Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some advice

I heard this week about a priest who was given two pieces of advice by an old priest.

"You know when the congregation is filled with optimists. After you have given a long series of announcements at the end of the service and then you say, "and finally" – and people take out their car keys!"

The second was, "Never underestimate the burdens people bring with them into the Church. Often we have little idea of the difficulties and pain our parishioners will be carrying."

Ring any bells St Paul?!

`Of course it is,' said the Queen, `what would you have it?' Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying `Faster! Faster!' but Alice felt she could not go faster, thought she had not breath left to say so., The most curious part was: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. Just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, `You may rest a little now.' Alice looked round her in great surprise. `Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'

`Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, `you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'

`A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. `Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'

Louis Carroll Through the Looking Glass Chapter II

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

losing ourselves in the dance

"Essentially, Matthew is saying, the law was always meant to be about the heart. But, it’s easier to make it about the rules. It’s easier to get it into the head, to check the rules off on a list, and to keep it all clean and simple. It’s easy to make the law about technicalities. But, Jesus, is calling for people to allow the law to become what it was meant to be – a song to sing and improvise around, a rhythm to dance to, and see where it leads, an indication of the notes that lead us into the magic of the music. This is what it means for Jesus to fulfil the law (Matthew 5:17). He moves it beyond technicalities, beyond the head alone, beyond checklists and turns it into a doorway to life, an invitation to encounter God, and a completely alternative way of being that liberates and celebrates and welcomes. The law, for Jesus, is not so much about punishing wrong as it is about strengthening our innate capacity to bring life – to do what is right. It’s about going beyond the steps and losing ourselves in the dance.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

For I do not do the good I want.

The confessional apostle

presents us with a candid view

of his struggles; of his continuing battle

with what he calls the flesh.

Aware of his failures

to the point of despair, but not quite;

he turns his pain into a celebration

of the grace revealed in his Lord.

The apostle does what so many have done

in the two millennia that have elapsed

since he wrote his letters;

he exaggerates his depravity

in order to make larger the grace,

forgetting that his Lord’s generosity

already has no limits.

I remember, in my youth, hearing stories

of people whose alcohol-plagued

and morally-degraded lives

were miraculously turned around

in testimony to the gospel;

and momentarily wishing that I, too,

could speak of such a gutter-to-glory

transformation. But grace

is proven in many ways; our humanness

is always a number of notches less than perfect,

and each one of us depends

upon the generosity of others,

including our strange God.

It is unnecessary to imagine

that we are worse than we are,

and it is foolishness to pretend

that, of ourselves, we can do nothing right.

Grace still abounds, and we should celebrate

kind and loving acts wherever we find them,

whether or not they are done consciously

in the service of God.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Monday, June 20, 2011

but where is the lamb. . .?

The child asks the question

for which his father has no answer,

save that his strange and fearsome God

will provide. And in the end, we,

along with the unquestioningly faithful man,

discover a hapless ram caught by its horns

in a thicket; providentially available

to be offered up in place of the child.

We all heave a sigh of relief,

assured that this terrifying deity

has a heart and is still worth worshipping;

only testing.

It was never God’s intention

that the boy should be killed;

only testing.

It was never God’s intention

that a rampant humanity

should dominate and abuse;

only testing.

It was never God’s intention

that humankind, elevated to the position

of planetary supremo

should mortgage our children’s future;

only testing.

It was never God’s intention

that the obscenely wealthy

should buy and sell the poor;

only testing.

It was never God’s intention

that the anxious and the fearful

should trample on the rights of the foreigner,

and that the plight of the vulnerable

and the stateless should be so carelessly disregarded.

Only testing.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Martin Buber

Martin Buber (in I and Thou) puts it this way:
You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you not know that God needs you -- in the fullness of His eternity needs you? How would humanity be, how would you be, if God did not need humanity, did not need you? You need God, in order to be -- and God needs you, for the very meaning of your life. ... There is divine meaning in the life of the world, of human persons, of you and me.


 "I'm a people person, and I get most excited about theology when I can see how it informs our life together as human beings -- when it tells us something of how we can be Christ's body in the world in a way that furthers God's work of reconciling the whole world to God's self. I was excited by the writings of African theologians who spoke ofubuntu, a word from the Nguni language in Africa which Desmond Tutu (in No Future Without Forgiveness) describes as meaning that "my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound, in yours ... a person is a person through other persons." "A person with ubuntu," Tutu says, "is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole."1 That's a thoroughly biblical idea that a humanities gal like me can get excited about. Ubuntu is not just an abstraction -- it's an idea that has been and can be incredibly powerful in helping communities heal and reconcile."

Jurgan Moltmann

"God is and always has been, loving and giving and other-centred and relational and sociable, companionable, friendly.  Because the real God is the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Christians call this relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the trinity (and I’ll tell you why in a second).  And this God, the trinity, is the living and true God.
But that other, solitary, self-centred god is not really God at all.
That god is simply an imaginary idea that reflects our own culture and times.  Other people in other times have imagined – perhaps – lots of different gods find the pulse of the universe (if you want to tap into the heart beat of reality) what do you find?  You find fierce, passionate, determined, life-giving love that flows between the Generous Father, His Beloved Son and the Life-Giving Spirit.
The life of these Persons, the relationships which they share IS the source of all true beauty, joy, goodness, holiness and love.  To belong to this God, to participate in this circle of divine friendship is the goal of all existence, it is the meaning of life."

Celtic Trinity

Sunday, June 12, 2011


When the human Jesus no longer

walked amidst earth’s dust,

we might have expected his influence

to wane. But it didn’t; his story was told,

his words were remembered

and his mysterious presence

continued to be felt. His inspired followers

attested to an ongoing connection,

and concluded that, without doubt,

he must have been the unique child

of the all-creating Deity, and that his Spirit

resided with them still.

Starting with the inherited, and therefore

inevitable starting point, that God is One;

they then declared the Divinity

to be Triune. This would eventually

cause considerable consternation

among the logically and mathematically inclined;

those who insist upon precise definitions

and accurate formulations.

In earnest desperation they still

scratch around for a neat analogy

from nature, science or geometry;

to elucidate that which can never

be explained. Likenesses

are always inadequate,

just as all metaphors eventually fail;

the curious God who was found to be

surprisingly present can never

be reduced to mere diagrams.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

pentecost begot a bureaucracy?

Mexican icon of Pentecost. "Pentecost not only birthed the church; it begot a bureaucracy. Across the centuries, human institutions became the wine skins for Spirit led inspirations, and therein lies both the wit and the wisdom in the joke about the difference between God's vibrant kingdom and moribund human churches.
           It's easy to criticize the church as a deeply flawed organization, but the institutionalization of the Jesus movement was both inevitable and necessary. Nothing happens without Spirit-inspired people, but nothing lasts without institutions. How should they organize 5,000 new converts? What was its main message? What constituted proper worship and why? Could Gentiles join what was initially a Jewish movement, and if they did should they observe the Mosaic traditions? Who would lead and why? How broad or narrow were its boundaries? What were reasonable procedures and protocols for feeding widows, collecting money for famine relief, sending out missionaries like Paul and Barnabas, or adjudicating disputes? In short, where was the Spirit of God blowing, where was His fire burning, and how could you be sure?"

Giotto, The Pentecost

I've always like Giotto's rendition of the Pentecost, because, unlike many others, it seems to show some fairly ordinary people, just waiting and chatting amongst themselves. They seem to be in that moment just before they realise that they have been given an extraordinary gift.
Peace in the Middle East is not possible without cross cultural understanding not just between Israelis and Arabs but also between Jews and Christians and Muslims. Perhaps this is part of the reason God asks us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This holy city of God is special to people of so many traditions and cultures. Without understanding and without the power of the Holy Spirit working within it there will never be peace.Pentecost
The story of Pentecost is a story of a wonderful international cross cultural gathering. God’s Holy Spirit draws us all into a new family in which we are able to understand and break down all the cultural barriers that separate us and create conflict. In spite of our cultural differences we are, through the power of the Spirit, enabled to understand each other and treat each other as equals, with love and mutual care.

Alexander Sadoyan The Pentecost

The Pentecost - Oil/Canvas (20" x 26")

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You will receive power

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

then understanding will begin

and you will know what I have said is true.

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

then you will see the narrowness

of mortal truth,

you will be humbled

by the limitations of human institutions,

you will laugh at the stumbling attempts

to confine the Almighty

in neat religious boxes.

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you

you may leap and dance with joy,

you may shout in exultation;

you may beat drums,

paint rainbows,

enact mysteries,

create silences of prayer

or dare circuses of dreams.

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

there is much that you will want to discard,

that, in freedom’s name,

you may witness, worship

and love.

© Ken Rookes

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The ascension of Christ - Dali

drawn into the life of God

Much of what Jesus says in this farewell discourse is about relationship, about the relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit and us. It often sounds quite complex. If you took a pen and paper and tried to draw it - Father, Son, Spirit, us, and drew lines between them - you are in me and I am in you and they will be in us, and I have given to them and you gave them to me, etc. etc., you would end up with a very messy piece of paper, and you may not be any the wiser. Which is perhaps the point of it all. When we are drawn into the life of the Trinity, into the eternal dance of love that is the inner life of God, there’s not much point trying to describe it or explain it. We are drawn into the ultimate mystery, the mystery that lies at the heart of the universe, at the centre of life and meaning itself. What’s important is not that you can draw it or explain it, but that you open yourself to it. What matters is that you allow yourself to be captured up in the dance of love and drawn into the life of God.

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; ...