Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back then

Dates and times are vague
in the story of Ruth;
in the days that the judges ruled
there was a famine in the land.
That is all we are told, but it is enough.
How old were Mahlon and Chilion
when they took local Moabite girls,
Orpah and Ruth, to be their brides?
Old enough to take on the responsibilities
of wife and family. And how old
were the girls? The usual age;
pubescent, most likely.
And how old would they have been
when they were widowed?
Ten years older, we are told,
but that may be an exaggeration
since neither of them had yet produced a child.
So it is, at least according to the story,
that thrice-bereft Naomi packs up her tragedy
and returns with her young daughter-in-law
to her home town and country.
There she must trust; both in God
and in the generosity of her wider family.
Ruth, a young woman who is presumably
not yet past her mid-twenties,
will, for all time, become the standard
for loyalty and devotion;
not bad for a foreign widow.

© Ken Rookes

Monday, October 29, 2012

Silent Music

"My beloved is the mountains,
And lonely wooded valleys,
Strange islands,
And resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes,
The tranquil night
At the time of rising dawn,
Silent music,
Sounding solitude,
The supper that refreshes and deepens love.”

by John of the cross ( a Christian Mystic)

An old legend

There is an old legend,
most likely made up and not true,
(historically, anyway)
that near the end of his life
Saint John the evangelist
preached only one homily over and over:
"Children, love one another." (cf. I John 3: 18)
When his hearers began to tire of this repetitive, albeit short, homily,
one of the members of his community
asked him why he preached only this homily.
Saint John responded,
"Well, it doesn't appear to that anyone has mastered the message yet."

A little coloring puzzle


a bit of colouring


a nice bit of clipart on theme

appropriate for Sunday

Your neighbour as yourself

We all heard the reports and the rumours.
It seems he was from Nazareth,
“Centre of intellectual enquiry
and religious education,”
we had joked among ourselves.
We went down together,
to the temple precinct, to see for ourselves.
We weren’t the only ones.
Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians,
and fellow scribes
keen to bring him down a notch or two.
My colleagues entered the fray
with great enthusiasm, but I stood back.
I watched, I listened.
I was impressed.
Amid the grunts and snorts of all the scoffers
he spoke confidently, with passion,
and seemed concerned for the truth.
After the others had finished,
and retreated, muttering,
to devise new riddles,
I stepped forward, and respectfully asked
him to name the greatest commandment.
He quoted two laws about love;
of our duty to God and to neighbour.
I heard the candour in his voice;
saw the joy in his eyes.
I smiled. We talked,
nodding our heads in agreement;
and he told me I was close
to God’s kingdom. I smiled again,
and let him have the last word.
I wasn’t looking for,
didn’t need his seal of approval,
but I took it.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let me see again

Let me see again
the blue sky gleaming gold day
when I saw the wonder of your grace.
Let me hear again
the words of love and hope
which make my spirit leap and shout.
Let me sing again
the song that soars beyond
the mean confinement of my thoughts.
Let me feel again
the cool wind of your Spirit,
causing me to shiver and stumble.
Let me dance again
the steps which ever surprise
as they rise towards the mystery.
Let me taste again
the cup of your discipleship
and weigh its bitter-sweet draught.
Let me reach again
to be embraced by love
and to share it with your friends.
Let me see again,
like at the first,
and let me follow with brother Bartimaeus
on the way.

© Ken Rookes

Eternal One

“Eternal One,
Silence from whom my words come;
Questioner from whom my questions arise;
Lover of whom all my loves are hints;
Disturber in whom alone I find my rest;
Mystery in whose depths I find healing and myself;
enfold me now in your presence;
restore to me your peace;
renew me through your power;
and ground me in your grace.”
—Ted Loder, “Ground Me in Your Grace

Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch.

When God finally did the right thing by Job,
so the story goes,
he blessed him with a new family.
Not quite the doubling of numbers,
as with his wealth and possessions,
but we assume that he was not complaining.
Most certainly the unnamed woman
who happened to be his wife
would have been more than satisfied
with a total of ten,
having given birth to a precise replacement
of the seven sons and the three daughters
that were lost at the start of the story.
If we take the figures seriously
that’s a total of twenty confinements,
which, I daresay, she thought was enough;
besides which, if you do the arithmetic,
you’d think that she must have been past sixty
by the time she had finished giving birth.
(Hmm, we might need to go beyond the literal
to find the meaning of this story.)
The ratio is probably about right;
more than twice the number of sons
than that of daughters. Proof,
in the context of the times,
that Job was truly blessed by God.
But, funnily enough,
the writer seems only interested in the girls,
not even bothering to name the boys.
Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch
were very beautiful, he tells us;
without compare in all the land of Uz.
Perhaps even more notable
is the story-master’s assurance
that the daughters each received their share
of Job’s estate, alongside their brothers;
a remarkable thing in the context
of the times and the culture.
We celebrate Job for his virtue of patience,
and for his faith in the face of suffering;
perhaps we should also celebrate
his pioneering insights into gender equality.
That and his counter-cultural determination
to be fair and just.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

The crucifixion is not everybody's cup of tea

“The crucifixion is not everybody’s cup of tea, in the current market.” (comment from a the antiques expert while valuing an antique mechanical crucifix on the antiques roadshow)
- I Passed by a church the other day that had a sign out front that proclaimed, "Come and claim your heavenly reward!
Ever seen a church with a sign out front that read, "Come! Be Crucified!  We've Got a Cross that Fits Your Back Too!"

Jesus is not a technique for getting what we want out of God.

"Two disciples ask to sit next to Jesus in his glory, one on his right, one on his left.  When Jesus came into his "glory," it was not on a throne.  It was on a cross, with two thieves, one on his right and one on his left.
This is the message that contemporary followers of Jesus have been reluctant to proclaim to the world, perhaps because we're reluctant to hear this message ourselves!  Jesus is not a technique for getting what we want out of God; Jesus is God's way of getting what God wants out of us.  God wants a world, a world redeemed, restored to God.  And the way God gets that is with ordinary people like us who are willing to walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, yes, and even if need be to suffer like Jesus."


This is a clip that was used as a mediation in one of our recent Presbytery committee meetings. I get the feeling that their is a bit about this that Jesus would affirm/validate.

This sermon by Martin Luther King is one of my favourites

If you get a chance it is well worth the time to listen to this, his final sermon before he was assassinated.
I find it really inspiring.

servant leadership

Seats of glory

You know I love you both like brothers,
but I’m embarrassed,
and you should be too.
You don’t get it; you haven’t been listening.
If it was up to me you could have them,
but it’s not that simple
and the others might object.
The seat on my left and the one on my right,
they’re not mine to grant,
because they belong to everybody
and no-one.
There will be no worldly kingdom,
because it doesn’t work like that;
and there will be no heavenly kingdom, either,
because a paradise among the clouds
is just as irrelevant, and disquieting,
as one amid earth’s dust.
There will be no seats of glory;
not for me, not for anyone.
There are no seats, only places,
and they have little to do with glory
and much more to do with serving
and giving and suffering
and living and dying and making peace.
Places for standing and moving,
not seats for sitting and presiding;
places for gathering and for sharing together.
Places for being a servant,
not reserved for the best, or the greatest.
Places for everyone
who is willing to drink the cup
and to immerse themselves
in prickly water-spirit baptised life.
Places for disciples; followers
who allow themselves to be raised
above all the fears and the worries.
Places of connection, with the Spirit,
building justice, love and grace,
into kingdom and community.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Needles and Camels

For a long time now
the rich have liked the church.
Across the centuries
they have accommodated themselves
to its structures, institution and power;
(it’s been mutual),
permitting the church its sphere of authority
while determinedly maintaining their own.
Striving after respectability and influence,
not to mention their reserved seats in heaven,
the wealthy have been generous
with their patronage, constructing
buttress, edifice and spire.
(To be fair, the poor
have paid for their share of gold-leaf,
stained-glass oaken beams and dressed stone, too;
more often than not, subsidising the rich.)
The affluent have joined the church’s boards,
sat in on its councils,
propounded their advice,
shared their expertise,
sought and given favours
and requested ecclesiastical blessings
upon their many enterprises.
Some suggest that the wealthy and powerful
are seen too much in the company
of presbyter and priest.

The rich, it must be said,
find Jesus bewildering.
They hear stories:
about the teacher quietly suggesting
to a virtuous man of means,
that his life would be greatly enhanced
if he sold all his stuff and gave it to the poor.
On another occasion the carpenter
outrageously asserted  that God and mammon
were incompatible masters;
and when he spoke of the unlikelihood
of camels squeezing themselves
through the eyes of needles,
the rich began to get the idea
that Jesus might not have been on their side.
Still, there’s always the church.

© Ken Rookes 2012

False prophets

There was a time when you needed
a licence from the Commonwealth
to listen to the wireless.
No shock-jocks then,
nor the capacity for listeners
to add their own layers of opinion;
informed or otherwise,
it doesn’t seem to matter.
No unwelcome language back then, either;
the words were better disciplined,
and valued,
perhaps because they were paid for.

Today’s airwaves ruled
and shaped by common denominators
of the lowest kind.
Outrage, locally manufactured, and cheap,
is retailed at a  premium, peddled shamelessly
over an appropriately-named narrow band
of the electro-magnetic spectrum.
Advertisers smile among themselves;
outrage is good for business.
In occasional embarrassment,
they protest their corporate innocence,
but only when the blurry, self-regulated line
is crossed once too often.

The addicted audience,
(there must be one, or the vile ones
would be out of a job),
selects its favoured frequency.
Sad and fearful, they draw the polluted smoke
of self-righteous loathing
deeply into their lungs and hearts.
It’s potent mix of bile and indignation
offers no relief.
The distress accrues;
the sadness and the fear add
to the sadness and the fear.

but not here. Somewhere
grace and compassion can be found.
No, not here; somewhere else.
Change the dial,
tune in to a more generous frequency.
Listen for other voices,
wise and joyous, with welcoming hearts.
Hearts that have chosen love ahead of fear;
voices that speak words of hope.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Remembering Neil Postman

Childhood was created

when we stopped sending children

down mines, up chimneys,

into factories and out to the fields.

From this imprecise point

children began to be valued for who they are,

and to be protected and educated.

Quite right, too.

It was not, is not the case everywhere.

In some places childhood ends,

at least for girl-children,

with marriage, and its upshot,


So it was for the mid-teens Mary

from Nazareth, two thousand years ago;

and countless others.

Childhood contracts and shrivels,

threatening to disappear

as innocence is torn away.

The secrets of adulthood,

once wrapped in safe brown paper,

lie rude and exposed,

as children are devalued,

sacrificed and cast aside.

Childhood’s beauty is painted over,

and trained to perform before judges;

while digital technology offers

a thousand doorways to a sad adulthood.

Toddlers with cigarettes; children

who know how to calculate the odds.

Let the children come to me,

a carpenter-teacher once said.

Let them climb; let them rise above

all that would limit and deny,

and discover holy childhood life.

Neil Postman (1931-2003) wrote The Disappearance of Childhood, published in 1982.

© 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; ...