Monday, February 25, 2013

Fig tree fruits

If you repent,
the much-loved doctrine declares,
you will be forgiven.
A simple-enough transaction,
with the reception of forgiveness transmuted,
by divine alchemy, into the golden currency
of paradisiacal admittance.

With much tears and wailing, repentance is enacted,
souls are pronounced saved,
and heaven’s host, we are told, prepares another room.

But what if repentance is no mere turning point,
arrived at once and finally?
What if it is an attitude that grows, develops,
and manifests itself in actions;
many and uncounted, small and large;
with an impetus towards sharing and justice
and generosity and peace?
And what if the second chance grace
is all about such fruitfulness?

Fig tree fruits from plants worth their place
in the garden.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013


The keep-your-fingers-crossed Jesus
lurks behind my fears
and offers me a sort of hope.
Believe in me, he says;
it’s a simple formula,
and I’ll help you
to get the words right.

This Jesus for the credulous
is brightly painted.
He tries to tell me
that everything that happens,
good and ill,
is part of a divine plan;
just keep smiling.

Always there when a safe passage
is needed, he smiles benignly
with his fingers crooked.
He promises blessings
and reassurance,
forgives at the drop of a hat,
and is never outraged.

Sometimes, in the screaming of the night,
I glimpse a different Jesus.
Less pretty, he is wild
like the man in the story
and more than slightly dangerous.
He carries pain in his face,
anger in his voice,

and love in his calloused hands.
This Jesus brings little
that might resemble comfort,
yet still speaks strangely of hope.
He offers no seat in paradise,
just a worrying invitation
to walk his way.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a call to anger

This is the picture of God that we have. The vulnerable, loving God, who would go to the death to defend those she loves. It is easy to get passé about the love of God, but it is always and ever our starting point. It is this love, this compassion, that we are called in our Christian life to imitate. Just as God loves us, so are we to love others. The call to us and to the church is to be directed by the love of God, not by the institution or what ‘looks good’ to others. Jesus calls us to anger at people and situations that refuse the call to justice. He calls us to turn away from death and to face the challenges of a life directed by the love of God. Let us be aware and open when God calls us under her wings and responsive to the change that calls us to.

The hen's wings

*In Mission, British Columbia, a fellow by the name of Ike tells the story about his Grandpa's hen house which burned to the ground one day. Ike arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire. As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage, they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown by the fire's heat, her neck limp. Ike bent down to pick up the dead hen. As he did the hen's four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her burnt body. The chicks survived because they were insulated by the shelter of the hens wings. 

the depth of Jesus' lament ...

If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus' lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed --but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. ...
… Jesus won't be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.
She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her -- wings spread, breast exposed -- without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
-Barbara Brown Taylor
 Christian Century 2/25/86

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Dominus Flevit
The Chapel on the spot where Jesus is said to have prayed over Jerusalem. 

View of Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit

Monday, February 18, 2013

Christ in the wilderness: The Hen

Stanley Spencer paints like a grounded angel;
his Jesus sprawls upon the earth
as one who is at home in the wilderness
humble. His sad face broods distractedly
over the red hen gathering her precious chicks.
His thoughts will not be contained
within the picture’s frame
At one with creation,
and aware of the complex threads
of interdependence between its creatures,
bird and insect, fox and fowl;
he understands darkly the pain and the dying
that are life’s unavoidable consequence.
When he departs, the hen will be on her own
and her brood vulnerable once more.
Ah, Jesus, you cannot be everywhere;
you will have to allow
‘nature, red in tooth and claw’*
to find her own balance,
and you will have to trust
that those whom you have called
will continue to weepingly reach with love
to Jerusalem’s waiting children,
and all the others.

* In Memoriam A.H.H., a poem by Alfred. Lord Tennyson

© Ken Rookes

Love's courage

They are heroes,
the men, the women,
and all the children, too;
who stand up to the bullies.
Like Jesus, who refused to be intimidated
by Herod’s threats;
or Rosa Parks, defying centuries
of white superiority;
or Malala, Pakistan’s daughter,
standing her ground to confront Taliban misogyny.

There is a choice set before each of us,
the poet said: love and fear.*

Bullies are cowards, we are told,
and will flee in the face of resolute opposition.
But with the support of institutional wealth,
power, soldiers and guns,
the bullies may be blind to the scrawled messages
on their crumbling walls, and don’t always go quietly.
The raw ferocity of fear can be a terrible thing,
the consequences; dreadful.

Our heroes,
and many more whose stories we may never hear,
knew what was right.
Driven by a vision of all that might be,
they found the courage to live towards it.
Setting their sights upon the hoped-for goal,
refusing the temptations to avert their gaze
towards something simpler and less demanding,
they tread determinedly towards their Jerusalem..

*Michael Leunig

© Ken Rookes 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

What to do in the darkness

    What to do in the Darkness
by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Go slowly
Consent to it
But don't wallow in it
Know it as a place of germination
And growth
Remember the light
Take an outstretched hand if you find one
Exercise unused senses
Find the path by walking it
Practice trust
Watch for dawn


always Jerusalem.
Luke takes us there for the third temptation,
his lastt of three. (There will be others).
Offered an alternative path, Jesus refuses.
No surprises here.
He is offered a big, spectacular event
to establish his divine credentials for all time.
It would be in Jerusalem,
with the temple, sacred and glorious,
pressed into service as the setting.
The crowd will gasp, not daring to believe
the evidence of their eyes,
when, from the temple’s pinnacle
a suicidal swallow-dive is arrested, mid-descent
by the proverbial flight of angels
and the man is allowed to float gently to the earth.
But it will not happen;
the temple, and all that it represents,
is being sidelined, it has no future,
as the hungry man determines
that there will be no short-cuts.
Jerusalem, must be patient
as he turns aside from the sensational,
preferring the more humble way
of gentle and generous love;
the journey is just beginning.
In the end
Jerusalem’s demands will be satisfied.
At the time of fulfilment he will be taken
to another high place, and suspended for all to see;
the angels will not save him.
The choice will prove painful, and full of sorrow,
but we are told that he did not come to regret it.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Who am I? a question for Lent

Who am I? This man or that other?
Am I then this man today and tomorrow another?
Am I both all at once? An impostor to others,
but to me little more than a whining, despicable weakling?
Does what is in me compare to a vanquished army,
that flees in disorder before a battle already won?
Who am I? They mock me these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, you know me, O God. You know I am yours.
                                    Deitrich Bonhoeffer   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

even with us ....

It was Jesus of Nazareth all right, the man they'd tramped many a dusty mile with, whose mother and brothers they knew, the one they'd seen as hungry, tired, footsore as the rest of them. But it was also the Messiah, the Christ, in his glory. It was the holiness of the man shining through his humanness, his face so afire with it they were almost blinded.
Even with us something like that happens once in a while. The face of a man walking his child in the park, of a woman picking peas in the gar-den, of sometimes even the unlikeliest person listening to a concert, say, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in, or just having a beer at a Saturday baseball game in July. Every once and so often, some-thing so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it's almost beyond bearing.
Frederick Buechner, Transfiguration

Transfiguration quote

Transfiguration is living by vision: standing foursquare in the midst of a broken, tortured, oppressed, starving, dehumanizing reality, yet seeing the invisible, calling to it to come, behav­ing as if it is on the way, sustained by elements of it that have come already, within and among us. In those moments when people are healed, transformed, freed from addictions, obsessions, destructiveness, self-wor­ship or when groups or communities or even, rarely, whole nations glimpse the light of the transcendent in their midst, there the New Creation has come upon us. The world for one brief moment is transfigured. The beyond shines in our midst—on the way to the cross.
Walter Wink

Monday, February 4, 2013

Speaking of his departure.

Luke had barely begun his gospel,
having launched it in cosmiclebration
with angel choirs and shepherds;
before pointing us to the end.
On a mountain we overhear a dread-filled discussion
between a pair of ancient shining legends
and a third man glowing.
This latter one
has begun to attract some attention
and a following; maybe one day
he will be accorded similar hall of fame status.
They speak of endings,
and of Jerusalem’s long-reaching shadows.
This going-away talk
must have disturbed his three friends.
Along with the rest of the twelve,
and, presumably, the women and the others,
they struggled with notions of departure and death.
Caught up in a glorious adventure
and hoping it would never end,
they listened to his words but were unable to hear.
Perhaps not the women; power,
glory and immortality tend to be a male thing.
The dazzling lights are diminished,
overtaken by the darkness of a cloud
and the insistent shaded echo of a voice.
The four men take leave of the mountain
and journey towards an inevitable Jerusalem.
There will be set before them
other days of disturbing light;
and with them, many shadows.

© Ken Rookes 2013

The play's not done

The play is not done / Oh, no, not quite / For life never ends / In the moonlit night. / And despite what pretty poets say / The night is only half the day. / So we would like to fully finish / What was foolishly begun / For the story is not ended / And the play never done / Until all of us have been burned a bit / And burnished by the sun.

(from The Fantastics)


“[I believe] there is nothing more needed by humanity today 
than the recovery of a sense of “beyond-ness
in the whole of life to revive the springs of wonder and adoration.”  John. V Taylor

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; ...