, as we forgive our trespassers in the love that is Thy will. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver evil away, for Thine is the kingdom and power and the glory for all days.'
For if you forgive their offenses, the Father will forgive you. But if you forgive them not, He will hold your offenses true. And show not gloom when you fast like those who disfigure their face that they appear to be fasting - - - their reward is their honor - - - disgrace; but anoint your head and wash your face so your fast shall not be seen except by the Father who sees in secret and rewards what you have been. Do not lay treasures up here on earth, where rust and moths consume, and where thieves break in and steal them; rather, you should groom for yourself a place in heaven; lay up your treasures and art where they neither rust nor are stolen, for where your treasure is, there is your heart. The lamp of the body is the eye and if the eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light, but of darkness if evil is found. Therefore, if the light that is in you is the darkness that grows out of sin, then how great is the darkness your soul is left to dwell in. No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or stand by one and see the other undone, despising him all the while and striking him with his rod. You cannot serve two masters - - - You cannot serve both Mammon and God. And therefore, I say to you, don't be anxious for your life, and worry about what you'll eat or wear, you should know that such strife is unfounded, for is not life a greater thing than food or ale, and the body much more important to God than just cloth sown well? Look at the birds of the air, do they sow, or reap, or put food away? And yet the Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? But which of you by worrying so can add to your stature at all? The Father takes care of His children and he hears their every call. And as for clothing, why do you fret? Think how the lilies grow. They neither toil nor spin in the field, yet their beauty we all know. For even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes his grass for bread, what of you, if Him you please? Oh, ye of little faith! You worry for clothing and feed. All men seek all these things, and your Father knows what you need. But seek first the kingdom of God and the justice He abides, and all these things that each man needs shall be given to you besides. Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for they come and go with anxieties each of their own. Sufficient for today is its woe." SEVEN "Do not judge that you not be judged, for judgment shall be given to you, and with what you measure your neighbor, you will be measured, too. You see a speck in the eye of your brother, but not the beam in your eye? How can you tell him to cast out the speck, doesn't the beam in your eye make you cry? Hypocrite, cast your beam out first, to see clearly to cast out the speck that confounds the eye of your brother, and which only then you can justly detect. Do not give to dogs what is holy, neither cast your pearls before swine, for they'll trample them under their feet, then turn and tear you to twine. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened; ask God, and it will unwind. Which of you, were your son to ask for a loaf, would give him a stone, or hand him a serpent if he asked for a fish, or give him for dinner a bone. Therefore, if you, evil as you are, for your children, would do any task, how much more will your Father give good things to those who but ask? So all that you would men do onto you, even so, do you also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets - - - this is God's way for men. Enter by the narrow gate. For broad is the way, and wide is the gateway to destruction, and the way that many have tried; while the gate is close and narrow that the way to life passes through. Enter by the narrow gate - - - those that find it are few. Beware of false prophets dressed as sheep, but who are ravenous wolves inside. By their fruits you shall know them; do grapes come from thorns or figs among thistles reside? Good trees bear good fruit, even so, but the bad tree bears fruit that is bad. And a good tree can't bear bad fruit, nor has good fruit a bad tree had, and every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown to fire. Therefore, by their fruits ill you know them - - by the love that their works inspire. Not everyone who says 'Lord' to me, has his desire fulfilled, for they alone will enter the kingdom who live by my Father's will. Many will say, when the day comes, 'Lord, in your name did we prophecy, and so cast out demons and work miracles,' but I'll say, 'Depart from me.' And then I will declare to them, 'Never did I know you, for you knew the way of my Father, but to it you were not true.' Therefore, they who hear my words and act on them are as wise as was the man who built his house on rock above the ocean tides; and the rains fell and the floods came and against that house winds blew, but founded on rock, it fell not, and so shall it be with you. But those of you who hear my words shall be like the foolish man, if you do not heed them, who built his house on sand; and when the rain and floods came and the winds blew out of Hell and beat against that house of his, it was utterly ruined and fell." And it came to pass that when Jesus had finished with these words, that his teachings astonished the crowds, and the hearts within them were stirred, for he had taught them differently, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees, but as one with the spirit of God in him, as one with authority. EIGHT JESUS WORKS WONDERS Now when Jesus came down from the mountain, great throngs followed him from the scene, and behold, a leper worshipped him saying, "Lord, if you will, make me clean." Reaching forth his hand, Jesus touched him saying, "I will; be thou now free," and immediately when he said the words, he was cured of his leprosy. And Jesus bade him, "Tell no one, but go, show yourself to a priest, and for witness, offer Moses' command, the gift of the poor leper's feast." Now when he entered Capharnaum, there came a centurion guard who begged him to come heal his servant who lay paralyzed in his courtyard. And Jesus said he would go cure him, but at this the centurion kneeled, "Lord, I am not worthy you come under my roof, say but the word, and he'll be healed. For I, too, am a man subject to power, and have soldiers who are subject to me, and I say to one, 'Go,' and another one, 'Come,' and they obey my authority, as does my servant when I tell him, 'Do this,'" and Jesus marveled at his words, and said, "Amen, I say to you, I have found none by such faith stirred in all Israel. And I tell you many will come from west and east to join Abraham, Issac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven to feast, but the children of the kingdom shall suffer to be put out in the darkness beneath, condemned to the greatest of sorrow, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus told the centurion, "Go thy way, your prayer is fulfilled, for thou hast believed," and in that hour, the afflicted servant was healed. And when Jesus came to Peter's house, the mother-in-law was lying in bed sick with a fever - - - he touched her - - - she rose cured and saw them fed. Now when it came to the evening, they brought him many possessed, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured of their sickness, the rest that what was spoken through Isaiah the Prophet might be fulfilled, 'He himself took up their infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills.' But when Jesus saw throngs around him, he gave orders to go across the sea; then a Scribe came and told him, "Master, where thou goest, I shall follow thee." But the way would be wrought with peril, and so Jesus warned him and said, "The foxes have dens and the birds have their nests, but where shall God's Son lay his head?" When another disciple said to him, "Lord, I must bury my father first," Jesus said, "When anyone rises to follow me, leave the dead to bury the dead." The disciples followed him into a boat and they set out across the deep, and a great storm arose and the waves grew high, but Jesus had gone to sleep. So they came and woke him saying, "Oh Lord, save us. We're perishing here!" But he said, "Oh you of little faith, why is it you have such great fear?" Then he rebuked the wind to be still, and he calmed the sea at a whim, and they marveled, "What manner of man is this that even wind and sea obey him?" And when they had come to the other side, to the country of Gerasenes, no one could pass because two possessed men were hold up at the tombs, fiercely mean. And behold, they cried out, "What have we to do with thee, the Son of God? Have you come here to torment us with thy staff and with thy rod?" Not far away from where they were was a swine herd at feeding time, and the devils kept mocking, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." He said to them, "Go!," and they entered the pigs, and the possessed were set free, but the whole herd rushed and ran off the cliff and they all perished into the sea. But the swineherders fled and went into the town and told them all what had occurred, and the whole town ran out to meet Jesus and begged him to leave them undisturbed. Continue Return to beginning of POeTRY