Monday, August 3, 2015

I am the bread of life


We take these words
and fashion them into a ritual.
A ritual meal of great beauty,
layered and filled with meaning
and mystery; which is almost certainly
what the writer had in mind.
Flesh is made bread.
The wheat is ground,
mixed, kneaded,
and baked in an oven. It emerges,
crusty and smelling of friendship.
So we tear the loaves in two,
break off pieces,
and share them.
And somehow, in this bread
and in the wine that accompanies it,
we take into the essence of our selves
the words the Teacher spoke,
the compassion, grace, and love he enacted.
Along with the power of his giving,
his sacrifice.
And somehow,
in this invitation to gather
at his table,
we are also invited to see with his eyes
and to behold the kingdom;
a world that may yet be transformed
by justice, hope and peace.
And in these fragments,
small, humble, broken,
we receive this man;
not to mention
his outrage
and his tears.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Would that i had died ...

On hearing the news that Absalom was dead, David immediately retreated to a private place to mourn. His poignant words have rung and echoed through every generation since. “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you.” Unknown numbers of parents have uttered words like this as news came to them of the death of their sons and now daughters also, in war. In fact, almost every time a child dies, the parents express such words, “Would that I had died instead of you.”
The story goes on to say that the victory turned into mourning for all the troops who instead of celebrating joined the King in respect for his grief. But then the twist in the story came. Joab one of the army commanders had specifically disobeyed David’s orders in encouraging the soldiers to kill Absalom and he wasn’t about to put up with David’s response to news of the death. He told David in no uncertain terms that he was letting down the nation by mourning the one who had betrayed his father.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the Prime Minister of England going to the Queen in Scotland to tell her she had no right to be mourning as she was when Dianna died.
In the book of Job, we read of how his friends tried to tell him how to grieve and why he had brought all this trouble on himself.  Unfortunately today, people still try to tell others how they should mourn and remind them too early of major responsibilities.
It is almost natural to ask questions following a death, especially a sudden one. Why did this happen? What could I have done to prevent it? David must have wondered why the army officers had not done what he asked.
It is not only parents who say “Would that I had died instead of you”. They were my words when my husband died. He was such a loss to the community as well as our family and I was just his wife. In grief there is confusion, despair, unbearable agony. The thing that the story of David tells us is that no matter how bad it gets or how badly we handle our grief, God is still there for us, in it and through it.

Perhaps the words of Psalm 130 are also ones that you have uttered in desperation, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading.”  People who haven’t experienced major grief fail to understand. Many mean well with their advice but grief is a thing that you have to do for yourself for the most part, with the help of God.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

The gift of righteous anger

In the Gospel reading set to go with Ephesians, the Jews were complaining about what Jesus had said about being the Bread of Life. [John 6:41] They were angered by his words. They felt indignant about his claims that were, to be honest, confronting. Their smouldering rage led to them having Jesus killed.
The Gospel of John was written around the end of the first century after the split between Jesus’s followers and the Jews. While there is little doubt that there was trouble between Jesus and some Jews in his life time, it seems that this has been expanded to include all Jews by the time this Gospel was written. Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life and likening himself to the manna in the wilderness would have seemed outrageous to many. However it can be a source of strength and encouragement for those fighting injustice.
If we are true followers of Jesus, acknowledging that we feel angry about an injustice is never enough. We are called to follow Jesus’ example of doing something to rectify the situation. What God requires is justice.[Micah 6:8] Feeling anger is to be followed by action by us as members of the body of Christ. Grumbling and complaining among ourselves is not enough. Justice for all is to be top of our agendas and we will be guided into the area of our work by examining our feelings of anger. Therefore, “Be angry, but do not sin and do not let the sun go down” without having begun to address the situation that aroused your anger.

May be richly blessed as a passionate member of Christ’s body ready to discern and respond to injustice.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A challenge to think again!

The truth is that there are many parts of Scripture where the morality is at best questionable and even some parts, like the condoning of slavery that we now reject. In John 6 [the Gospel reading set for this day], the people come looking for Jesus. He has fed them once and they wanted to be fed again. He encouraged them to seek the bread of life, which he was longing to provide for them.
There are many in our communities who are hungry for acceptance, acknowledgement that they matter to someone, that someone cares about the pain they have suffered and the neglect they have felt, who long to be fed with love and kindness, to be appreciated for who they are. Most survivors of abuse do not seek revenge. Most are looking for assistance to thrive, to come to feel God and others really care about what has happened to them.
When are we as the Church in general going to freely acknowledge that Jesus is the Living Word of God and that there are a number of passages in Scripture that are not consistent with Jesus’ teaching of justice and mercy? Probably the closet story we have to this one of David and Bathsheba from Jesus is the one about the woman taken in adultery where Jesus said, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”[John 8:7] He didn’t treat the woman like an object and nor did he blame her. Instead he treated her with quiet dignity.
If your response to this sermon is one of discomfort or agitation; if you want to say that it is making a fuss about something that doesn’t matter much, I urge you to think again. God loves and honours each of us as individual persons. God does not treat us as objects or possessions. Christ longs for us to be filled with the bread of life. When we can assist more survivors to thrive, our whole communities will also thrive.
The writer of the Epistle to the Ephesians talks of us being part of the body of Christ. This body can only thrive if we seek healing and wholeness for all its members and God longs to bring us such healing. May we be open to listening to the prophets of today who bring us the truth, even when it is painful.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Give us this bread always

They ask for signs,
but fail to embrace
the sign that was given.
They were in happy agreement
when it was all about eating
and feeding upon crusty loaves.
On those days belief came easy
and their hearts had surged,
hoping, expectant.
But seeking, receiving and dining
on the food that endures for eternal life,
(whatever that means),
is another thing entirely.
Give us this bread always.
The request comes easily,
with eager, outstretched hands,
but few opt to stay around
to receive the answer.
And the sign,
despite its stark simplicity,
perhaps because of it,
is passed by, unnoticed and ignored.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

loaves and fishes

Monday, July 20, 2015


To get away from the multitudes
and their expectations
the man called Bread
withdraws to the hills.
Having eaten their fill,
the crowd still wants more.
They intend to make him king,
to claim him as their hero-leader;
that he might feed them when they are hungry,  
heal them when they are sick,
and deliver them victory over their enemies.
Instead he gives them a handful of words:
crumbs of bread to fill them with hope,
and morsels of love to overcome their fears.
Then he offers them platters
laden with small parcels of his own strange life;
topped with generously with sacrifice.
None of these  dishes will prove sufficient
to satisfy the imagined hungers of the crowd.



© Ken Rookes 2015