Thursday, December 30, 2010
The way I think it works is this. Light comes into the world and it's as if everyone and everything is seen in a new and penetrating way. Suddenly we are connected with each other and the source of divine love precisely because this light comes as an invitation to grow in connectedness. Just as suddenly, however, we are also alienated because of everything about us that insists on remaining entrenched in isolation. This is the contrast John is talking about. It is the contrast we, no doubt witness, every passing day.
Close tight against the bright light.
We turn away and will not see.
and miss the reflections of God's appearance.
We turn away, and will not see.
when we turn away,
and will not see you in the world around us.
for the Light has come,
and the Glory of God surrounds us.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I posted the words for this song this time last year, inspired as they were by John 1:1-18.
I am attempting to post the music. It's fairly singable, so give it a go.
Here are the words again:
O Light who is Shining
shine on me,
and shed your hope upon shadowed faces;
let them see
the love and the courage of one who’s defying
the powers that threaten, the gloom that’s denying
the truth, grace and justice; together defining
the kingdom that’s coming to be.
O Light who is true and cuts through the night-time;
shine in me.
Let love glow warm when we’re worried and frightened
make us free;
for action to end all the fear and the hating,
to touch anxious hearts when love is abating,
to bring on the peace for which all are waiting;
where faith, hope and love abide: three.
O Light who is life for all of creation,
shine through me.
We are the offspring of Love’s celebration;
sent to be -
the flickering flames of hope where there’s need,
embracing God’s children, regardless of creed.
To gather a harvest, where love is the seed;
we make this our goal and our plea.
© 2010 words: Ken Rookesmusic: Judy & Jessica Chalmers
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Gospel writers Matthew and Luke
are the approved suppliers
of the raw materials
from which we cobble our Christmas stories
together; faith being the thread that seeks,
gathers and ties the meaning.
The angels speak of the wonder
of the aching God who decides to take action
and to embrace uncertainty.
The girl-woman, Mary,
is a sign of human obedience
and willingness to let God’s perplexing purposes
take their unpredictable course.
Her carpenter husband, Joseph,
in determining to proceed with their marriage,
shows the persistence of human compassion
in the face of bewildering embarrassment.
And the baby, strange and vulnerable,
tells us of the mystery of divine love
found, unexpectedly and riskily,
So, what of the fat man in the red suit,
intruding uninvited into our neat nativity?
Perhaps he is God, laughing.
© 2009 Ken Rookes
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Our text refers to the praxis of transmission and proclamation. The frightened shepherds become God's messengers. They organize, make haste, find others, and speak with them. Do we not all want to become shepherds and catch sight of the angel? I think so. Without the perspective of the poor, we see nothing, not even an angel. When we approach the poor, our values and goals change. The child appears in many other children. Mary also seeks sanctuary among us. Because the angels sing, the shepherds rise, leave their fears behind, and set out for Bethlehem, wherever it is situated these days.
On Earth As In Heaven
Moonless darkness stands between.Past, O past, no more be seen!But the Bethlehem star may lead meTo the sight of him who freed meFrom the self that I have been.Make me pure, Lord: thou art holy;Make me meek, Lord: thou wert lowly;Now beginning, and always:Now begin, on Christmas Day.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844-89
Monday, December 20, 2010
Exclamations of hope
from the burning-lips prophet
speaking perhaps of the impending birth
of a royal prince who will be an heir
to the throne; and eagerly claimed,
seven centuries later,
by the followers of a crucified teacher
to undergird his Messianic credentials.
They stack up well, when woven
into the birth stories, speaking of wisdom,
eternity, peace and justice. Yes,
this is the one
who we have chosen to follow;
one who stands with reckless defiance
against the mighty forces of fear and self.
Yes, he must be that child,
the one to be born of a young woman,
the one upon whose shoulder
government and peace shall rest
and never end.
And yet his authority is, at best,
a flimsy thing,
depending not upon might or power,
but on the merest whisper of God’s Spirit
breaking gently through
the deeply calloused resistance
of each human heart,
and bringing the fervent call to choose
compassion ahead of fear.
© Ken Rookes
Friday, December 17, 2010
The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.
( … We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone … )
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
A MOTLEY WISDOM (NIGEL FORDE)
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I have seen the sun break through
To illuminate a small field for a while,
And gone my way and forgotten it
But that was the pearl of great price,
The one field that had the treasure in it.
I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it.
Life is not hurrying on to a receding future,
Nor hankering after an imagined past.
It is turning aside like Moses
To the miracle of a lit bush,
To a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once,But is the eternity that awaits you.
-R.S. Thomas 1913-2000
Micah from Moresheth, in the region of Judah,
gave us Bethlehem as the site
for the birth of the Messiah.
Perhaps he stopped by at the little town
on his one day journey to Jerusalem
to do his prophecy thing.
He posed a challenge for gospel writers,
Luke and Matthew:
how to arrange for Jesus from Nazareth
to be born in Bethlehem, three days south.
For the one it was a census; for the other,
fear, a massacre, and the return to a new home
after the flight to a foreign land.
For the one, the drama of a stable birth
with flights of angels and bewildered shepherds;
the poorest of the poor.
For the other, a fearful escape
and the vulnerability of refugees.
They each give us reason to pause
and reflect upon the strange purposes
of an even stranger God.
I wonder, if Luke was writing today,
might it be the homeless and the hopeless,
camped beneath a bridge, who would be
the subjects of the angelic invitation?
I wonder, if Matthew was writing today,
would he write of the kindness
of the people-smugglers
who helped the Holy familyreach their place of welcome and safety?
© 2009 Ken Rookes
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
In his birth stories, gospel writer Matthew
gives us the terrible tale often called
The massacre of the innocents.
It seemed plausible at the time,
this callous brutality ordered
by a despotic monarch
for the sake of maintaining his rule.
Only in more recent years
have historians asked the question;
did it really happen? They point to
a shortage of corroborating evidence,
along with the Moses story,
and the need to solve
the Bethlehem and Nazareth conundrum.
Traditionalists, of which there are a few,
point to the character, or lacking,
of Herod the Great, a ruthless tyrant
who would brook no limits
in his pursuit of power.
No doubt he was capable, as have been
countless kings and rulers since.
In the last hundred years
there has also been no shortage;
dictators who have cruelly
oppressed their own people,
tribal leaders who express their hatred
with guns and machetes,
presidents and Prime Ministers
who have declared bloody, high-tech war,
on the slimmest of pretexts.
Not many may have dared
to directly target children,
but it is the children who have borne
more than their share of suffering.
Historical considerations aside,
it is good that this Christmas text reminds us
how the little ones, the innocent, the weak
and the vulnerable, have so often
paid the price for the wealthy and the strong;
and still do.
© 2010 Ken Rookes
And a new one for the coming weeks.
did not retreat with the decision
to allow his betrothed
to leave quietly, and have the child
in a far place among distant relatives.
There the shame
would not be so bitter.
the girl was young and pretty,
and would soon find a new husband,
and a father for her child.
The pain of her apparent rejection
was sharpened by the love
still twisting the stomach
of the gentle carpenter,
who had toiled with mallet
and chisel for many years
so that he might take a wife.
He had not seen it coming;
refused to believe it
until the swelling evidence
could no longer be denied.
So, when, in a dream, the angel
spoke of the strange purposes
of an even stranger God,
Joseph grabbed the offered straw.
Copping the nudges and the sneers,
he took Mary home to be his wife.
© Ken Rookes
An old one for this week.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
you were praised by an archangel
before you were begotten by your father;
for you were full of God
before you were born of your mother;
you knew God before you knew the world;
you showed your mother the mother bearing God
before the mother who bore you within her
showed you the day.
It was of you that God said:
'Among them that are born of women
there has not risen a greater'.
To you, sir, who are so great, holy and blessed,comes a guilty, creeping thing,a wretched little man
whose senses are almost dead with grief,and, what grieves him even more, a sinner with a dead soul.
Prayer to John the Baptist
The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm
Monday, December 6, 2010
This is my home, my cell.
I am used to deprivation.
Sleeping among the rocks
by the river with the scorpions
and spiders in mid-winter
was hardly a suite in the palace.
No, it is not the discomfort.
Nor is it the constant threat that weighs
so heavily upon my chest
as if death itself were a thing to be feared.
I miss the sky, and the sun
that daily dissects it; and the wind
and the rain upon my cheeks.
Here, in my cell I hear only distantly
the calls of the birds,
and the occasional scurrying rat
is a poor substitute for the joy
of the darting lizard. Yes, I miss all these;
but I close my eyes and I feel myself
free again, with the voice of Yahweh
echoing once more through the valley
and inside my head.
My followers risk their own freedom
to bring me word of another,
the teacher from Galilee;
he who came to me that day
at the river. They repeat his stories,
and I feel the glow of hopefulness renewed,
this sad beauty that aches deep within.
I crave freedom.
My yearning is made more deep
and more painful
by the thought that the divine Spirit
may have begun a long-awaited work;
and I, John, called the Baptiser,
constrained by these bars and chains,
am unable to take part
in the new thing that God is doing.
© 2010 Ken Rookes
Sunday, December 5, 2010
When John spoke,
his words fell to drench dry earth
and the desert was filled
with long-forgotten flowers;
the purple trumpets of repentance
and the blue-bells of earnest intent.
Imprisoned, and presumed silent,
he summoned some friends
to report on the state of the garden.
they told of wilderness beauty:
the sprouting green of new life,
the golden flowering of good news,
the pink and white flourish
of restored skin and bone,
and the red blossoming
glorious song and rainbow array
awaiting newly opened ear and eye.
Then the Baptiser knew
that the long-expected one
truly had come.
© Ken Rookes
I'm posting an old one this week.
Maybe I'll do a new one, too.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
"For most of my life, God’s response to Job in this book has frustrated me, even angered me. It all seemed so insufficient a response. ...