Sunday, May 29, 2011

And this is eternal life

Life with an eternal quality,

not in some imagined heaven,

but here, among earth’s dust and grit;

permeated with deep truthings

that cut through all the bullshit*

of a connivingly ignorant world.

Let it roll, Jesus;

let your surprising friendship sweep over all

and catch us up in your swelling tide.

Let your presence become a crashing wave

to carry us sublimely

to a divine place of abundance;

where the authenticity is sharp

and captures one’s breath,

where joy sparkles with intensity,

and where life-restricting greed

and preoccupation with the self

encounter their equals in defiant actions

of liberation, justice and compassion.

Let it be a place where long-heralded

generosity is, at last, allowed to rule

and to sculpt a new reality.

Take us to this eternal-life place, Jesus;

where the faithful live with tears and laughter,

defying the fears of the wealthy,

confronting the powerful,

and silencing the rampant demagogues;

and where the reckless and the courageous ones

lovingly enact your outrageous vision

of hope and freedom.

*substitute the less-offensive bull dust if you prefer.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

whatever way love's camel takes

My heart has become capable of every form:
It is a pasture for gazelles
And a monastery for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols,
And the pilgrim's Ka'ba,
And the tablets of the Torah,
And the book of the Koran.
I follow the religion of Love:
Whatever way love's camel takes,
that is my religion, my faith.
-Ibn Arabi 1165-1240

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who needs the Church!

Who Needs the Church! 

How baffling you are, O church, and yet 
how I love you. 
How you have made me suffer and yet 
how much I owe you. 
I should like to see you destroyed, and yet 
I need your presence. 
You have given me so much scandal and yet 
you have made me understand sanctity. 
I have seen nothing in the world 
more devoted to obscurity, 
more compromised, more false,      
and I have touched nothing 
more pure, more generous, more beautiful. 
How often I have wanted to shut the doors 
of my soul in your face, and how often 
I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. 
No, I cannot free myself from you, 
because I am you, although not completely. 
Besides, where else could I go? 

       —Carlo Carreto*

Monday, May 23, 2011

The end

To the unknown God

We prefer our divinity safely packaged ...

Paul arrived in Athens and invited the Athenians to the unknown (Acts 17:22-31). The Athenians were acquainted with the idea that there could be something divine beyond their knowledge. Paul had observed that they had erected an altar "to an unknown god." But Paul also observed that given a choice between the known and the unknown, they chose the known.

Who can blame them? "The devil we know is better than the devil we don't know," we are fond of saying. The future is just about all the unknown we can cope with, and even that we do our best to minimize through horoscopes, popular culture's fascination with the end of the world, and diversified portfolios. The present, though, is something we have a high predilection to keep the same, even if our efforts are nostalgic or illusory.
We share this basically human trait with the ancient Athenians. We, as they, prefer our divinity safely packaged -- appropriately in gold or silver -- but in containers of our own construction. We, as they, prefer our humanity that way, too, safely packaged in prejudices and systems of our own construction, even if we are fond of attributing those constructions to God.
Paul will have none of it. He introduces the Athenians to a God of the unknown, one that cannot be constrained in any construct of human making, whether shrine or prejudice. It is not just that Paul exhorts the Athenians to trade the gods they know for the God he knows. He asks them to trade the gods they safely know for the God who by nature cannot be known.

Paul Tillich, from Sermon - "What is Truth?"

The truth which makes us free is neither the teaching of Jesus nor the teaching about Jesus. Those who have called the teaching of Jesus "the truth" have subjected the people to a servitude under the law. And most people like to live under a law. They want to be told what to think and what not to think. And they accept Jesus as the infallible teacher and giver of a new law. But even the words of Jesus, if taken as a law, are not the truth which makes us free. And they should not be used as such by our scholars and preachers and religious teachers. They should not be used as a collection of infallible prescriptions for life and thought. They point to the truth, but they are not a law of truth. Nor are the doctrines about Him the truth that liberates. I say this to you as somebody who all his life has worked for a true expression of the truth which is the Christ. But the more one works, the more one realizes that our expressions, including everything we have learned from our teachers and from the teaching of the Church in all generations, is not the truth that makes us free.

The Church very early forgot the word of our Gospel that He is the truth; and claimed that her doctrines about Him are the truth. But these doctrines, however necessary and good they were, proved to be not the truth that liberates. Soon they became tools of suppression, of servitude under authorities; they became means to prevent the honest search for truth—weapons to split the souls of people between loyalty to the Church and sincerity to truth. And in this way they gave deadly weapons to those who attacked the Church and its doctrines in the name of truth. Not everybody feels this conflict. There are masses of people who feel safe under doctrinal laws. They are safe, but it is the safety of him who has not yet found his spiritual freedom, who has not yet found his true self. It is the dignity and the danger of Protestantism that it exposes its adherents to the insecurity of asking the question of truth for themselves and that it throws them into the freedom and responsibility of personal decisions, of the right to choose between the ways of the sceptics, and those who are orthodox, of the indifferent masses, and Him who is the truth that liberates. For this is the greatness of Protestantism: that it points beyond the teachings of Jesus and beyond the doctrines of the Church to the being of Him whose being is the truth.

How do we reach this truth? "By doing it," is the answer of the Fourth Gospel. This does not mean being obedient to the commandments, accepting them and fulfilling them. Doing the truth means living out of the reality which is He who is the truth, making His being the being of ourselves and of our world. And again, we ask, "How can this happen?" "By remaining in Him" is the answer of the Fourth Gospel, i.e., by participating in His being. "Abide in me and I in you," he says. The truth which liberates is the truth in which we participate, which is a part of us and we a part of it. True discipleship is participation. If the real, the ultimate, the divine reality which is His being becomes our being we are in the truth that matters.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You will see me

The storyteller we call John,

writes his singular account,

two, three, maybe more,

generations after the Jesus events.

The initial excitement and expectation

of the Parousia has passed; the Messiah

has not resumed his bodily presence

among the inhabitants of planet Earth.

The meanings of the pronouncements

concerning his impending return

will have to be found in the non-literal realm.

You will see me, you will live.

The evangelist confidently declares

that it is all about presence;

the faithful will see him where others may not;

in the eyes of each other,

among the company of the assembled,

and in surprising and unexpected places,


His spirit abides;

a mysterious inhabitation

within the minds and the hearts

of those who call him friend,

a reassuring companioning

to encourage and inspire,

an invisible stirring within, and prompting

towards actions of love,

for those who are willing.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Am i Living the Jesus truth?

I’m no longer haunted by the idea that John 14:6 means that Christianity is the only way to salvation.  In my experience, the claim that Christianity holds sufficient truth for salvation does not mean that it has to hold that truth exclusively. This revelation became particularly real for me when I realized, for example, that Mohatma Ghandhi (a Hindu) and Thich Nhat Hanh (a Buddhist) come closer to the Jesus truth, the Jesus way, and the Jesus life than most of the Christians I know, including myself.
As I have continued to wrestle with the reality of religious pluralism, I have found the following two short sayings helpful.  First, theologian Huston Smith says that God is “defined by Jesus, not confined to Jesus.” Second, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has said, “I walk the Christ-path into the mystery of God, but I do not believe that God is a Christian.” The common core to both of these slogans is that one can affirm the validity of other religious traditions without abandoning Christianity.
What haunts me now is not whether faithful Hindus, Muslims, and Jews are saved.  Even if this were a concern, there’s too much wonderful, beautiful, and challenging involved with being a Christian to worry too much about everyone else’s religion.  Today the questions I ask myself today are:
Am I living the Jesus truth?

all about us?

I get uncomfortable with any version of our faith which turns Christianity into something that's all about us. There are far too many teachings on Jesus, salvation, and Heaven, which remake Christianity into a narcissistic cult. And that's the very opposite of the kind of faith that Jesus presents and compels us to follow.

The faith, as Jesus taught it, is all about us loving God and our neighbor. It's an outwardly focused faith, which pushes us to look around and find people to love, and a God to adore.

i am the life

I would venture to suggest that our situation is increasingly like that of those to whom these words were addressed. Gone are the days when Christianity was the taken-for-granted dominant religious world view. Those were the days of Christian triumphalism that produced the arrogant mind-set we are so wary of. Increasingly we are again finding ourselves to be adherents of a minority faith in a world that is awash with different values and beliefs. And again the prevalent temptation is to suppress our Christian distinctiveness in favour of a broadly inclusive humanitarianism in order to win ourselves the privilege of being considered respectable contributors to society’s debates about social policy and direction.

And so it is to us, as we wrestle with how to live as people of love and faith and peace and justice in the world we find ourselves in, that Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. None of you comes to the Father except through me.” He did not address these words to the Hindus or the Muslims or even to those Jews who did not believe in him. He addressed them to those of us who were already his followers and who were anxious and uncertain about the way forward. “I am the way. Follow me.” He addressed them to those of us who were already his followers and who were confused about what to believe. “I am the truth. Believe in me.” He addressed them to those of us who were already his followers and who were fearful for the future. “I am the life. Live in union with me.”

“None of you comes to the Father except through me.” Only through one who knows God as Father, namely a child of God, can you come to know God as Father. Far from being an arrogant claim that negates every other way of relating to God, it is little more than an obvious truism about a particular way of relating to God: if you want to approach God in the same unique and unprecedented manner that Jesus did, then you’ll have follow him to do it. No one but Jesus can show you how Jesus does it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In my Father’s house

In our imaginations, limited

and blinkered by some of the stories

that we hold so precious;

we picture a heavenly hereafter,

and make literal the metaphorical mansion,

with its many rooms, that the Jesus

of John’s gospel tells us

he must leave his friends to prepare.

Extending the metaphor, Jesus the servant-king

becomes Jesus the housemaid;

this can hardly be his meaning.

Where, then, will we find his father’s house;

where can we be at home?


among the dust. Among the struggles,

among the doubting and the tears.


in the midst of the failures;

with the anxious and the fearful,

with those who wait.


where occasional gleamings

of resurrection light flicker almost forgotten

but stubbornly; where children of hope

whisper their words of freedom

and shout against the silence;

refusing to quietly go away.


where deeds of love and grace

continue to be wastefully enacted,

and strivings for justice and generosity

seek fulfilment in peace.


where unfashionable songs are sung,

uncertain paths are trod,

and the joy is defiant;

here is the dwelling place

with its many rooms.

Nowhere else.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

I try to post my poem early in the week. This means that I may well revisit it, and make some changes. For a more definitive version, check later in the week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I am the door

Deep down in human life is the thought of the doorway. Through it come the visitors to our life, and through it we all walk, to our home, to visit friends, to escape the cold, to enter a new life. To come through the door is to choose another place of hope, of support, of  meaning, another life. We can choose to go out the door, whether to flee the burning house, to leave behind a life become toxic and destructive, to travel into new life and places, to new experience.  Perhaps the ones inside are our people, our loved ones, the ones we really don’t want to be without, the ones we will one day grieve over, the ones who might break our hearts or our bank balance.
The door metaphor, in the thought of John, gave Jesus the place that belonged properly to him. It doesn’t matter whether they are sheep or people, or whether the door is for keeping things out or for keeping things in. In a world of spiritual meaning, the disciples gave to Jesus a unique position, for when he spoke of the Shepherd and the sheep, or the sheep and the sheepyard, he spoke of the things that already were a risk for them, already a danger, but already a hope, a vision and a prayer. Jesus, as they remembered this saying, offered himself as a special person able to give hope and depth to life, without commanding it, without taking over anyone’s dream of a better, safer and more abundant life. Dangers, threats and our vulnerable, fragile life, all need one who can explain, support and inspire us to keep our eyes on the vision: the rule of God in human life.
Rev Brad Harris, Robinvale 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Australian guide to Sheep rearing

 some advice from an official Australian Guide to Sheep Rearing. First the advantages.
1. The Advantages
1. Herding Instinct. Sheep tend to stay together.
2. Reproduction. Sheep are quick growing and multiply easily.
3. Obedience. Sheep can be trained to obey.
2. The Disadvantages
1. Sheep are not adapted to heat and dryness.
2. Sheep can’t survive without adequate food.
3. Sheep are fragile. Their rough appearance is deceptive.
4. Sheep are naturally defenseless.
5. Sheep are susceptible to parasites
6. Sheep must be watched continually.
7. Sheep need protection at night.
8. Sheep are short sighted. They can only see 6 feet ahead.
Perhaps we can begin to understand why Jesus says we are like sheep and he is our shepherd. 

a weird little detail

"There’s a weird little detail that is easily missed, and I think brings the whole thing into focus. In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to “strive to enter through the narrow door, for many I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able.
Unlike the gate-teaching in the Gospel of John that is often lost, this teaching from the Gospel of Luke is much better known.
And there’s the problem. If one isn’t careful, you’d read “I am the gate” in John and think it’s Jesus talking about the same thing as in Luke.
It isn’t.
The teaching from Luke is known because of its moralistic tone. Walk the “straight and narrow,” and therefore strive to make it into God’s Kingdom.
That may be what Jesus was saying in Luke. But, that certainly isn’t what Jesus is saying in the Gospel of John.
This is a completely different teaching.
Because the sheep aren’t the ones entering the door—Jesus is going in the door."

Monday, May 9, 2011

All things in common

Forget the wonders and signs;

they’re always dodgey and ambiguous,

they prove nothing.

The story is still amazing,

but with qualifications;

all these Christians,

as they eventually came to be called,

cashing in their retirement investments

and giving the proceeds away,

keeping things in common,

sharing as any had need.

The “Jerusalem experiment,” so-called;

it couldn’t last.

This failed attempt at socialist spirituality

proves, according to some,

that all socialism is a failure.

But it wasn’t the love and the sharing

that didn’t work, it was the theology.

It’s easy to give your stuff away

when you are convinced that Jesus

is about to re-enter the earthly sphere

to set up the kingdom

that he failed to establish the first time.

Perhaps tomorrow, next week;

certainly by next year!

As I drive north through Epsom

a presumptuous billboard

confidently assures me

that Jesus’ second coming

is as certain as his first.

But I am a theological sceptic

as well as a socialist,

and remain unconvinced;

wondering if, maybe, the purpose of story

is to challenge me to be faithful and generous,

even if Jesus never returns.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spreading scripture through mobile phones

This video in DjambarrpuyŇču language of North East Arnhem Land is the story, from Luke 8:22-25, of Jesus calming the storm.  The video is readily transferable from mobile phone to mobile phone.  This is one way of making scriptures available to people who are already sharing videos and recordings with each other in this way.

The video was made in Galiwin’ku as part of a project of Coordinating Support for Indigenous Scriptures (CSIS) an initiative of the Northern Regional Council of Congress (NRCC) and the Northern Synod of the Uniting Church

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's day proclamation

A lesser know history of Mothers Day ....
This powerful Proclamation was made by Julia Ward Howe in the advocacy for the need of official celebration of Mother's Day in Boston, United States of America in 1870. Miss Howe was the first person in US to recognize the need for Mother's Day holiday. She was successful in raising awareness amongst the masses and pushing her plead to the upper echelons of power. Following this very potent Proclamation made in 1870, the Mothers' Peace Day Observance was held on the second Sunday in June, 1872. Such observances began to take place each year thereafter and paved the way for Mothers' Day Holiday in US on the second Sunday of May.
To read the Mothers day proclamation go to ....
This powerful Proclamation was made by Julia Ward Howe in the advocacy for the need of official celebration of Mother's Day in Boston, United States of America in 1870. Miss Howe was the first person in US to recognize the need for Mother's Day holiday. She was successful in raising awareness amongst the masses and pushing her plead to the upper echelons of power.

Following this very potent Proclamation made in 1870, the Mothers' Peace Day Observance was held on the second Sunday in June, 1872. Such observances began to take place each year thereafter and paved the way for Mothers' Day Holiday in US on the second Sunday of May.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In the breaking of bread

In the breaking of bread

the Lord is known.

The human-shaped God

takes the hospitality of heaven in his hands

and distributes it to his friends.

“This is for you,” he says

looking into the eyes of the hungry.

“This food is me. Take me deep inside

your eyes, your head, your heart and your belly.

Take me into your dreams and your struggles,

your fears and your waking thoughts.

Take me deep into your cryings

and your rejoicings. Take me as you journey

towards the wonder of love

and the mystery of grace.

Find me deep within your sharings,

your yearnings, your laughings,

and the fullness of your life together.

See me with you in the loneliness of dark night

and when you close your eyes

against the blinding light.

See me; even when I disappear.

This is for you,”

he says.

Ken Rookes

The storm

Haiku of stillness After a long day telling stories, parables, Jesus needs a break. Suggests a boat trip. Let us cross the lake; ...