Monday, April 27, 2015

God the gardener

There is no doubt that “we love because God first loved us.”  [1 John 4:19] To keep on loving we need to receive God’s love continuously otherwise we become dry and withered. It is essential we accept the necessary pruning and feeding, allowing God to nurture us. We who have lived in cities or places where vines don’t grow, do not always remember the place of seasons in the productivity of vines and branches. Probably about half of a congregation in an area that produces table grapes, works in the vineyards year round. They know it is a continuous job caring for the vines to have the best fruit. Pruning the right bits is a skill as is training the branches to grow along the wires. Even when the branches have begun bearing, the fruit needs protection from frosts, insects, birds, hailstorms and moulds. There is continuous input from gardeners for optimum results. We can reasonably expect that God, the Gardener would work with great skill and care.
As we do not expect vines to produce all year round so it is likely that God provides times of fruitfulness and times of regeneration for us. Where they grow the table grapes, there are different varieties planted so that the productivity is spread over many months. There are times when we can leave the work to others and times when it is our turn to produce our best results, guided by the Spirit within.

Perhaps you might like to buy some grapes today and as you eat them, ponder the implications of the fruit of the vine of which you are a branch and dare to be impulsive in your response to the Spirit’s stirring within you.
REv Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page

The true vine

The true vine, so called,
offers some awkward metaphors
for entering into a fruitful life.
Cleansing and pruning;
not the most comfortable of procedures.
His words did not merely cleanse.
They were intended more to create chaos
than comfort, upheaval rather than ease.
It was all about discipleship, and fruitfulness.
The teacher from Galilee came to seek
fools who would join him in his outrageous quest;
be joined to him.
The vine may be a metaphor
but the discipleship has weight and form.
He works hard
to balance the pruning with the abiding;
the sacrifice and pain
with the friendship and love.
And in the end there are the fruits;
the grapes, and the wine.
Along with the struggle, the tears, the anger
and the hope.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Restorer of souls

... Psalm 23 is Good News and has been good news to millions of people who have been suffering in various ways through the centuries. There is more Good News in the New Testament readings for today.
Prior to the beginning of the passage from Acts, Peter had healed a man who had been lame from birth. Acts 4:9,10 “If you are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known… that this man is in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Peter found out about the cost of restoration when he was attacked by those who  didn’t like it that he had restored the body of this man and in doing so had given him new life.
In the Gospel, Jesus points out how totally dedicated we need to be to saving the life of those entrusted to our care. And the writer of the Epistle challenges us whose souls have been restored to consider giving our lives to bring this treasure to those who have not yet received it.

We have been called as followers of Christ, to become restorers of the souls of those who are considered the least among us. It is soul destroying to be labelled a no-hoper, an addict, a dole bludger, homeless, an idiot and many other things that you will have heard. We are called to be willing to sacrifice our aspirations to assist such people to act in ways which will help people to know they are valued, cared for by providing homes and quality food, protection and comfort as the Good Shepherd did. Then we too, will have satisfaction and joy in restoration well done. It is not an easy job. It is not quick or cheap, but it is worthwhile for the future of our communities.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Anzac Day

(Context - In Australia we have an annual remembrance day which is focused on the battle at Gallipoli in the first world war. This year marks 100 years since that tragic day.It is a big event in Australia with many vents held at all levels of the society and with a massive media focus. The day is called ANZAC day because it particularly focuses on the participation of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces at Gallipoli)
None of you need to be told that yesterday Australia celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. For several years we have been reminded more and more of Anzac Day and in recent months our media has been full of stories. Whole series of programmes on television have been based on the First World War and its impact on young Australians and New Zealanders. Many thousands gave up their lives for their country by dying in the fighting and many more paid an enormous price as they lived with the consequences of injuries and gassing. If we have been reading, watching or listening, we will have heard story after story of what it cost these people.
Is it just a coincidence for us who are called to follow Christ the Good Shepherd that the Gospel reading for today is about being ready to lay down our lives for others? Was Jesus talking about war or could he have been thinking of other ways of protecting the more vulnerable members of our communities?  Many of us these days are more familiar with ideas of the futility of war and hope that we and our children and grandchildren are never called to lay down their lives like this. But there may be other ways in which this call may come.
A teenage girl learned that a friend was self-harming and looking at methods of suicide on the internet. She immediately spoke to her mum and together they went to see the mother of her friend. The mother was grateful but the daughter has completely cut herself off from the girl, feeling she had betrayed her trust. Some of their friends are also not talking to her and this is deeply hurtful as she was trying to save her friend’s life and thought she was doing the right thing. Is this what it means to lay down your life for someone else?
A man was widowed several years ago and has two teenage children. He feels stuck in an unsatisfying job. He has toyed with the idea of doing something different but that would require several years of study and he thinks his only priority should be educating his children so they can have better opportunities than he has had in life. They need the income from
One of the reasons given over and over that women can expect to have considerably less savings in superannuation when they retire is because they take time off from the work force to have children and to look after them. Are women laying down their lives for the future of this country by sacrificing their wealth or even their comfort in old age to have and care for children?
There are thousands of grandparents looking after children, giving their lives so the young ones don’t have to go into government sponsored care of some sort. And there are many people, some elderly who have given up their lives to take care of others with disabilities.
Perhaps it is time someone proposed a day to celebrate the sacrifice of all these and the many others, who give their time, effort and money, not in big dramatic gestures but in everyday, low-key plodding on and on through the years.

We could assure these people that Jesus, the Good Shepherd cares for them, or suggest that they might like to read Psalm 23 from time to time because it has been a comfort to us, but what I suspect might encourage them and restore their souls would be for others to occasionally carry their burden for them so they could have a chance to lie down in green pastures, beside still water for a few days. We can make some sacrifices to enable them to have some financial help where that is needed.
REv Julianne Parker

Other sheep

Taking heed of Jesus’ teaching,
listening for his voice;
looking out for others,
unafraid to make love’s choice.
The shepherd calls them by their name;
he’ll keep them safe from threat.
Come join him in the fold and know
his work’s not finished yet.
Some sheep have different colouring,
might feed on different grass;
they trust in hope and justice,
never fear what comes to pass.
Some speak with foreign accents,
step out in robes or veils,
make peace their golden standard
and weep when loving fails.
They may not pray like we do,
or sing our sacred songs;
but the flock, it comes together
when it stands against the wrongs.
Their doctrines might not be the same,
but one thing they agree:
love is the thing that matters,
forgiveness is the key.
Joined in freedom’s family-flock,
because that’s where they belong:
their differences won’t stop them
as they sing the shepherd’s song.

© Ken Rookes 2015



In 1915 numerous sons
and a few daughters embarked on ships
to participate in a war.
We grew up saluting the flag on Mondays,
and hearing, each April.
the stories of war.
Ours was a young nation, proud, defiant, fearless;
born, we were told, in blood, on the battlefields
and in the trenches of Turkey, Belgium and France.
We heard of courage, larrikin resourcefulness,
and compassion.
These brave soldiers were injured, traumatised and died,
the grand myth attests,
for us, and for our freedom.
We honoured their sacrifice;
remembering, too, those who served in later conflicts.
A century later
the stories become a celebratory avalanche;
while dignitaries and politicians make their preparations
to assemble at Anzac Cove. There they will glory in the moment.
The legendary spirit, however, has become elusive,
betrayed by a nation that has become afraid to love,
and by its even more fearful leaders.
Back in this fortunate land, desperate people,
whose only crime was to come seeking refuge,
are, for political convenience,
denied the same freedom so fiercely defended by our forebears.
They are sent off-shore, to be imprisoned behind wire fences
and within an officially sanctioned conspiracy of silence.
For convenience. And for shame.
It is a costly convenience;
in more ways than one.


©Ken Rookes 2015