Monday, October 20, 2014

The Muslim mystic, Rabl’a said, “To love God, not because of powerful institutions, or even because God commands it, but to do so in an act of unencumbered freedom, is the very source of mystical relationship.”
There is a gulf between theology [rational knowledge of God] and mysticism [experience of God]. Another Muslim mystic and martyr  from the 10ce[922ce] called Mansur al-Hallaj taught passionate, overflowing love as the heart of the divine being instead of blind imitation and obedience. Such love is the mystery of creation. He said, “Whoever seeks God runs ahead of God’s revelations, but whomever God seeks has revelations overtaking his running.” This is what God does for children and explains their experiences of God.
John of the Cross wrote that God does not reserve the calling to contemplation to particular souls. On the contrary, God hopes all will embrace it.
We heard last week that Moses asked God to let him know God more and we heard God’s response in giving him a vision of God’s goodness. How well do we know God’s goodness? Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic put it we have “not been created for small things.” Contemplating this is both exciting and daunting.

We are invited into a mutual relationship of love with God and then when we have been loved, we will be equipped for the sometimes enormously difficult task of loving our neighbours and ourselves.

Rev Julianne Parker
(see Sermons page for full sermon)

The greatest commandment

Any religion;
whichever myths have inspired it,
no matter how it connects its members
with divine spirit,
whatever its claims,
however it patterns its ritual
or intones its worship;
is an empty shell
if it fails to draw from its adherents
lives of creative generosity.

In the writings of a breakaway group
named for its reluctant founder;
the plethora of commandments
in the Hebrew scriptures
surrender their ground
to a pair.

The carpenter from Nazareth
spoke often of divine agape,
the source of all that is good and true.
His listeners were invited
to make their own fruitful responses,
to share the love.
He calls this costly agape stuff
the greatest of fruits,
and enacts it at every opportunity.
Love, along with her precious siblings;
generosity, forgiveness, peace, tears and hope,
provide the means, he assures us,
by which the planet,
along with its diverse and wonderful creatures,
will find life.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thus this text offers little or no guidance for tax season. It neither claims taxation is legitimate nor gives aid to anti-tax activists. It neither counsels universal acceptance of political authority nor its reverse. But it does raise the provocative and still relevant question: what belongs to God, and what belongs to Caesar? And what if Caesar is Hitler, or apartheid, or communism, or global capitalism? What is to be the attitude of Christians toward domination systems, whether ancient or modern?
-Marcus Borg

There is a paradox in this knowing business.

I can understand why Moses wanted to know God more. As he said, God knew him and relationship is about mutuality. It is always a bit disconcerting to talk with someone who obviously knows who I am but I have no idea who they are. They may have called me by name, and instead of concentrating on the conversation, I may be wracking my brain, trying to think of their name. I am searching for a clue as to who they are and wondering where we may have met. Usually it is someone I have met in a different place and this may become the key to unlocking recognition of the person.
After six months in a new placement, Fred said at an Elders meeting, “I hardly know you people yet and know little about you.” The unexpected reply he received was, “Why would you want to know us?” “So I can care for you better”, Fred replied.
There is a paradox in this knowing business. The less we actually know about any person or thing, the more we may think we know and the more we know, the more we realise how little we know. Yet there is a point where we can know more than we want to about ourselves and others because that knowing is too much for us to bear. We condemn the uncaring nature of the Church leaders who didn’t respond to the knowledge of abuse. Perhaps we could ask why they were unable to respond with justice and compassion in situations where justice and compassion where clearly called for. What had happened in their lives that we might not know about to lead them to deny help where help was needed?

I was recently reminded that meditation and worship are where we seek to know the Transcendent God while mission is about following the Immanent God. There is joy in knowing Christ… God gives us the honour of a deepening knowledge and relationship. We can give to God a willingness to consider what God would like us to know. It is from such deepening relationship that we are better able to give to God a willingness to follow the Way of Christ, inspired by joy and compassion.

Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

two realms???

"This passage has been understood by many people to say that there are two realms, those of politics and of religion. We should obey the state and obey God, and the two don’t overlap. Try telling that to Martin Luther King. Try telling that to Nelson Mandela. Try telling that to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the confessing church in Hitler’s Germany.

It has been coupled with Romans 13, which has been used for centuries to justify passive obedience to the state, even when the state has been monstrous. How could Paul be referring to the state when he said that the authorities are put there by God, and whoever resists them resists God? (Rom 13:1-2) He lived under the brutal and murderous regime of Rome!

I would suggest that we re-read Romans 13 with a completely different understanding. Perhaps the “authorities” Paul is talking about are the leaders of the church. In the surrounding chapters Paul is talking about the marks of the true church and how we ought to live together in peace and love. I can hardly imagine Paul telling us to submit to anyone other than to God and to each other as Christians. It doesn’t appear to be about obeying governments at all. And neither is Matthew 22, where Jesus’ punch line is “Give to God what belongs to God.”"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whose wife will she be?

When we have finished living,
after we die,
we will continue to exist; in some form.
So Jesus is recorded as saying
as he responds to the improbable scenario
put to him by a group Sadducees
endeavouring to ridicule
notions of resurrection.
This state of eternal existence will be quite unlike
that which we have previously known,
here among earth’s red dust;
he tells them.
Don’t expect family reunions,
welcoming friends
or the lovers embraces
so favoured by our imaginative reassurances
in times of grief.
And there will be no opportunity
to complete or to add
to the life that has been concluded.
The goodwill we have sown,
the love we offered,
the peace we made,
the grace by which we lived
and the hope, joy and laughter
we spoke, danced and sang;
these alone will stand.
Gentle, sometimes unnoticed,
they witnesses to the reality
of our faith and worship.

It is enough.
Would it be so terrible
if the Sadducees were right?

© Ken Rookes 2014

It is enough.
Would it be so terrible
if the Sadducees were right?

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

always be full of joy!

Last week we had what the Jewish people call the Ten Words and what we call the Ten Commandments from the Hebrew Scripture. We heard that they are guidelines for living not absolutes to be obeyed at all costs. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus quoted two from Hebrew Scripture, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind, soul and strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself.” We heard how Paul said that knowing Christ surpassed all of the laws he had tried to live by. This week we have some more guidelines for living God’s Way that have come from this experience of Paul. It would be interesting to explore why we take Moses’ guidelines so seriously and almost ignore those of Paul who is arguably the Moses of the New Testament.
Paul wrote to the Philippians [4:4], telling them twice to always be full of joy. It is surprising and saddening to notice how many people who claim to have lived as “good Christians” have little joy in in their lives, perhaps because their experiences and their relationship with God have been restricted by misguided expectations.
Then Paul tells us to be known for our gentleness, kindness, consideration or good sense, according to what translation you are reading, and to let this be obvious. Paul then reminds us that Christ is always near. Next we are told not to worry about anything but to let our prayers be known to God with thanksgiving. One version says, “Let your prayers be shot through with gratitude.” [New Jerusalem Bible Phil 4:6]  Giving thanks to God was a big deal for Paul. It comes up about 24 times in his writing. Next, he reassured his readers that the incomprehensible peace of God will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The final guidelines are to think about things that are true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise. This is a really good list to judge our actions by. We can use this list to question any doubts we may have about our actions in light of the Words from the Old Testament. Encouragingly Paul urges them to keep on doing what they have learned and then blesses them.  
Some of the most successful revolutions occur because grass-root people realise that the way they are living and being treated by others is not right. Leader arise from within the oppressed because these people have reflected on what is happening and have decided it is not just therefore something must be done about it.. They draw the attention of others to the potential that has been overlooked. They are responding to God’s inner call to life, to celebrate and enjoy all life offers.

We are invited to the wedding feast. This is a great privilege, a time to celebrate, a time to get to know the host better. Are we too busy, too preoccupied or just not interested? Accept the invitation that you too, may be always full of joy and free to live and love by the words, the guidelines of Jesus and Paul.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)