Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fueling hatred

"Our Genesis and Matthew stories this evening have been used to justify millennia of hatred between Jews and Arabs, and centuries of fueling that hatred by Christians. They have been used to sustain a kind of divinely sanctioned racial prejudice: God loves the Jews, and especially the Christians — but not the Arabs.

The story of Ishmael and Isaac explains the origin of the Tribes of Yahweh and the Tribes of Allah — why they are so close (as step-brothers) and why they are so different. The stories of them and their descendants have been inseparable ever since — the saga of two sons wrestling ever after for their father’s inheritance. And today, Ishmael still lies abandoned, waiting for death, on the West Bank of the Jordan, in the Gaza Strip, and even in Bethlehem itself.

Sometimes it has been Isaac left homeless and wandering, but seldom have the two step-brothers and their descendants been able to share the land peacefully. Nor have those other children of Abraham, the Christians, made things any better. The followers of Jesus Christ bring peace? No — rather a sword! The swords of the Christian crusaders, slaughtering Jews, Arabs and the Orthodox alike; the guns of the Christian Allies, supporting and arming first one side and then the other; the money of the Christian Alliance, funding the war against terror — a war that breeds still more terror. Those who live by the bomb will surely die by the bomb, one way or another.

Must we read these stories this way? Are we trapped in terror by these texts? Do they describe what simply is, or what must and should be, or do they contain the seeds of their own reinterpretation? Is Jesus’ invitation for us to give up our lives for the cause in order to gain life, an invitation for still more suicide bombers? Didn’t Jesus come to bring reconciliation rather than division?
...Notice that our story speaks clearly of two covenants following the one with Abraham — the first with Ishmael, the second with Isaac — and that God cares for both and promises to bless the descendants of both. Notice too, that the reasons for the split between the half-brothers are not clear. Did Ishmael (17 years old?) laugh AT Isaac (3) or WITH him? Did he torment Isaac (the reading Paul takes in Galatians 4, but for other reasons), or was he playing with Isaac, causing Sarah to worry that they might one day become equal sharers of Abraham’s inheritance? These are all possible ways for us to understand the story, and they open up for us ways of renewing the story of the descendants of Abraham — of dying to the worst implications of past traditions that have imprisoned us, and of re-shaping our heritage with our Jewish and Arab siblings, and of re-shaping the tragic heritage of this land and those who first lived here. This is not without relevance in our immediate setting here today, as you already know.

If we are committed to the way of Jesus more even than we are to each other, we will end up doing what is truly best for each other and for all God’s creation. This is NOT a call for us to impose our Christian faith on Jews and Arabs as the only way for them to find peace — we do not need any more crusaders — but rather a call to welcome and dialogue with the other — those who God has also blessed. "
Kieth Dyer at

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.

-Pablo Cascals 1876-1973

Monday, June 19, 2017

Taking it up

Haiku to make one hesitate

You who would follow,
look to Jesus, your teacher.
Try to be like him.

You might not win friends.
Jesus made enemies, too;
you won't be alone.

There are no secrets.
Stand boldly, proclaim God's truth;
do not be afraid.

Hold firm, speak my name,
be known as my disciples;
I will keep you safe.

It won't be easy;
don't expect a life of peace.
Jesus brought a sword.

Son against father,
daughter against her mother;
families divide.

This cross is painful.
No bright trinket on a chain;
wear it if you dare.

Worthy followers
understand the challenges,
know the costs of love.

My friends, be prepared;
if you want to find your life
you must let it go.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

The harvest is great

He travelled about,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming good news.

Jesus wept for them:
like sheep without a shepherd,
helpless and harrassed.

Call out to the Lord,
more labourers are needed;
the harvest awaits.

So much to be done
to bring peace, healing, wholeness,
forgiveness and hope.

The time had arrived.
He called the twelve together,
gave them the challenge.

Heal, bring life and love,
show them the kingdom is near.
Teach them about God.

Do it in my name.
Show God's generosity,
don't expect payment,

Bring in the harvest;
gather the people who love
into the kingdom.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Strange trinity

(Nathan Nettleton) “The God whose voice thunders across the chaos in creation, whose very word is enough to bring into being that which was not before, is the same God who sits weeping on a donkey sobbing, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if only you would have let me love you like a mother hen loves her chicks.”

I am he as you are me ....

When the Beatles were in their heyday they wrote a song called, I am the walrus. The opening words describe their life together as a group. ‘I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together’. Later in their life as a group on their last album they sang a song which described their life as they were falling apart, ‘I, me mine’.
In a way this epitomizes our choices as the church and as individuals. We can get sucked into the’ I, me mine’ that is often so prevalent in society and the church, or we can catch the vision and power of our Trinitarian God. The one who says that, ‘I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together’.  This is the life-giving model that the trinity portrays.

And we live in a modern culture that calls out the worst individualism in us. It can become all about how much I get out of the latest federal budget, or how wealthy and influential I can become. We are told that we pay too much in taxes to support the vulnerable, We are told to reject the pleas of the asylum seeker in case they affect our way of life.  I, me, mine! Instead, in the trinity, God challenges us to living as compassionate community. To open our hearts to each other and to the stranger.
...Today as God’s people in this place, we are called to be imitators, not only of “Christ, but more especially, of the trinity. You are called to be imitators of the Divine three in one, the God of mystery who somehow can hold difference together and make a whole, the God who is community and who invites us into the dance to be the ones who choose to live our lives as if we are in community with all other human beings and with all of God’s creation. To live this way is to live a compassionate and justice-seeking life and it is to live a life reflecting the God of community that we find in the concept of the Trinity.
So, next time you here the ‘Father, son and holy spirit’ thing, don’t give it up as ‘just history’ or irrelevant. I don’t think we could be living in a more relevant time to be challenged by the communal nature of God.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pentecost prayers of the people


Response: Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life:           hear our prayer

Holy Spirit, life of creation

You moved over the face of the waters

And called living creatures into being …

Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life on us:

            hear our prayer

We thank you for the First Peoples of this land,

And their ways of belonging in this place;

And for all who have come here seeking new opportunities,

Sharing them with people for many lands:

Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life:

            hear our prayer

We pray for all who are treated harshly,

Receiving not a welcome but cruelty

And continue to be outsiders.

Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life:

            hear our prayer

For authorities and the powerful,

Who drive nations and peoples to war,

And refuse to share the wealth of this world;

Break in with lively power:

Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life:

            hear our prayer

For your pilgrim people

Called to live expectantly,

Prompt us to live expecting your future.

Spirit of God,

breathe out your new life:

            hear our prayer

We pray for those longing for your gift of new life;

For those in our local community; who are exposed to random violence; who live in fear; who long for you.

We ask your presence for those fired up by you, who work for a just peace. In silence we pray for those we know.

We pray that our sisters and brothers who have died will be drawn into resurrection light.

Living and holy Dove, come to us and keep us alive to your hope

Through Jesus Christ,

(Rev Dr Wes Campbell)