Monday, January 31, 2011

Wisdom, secret and hidden.


The wise

know that there is no God.

They trust in human intelligence.

Medical breakthroughs that hint towards

the eternal life that God

can no longer be trusted to deliver,

Computers, robotics

and artificial intelligences

that make us appear as gods.

Discoverers of secrets; the atom,

dna, deep space and the intricacies

of the human mind. Clever, we are;

indeed, but not yet wise enough

to live beyond our fears,

and not yet ready to forsake our idols:

the mammon-wealth that we worship,

the comfort that we covet and guard,

the silver glimmering distractions

whose soothing seductions

we implore so that our emptiness

may be momentarily filled.

We, who are wise,

know that there is no God.

Then, having satisfied each other

with our demonstrated cleverness,

we find intruding strange

and uninvited thoughts that disturb

our spirits and lead us into wondering.

Here are ideas, reports and stories;

of peace, generosity and sacrifice,

of justice and compassion,

of selflessness and grace.

But still there is no God.


© 2011 Ken Rookes

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blessed are those who mourn?

Many of our international readers of this blog will not be aware that many people in our part of the world (Victoria, Australia) are facing floods, with the ruin of their homes, businesses, churches. As i write this a vast inland body of water is moving as a flood inexorably across the landscape, flooding small rural towns and farms as it goes. To add to this grief, for many of these towns it is the second time they have faced flood inundation in a period of 3 months. Many had just finished cleanup from the previous flooding and are faced with it all over again. In the face of this, many people are wondering just how, or if they can face it all over again.
In the light if this i felt that this excerpt from a sermon by Rev Carol Merrit, is quite appropriate.
"Why would Jesus have the audacity to say this? (Blessed are those who mourn) Where is the blessing in this raw, open wound? Is the blessing upon those who mourn simply hinged upon this future hope that they will be comforted? Or is there, somehow, a blessing in the midst of it? Is there some blessing in the grief and the sadness that washes over me?
Of course, Jesus knew about grief. Even in this small account, Jesus had come from healing. The crowds surrounded him, they pulled upon him, and he saw the broken and the wounded. He saw the mothers with dying children and the children who had been left parentless. We know some things about how Jesus felt in these circumstances. We know that when Jesus healed, he could feel a bit of power leaving him. And when we read that Jesus bore the sins of the world, I imagine they weighed heavily upon him--the crushing burden of our cruelty toward one another. And in this moment when this teaching rises up from him, I wondered, did it emerge from his powerless, burdened mourning? Did he feel that exhaustion and that bit of pain creeping into his joints? Is that why he left the crowds and sat down? Did he just need to gather with his friends and reflect on how upside down the world seemed to him at that moment? It is as if in these words, he sees the needs--the hunger, the thirst, the longing--and, somehow, he sees blessing in all of it.
Perhaps we can't even understand these words until we become poor or meek or contrite. Perhaps we don't know what they mean until our stomachs ache with a roaring hunger and our tongues stick to the roof of our mouths with thirst. Maybe, maybe we cannot understand the words when we feel the most blest. Perhaps they only make sense to us when we hit rock-bottom. When we're so ashamed of what we did the night before that our lips tremble. When we are about to lose the home we are raising our children in. When we finally realize that we have no control over our addiction. When we are in such mourning, that we stare at the ground as we walk and we cannot look up.
We don't like this. We don't walk through the valley of the shadow of death in our culture. We like to run through it quickly. We use Kubler Ross' steps of grief as hurdles that we can bound over if we run fast enough, and people ask us why we haven't "gotten over it yet." I don't think we've take the time to stop, to appreciate the blessings of our mourning.
But they are there. They are there with the widow who sits in the Lazyboy where her husband used to relax, just so she can remember the sweetness of his presence. The blessings are there, when we are sorting through clothes, and we suddenly are enveloped with a waft of perfume that reminds us of Christmas with our mom. When the walls of our home seem to be haunted with our lover and we don't ever want to leave. The blessings are there in the facts that the ways in which we hurt each other seem to fade, and the resentment is replaced with understanding. The blessings are there, as we defrost the homemade casseroles that the church-ladies delivered. And they are there, as we eat fried chicken and tell each other stories until our sides ache with laughter as well as pain.
These words. They have traveled a long a way to greet me today, in my bitter, angry grief. And yet, somehow, they have never been so comforting. And I know that I am blessed.           
Let us pray. O God, our Creator, surround us in our blessedness, in our grief, and in our sorrow. By the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
http://day1.org/2543-blessed_are_those_who_mourn

no, you inherit it!

DESCRIPTION: Three people on top of a mountain, all looking meekish CAPTION: SOON AFTER THE MEEK INHERIT THE EARTH THEY TRY TO GIVE IT TO EACH OTHER

blessed are the meek

DESCRIPTION: A lawyer addressing a bunch of meek looking folks while a small crowd of unrulies throw a tantrum in the background CAPTION: THE EARTH IS YOURS, BUT, AS EXPECTED, THE NON-MEEK ARE GOING TO CONTEST THIS RULING LIKE CRAZY
http://www.reverendfun.com/?date=20060707

The foolishness of God?

 After reminding the Corinthians of their own origins, Paul appeals to his own apostolic experience (4:9–13): "For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."
           The gospel for this week reinforces Paul's ironic contrast between the wisdom of the world and the foolishness of God. The beatitudes of Jesus create a socially subversive counter culture that repudiates pride and power. Jesus welcomes the poor and the peace makers, not the rich and the violent. His kingdom resonates with the meek, the merciful, and the mournful, not the mighty. He welcomes those who hunger for justice, not those who lust for power. Thus the way to a "blessed" life, say Jesus and Paul, is not that of human wisdom and power, but of divine weakness and foolishness.

Blessings

Being blessed is not reward

We often talk about being blessed as if it is a reward, as if good fortune comes to us as just desserts. Much of Christian culture equates blessing with prosperity, with health, with satisfaction and obvious abundance. While it’s tempting to equate these gifts with the favor of God, this notion comes with a corresponding fallacy that says that those who are sick, those who are not prosperous, those whom misfortune has visited: these are not blessed.
With the beatitudes, Jesus utterly disrupts this line of thinking. Being blessed is not a reward for a job well done or for the accident of being born into fortunate circumstances. It is likewise not an accomplishment, an end goal, or a state of completion that allows us to coast along. And although the Greek makarios can be translated also as happy, being blessed does not rest solely upon an emotion: blessing does not depend on our finding or forcing ourselves into a particular mood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You know, or at least you should know.

Micah 6:8


When I was younger,

more naïve than innocent,

I was happily aware of the privilege

that attends the accident of birth

in this generous land.

Australia, the young and magnificent,

of blue sky, strong sun, gum trees,

parrots and crashing surf;

prospering as both farm and quarry

to the rest of the planet.

We would never go hungry.

Growing older,

I would hear stories from other countries,

and my own; of people for whom life itself

and an occasional full stomach

was the privilege. Humans like me

who weep at cruelty, face daily oppression,

and yearn despairingly for peace.

Children who might never learn to read,

adults who might never cast a vote,

women denied their rightful opportunities,

minorities treated as if they didn’t matter,

indigenous people whose dreamings

are dismissed as a primitive irrelevance,

people cut off from home and country

and waiting for a place of safety and welcome.

My sense of privilege achingly sharpened,

and with it the conviction that these wrongs

should not, must not, go un-righted.

Still later,

I came to hear the ringing words

of the ancient prophet, humbly realising

that the disturbing call to justice

is also my own.


© 2011 Ken Rookes

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home


(Matthew 4:12-13)

Jesus made his home in Capernaum.

His mother stayed in Nazareth,

along with his sisters and brothers,

who talked in murmurs

about their eccentric older brother.

The girls were married,

most of the boys too,

with children of their own.

Family gatherings had been good,

times of fun and celebration,

with Jesus everybody’s favourite uncle.

At thirty he should have taken a wife

and be thinking about his own children.

Perhaps that was his intent,

but why not Nazareth?

Surprised, bewildered,

and somewhat hurt by his departure,

the family held a crisis meeting

and agreed that a delegation

should go to Capernaum

to persuade him to return home.

“It’s good to see you,”

he whispered as he embraced each one.

“Yes, I will be staying.

I do miss you,

but no, I’m not lonely,” he said,

as he introduced his new friends.

They wept, spoke of his mother’s tears,

and pressed him for further explanation.

“It was time,” was all he offered.


© 2005 Ken Rookes

Flood Liturgy resources

Please note! On the right of this page there is a link to web page where you will find a couple of liturgies in powerpoint format, that have been put together for the flood crisis.

Monday, January 17, 2011

For what its worth???

Just a couple of things I have noticed.
At the same time as the church and religion's role in times of crisis seems to be a little vague to many in our Australian culture;

  • A local pub in Victoria has become the local 'crisis centre' with locals spontaneously seeing it as the hub for community help and bringing food and goods for those affected by the floods (perhaps the action of God is seen in all who love their neighbour:)
  • a church service and prayers were held at Murphy's creek pub in Queensland. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/pub-prayers-in-murphys-creek-after-church-floods/story-fn6bfkm6-1225989043937
  • Thousands have flocked to help each other in their time of need, getting down and dirty; (see above; perhaps the church has lost the copyright for caring)
  • Most people (especially in the media) no longer are comfortable with talking about 'prayers' but instead refer to 'best wishes' (I wonder if we were able to expand people's understanding of prayer to the 'yearning' that it truly reflects whether that may change).

All of this could lead us to a crisis of identity. Who are we and what is our role during times of crisis?
Well, Jesus told us to love our neighbour, but he never said we would be the only ones, in fact perhaps our role could be to rejoice wherever the compassion and love of God is shown.
As for us, we are the body of Christ and whilst many of our church members are facing difficulties with the floods. Our prayers are with you.

Noah waiting

DESCRIPTION: Doves talking on ark. CAPTION: OH I TOTALLY FOUND LAND A FEW DAYS AGO, I'M JUST REALLY ENJOYING HAVING IT ALL TO MYSELF FOR A BIT
http://www.reverendfun.com/?date=20100716

Psalm 27

 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent: he will set me high on a rock.

A prayer for those who have suffered from the floods.

PRAYER for those who have suffered from the floods
Leader:  Let us pray for all who have been affected by the floods in the last week 
Silence to reflect the needs of others during these times 
ALL:     Gracious heavenly Father,  
            Shock and sorrow is dominating our lives. 
            Bring your hope among us. 
            Help us as we ponder the loss of lives and property  
            as  a result of the last weeks events. 
            Bring comfort to those whose lives have altered so much in the last week and who suffer greatly. 
            Mercifully embrace those who are frightened.  
            Look with love and compassion on those who mourn.  
            Restrain those who seek to instigate such destruction.  
            And give strength to all who offer care, support and rescue efforts during this time. 
            Help us and all others be your healing hands and comforting arms during this time. 
            So that all in need may experience your compassion, grace and mercy.  
            In Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen 

Acts of God?

In the face of the recent floods in Queensland, and Victoria and the 500 lives lost this week in the floods in Brazil and Sri Lanka, it must raise the spiritual question for us of just where God is in this. 
I found this excerpt from a sermon written just after the Tsunami a helpful reflection.
 The phrase “act of God” was adopted by insurance companies to refer to natural disasters.  Earthquakes, for example.  Or tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, tornados.  As an insurance term, I suppose it’s fine.  As a theological construct, it’s troublesome at the very least.
Yes, God created the universe and all its laws of physics, the tectonic plates and how they move together and apart.  But does God really decide to send a disaster on one of the poorest countries in the world (or any place else, for that matter)?  The Bible raises the question over and over of why bad things sometimes happen, from the book of Job to the gospels.  And it never gives us an answer.  If the scriptures don’t answer this question, then why do we think we can?
So, are there acts of God when a natural disaster occurs?  Absolutely.   The acts of God are when someone shelters a child who has suddenly become a homeless orphan, when food is shared, when people donate money or goods, when neighbors use their bare hands to dig through the rubble in search of the living or the dead, when prayers are lifted out of desperation or hope. 
Is God present in this disaster?  Yes, of course.  But not in the sense of causing it or using it as some sort of judgment.  God is present in the good done by those who go about doing ordinary and extraordinary things.
Those are the acts of God."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UCA Flood appeal

http://ucfloodappeal.gofundraise.com.au/
Banner
Please give it your consideration and give as you are able, and may God be with those who are suffering in the midst of the floods in Queensland.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What are you looking for?

Been searching all my life
sometimes with eyes open fiercely
sometimes with eyelids clenched shut.
Feeling with my fingers in the darkness,
touching after things I could not see,
tracing outlines and shapes,
flat, solid, and imagined;
things hard and sharp,
surfaces soft, silken and scarred.
Peering deeply into the flame
and beyond, towards flickering shadows
that take turns to hide and then
to reveal things of truth and beauty,
of knowledge and emptiness.
Been searching all my life;
stripping words from curling pages
in the hope that they might come together
once more, and a third time to create meanings
from barely-grasped mutterings
and confident pronouncements.
Come and see!
calls the man who mixes love with truth
and whose tears shine like night-sky stars;
which, even when dried and long dispersed
into the atmosphere,
deliver more substance than the mountains
and enclose more reality
than the sun’s persistent rays.
Even the half-glimpses
have made the journey worthwhile.


© 2011 Ken Rookes

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baptism of Jesus


A stunning painting done by Rosalind Hore and found at
http://commissionformission.blogspot.com/

Icon of Baptism of Christ

Icon of Baptism of Christ

The River of Baptism

"To be baptized, therefore, is to enter the river, the "glad river" Will Campbell calls it, through which all the saints have trod.  It is to belong to a people.  We are a people of liberation, not bondage, captivated by a gospel which is often too radical for us. 
This liberating gospel compels us into the world, confronting issues of race and gender, worship and spirituality, witness and mission, sin and salvation--scary stuff.  Instead of distracting ourselves by turning inward on each other ,often ignoring the hurt rampant around us, let us rise up together to carry out Jesus' own mission, wonderfully articulated by the Isaiah text:  "to open eyes that are blind; to bring captives out of prison."  
.....So let us continue to return to the river with others who begin the journey.  We are always going back there, rediscovering the implications and complications of God's grace.  We need patience and humility together, since we will never establish a baptismal policy on which all of us can readily agree.  But like the child in Flannery O'Conner's story, we can know that we count, after all, at the river.  Perhaps that will have to be good news enough, until that day when all God's people shall gather at the river "that flows by the throne of God."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Come to the water

The water, it dances, it gurgles and flows,

it sings alleluia, shares life where it goes.

It’s sweeping, it’s curving, around unseen bends,

to vistas surprising and landscapes of friends.


This river, it eddies, it catches us all

in long graceful turnings; love’s generous swirl.

This water lives deeply; the thirst, it is quenched,

the body is freshened, the soul, it is cleansed.


The bowl has been refilled, the fam’ly has come

for love’s celebration; the tribe is at one.

The Spirit, she gathers, she hovers and cries;

delights in the dreamings and aches with the sighs.


Some are wrinkled from birth, some wrinkled with age;

Hey, come to the water; whatever your page!

Drink deeply, my sister, my brother, my friend;

drink grace from the fountain, water without end.


The water is justice, the water is peace;

it saturates living, its strivings won’t cease

Let none withhold water, the Spirit commands;

leaving love to embrace us and join hand in hand.


© 2011 Ken Rookes

Responding to the weekly readings again. I think it's not bad, but I reserve the right to make some adjustments.

Metre: 11.11.11.11

Can be sung to the tune St Denio, Together in Song 143, AHB 80