Monday, August 24, 2015

The beloved

It’s spring time! A profusion of green paddock, budding fruit trees, golden wattle and warming days lifts our spirits. Almost subconsciously we head to nurseries to buy vegetable and flower seedlings and prepare the soil for later tomato plants. Spring is quite noticeable this year after the unusually cold, grey winter we have had. This season is well named. It really does put a spring in our steps and then facing the weeding which must be done, is almost a pleasure.
The only thing that can put a dampener on these feelings is looking at the Lectionary readings for this week. There are some parts of Scripture that are hard to deal with and we groan when we see them come up. What are we to say about them that may convey new understandings of the Love of God? There are even whole books that we avoid if we can and Song of Solomon has been one of these. We may look hopefully at all the other set reading for something that is easier to deal with. Song of Solomon is not easy for the older ones of us who were brought up with the prudish attitudes of the Victorian era still the predominant influence.
Many of us find it easier to talk about war, violence and murder than tender, erotic love. For many Christians who hold to the concept of Original Sin, anything sexual is seen as evil. God’s love, we were taught, was Agape, pure, and holy, unlike corrupted human love.  Christians for whom at least 90% of the portrayal of God is as Father and hence male, the idea coming later in our exploration of images of God as that of lover is almost impossible to contemplate.
 If you love God, then today’s set reading from the Song of Solomon is an invitation to spend some relaxed time with the One you love. It will be easier for many of us if we use the word, “Friend” instead of “Beloved”. For many of us a favourite hymn has been, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and through it we have become familiar with the concept of Christ as Friend. We have friends who get in touch and invite us for a coffee and a chat or to visit a gallery, one day soon. They are inviting, not demanding or compelling. They leave the response up to us and we know that even if we have to turn this particular invitation down, they will not stop being our friend. There will be other invitations.
...What Song of Solomon shows us is a light-hearted invitation to relaxation and enjoyment of our relationship with God who is always far more than we can ever imagine. It is a call for us to engage with the Divine with our hearts as well as our heads. We have been quite good with the head stuff but have often avoided more intimate relationship. To begin this requires listening with the heart which is about feeling what you are hearing; listening, feeling and then acting.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Song of Songs Haiku

Arise my fair one:
the lover’s invitation
to intimacy.

The beloved comes,
eager with youth’s desire,
leaping over hills.

Winter’s fear has passed
giving way to hope and life;
and with much singing.

The fruiting fig trees
join with the fragrant blossoms,
in love’s dance-song call.

Spring’s fecundity
of flowers and turtledoves;
Eros meets Yahweh.

Come away with me
and we shall be joined as one;
Arise my fair one.

© Ken Rookes 2015 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Health and safety for Christians

but as far as we know, the only people who had protective clothing were soldiers so that is the metaphor he used. The image of God as King has contributed to our imaging of God as a military leader as historically one of the main roles of a king has been to lead the army in war. This passage may also have contributed to military images of Christ.

In spite of Jesus’ non-violence, Christianity has been militarised through the centuries and much damage has been done, wars fought and lives lost because of this. Dave Andrews, head of Tear Australia, speaking at the Bendigo Library recently, reminded those present that all of the atrocities that are being perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq at this time, have first been enacted by Christians against Muslims. This statement would not surprise those who know the true history about the Crusades. It is disillusioning and even horrifying to learn about what really happened during the several hundred years that this fighting took place. The Crusades had been held up to us as a wonderful example of how Christians defended the faith, but it can be sickening and shameful to read details of deeds carried out that were said to be to the glory of God and to realise the cost financially, in lives and to human dignity. ...
 It is sensible both for every-day life and for our spiritual life, to have our means of protection on hand and in good order at all times so we are prepared for whatever comes. The fact that we are advised to use protective equipment tells us that being a follower of Christ is not an easy journey and our preparation may make the difference between life and death for us. Don’t scoff at the offered protection as some do, but be as fully prepared as possible. Keep alert, listening for the message which is the mystery of the gospel. [Ephesians 6:19]
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Difficult Words Haiku

Eat my flesh, he says,
as if it’s a normal thing;
this deep mystery.

Living forever;
the reward for believers.
Is there something more?

The spirit makes life,
he told those who would listen.
The flesh, conversely.

His difficult words
drove many away. Not me;
there is no other.

The fisherman spoke
for us all. Your words are life:
where else can we go?

© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Giving thanks

Why is this giving thanks important? In the reading set for today from Hebrew Scripture, God invited Solomon to “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon asked for and understanding mind, to discern what is good and what is evil. [1Kings 3:9] God replied that God would give him a wise and understanding mind and more besides. Perhaps that needs to be our prayer in seeking to understand what is behind giving thanks for all things. The Psalmist [Psalm 111] gave thanks to the Lord with his whole heart. I cannot in all honesty say that I have ever given wholehearted thanks to God for Ed’s death and some of the other pain we have suffered since. But God as I know God at the moment is okay with that. I do not believe it is being held against me.

James Finley writes, “If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” [quoted by R Rohr] This is about where my understanding is at the moment. I don’t believe God does these things to us. I believe that part of life in all its fullness is about going through such experiences with God to support and encourage so that we can then support and encourage and love others.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Abide in me.

Do I want to live forever?
It’s not a priority.
My mind struggles with notions of heaven;
of existing somehow, conscious and individual,
beyond one’s allotted days
in this corporeal world.
Across earth’s stones and tracks I journey,
love, rejoice,
wonder and rage.
I breathe its red dust and taste its sorrow;
here I belong
and yet am never quite at home.
Perhaps I never shall be.
Striving, longing and hoping
I seek the company
of those who also yearn
and weep and groan.
My comrades are my abode,
my sisters and brothers are my home.
Perhaps this is what the gospel writer meant
when he spoke of abiding in Jesus,
earth-dweller, brother of us all,
and true child of heaven.
(Whatever that means).
© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

God in a box

Once upon a time we captured God and we put God in a box and we put a beautiful velvet curtain around the box.  We placed candles and flowers around the box and we said to the poor and the dispossessed, "Come!  Come and see what we have!  Come and see God!" And they knelt before the God in the box.   One day, very long ago, the Spirit in the box turned the key from inside and she pushed it open.  She looked around in the church and saw that there was nobody there!  They had all gone.  Not a soul was in the place.  She said to herself, "I'm getting out!"  The Spirit shot out of the box.  She escaped and she has been sighted a few times since then. She was last seen with a bag lady in McDonald's.   -Edwina GateleyQuoted from Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women's Spiritual Writings  Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., Ed.