Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We need to wake up from our sleep

Romans 13


We need to wake up from our sleep;

the somnambulistic state

that surrounds us, shroud-like

to conceal from us the things that are true,

lovely and of good report.

Our preferred dreams are filled

with things that glitter, caress and distract;

a multitude of tantalising objects and possessions

that feign an outrageously inflated value.

They are an encroaching cataract cloudiness

creeping undetected across the lenses of our lives.

Invisible but persistent,

they distort our vision in cunning ways

and threaten to hand us over to

the popular blindness

so freely dispensed by shrill politicians,

shock-jocks, conniving experts,

media commentators and self-obsessed magnates.


We must rouse ourselves from the delusions

of denial to embrace sleep’s nemesis:

the life that rises excitedly in dawn’s light

and glows with all the possibilities of love;

true, generous and unconquered.

Then we will behold love’s joyful rainbow,

its myriad colours true, generous,

kind and unconquered;

consigning meanness and mere law

to unseeing shadows.


© 2011 Ken Rookes

A vigorous theological discussion

Love your enemeies


   " We shouldn't wish divine judgment on any person or nation, even if it appears good and necessary. We should wish them God's shalom. When you imagine that God hates all the people you hate, then you can be sure you've created him in your own image. No, said the German pastor Martin Niemoeller, who was also imprisoned by Hitler for eight years, "It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies; he's not even the enemy of his own enemies."
           What we should wish for every person and nation comes from this week's epistle. Paul borrows a passage from the Hebrew Old Testament to instruct the earliest followers of Jesus: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Romans 13:9 = Leviticus 19:18). The only debt we should carry, he says, is the never-ending debt to "love your fellow human being." Loving your neighbor fulfills any and every other divine command, for genuine love "does no harm to its neighbor." We're to love not only our neighbor but even our enemy (Matt. 5:43–48)."

Where two or three are gathered


"For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them . . .how I love this verse. Doesn’t matter if the sanctuary bursts with 10,000 people and you have fancy high tech gear supporting your brilliant ideas. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a rickety church with a faulty sound system and ten people dozing in the pews. Doesn’t matter if you’re not in a church building or don’t care about church in any form. What matters is being open to God’s loving spirit, of inviting the Christ-like presence of humility and tenderness into a conversation.
I don’t do that enough. I am so full of ______ . . . myself."

Monday, August 29, 2011

If another member of the church sins against you

Matthew 18:15


The words are dry;

a disturbing distance removed

from the Teacher’s incandescent call

to follow and to share

in the captivating work of the kingdom.

They read backwards as if viewed

in a cloudy mirror, from the time

when discipleship’s spark has been forgotten

and God’s good people have settled

for something less.

Something less radical,

something less disturbing,

something less compelling,

something less fearful.

The unremembered Way has been displaced

by a lesser one with the modest aim

of ensuring that God’s good people

observe polite constraints and live together

without coming to blows too often.

These words are a sad concession,

unworthy of being placed upon the lips

of one who lived tingling life

spoke aching truth and loved

without the merest thought of compromise.

He whose words were filled with freedom’s hope

always had the right story

to stop such nonsense

before it became embarrassing.

© Ken Rookes

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some rules for living

1.

Love. It won’t always be easy.

You may find that no-one else

seems to be doing it,

or that you’re not getting any back.

It’s not ideal, but that’s OK.

Be genuine, and keep loving;

everything good depends on it.

2.

Resist evil. There is no shortage,

so whatever you do, don’t add to it.

Turn it on its head

with acts of generosity and peace.

Weep with those who suffer.

3.

Make people welcome.

All kinds of people, not just the ones

who share your background

and understandings.

Get to know strangers, hear their stories

and share yours with them.

4.

Refuse to have enemies.

Don’t expect everyone to like you,

but if people treat you badly or unfairly

don’t make it worse

by treating them the same.

Be patient.

5.

If you must compete with others,

don’t do it by trying to go one-up,

or seeking to accumulate

more than they have.

Outdo them with caring,

create an abundance of harmony,

be more humble.

Bless, rejoice and give

more freely and abundantly

than everybody else.

6.

Serve God in hope,

with perseverance and prayer.

7.

Live recklessly;

with passion and abandon.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Large, and without a handle


Discipleship is a many-hued flower

that promises fruitfulness in season.

The blues of silent empathy

in their many dark shades;

the yellows of joy, surprising and soaring;

the gracious whites of hopefulness, a dapple

of light in the midst of shadows.

There, amongst the weeds,

the warm orange of patient service

that causes all to smile,

and the green of persistent life, once wakened,

that refuses to give in.

Then there are the purples, mauves

and heliotropes of defiance and struggle

sitting beside the soft greys of uncertainty.

What of the reds? Ah, the crimson achings

and scarlet bleedings of compassion

proclaim the truth and the love

of honest discipleship.

It has a shape, too; an intersection

heavy and uncomfortable,

ridiculous and unfashionable.

Large, and without a handle,

we shall find a way to take it up

and humbly wear its colours.

Monday, August 22, 2011

living from compassion


"Paul has just challenged the Roman Christians to see themselves as the body of Christ. Individuals are like members of that single body. Each member has a part to play. There is no room for rivalry and also no need for it, because our confidence rests not on making ourselves better than others but in believing the gospel: that God values each one of us. God's righteousness or goodness is the foundation of our faith and our being.
What does it look like when people live on that basis? In our passage we see something of the answer. It could easily have come straight from a Jewish teaching manual of the time. There is nothing particularly Christian about it. It represents the best values Paul has learned and now sees as needing to characterise the community of faith. Notice the focus on genuineness and the priority of love. That is no empty commitment. It includes recognising what is not love, namely evil and resisting its sway. The good we are to hold close to is defined by love, not by a set of rules. It is not about not doing anything wrong, but about living from compassion."
from http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/AEpPentecost11.htm

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Keys



Peter got the keys,

so Matthew tells us;

the keys of the kingdom.

Artists love to paint the archetype apostle

holding a ring of big, clunky

iron keys, (sometimes golden).

Of course, if these are the keys

that open the locks of the kingdom,

(of heaven, as Matthew insists),

then paradise itself must be

some sort of city, golden and shining.

We picture it, radiant with consolation

for the ills and indignities

suffered in our dust-centred lives,

enclosed by some sort of wall; and gates

through which the glorious reward

may be glimpsed, but from which

the less than worthy are turned away.

So it is that the flawed fisherman

is translated into the exacting gatekeeper,

and those who come after him

believe they are called

to continue his supposed ministry

of determining who may come in.

Ah, the power!

Those who dare

to front the gates of glory

without the necessary ticket;

well, it’s their own fault, really.


Can this ever be the gospel?

Jesus, as I hear his words,

spoke of entering into God’s abundant life

of justice, freedom and compassion;

and the invitation is for everyone.

Perhaps Matthew didn’t quite get it, either.


© Ken Rookes 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the human that God uses


" The challenge and the invitation that Jesus holds before us is the possibility that we too as human beings can be the temples of God's presence, the vehicles of God's action. We can enter into the realm of God in the world. We can become the body of Christ. If we affirm God in Jesus, we are opening to the possibility of God in ourselves.
If that sounds too lofty and theological, think of it in terms of the incident that arises out of the lore surrounding the Polish pianist, Paderewski. A mother wanted to encourage the progress of her young son at the piano and so she bought two tickets to a Paderewski performance. When the night arrived she found their seats near the front of the concert hall and they eyed the large Steinway parked by itself on the stage. Soon the mother found a friend to talk with and she did not notice the boy slip away. When 8:00 p.m. arrived the house light dimmed, the spotlights came on, the Steinway was bathed in light, and only then did this mother notice that her son was seated at the piano bench, where he began innocently to plunk the keys in a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The audience roared, his mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski himself appeared and moved quickly towards the keyboard. "No, don't quit, keep on playing," he whispered to the boy. And reaching past him with his left hand the Master began improvising a bass part, and then with his right hand, he reached around on the other side of the boy to add a running obbligato. The crowd was spell bound and the piece concluded in thunderous applause as the boy announced, "I didn't know I could do that."
That's incarnation. We are only human; we do not feel worthy or able, but by some miracle of grace, it is the human that God uses. God whispers in our ear, "don't quit, keep on playing," and as we continue, we are lovingly enfolded, graciously inspired, and from our feeble efforts something wonderful can emerge."

Who do you say that i am?

This Sunday special

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Messiah,

the one sent from God;

who shows us

what it is like when God’s spirit

bubbles from within.

You are the one in harmony

with all creation;

who might just persuade

the lion and the lamb

to lie down together.

You are the one whose words

challenge and delight,

skipping childlike in the rain;

who changes enemies into friends,

tears into laughter,

anger into hope,

fear into freedom.

You are the one who calls

liberty out of bondage,

light out of darkness,

life out of death.

You are love;

the one in whom we live and move

and have our being.

You are the Messiah,

child of the God

whose life is everywhere.


© Ken Rookes

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Soundings

1.

The train from Oxford is quiet.

Perhaps we are all reflecting

upon the importance of learning

and enquiry

to a civilised nation.


2.

Until it arrives at Slough,

where the doors are opened

to a chattering invasion of voices;

closely followed by their owners.

Like a class of pupils

set free from their constraints,

the commuter crowd continued

their unrelenting chatter

all the way to Paddington.


3.

The regular confusion of light conversation,

mobile phones and undulating train noises

accompany the final leg of our day trip.

Walking from the Highbury Station

we stop to eat at a convenient pub.

Here, a new set of erratic conversations

from the Friday night mob

are augmented by the driving bass rhythms

of recorded rock and roll music.

The food was good.


4.

Turning into the polite street

wherein we are being accommodated,

the throaty roar of an outrageous motorcycle

reminds us of home:

Bendigo, hoon capital of Victoria.


5.

Three am.

The night’s summer stillness is swept aside

by a dreadful wailing.

Rising, and moving to the window

Jane observes a man with a dog.

The man is kicking the animal

and stomping on its neck.

The despairing cry slowly recedes

as the man drags the wretched

object of his betraying

to the end of the street, and around the corner.

Jane punches the three nines into her phone,

and speaks to the authorities;

whilst I am left to wonder

about the things that make

for a civilised nation.



© Ken Rookes 2011
I wrote this in London during my recent leave. It seems to have some relevance to the current events in that troubled nation.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sometimes you have to answer back to God.

Sometimes

you have to answer back to God.

Many consider it poor form,

say that we have no right

to question the Divine opinion.

We are mere worms, they say;

who are we to presume to know better

than the Omniscient One

whose ways are mysterious?

Better to put the doubts aside

and accept the Almighty’s

strange wisdom. Remember Job

and his unsuccessful contention?


Yes, but I am reckless enough

to doubt, curious enough

to question, and rude enough

to answer back.

There is much in this world

with which I disagree,

and God, they tell me,

is supposed to be in charge.

It seems to me that faith

requires me to keep asking;

a pesky dog yapping at God’s heels:

like the woman in the story

who would not let go until Jesus

changed his mind

and healed a gentile daughter.


© Ken Rookes

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cur Deus Homo*

Seeking respite from the crowds,

the God-man heads north on a holiday

to gentile-land, Tyre to be precise.

He covers his tracks well,

the paparazzi will not find him.


But the do-not-disturb sign

is treated with nonchalant indifference,

by a foreign woman

who apparently fears neither God

nor man.


Her daughter is crook,

with a demon, to be specific.

She asks the God-man

to drive the demon out,

to set her daughter free.


He refuses, saying

that gentile-dogs can go beg

whilst Israel's children first be fed.

But the woman is rude,

she doesn't know the rules, and answers back.


The God-man accepts

the shame of being wrong.

He lets the woman have the last word,

and does the right thing,

in the end.

*Cur Deus Homo was the title of a famous essay

by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109).

In English it means "Why God became a man."

© Ken Rookes

Flash-Coat Joseph

He said, "I am your brother, Joseph,

whom you sold into Egypt." Gen. 45:4


Joseph with the flash coat:

it was not your arrogant dreams of

sibling superiority that showed us

that you were a man of God.


Nor the miracle of survival

that saw you arrive, bloodied but intact,

in far-off Egypt where your dreams

would finally come true.


It was not this that stamped you as one

who knew the generous God of your

fathers; nor even your explanation

of the Pharaoh's dreams, by which

the nation was spared great suffering,

and your own family was fed.


Sure, these things showed

that Yahweh was with you;

but we knew that your heart

was with Yahweh

when you forgave

your brothers.

© Ken Rookes