Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Che Jesus

Che Jesus
They told me that you came back to be born every Christmas.
Man, you're crazy!

... with this stubborn gesture of coming back every Christmas
you are trying to tell us something:

That the revolution that all proclaim begins first of all in
each one's heart,
That it doesn't mean only changing structures but changing
selfishness for love,
That we have to stop being wolves and return to being
brothers and sisters,
That we… begin to work seriously for
individual conversion and social change
that will give to all the possibility of having bread,
education, freedom, and dignity.

That you have a message that's called the Gospel,
And a Church, and that's us--
A Church that wants to be servant of all,
A Church that knows that because God became human
one Christmas
there is no other way to love God but to love all people.
If that's the way it is, Jesus, come to my house this Christmas,
Come to my country,
Come to the world of men and women.
And first of all, come to my heart.

Anonymous, Cordoba, Argentina, at Christmas, 1970
From Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Volume 3

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dressed for action

Not until the end of the story,

when he is stripped of his dignity

and fixed violently to his cross,

do Jesus’ garments

momentarily take centre-stage.

In the story of the Baptiser

we are told at the outset

how he appeared before his public:

in camel hair and with a belt of leather.

Hardly the apparel of polite

and fashionable society,

but what we might expect

of such a wild and uncomfortable man

plying his strange calling

with hot and disconcerting words.

I wonder, did camel hair kept his body warm

during cold desert nights

among the rocks and lizards

when his followers had returned home?

The one who came after him

was no ascetic, his clothing was perhaps

less prickly, but only a little less shabby.

His words, too, were never really popular;

they challenged and disturbed,

shining light unexpectedly into long dark corners.

But some listened deeply.

Laying hold of hope,

they cast off their fearful robes

and danced.

© Ken Rookes

The grass withers, the flower fades

The embalmers are merely the last

of a comprehensive list

of skilled experts and practitioners

who are employed to prompt,

poke, prod, probe, inject, abrade, cut,

suck, enhance, colour, manipulate and lie

in order to refute,

or at least delay, the mortal transience

that we acknowledge, reluctantly,

will one day find us. Such a frantic denial.

Others have resorted to constructing edifices

designed to carry their name into perpetuity;

a memorial, monument, endowment,

perhaps even the façade of a building

bearing that name chiselled in stone

and pretending that stone itself

will not one day be reduced to dust.

Superficially effective,

in truth these merely declare

that a person once lived,

but does so no longer.

Great wealth, achievement, fame

and even notoriety may carry memory

to new generations,

but, for the most, these things, too,

are fleeting and will pass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

or so the prophet tells us;

leaving one thing that lasts forever.

This eternal word from God,

strange and elusive,

is spoken to confound, contradict, challenge,

and sometimes to annoy.

It neither withers nor fades,

and it will not go away.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

The end is nigh

Apocalypse 4

Apocalypse 4 2003

Apocalypse now

The word apocalypse simply means to reveal, to uncover, and if facing reality brings us despair, we need to ask why. Above all, we must reject the literalist notion that apocalyptic literature is about a future pie in the sky. It is a command to come to full attention in the here and now. And that is hard to do. Last year one advertisement for a beaded handbag costing thousands of dollars featured a model with her eyes closed, looking beautiful but comatose, as the words "Comfort and Joy" blazed across the page. Let’s keep our own eyes open, and as we prepare to sing of comfort and joy this year, let’s look for them where they may be found.

Therefore, keep awake

The sun it will be darkened

the moon won’t give its light,

the stars will fall from heaven,

the days will be as night.

The Son of Man’s descending,

they say he’s coming near.

These verses, strange to comprehend;

perhaps by now he’s here.

The pictures show him in the clouds

a-coming through the skies;

while he looks upon the faces

he sees through the disguise.

They say he’ll soon be present,

they say to read the signs,

the fig tree and the heavens;

we still can’t tell the times.

His words are here for telling;

the truth, it won’t be sold.

There are no buyers out there;

love’s latte has grown cold.

The planet waits its lovers;

the reserve has not been reached.

The walls have been erected large;

one day they will be breached

You say that you’ve been waiting,

your lamp is filled with oil;

the ocean’s growing warmer

while your hands are free of soil.

And the arrows keep on flying,

and the boats still run aground;

and no-one seems to listen,

while lies and wrongs abound.

And still the faithful servants wait;

truth and justice guide them.

They’ll not be silenced, not be still;

while love and anger drive them.

Faith isn’t in the coming,

or in judgement’s promise – threat;

in the doing, loving, waiting:

proof that faith's not finished yet.

© Ken Rookes 2011
consider this a work in progress. I thought I'd put it out there and see where it took me - Ken

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Prophet makes the strangers welcome

Etching and aquatint 2011.

Part of The Prophet Series of Intaglio prints.
Other images can be viewed at www.kenrookes.com.au

Go to Print Gallery

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When did we see you?

The metaphorical goats

feign innocence:

When did we see you? they ask,

expecting us to believe

that their world exists like some medieval city

behind safe and tall walls;

and that they have never ventured

beyond their comfortable houses,

or had ever gone out to shop or play,

or to attend church, school or work;

not to mention the football, or the theatre.

More than that, they pretend

that the cosmos and its many stories

have never intruded into their secure space;

that there exists neither telephone nor internet,

television, satellite, wireless,

newspaper or magazine.

Dwelling, as they must, in some impossible

pre-Microsoft, pre-Marconi,

pre-Edison, pre-Guttenberg era

their ignorance becomes defensible

only because, presumably,

none homeless or hopeless or hungry,

none abused or oppressed or anguished

ever presented themselves to claim

their attention and their compassion..

This alone would be an acceptable excuse

for failing to see their king,

and failing to do the difficult

but joyous work of love.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Seeking for the lost

Seeking for the lost

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back

the strayed… Ezekiel 34:16

Seeking for the lost,

the broken and the strayed;

looking for the injured ones,

the worried and afraid.

Searching for the sorry,

the lonely and the weak;

reaching to embrace them all,

the humble and the meek.

Crying for the wretched,

about whom no one cares;

the ones who feel forgotten,

who sit alone and stare.

Feeling all the hurt and pain

of those who stand apart;

the failure, fear, injustice,

and struggles of the heart.

Walking through the hillsides,

the city lanes and streets;

wherever folk are scattered,

wherever life defeats.

There’s none too lost, sheep or goat,

the Shepherd-God can’t find;

God has promised, God is here

to gather, feed and bind.

© Ken Rookes

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Parousia is not for whimps

The church in history lives between the times, and some times are worse than others. Today it is easy to let fear govern our lives. A whole political and social culture is nurtured by fear, and it stalks our church life. Traditionalists fear the gift of the Second Vatican Council and a changing church, and want to keep their treasure intact through a return to dated rituals and arcane theology. Those who welcomed the aggiornamento of Pope John XXIII often want to freeze it in time and are fearful of renewing the renewal. The wise women at the wedding feast, the enterprising servants in today’s Gospel and the good wife of Proverbs were people of foresight, initiative and independence. The church today has been given vast treasures of “talents.” Will these increase or remain hidden and guarded?



The harvest is ripe

The tragedy is that many people are afraid of losing or endangering God and so seek to protect God from adventures, to resist attempts at radical inclusion that might, they fear, compromise God's purity and holiness. Protecting God is a variant of not trusting God. Matthew wants his hearers to share God's adventure of inclusiveness. God is bigger than our religious industry. Sometimes we find God is pulling in great profits in areas which we had deemed beyond God's interests. It is a fascinating thing to have God compared to the entrepreneurial multimillionaire. "God's mercy never ends" is a way of saying grace has capital, love is rich. We need to encourage people to stop putting God under the mattress. As we begin to trust allowing God to move through us, our lives change as individuals and our communities have a better chance of change. There are rich pickings, so to speak, and the harvest is ripe.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Das Kapital

Jesus told a story

about a man who went on a journey.

The man was a capitalist,

probably living off his inherited wealth

while his lackeys did the work.

Nothing new in that.

The man went off for an indefinite period,

having entrusted three servants

with his fortune, in measures

according to the ability of each;

with the simple instruction, (implied);

make as much as you can.

Two out of the three do so

and become the heroes of the story,

drawing enthusiastic plaudits from their master,

who, by doing nothing, has become even richer.

For fear, the third played safe,

and when called to account, produced nothing

but the original lump of money.

He is thus declared a loser,

a failure, a ne’er-do-well.

In truth he was a true product

of a fearfully greedy economic system;

which was not the point

that Jesus was making,

but which still needs to be considered.

© 2011 Ken Rookes

Monday, November 7, 2011


I shall dig deep the hole

in which I hide my heart.

There it shall lie,

secure, safe,

and unscathed.

On the day that the master returns

I shall retrieve my heart

and present it before him,

intact, entire

and untarnished.

© Ken Rookes

Saving the master

You can’t have it both ways, Jesus,

creating yarns about foolish rich people

who don’t know what is really important;

telling others to give everything away

if they want to be disciples,

while at the same time making heroes

of rich, mean and crafty people

in other stories.

If I could enter the parable

I’d find the third servant and tell him:

Don’t be scared;

don’t leave the money in the ground.

But don’t trade with it, either.

Create your own radical alternative;

give it away! Yes, all of it;

to the poor. Then we’d see

just what sort of person the master is.

You could always say

that you were only thinking of him;

making the needle’s eye wider.

You never know,

he might even give you

the other fourteen talents.

© Ken Rookes

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Party Girl

They say the bridegroom’s coming,

they say he’ll not be long;

the bride’s inside and waiting,

while the singers chant their song.

The guests have gone into the house,

they’ve started on the wine;

the party pies are getting cold,

but everything is fine.

We know the men will be here soon,

they’re just a little late;

Our lamps will keep us company

while we sit around and wait.

We maidens of the neighbourhood

bring lamps with which we’ll guide,

and dance the bridegroom to the feast;

then we’ll follow him inside.

Our lanterns are our entrée cards,

our dancing is our present;

we help to make the party swing

with movements incandescent

I’m feeling somewhat weary, now,

I might just rest my eyes.

I’m sure we’ll hear the cymbals

and the drums when he arrives.

. . . . . .

What’s that, you say he’s coming?

I thought I heard a shout!

Where did I put that lantern;

Oh damn, it’s nearly out!

Where are my friends with extra jars?

Of course you can spare some!

Go find a shop – you’re joking!

I might just as well go home!

Quite so, I should have brought spare oil;

right foolish I have been.

You think you’re very clever,

I think you’re very mean.

. . . . . .

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?


Merry who?


Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ten bridesmaids

Ten bridesmaids

doing their bridesmaid thing

to make the bridegroom welcome.

Some were smart enough

to know the glitches

that can occur with weddings.

(Big day, so much to go wrong,)

Their spare jars would keep

their torches oiled and bright

to light the path to the banquet.

How to wait

when many have stopped expecting,

how to hope

when others have gone home,

how to keep going

when friends have lost patience,

how to worship

when God seems forgotten,

how to love

when pain must be eschewed,

how to witness

when distractions hold sway,

how to die

when life is ruled by fear.

Somewhere there is abundant oil

for all who would burn bright;

making welcome the Bridegroom

and lighting the path to the banquet.

© 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; ...