Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Something similar could happen to you?

"Here Jesus attempts to address the synagogue.  He selects parts of certain verses and then reads them together.  Then he sits down to teach his message: the poor, imprisoned, and oppressed are blessed.  The people appear impressed, but they are not sold on the idea.  They question his authority.
Today we can imagine something similar happening in many churches.  Jesus has just placed economic and social justice issues at the center of his ministry. That didn’t go over very well in his day, and it wouldn’t go over well in many churches today.  We can imagine the reactions we might get just for speaking this truth.  It’s likely that some congregations would show us the door.
Jesus then makes his point clear.  God sent the prophets to feed a pagan while many Jews starved.  God healed an enemy while Jews suffered.  Just when they expected to hear about God’s vengeance on Israel’s enemies, Jesus says no, you are the despised.  You are the unworthy.  You are the unclean.  You are the bastards.  [Isaiah 61:2]
Many Christians today believe that Jesus will return to destroy the world, kill nonbelievers, and then sentence their souls to eternal torture and torment.  This is not unlike the Jews in the synagogue who looked forward to God’s vengeance on their enemies and on Pagans, i.e., those of other faiths and cultures.  What Jesus said to them he now says to us.  God will surprise you!  Those you think destined for torment, God will save; and those who you think are saved, God will ignore."

What would Jesus have been feeling?

I find this engraving quite poignant as it portrays Jesus as even a little afraid of what is happening, rather than the 'cool as a cucumber' attitude that we normally imagine. What would he have felt?

A cliff near Nazareth


Monday, January 28, 2013


is the deep ache
that makes the moments of joy
so good.

It is the heart's stirring,
the mind's yearning,
and the singing of the soul.

It will not be dis-couraged;
for it is our loving,
more than anything else, which
reflects the image of our maker.

Without love there is no living.
Its giving and its mercy
never stop.

© Ken Rookes

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today this scripture has been fulfilled . . .

Today this scripture has been fulfilled . . .

Part one.

Big call;
in front of his home crowd, too.
The mood appears to have been generous;
A more modest, “begins to be fulfilled,”
might have been more judicious;
but then, unlike the majority of his followers,
Jesus was never particularly cautious.
In most centuries
he would have been locked up
as a troublemaker, or a communist.
In 21st century Australia,
his middle-eastern appearance,
along with his gang of similarly disreputable types,
would have generated
a substantial ASIO file by now.
Not to mention his wild talk
of freedom for the oppressed
and good news for the poor;
a call to revolution if ever we heard one.
And then, as if that isn’t enough,
he goes and brings God into it!
Big call!
Who does he think he is?

Part two.

The teacher couldn’t leave well enough alone.
The crowd  were impressed;
His incendiary manifesto
slipped through, apparently unnoticed.
It’s what happens in every generation;
so many miss the disturbing implications
of such radical and loosely labelled “good news.”
For the poor, – only if the rich
can embrace the liberty of letting go;
for the oppressed, – only if the powerful
decide that they can do without their privileges;
for the captives, – only if the fearful choose
to risk their hearts, take on compassion,
and trust in the healing qualities
of grace and freedom.
And for the blind, – only if the unseeing ones
can be persuaded to open their eyes
to see for themselves
the gathering wonder and shining hope.
But no; he won’t allow them to stay
in the comfort of their unlistening.
Before they can begin to get
even the smallest corner
of their collective crania around it all,
he provokes his native crowd
with the “no acceptance
in the prophet’s hometown,” line.
Who does he think he is?

© Ken Rookes 2013
Yes, two for the price of one, folks!
The gospel readings for Epiphany 3 and 4 overlap, so I thought I'd treat them as a pair. 
Part one Epiphany 3, (Jan. 27), Part two Epiphany 4 (Feb. 3)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

a bit of a laugh at ourselves is good for the soul

Tim Hawkins from youtube

Jesus of Nazareth

The result of this message

I think this week's passage of scripture is incomplete without realising the context. What follows Jesus reading the scripture and making his outrageous claim is an attempt to throw him off a cliff. the hometown boy is no longer so popular. I wonder if their reaction would have been so violent if he had claimed to be the messiah, but one who would bring prosperity and wealth and power rather than justice and mercy?

It's a gift

   "In the epistle this week Paul calls us to a better way of dealing with our differences. He compares the church to the human body; although it's made up of many different parts, it forms one body. And so it is with us. Despite our obvious and many differences, God calls us to a unity that's not bland uniformity, and to a diversity without division. To three different churches Paul writes, "There is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, Scythian, slave or free, male or female, but Christ is all, and is in all."
           Paul draws some practical conclusions about our unity in diversity. I need you. And you need me. "The eye cannot say to the hands, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you.'" Paul subverts our normal human tendencies: "Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor." Despite our differences, we should have "equal concern for each other."
            Schwartz tells how he was helped by a gay friend who related his own story about a college experience. One day Brian was talking about a writing project with his professor, Betty Sue Flowers (who later ran the LBJ Library and Museum), and happened to mention that he was gay. He was shocked by her response: "It's a gift," said Flowers.
           "I would have never thought of that as a possible reply," said Brian. "Yet I immediately knew exactly what she meant. Because I was different, I would see things differently than everyone else, and that would be valuable to me in ways that I would only discover over time. I don't think it's too much to say that her words changed how I looked at my life.""

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good news for the poor

I am not poor. I have food enough
to satisfy any momentary hunger;
and clothes sufficient to cover my nakedness,
even, when occasion requires,
to allow me to look stylish.
I have a dwelling, mostly paid for,
modest by the standards of my community,
but providing generous
shelter, privacy and comfort.
I have ready access
to the energy resources of my planet
allowing me to travel, to be entertained,
and to keep me warm, or cool,
according to my needs.
I visit the doctor when I am ill,
and can purchase medicines
at an affordable price.
And with the money that I have left over
I have access to learning, information and art,
along with the time to indulge these things.
Good news for the poor, I imagine,
would see dignity preserved,
hunger assuaged,
health care provided,
and the deliverance of a tolerable standard
of shelter, education and security.
Good news for the poor, I imagine,
would see those of us who are rich
being persuaded to share
recklessly and hopefully
of our abundance.

Ken Rookes

not religion as we know it!

" This is not religion as we know it. Not nostalgia for the past, nor a fantasy of the future. It’s not centered in memory or anticipation: next year I’ll do this; in the old days we did that, someday God will set things right.
       ......          This reading from Luke cuts off rather abruptly, so that we don’t hear what happens next: the outrage of the people and their rejection of Jesus. We don’t see the scandalized lynch mob gathering, though the passage is clearly meant both to echo the prophets and prefigure the crucifixion. Jesus pulls together Isaiah’s words with hints of his own coming glorification — that is, his own torture and death at the hands of people very much like his listeners in the synagogue of Nazareth. Yet when he sits down to preach he simply says to them: Today. Today in your very hearing this text is fulfilled. I AM"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jesus brings life!

"There are lots of distractions in the story. One way or other some people may need a little help to move beyond the massive miracle, either because they believe it or because they don’t. Others may worry about the alcoholic content of the wine. We may confidently assume that this was the real thing. The nice little blessing of marriage which wedding liturgies often cite using this passage is rather more like Jesus, the barman, ensuring the party goes on. What it blesses incidentally is a full blown party drenched in wine. At this level the story may even need to be restrained somewhat; don’t tell the teenagers this is what was happening! But the story is not really about promoting excessive drinking. As many of Jesus’ parables reflect raw, uncensored life, so here the symbolic celebration has created its wild incidentals which are not for emulation at a literal level (but that does not mean we deny the positive attitude to celebration and wine).
As with much that we find in John, the passage has a simple theme: Jesus brings life. That message needs unpacking and for that we usually have to go beyond John. It is as though John tells us where to stand and we need the rest to know what to say. We do not leave John behind: the personal encounter and relationship of trust and love remains fundamental, but John scarcely goes beyond that to the wider vision. In the same way the tradition tells us where to stand and our eyes and ears alert to our world and its needs will enable us to make the connections, to discern the Spirit, to weave the truth of the story for our day."

A first attempt

not sure whether this is colouring or cartoon? :)

Les noces deCana, Louis Kahan, 1949

Monday, January 14, 2013


Gospel writer John springs a miracle
to get things going. It’s a strange one,
a classic conundrum: water into wine.
Fortunately the miracle was never replicated
by Jesus, or any of his followers since.
In every age there have been those
who reached out to grasp
the dubious gift of drunken oblivion,
but they all managed to do so
by more conventional means.
Let’s quietly pack the miracle away,
let it age and gather dust in the cellar;
it proves nothing, never did.
The coming together of two people,
pledging their love and devotion
and becoming one flesh,
is made the occasion for this story
of joyous and abundant celebration.
Jesus, Word made flesh,
is both purpose and provider
for the party.
Buckets of water into buckets of wine;
dance until you drop!
Glorious excess;
there are no limits to joy.
Human existence has been unexpectedly infused
with something far more wondrous
than any mere miracle.
Jesus from the divine parent’s heart;
bearer of grace and truth,
and shining his light into the darkness,
lives among us.
Pour some wine: we have to celebrate!

© Ken Rookes 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hot and windy

Hot and windy.
Really hot; the like of which
recorded history had previously
remained ignorant.
An apprehensive landscape
waiting fearfully for the ominous spark
that would create a devouring monster;
the dragon with many heads
sitting in triumph astride a parched terrain.
Ordinary women and men,
noting its rapid progress with alarm,
took arms of tank, pump and hose
attempting to defy the onslaught;
whilst communities, nestled
amidst once sweet and welcoming bush,
drank bitter draughts of grief
and tearful disbelief.
These things were never meant to be!
Those who ask difficult questions
shall be excused: Where can God be,
when hell has spilled beyond 
its metaphorical gates to turn
rough eucalyptian beauty
into roaring flame and ash?
Where, indeed;
but perhaps
in the dirty faces and
weary, smoke-filled eyes.

© Ken Rookes

I wrote this in response to the 2009 fires. Maybe someone will find it useful again in the current circumstances.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Baptism colouring

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Baptism of Jesus

Rosalind Hore, Baptism of Jesus

We think of it as 'heaven insurance'.

"Our baptisms have become so common place that we no longer even realize what we are doing, what we are committing ourselves and our children to when we bring them to God’s waters of life. We think we are naming them, or placing a mark or sign on them to protect them in case of accidental death. We think of it as “heaven insurance” as though we had a God who would bar admission to the life to come if a child did not come with the correct stamp of approval. ....
Our baptism is likely less about our own personal journey’s, our own personal forgiveness (though we certainly are forgiven) and more about God’s healing of the world’s brokenness. When we touch the waters, we join Jesus in the healing, as we join the thousands who have died hoping in that healing before us and the thousands who will come after us. We join in Israel’s old vocation, to be a light to all nations, drawing them to the God of healing, the God of life giving love. We must beware, lest we take this too lightly. Following God’s call this way is dangerous. It is sometimes deadly. In a world where the thirst for power and money creates people who will throw a life away for their own ends, our lives will get caught in the crossfire. But God does not abandon his people to the four winds. We are known and loved and cherished, just as the people of Israel were cherished, though scattered, when Isaiah wrote the beautiful words in Chapter 43:1-7. And though God has chosen to heal this broken world from within, a slow process that will take many generations, this healing vision is already our reality when we are caught up in his love in our baptismal covenant."


How many evangelists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the bulb must repent of its darkness and be willing to be changed

Sunday, January 6, 2013

When Jesus was baptised

They say that when Jesus was baptized,
the heavens opened,
and the Holy Spirit, however she is conceived,
flew between the realms
hitherto designated as either divine or human.
At this moment the previously exclusive distinction
began to fade and dissolve into an irrelevance,
that, millennia later, continues to disturb and frighten.
Then, by all accounts, celestial dove-like descending flutterances
became enmeshed with the swirling uncertainties
of earth’s dust;
beginning with the man from Nazareth.
Amidst the resigned dreariness of mortal fears and struggles,
he began to live flashes of love and other-worldly light
that caused many to gasp.
Some drew breath deeply with joyous hope and wonder,

released their dreams,
and went searching for the teacher so they might hear more.
Others groaned with fear, and shook.
Seeking only that he should go away, they resolved
to build their walls higher and their vaults stronger.
But the divine affirmation of this beloved son
was already spoken,
and the thing would not be undone.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fool’s gold

Appearing nothing like the noble kings
that stepped confidently in gold leaf
from countless medieval paintings,
the ones we call wise
looked like a group of merchant traders
who had trod the road many months.
Dusty but unwearied, they chased
their star-obsession west,
all the way to Palestine.
The palace had probably been a mistake,
but they agreed  that the Bethlehem lead
looked promising.
They laughed along with the strangers
with whom they shared their story.
“The rainbow’s golden pot
might prove less elusive,”
a wit had joked, some months into their travels.
True, they might never find the prince
at the silver star-journey’s end.
They were troupe of clowns,
persisting in futility,
knowing and willing,
recklessly complicit
in each other’s foolishness;
having long concurred
that it was better to pursue with hope
a heavenly folly,
than to live with caution and fear.
And should they find the child,
why, then they would laugh and worship,
and the whole journey
would be as the gold
they carried.

© Ken Rookes

For some.

The wealthy and powerful ones;
rulers, kings and major shareholders
do a lively trade in information.
They invest some of their ample resources
in finding out stuff, analysing trends and opinion,
and gathering whatever facts can be assembled
from their multiple sources
in order to gain advantage over everyone else.
Knowledge, they say, is power;
who would argue?
In his terrible nativity story, Matthew
presents us with the despotic Herod,
who, sensing a threat to his kingly power
in the unlikely birth of a child,
demands, of his royal advisors,
insight and opinion. It is his hope
that when the appropriate dots
have been successfully joined,
they will indicate a profitable course of action.
And just when,
he confidingly enquires of the wise strangers,
feigning concern for the success
of their crazy adventure;
did the star first appear?
Having sent the gift-laden travellers to Bethlehem,
in accordance with some long-forgotten oracle,
he awaits their return,
along with the specific details,
(parents, street name and number),
that they will supply.
He must have waited some time;
the successful pilgrims, as the story goes,
were recipients of further information,
and went home by another way.
The ever-pragmatic Herod was unconcerned;
it was a minor inconvenience.
Their answer to his earlier question
had been duly noted by his scribes;
it would be sufficient for his mathematicians
to make the necessary determinations
that would allow his troops to do their job.
The baby’s parents also received advice
that enabled them to choose a path to safety.
Not so blessed were other young children
in Bethlehem. Knowledge, they say, is power;
for some.

©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; ...