Monday, April 30, 2012

Living in Love

... Perhaps what John was saying amounted to something different. He was not talking about setting up idols, but rather about holding as precious the love that we have and are able to give. Every little bit helps. And every time we act in love we are acting out the reality of God. This is a hopeful thing. We do not have to rely on idols. Every time we show love to each other. Every time we act in love. Writing letters to the government in protest, giving a listening ear to a friend or lover, we are living in God.
We live in a century which has about it some of the darkest, most destructive and cruel aspects of all centuries since the dawn of humanity. In this time we are called as witnesses to that love which is the ultimate power of being. It undercuts theological arrogance as a well as pious isolation. It is more than justice and it is greater than faith and hope. It is the presence of God. For God is love. And in every moment of genuine love we are dwelling in God and God in us.

Let nothing trouble you

Let nothing trouble you.
Let nothing scare you.
All is fleeting.
God alone is unchanging.
Everything obtains.
Who possesses God
Nothing wants.
God alone suffices.
Teresa of Avila


For four years we took pleasure
in the rose bush growing near the front porch
of the white painted house
planted next to the church
in northern Tasmania.
A dark and velvety red,
its perfume was as deep
and as beautiful as its colour.
We tended it with care,
and, though it had been planted
long before our residency,
we took much pride in it, and joy.
We thought of those
who had also experienced its blessing
in years long past, some of whom we knew;
and we enjoyed our connection of delight.
Some years later we walked past that house,
and, being that time of the year,
we paused to look down the driveway
to see if our rose was in bloom.
Yes, there it was,
covered in the small white flowers
of the all-conquering rootstock.

Every three years we read the story
of the true vine,
and of us branches
who have been grafted into the vine;
and I am reminded of the importance
of the pruning, the pain,
and the sap that is spilled
in the process of being made fruitful.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The whiffenpoof song

On good shepherd Sunday (and feeling annoyed at being referred to as a sheep)i am often reminded of this song. Perhaps a little satirical?

The Whiffenpoof Song"written by Meade Minnigerode, George S. Pomeroy
and Judge Todd B. Galloway, Copyright 
© 1909

To the tables down at Morey's,
to the place where Louie dwells,
to the dear old Temple Bar we love so well . . .
Sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled
with their glasses raised on high
and the magic of their singing casts it's spell . . .
Yes, the magic of their singing
of the songs we love so well
"Shall I Wasting" and "Mavourneen" and the rest.
We will serenade our Louie
while life and voice shall last,
then we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest . . .
We're poor little lambs
who have lost our way,
Baa Baa Baa,
We're little black sheep
who have gone astray
Baa Baa Baa.
Gentlemen songsters off on a spreedoomed from here to eternity,
Lord, have mercy on such as we,
Baa Baa Baa.

If you go here you will be able to hear it.

The good chicken farmer

The good chicken farmer

James B. Janknegt

A prayer of confession

Unison Prayer of Confession
Taught by our culture to want everything, Comfort of the righteous, we confess that emptiness that sends us searching for still more. Our constant desire for greener pastures fills us with every lust and envy. Our belief that still waters are stagnant sends us thirsting for whitewater thrills and adventures. Our trust in the promises of the world turns us away from the shelter you offer.

Forgive us, Source of goodness and mercy. Call us back from our wayward lives, that we might find rest in your heart, healing from your hands, and unity in life together as disciples of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Hear God's voice: I will walk with you in every moment; I fill you with my grace and hope; I know you and love you.
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.
(c) 2007 Thom M. Shuman

God is more insistent than despair

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
We believe in the goodness of God.
We believe God hears and responds to our needs.
We believe God responds to all people everywhere.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.
We are grateful that we’ve been blessed with enough water.
But we know that many do not have enough.
Not enough water, not enough food, not enough peace.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Too many people do not see God’s righteousness.
Too many children watch violence, taste hunger, feel fear.
Too many children cry from the unspeakable horror of war.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
To become involved is risky. Pain is often contagious.
Our hearts may be broken and our lives may be threatened.
Yet we hear God calling and we can no longer hide.
Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemies;
thou annointest me head with oil, my cup overflows.
Our steps may be small and timid.
We may read a book, write a letter, or make a gift.
But each tiny step is blessed by God and multiplies.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
God is more relentless than war.
God is more pervasive than hatred.
God is more insistent than despair.
Amen. Amen.
Based on Psalm 23. Written for the Union Church UCC of Tekonsha, 1994. Copyright Katherine Hawker.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The good shepherd

Gospel writer John

loved a good agricultural metaphor;

(were there many other kinds

in a pre-industrial age?)

Jesus, lover of people,

welcomer of ratbags

and friend of troubled souls;

likens himself to a shepherd

who cares only for the welfare of his sheep.

Animal rights proponents would love him

because he reckons the life of the human shepherd

to be more expendable

than those of his ovine flock.

But we all know that it’s not about sheep.

It is about people,

individuals like you and me,

who, we are assured,

are loved and valued,

watched over and cared for

by the one he calls Father.

Furthermore, the metaphor implies,

we are all part of something bigger,

joined into one huge flock

of disparate humankind;

each member of which

is also loved and respected,

cared for and wept over

by that same Father;

and expected to do the same

© 2012 Ken Rookes

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peace be with you.

The resurrection greeting

on the lips of the risen one,

brings, at best, a disturbing reassurance

to a lost people.

These confused ones thought

that they had known where they were headed.

They had been followers of one

destined for greatness;

accepted wisdom held that they would

share in at least a small corner

of his glorious destiny.

It was not to be;

the master’s great journey

was cruelly cut short,

after having been diverted

down a Jerusalem cul-de-sac..

His followers had been left to find

their own sad way home

to pick up what remained of their lives.

They had not got far.

Fear and bewilderment

had achieved what hope could not

and held them together grieving;

long enough, at least, for the surprise

reappearance of their master

who outrageously suggested

that the journey must continue.

Peace be with you.

An older poem that might be of interest

© Ken Rookes

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jesus is everywhere trying to open our minds

"When we live in a state of hyper-vigilance toward our sister and brother Christians out of mistrust, we expose our lack of faith and cannot enter fully into God's joy. I can't imagine how anyone finds such disbelief life-giving. For our own health as well as for the health of our community, we need to confront our disbelieving and wondering and invite God's Spirit to get us out of that upper room in which we're hiding.
Whatever it was the disciples thought about all that had gone before, or for that matter about one another, was subsumed in Jesus' opening their hearts and minds and pointing the way forward.
This week in the upper room, the disciples are getting a report from the two who met Jesus in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus. Jesus appears and they run that same gantlet of emotions we just saw in John's upper room story. Jesus has to eat fish to demonstrate he is real, but then he opens their minds to understand how the scriptures have pointed towards him and towards God's work of repentance and forgiveness. Whatever it was the disciples thought about all that had gone before, or for that matter about one another, was subsumed in Jesus' opening their hearts and minds and pointing the way forward.
I would invite you to reflect on whether or not our disbelieving and wondering about one another might not actually be a challenge to return again and let Jesus open our minds to understanding. To remain engrossed in determining who might or might not be theologically or politically correct (and isn't the latter often a subset of the former for us?) is to remain trapped in the upper room by our need to make others conform to us and rather than to Jesus. Worse yet, such mistrust lays bare our continued disbelieving in Jesus, who we imagine has somehow failed to open the minds of those we distrust.
Jesus is everywhere trying to open our minds. On the road or in Emmaus or anywhere else, in our meals together where Jesus eats fish or breaks bread, in Jesus' willingness to let us finger the nail marks his enemies thought proved his shame --in all of these places and more, over and over, Jesus comes among us to urge us out of our disbelief and isolation and into the joy of being his witnesses in the world. Our real and deep joy will be found as we live into that mission. We will find it as we live into into the love that John so eloquently describes in his epistles, in the mission to all the nations Jesus entrusts to his followers after his resurrection, and in love's finding flesh in deeds of kindness as described by Peter. We may find that joy even in moments of being tempted to doubt our sisters and brothers as we choose to step out in faith, making our prayer "I believe, dear Christ; help my disbelief."

Jesus cooks fish Colouring

Jesus eats Breakfast

Tissot, Jesus Eats Breakfast with His Disciples
Jesus eats Breakfast with his disciples; James Tissot

Jesus appears

Jesus Appears in the Midst of the Apostles by James Tissot

and Jesus opened their minds ....

" in verse 45. It says, “then Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Jesus opened their minds. And it was only with their minds opened that they could understand the scriptures. What does that mean? Well what do we usually mean when we talk about being open-minded? We usually mean that a person with an open mind is open to more than one possible interpretation of things. They may have their own view but they don’t dismiss out of hand other views. They are willing to hear and consider and perhaps reevaluate their own views in light of what others think.

So if Jesus has to open people’s minds in order that they can understand the scriptures, that would suggest to me that if your mind is closed on certain issues, if it is too made up and settled, then you’re going to have trouble understanding what the scriptures are saying. And further more, and perhaps even more importantly, if you have a genuine encounter with the risen Christ, it will be an experience that opens your mind rather than one that narrows your theology.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is, first and foremost, an incredible mystery. It will always be a mystery. God is a mystery and God’s workings among us are full of mystery. No matter how much we manage to know about it, it will still be a mystery. And at the end of the day, those whose minds are opened by Christ embrace the mystery and entrust themselves to the mystery, and don’t lose too much sleep over trying to reduce the mystery to something they can get their minds around."

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Messiah must die

We fail to comprehend it, the truth, the question: why

there is no rhyme, no reason, the Messiah-man must die.

We worship with the mighty, the wealthy and great

the proof is in the fortune, the seal is in the fate.

No home is builded for the poor, no place here for the weak,

we venerate the famous, whose countenance we seek.

We beg for their approval, we crave their affirmation,

to tell us that we matter, to give us validation.

The teacher has come near to us, we watched him walking past.

We paused, we listened to his words; we wonder will they last?

The teacher has come near us with love and with his wisdom;

he shows us how to break the rules, we draw back from his freedom.

We are searching for a leader, a commander for the troops,

to take us where we want to go, to walk triumphal routes;

but the road he chose is weakness, it is folly, it is risk;

had we known at the beginning we never would enlist.

He turns the order downside up; he surely is misguided.

He makes the undeserving friends while good folks are derided.

He simply cannot be the one, he’s surely not the Christ

and if he will not go away, he must be sacrificed.

The end was quietly arranged, his death, it was expedient.

The night, it drew the curtain, the tomb it was convenient.

Well-buried was his message, well buried was the trouble;

along with his suggestions that the walls would soon be rubble.

But the stories won’t stay buried, the rumours are insistent,

his followers are foolish, too, they speak of life persistent;

declare his risen presence, and call themselves his witness.

They live with grace and wonder, and love that is life’s litmus

© 2012 Ken Rookes

Monday, April 9, 2012

Every year

Every year

we hear again the story

of the sceptical dismissal

of the resurrection reports by Thomas

Every year, at least on this day,

we get to celebrate restless enquirers

and affirm their questioning.

Let us hear it for those who trepidly wear

the label of ‘agnostic;’

those honest men and women

who are willing to admit

that they simply don’t know.

They remind us all

of the sad limitations of certainty.

Hurray for all those carefully considered

unbelievers; it was god

(however she is conceived)

who gave them their enquiring minds.

They help keep the good christians on their toes

and bless them with a boundary

to their smugness.

Be grateful for Richard Dawkins

and all the other evangelising atheists;

without them our own literalisers

and fundamentalists would run

rampant and unchecked.

Every year we are prompted to rejoice

in those with reservations;

questioners, doubters,

sceptics, cynics

and all who struggle to believe.

Give thanks to your god for the dear people

whose objections keep us honest,

and who lead us once again

back to the Galilean teacher

to listen to what he really said.

© 2012 Ken Rookes

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ending at verse eight.

The first gospel to be written

is also the shortest. By far.

Especially the ending.

A bit of an embarrassment, really;

certainly for second and third century

scribes and copyists who couldn’t resist

the temptation to improve on the original.

Can’t blame them, though; verse eight

is hardly the place where we would want to leave

the bewildered Marys and Salome;

faithful women who went to anoint

the body of their Lord.

Of course they fled

in fear, terror and amazement;

who wouldn’t

after hearing the impossible news

from the equally unlikely young man

robed in improbable white?

Keep it to yourselves, ladies;

the time will come when the risen Lord will be seen,

the confusion will end,

and the others will know,

and everyone will celebrate

and shout and dance

and write their own resurrection verses.

Millions of them!

Looking ahead to Sunday!

© Ken Rookes

To the God of the Godless

When I had tired of the wars around me
Longing for forgetfulness, the softness of arms and breasts,
I could not close my ears to the thunder of the living.

But tonight history has ceased to cry out within me.
My white flag of truce is hoisted, my arms are thrown to the ground,
My back is turned to the cannon and here I surrender.

The hunger of generations is nothing now? Nothing.
The brotherhood of heroes? The knowledge of vast constellations?
I have rejected my vision and renounced prophecy.

Love is the final quality, love and not courage.
Not the love of the Gentiles, the crucified love of disciples,
But the love of my love; it has silenced a thousand poems.

I have sought peace in war, serenity in struggle, pity in hatred.
I shall search no longer, the lights are turned down.
Only faintly, faintly, I still hear the marching step of the unborn,
Feet, feet, moving, moving.


From The Fleeing Atalanta

God gives a candle
To his children afraid of the dark
How can you die, it says
When this between you lives forever
The candle is hard to maintain
Superfluous in the light
Nearly all prefer to blow it out
But they find with night's onset
It is not so easily rekindled

Jeer if you like at my obsession with love
When dying swine, you will all reach up
Desperate trotters for the same pearl




Finally, one arrives at the place
Of the skull because there is nowhere Else to go. And there before the face Of bone one pauses in despair.

The culmination of all evil
Is displayed before one's eyes:
Man's heart conspired with the devil And cared little for disguise.

Yet if, at the sight of the Cross,
a light is struck on the rough of the brain
and the mind conceives all bar this is vain,

There comes a voice that reassures:
Thus is the seed of tenderness sown
 in the cleft of the heart of stone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My lovely distant god ...

My God, my God, he cried, If he is quoted right .... Somehow that moan is comforting To us, alone at night, Who tremble, daring dawn, That He, so wise and strong, Should weep and ask for aid. Somehow, my lovely distant god, It makes me less afraid. Miriam Kessler

Monday, April 2, 2012

The first Supper



shrill, desperate and frightened,

accumulate in layers

across the courtyard

and force their way in

through windows and open doors.

They bounce along corridors of marble

and echo blurringly from stone tiles

and vaulted ceilings,

to disturb the earnest enquiries

of the Roman administrator

as he presses the prisoner

for an answer he can use.

The man refuses to be constrained by his bonds

and speaks calmly of truth,

too easily it seems to his interrogator,

who demands a definition

for the well worn word..

The man accused of kingly conspiracy

remains silent, knowing that his truth

is difficult to hear.

It is a place where evil and cruelty

meet their limits;

where death is no longer feared,

and where hope,

no matter how low its wick burns,

will never be extinguished.

This disturbing truth will be reached

through a mix of painful love,

generous suffering, and much bleeding;

little wonder his clamouring protagonists

find it so unpalatable.

In the end

the Governor finds it all too difficult

and surrenders the man

to the voices.

© 2012 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; ...