Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Who touched me?

Anthony Falbo

Deeper than the miracle

If we remain at the level of the sheer miracle, we can become preoccupied with questions like: why is this useful ability not more widely available? how might it have happened? did it really happen? is it a legendary story designed to echo the feats of Elijah and Elisha? All questions have their place. But the sacredness of this text lies less in what history it might purport to tell and more in what it celebrates. It celebrates that the human yearning for new life, set out in dreams and visions for the climax of history, can find its fulfilment in being connected to Jesus. It celebrates that the reality of women in community, the suffering and deprivation, the promise of emerging womanhood and all which that entails, belongs firmly within the embrace of the gospel. It does not need male mediation. Sometimes that is its greatest threat. It is still probably a male story and still reflects dominant cultural assumptions about appropriate behaviour (5:33). But it is a moment of light and hope and, like the celebration of Gentile and Jew which it completes with 5:1-20, it celebrates inclusion of women and men and has something healing to say to both.

reaching and touching

reaching and touching
Give your weaknessto one who helps.
Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.A nursing mother, all she doesis wait to hear her child.Just a little beginning-whimper,and she’s there. God created the child, that is, your wanting,so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.
Cry out!  Don’t be stolid and silentwith your pain.  Lament! And let the milkof loving flow into you.
-Rumi  1207-1273

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why trouble the teacher?

With his opening line
the distraught father, one Jairus by name,
grabs the teacher’s attention.
Finishing the sentence,
he claims his sympathy:
“My little daughter
is at the point of death.”

Jairus and his nameless wife
are distraught at the prospect
of losing their beloved child;
they will not lightly let her go.
Tears and wailing are not enough
to bind her to them, nor the embrace
of their arms, nor even their love,
to tether to earth her soul.
The well-respected leader of the synagogue
does not hesitate to sacrifice his dignity
upon hope’s altar.
Begging on his knees, he risks
offending his colleagues
as he pleads for help
from the alleged blasphemer.

Perhaps the unnamed girl
was particularly diminutive,
or else her father used the adjective
to indicate his affection.
By her given age the girl
was no more than a year, or thereabouts,
short of that which might have seen
her betrothal.
At twelve years old,
her parents know well,
that the time is not far away
from the good letting-go. For now
they will brave the derision
and take their chances
with the teacher.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tossed about with Jesus

Our reading from the Gospel according to Mark is highly symbolic. The disciples are all in a boat with Jesus, trying to get to the other side of the sea, when a wild storm whips up and threatens to smash the boat and drown them all. In the gospels, and especially in Mark's gospel, being in a boat together, and especially in a boat with Jesus, is a symbol of being in the church. That's why the national and world councils of churches use the boat as their logo. We're all in the same boat, it is saying. So our story is a picture of the church. They are trying to get to the other side of the sea. This too is an image that is used symbolically over and over in the Bible. Crossing the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan River; these are images of escaping from slavery and finding freedom in the promised land on the other side. In the gospels, crossing the sea can be either a heading home to the promised land, or a heading away on mission. This story doesn't emphasise the direction, because it probably doesn't matter for the main point, but either way, it is an image of the church trying to make progress, trying to get somewhere. And soon they are not making much progress. There is a wild storm at sea. The Israelites were not an ocean loving people. The sea was always considered dangerous. The sea was a place of demonic chaos that could whip up and overwhelm you at any time. A storm at sea is a very frightening image to such people.

Rembrant, Christ in the storm

Christ alleviating the Storm

Love this painting, it really give a sense of storm.
Would not want to be out in that!

Christ and the storm

CHIRICO, Giorgio de 

Peace! Be Still!

Without the benefit of radar rain mapping
or Doppler wind display,
Jesus, known among the faithful
as Son of the great Creator-Parent,
manages to deal with the storm.
First century gospel writers
had no hesitation in promoting
the miracle-working capacities of their Lord;
evidence, as it was, of his status as an equal
within the Godhead.
Hey, storm-subduing Jesus,
orderer of waves
and director of the wind,
we could use a few miracles, too!
How about sending some rain down here;
you know that we need it.
And while you’re at it
there are a few other storms
that could do with some divine intervention.
The blizzards of relationships, frozen,
bitter and unforgiven;
swirling tornados of fear and certainty
catching up all in their path;
the burning maelstroms of greed and accumulation,
always hungry for more;
cyclones of despair that build large and wild
to eliminate hope;
the thunderous lightning that deafens, blinds
and denies that which is true and good;
squalls and tempests that accuse and abuse,
causing damage difficult to repair;
and the destructive hurricanes
released by rampant egos
lusting unrelentingly for power.

Speak the word, Jesus!

© Ken Rookes 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

a mighty ...shrub???

A mustard bush in Israel is more of a weed than a mighty tree.

sermon illustration - seed

In London during the Second World War a church was decorated to celebrate harvest homecoming. The blitz began and the building was destroyed before the celebration could begin. Some of the sheaves of corn were scattered by the bombs. During the next spring, a small patch of corn began to grow through the rubble of the church. Life will not be stifled. 

The kingdom of God is like a weed

Perhaps the element of joyous unruliness that has been added to the liturgy is a far more faithful sign of the culture of God than any of the polish and dignity and niceness we had previously achieved. If Jesus compared the kingdom to a weed, it is a fair bet that it is not going to look all neat and carefully pruned and in its right place. And sure, we don’t have the same sort of silence. But it was never supposed to be about silence anyway. It was always supposed to be about stilling yourself and listening for what God might be whispering to you, and the sort of God whose kingdom looks like a shrubby weed is just as likely to be heard in the out-of-place voice of a small child as in some carefully cultivated deep silence.


Saving Seeds

Well I started to save seeds twenty years ago when I first realized that corporations wanted to own and control seed and they wanted to create property in seed and they wanted to turn it into their intellectual property. …     … For me the imperative to save seeds came from really an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution, life’s diversity, and the freedom of life to reproduce, to multiply, to be able to be distributed. Because I could see that this would create a new kind of scarcity and it has. …    Today for us the work on seed has become the place from where we are responding to the worst tragedies and worst crises of our times.  If we really seriously look at the crises we are facing whether it is climate change or unemployment or it’s the crises of food where you can’t be secure in your food at all, the solution to so much of this comes from people being on the land as conservers of the seed, of the soil, of the water.  –Vandana Shiva

Van Gogh The Sower

Monday, June 11, 2012


Way back behind the jar
of rusty screws
we find the dust-covered
seed pack: Yates, Grosse Lisse,
plant before December1995.
Might be a bit late.

At the centre
of the created universe,
deep within each living molecule
a seed has been planted.
Buried in the cold darkness
a tiny parcel of potential
holding its divine dna,
splendid and auriferous, quietly
anticipating the promised rain
and the word of assent
that will permit it to sprout.
The smallest gesture of warmth
may be enough.
Then will come a burst
of hope-saturated life
to break through indifferent soil;
growing and becoming.
With time, care and steadfast striving
much long-sought fruit can be produced.

Within each soul, a seed, scattered,
sown by the one who creates;
the rain is gifted by the Spirit,
but the word of assent
must come from ourselves.
Never too late.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

defining family


redefining family

Here is also where Jesus’ words can be understood to be radically inclusive and liberating. Jesus, it appears, is basically affirming that what matters in God’s kingdom is a person’s faith, a person’s commitment to follow God’s will, a person’s openness to God’s mercy.
In other words, faith matters much more than birthright, than family ties, than ethnicity, than inherited pedigree. This is the type of openness which the apostle Paul reflects in his famous words from Gal. 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus is totally redefining family in terms of faith. Membership in God’s family is open to all, equally, without discrimination–based only on a willingness to do God’s will. This undercuts any practices in the community of faith that discriminate on the basis of gender, race, social class, age, or any other of our human lines of insider-outsider distinction.

Family values??

Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21 present variations of Jesus’ mother and brothers arriving while he’s teaching . . . but they share a singular reaction. Upon hearing his family is nearby, the Nazarene asks the harsh question, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” His jarring response was nothis kin, not those who grew up with him, but instead those who have become his followers.
His own flesh and blood family . . . rejected? Mark’s Gospel was the most brutal about setting this scene. At Mark 3:19, after listing Jesus’ disciples and right before a “crowd came together” to listen to his preaching, the writer of the earliest Gospel claimed “he went home.” In other words, Mark depicted Jesus’ rejecting his kinfolk in the very place where his mother comforted him on her lap and his siblings played hide-and-go seek.
Family values?
In my lifetime, spanning the beginnings of the Cold War in the early 1950s to the current information age, family values have been trumpeted as what we have lost and what we must regain. According to some of my fellow Christians, divorce, gay marriage, single-parenting and women in the workplace (to name a few of our modern “ailments”) have eroded or discarded the Bible’s true values . . . the scriptural foundation of how a family should look and act and believe.
...Who is my family? I am thankful for the messy, wonderful, nurturing family of my birth. How blessed I was to be raised by loving parents. But my sense of Jesus’ family values leads me to open my faith and my eyes wide enough to embrace those different from me.
am grateful to have learned about faith from Muslims and Jews and more. Atheists have taught me about loving the neighbor far better than some of my fellow Christians. Heterosexual and homosexual parents I’ve personally married have been lousy parents. And, no matter what their orientation, some have been near perfect parents. I’ve had friends who loved me unconditionally and extended family that ignored me.
Who is my family? Jesus’ question is worth asking every day. Sharing a last name or DNA will not be the only answer.

You are mad

" The readings this week describe two alternatives: mimicking the status quo of the world or living on the lunatic fringe in the kingdom of God. One story is about politics, the other about family life....John challenged the religious and political status quo with his anti-establishment message. By joining John's fringe movement, Jesus did too. After his radical rupture with his family by identifying with the desert troublemaker, to the point of submitting to his baptism, Jesus's family tried to apprehend him. The village of Nazareth tried to kill him as a deranged crackpot (cf. Mark 3:21, Luke 4:29, John 7:5). When his mother and brothers found him, he rebuffed them and redefined family. "Who are my mother and my brothers?" He gestured to those who had gathered around him: "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
           And so just as with John, they said that Jesus was demon-possessed. ...
Abba Anthony said, 'A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us."'"
           We have a choice: to live on the lunatic fringe in the kingdom of God, where even the most basic values of family and politics are radically redefined, or to support the status quo with its predictably oppressive consequences."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jesus dares to redefine the concept of family

Mark, in the pages of whose gospel
we find ourselves, makes no mention
at all of Jesus’ father.
Perhaps Joseph understood his son
better than the rest,
or else the tradition is correct,
and he had died before Jesus began his work.
Whichever is the case,
Joseph was not leading the family group
when they came to restrain Jesus
and take him home,
before he could do any real harm
or get into any serious trouble.
The reports had alarmed them;
he had always been different,
but they loved him,
and forgave him his eccentricities.
Now he has gone public,
and it is being said, rather too gleefully
it seems to his mother and his brothers,
that he is no longer in his right mind.
Best they bring him home.
Returned to his carpenter’s bench,
they will keep him busy
and watch over of him.
In time he will sort out his thinking
and people will begin to forget.
The family waits outside; expecting, no doubt,
that their errant brother and son
will submit to their collective wisdom,
recognise their love, and come quietly.
Ah, but he has a new family, now!

© Ken Rookes 2012

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; ...