Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We live in a scary world


"We live in a scary world. No wonder people are drawn to apocalyptic visions! No wonder folks speculate about the world coming to an end. One of my favorite bumper stickers, those occasional theological sound bites that we read in traffic says, "God is coming and she is mad!"
God have every reason to be mad! We're making a colossal mess of things here! We choose to glorify in all the wrong stuff: war; humiliating our adversaries; shaming the immigrant; ignoring or neglecting our children and families; consuming goods that possess us rather than us possessing them; going through the motions of our religion rather than cultivating spiritual disciplines that help us listen carefully and prayerfully to God; and so much more. These are all choices we actively make, but we don't have to choose these things--a lesson also found in Revelation.
The second reason that the book of Revelation remains a profoundly powerful text despite being so bizarre is that it acknowledges the hardship and suffering of daily existence while it also invokes the deepest longings of the human heart for life in all its fullness, healed and whole."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lydia



Purple cloth for the wealthy.
The dyes, extracted from molluscs
and blended from different species
to give the desired shade.

An expensive commodity
which must have brought a tidy
income to those who dealt in it.
Lydia presumably was not short of a quid.

Perhaps she wore it herself,
the colour deep and rich; speaking
of comfort, royalty and power.
You could lose yourself in purple.

But when the apostle spoke of the king
dressed in the purple of mockery
and dying in poverty and shame,
Lydia knew.

Even the deepest hue fades,
leaving only memories and yearnings.
With joy she receives his colours, fast,
and with a rainbow of unexpected intensity.

© Ken Rookes

Bethzatha


John 5:1-9


They say that when the angel
messenger from God
disturbs the water in the pool,
the healing comes.
The odds are long for a cripple;
for nearly forty years I waited,
coming daily more from habit than hope.
Flawed comrades, we sprawled,
stiff-limbed, twisted.
We swapped yarns; pushing time
around our plates like an double serving
of an unwelcome vegetable.
We waited for a swirl or ripple;
the word to start the race.
Salvation: the prize for the fortunate few
who make the splash
ahead of their companions.

In many despairing interludes
I would ponder the cruel lottery
that God plays with the wretched.
The pool was a long shot,
but we knew no other game;
my place was among the desperate,
waiting my turn to throw the dice.
Struggling alone, I sometimes got wet,
but never healed.

On that Sabbath day,
when the Galilean showed up,
asking his questions
and breaking the rules,
he troubled more than a pool of water.
There he was, offering odds
to cheer the heart of any mug punter.
I looked up, hardly daring to believe,
did my sums, knew I couldn’t lose;
and walked.

© Ken Rookes

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NOW!


Now, do you want to know a secret? Making new; that what's going on in the world; that's what's happening. The Holy City is not future per­fect, it's present tense. (Check out the Greek verbs in the text!) Now the Holy City is descending. Now God is making things new. Right now God is wiping tears and easing pain and overcoming the power of death in the world.
Now! There's nothing otherworldly about the vision; it's happening Now in the midst of our worn, torn, broken world. And with the eyes of faith, you can see it happening.”
David Buttrick

We antici.......pate


We anticipate
what is not yet
and practice now
your future
we say and sing
that all you have made
your creation
is good
laboriously
so very slowly
we work out your promise
in hope and fear
and strive to build
a city of peace
a new creation
where you will
be our light,
our all.

Give us strength, O God,
To persevere
And bring us to
A happy end

Huub Oosterhuis

love your neighbour

Leunig - Love one another

Love God

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Apocalypse of love


"I don’t know how to love you as Christ loves us. If you do, please clue me in.
In the mean time, what’s to be done with this new commandment? Commandments aren’t issued for default behaviors. You can blame biology or the Fall, but lying, sexual betrayal, killing, and covetousness are quintessentially human. Perhaps I can learn, through a lifetime’s effort, how not to harm my neighbor, but don’t ask me to do the impossible and love him, too.
The more I reflect on this new commandment, the more I apprehend it apocalyptically, a revelation of something already here, yet hidden from human sight. If you ask why I love my wife, I’ll give you dozens of reasons, none of which truly answers your question. In the end, I love by faith and grace; not by sight, knowledge or certainty.
Pray for that faith and grace in all things. Pray that your neighbor will show you how such faith, such grace is lived. Pray for the apocalypse of love."

waves of reconciliation


"What the author of Revelation was trying to do was to imagine being in heaven, at the end of the world, where we might fall weeping upon one another, waves of reconciliation breaking upon us as we adjust ourselves to this new dimension of pure love.
"And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. . ."
          Meanwhile, living the commandment to love one another is mostly a tough task -- love misdirected by anguishing mistakes, bad decisions or impulses, in the mess of our human life. And yet, even in the mess, signs of the kingdom of heaven emerge in the struggle to love."
http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2123

Monday, April 22, 2013

Commandment

 

A new telling
from the lips of one
who is himself a new telling.
A word, a message unexpected,
a love-letter declaration of commitment
and embrace from above.
A new telling by which the man calls his friends
to generosity and joyous sacrifice.
“You’ve heard it said,” he sometimes taught,
“But now I’m telling you. . .
Now I’m telling you
that if you’re going to stay my friends
then you will have to look a bit ridiculous,
you have to love,
you have to give.”
A new telling,
to up-end creation
re-fashion human relationships
and make the powers shudder.
A new telling; unexpected and difficult,
but then, he’s not asking you to do anything
that he wouldn’t do himself.
To make the point even more inescapable,
the teller stretches out his arms,
writes the word on the parchment of his skin,
and underlines it with his blood.
 

© Ken Rookes

Mandate



Mandates are much claimed by politicians,
who will make the most obscure policy
into a democratically driven demand;
when it suits them.
Jesus left only one mandate,
the new instruction,
a rule to live by;
it is no command of convenience.
Four letters. The word staggers
and stumbles, limping
through the centuries
having been often laid aside,
and subject to multiple levels of abuse
by the self assured and righteous.
Still it persists, emerging defiantly
to confront and confound
whenever the servant-man’s story is told
A mandate for disciples,
a call to love
coming from one who lays down his life.
One hardly needs to be reminded
of its uncomfortable implications.
“By this the world will know that you follow me,”
he says, having completed his servant task
with towel and basin of water.
By this! By his impractical command
all who come after him are expected to be known.
They stroke their chins in bewilderment,
while we, centuries on, echo their puzzlement:
couldn’t we just have a badge
or a tee-shirt or something?
 
 
©Ken Rookes

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

At one with the Father

At one with the Father,
the mystery of light;
he shines into the darkness,
he chases in the night.
 
At one with creation,
at home amidst the dust;
the redness at the centre,
the fire and the rust.

At one with the people,
the tears and the chain;
the wandering and homeless,
the loneliness and pain.

He does not shun the struggle,
dark thoughts or the questions;
embracing of the challenge
and seeking its connections.
 
Comrade to the travellers
on wilderness journey;
searching for that pilgrim goal
through windings and through turnings.
 
Confronter of the wealthy
disturbing those who rule;
discomfort for the righteous,
the wise sent back to school.
 
Friend of peace-creators,
holding frightened hands,
at one with those who protest,
and those who make a stand.
 
At one with the rhythm,
the feel and the pulse;
seeing truth and all things good,
and weeping o’er the false.
 
Dust and spirit joining,
in love they are united,  
reaching out to gather in;
the love, it is requited.
 
At home among the humble,
they know him by his voice,
he speaks of hope, of truth and life
for all who make the choice.
 
© Ken Rookes 2013

Good shepherd coloring


http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=21bc9fbee98db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=f4766934b34bb010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

The darker realities of Sheep


"...The biblical imagery of sheep and their shepherd does not quite match our assumptions--be they positive or negative assumptions. None of our metaphors of sheep quite matches the picture of Psalm 23 that we admired in Sunday school. Certainly, faith in God as provider and protector is there--but so are the shadowed valleys, surrounding enemies, potential lynch mobs, ordeals and even crucifixion.
These sheep are not the blindly obedient animals that we find unsuitable models for children. Rather, the images of sheep are put together with darker realities. These passages give every evidence of being crafted by thoughtful and deeply experienced writers who are trying to communicate what it means to live by a radical trust in God in the midst of terror, pain and death--some of the greatest challenges to faith.
Finally, these readings are not what we call “allegory”, drawing out every analogy to sheep that can be made and offering sheep as a model for Christian life. Sheep in the fullness of their animal existence are neither a good model for Christian life nor any other kind of human life. Rather, this is a metaphor that shows us a part of faith that carries us through our darkest hours. This trust, like the ways of a sheep with its shepherd, is a radical trust that empowers us to believe that life has Christian meaning, even though our immediate experience may be telling us otherwise."  

Mary Schertz is professor of New Testament at Associate Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Feed my sheep


It’s simple,
Simon.
Yes, we all stuff up,
we all disappoint
and let each other down.
Yes, yours was a big one. Three times.
But it’s a divine principle,
you should have grasped it by now.
One of a handful
that the Master revealed in the few years
that he walked among us.
Like the cycle of death and resurrection,
the centrality of love,
the wonder of God’s presence,
living as God’s children,
and the primacy of grace.
Forgiveness, new beginnings.
The idea that losers become winners;
that, freed from the depression of failure,
and made new in God’s Spirit,
everyone can take part in the work
of the kingdom. You too.
Feed God’s sheep,
take care of the lambs,
share the love,
spread the good news. It’s simple;
Simon.

© Ken Rookes

Towards Damascus



Confused knots
of righteous anger and indignation
wrestle for supremacy
inside the stomach
of the man who knows
with absolute certitude
that God’s law is the way of salvation.
The knots grip and urge him
along his determined path
with the unassailable conviction
that only true believers understand.
The power of being right.
Onward to Damascus, with ropes and cords;
these he will use to bind his enemies.
God’s enemies,
and he is God’s servant, God’s sword.
His hand tightens upon his cloak
as the knots tighten in his belly.
The defender of God’s law
unknowingly strides towards the place
where a flash of light
and a word from above,
(or is it within?) awaits him.
There, the wonder of grace
will unlock the shackles of the law;
his knots will be untied,
his spirit unchained,
and his heart truly captured.

© Ken Rookes

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Open my eyes


Open my eyes that they may see
the deepest needs of people.
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
let me share my possessions to clothe the naked;
give me the care that strengthens the sick;
make me share in the quest to set the prisoner free;
in sharing our anxieties and our love,
our poverty and our prosperity,
we partake of your divine presence. Amen.
Rev. Canaan Banana

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

powerful doubting


"If we are willing to work through our fear and our doubts, we will find the other side of today’s Gospel that teaches us also about faith. If we are honest in our relationships with one another, we can experience mutual support in learning to believe what we cannot easily see. Based on our life with God in the body of Christ, we can recognize the power of the Holy Spirit at work among us, providing new possibilities that can move us beyond doubt and fear and anxiety and psychological paralysis. We will learn that through the power of God, miracles happen—that which we would doubt possible can come to reality. Dreams can be fulfilled, forgiveness offered, obstacles overcome, pain relieved, sickness healed, hunger fed, spiritual longings relieved, good brought from evil, love experienced in all the Easter glory of the risen Christ."
 http://christchurchcathedralbahamas.com/worship-messages-30.html

Telling the truth

Once when a certain preacher launched into a children’s sermon, she was confronted by a visiting child, an eight-year-old friend of a regular member. The boy was new to this church, but was a regular attendee at another congregation that did not have children’s sermons. Nevertheless, the visitor tried his best to follow the line of the preacher’s effort to connect with the children. Attempting to hook the children with something familiar before making her point, the priest asked the children to identify what she would describe. “What is fuzzy and has a long tail?” No response. “What has big teeth and climbs in trees?” Still no response. After she asked, “What jumps around a lot and gathers nuts and hides them?” the visiting boy could stand the silence no longer. He blurted out, “Look, lady, I know the answer is supposed to be ‘Jesus,’ but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”

A tale of two boats


Last year  I shared in the leadership of a few retreats which had me thinking about the state of the church, about our need to be honest, to face truth, and to face our feelings. I was led to a sort of playful image, a tongue in cheek symbol. Given the difficulties the church is facing, our aging church, our diminishing numbers, and our dismissing status and role in society, the symbol I chose was of feeling like we were up sh*t creek in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle.  I know it's not an optimistic vision, but it feels real. It fitted in well with the ancient image of the boat as a symbol of the church. Robin prior actually made a model of this symbol and gave it to me after one the retreats.


And that was one boat, and it is real.
But I also have another story.
I have dear friend who is a potter. His name is John and he has the soul of an artist. We regularly have lunch, share veggies and sing a few songs together. He is not a Christian, but he is a deeply spiritual man.
Sometime late last year, he began having a dream of a golden boat, and then dreamed of making such a boat. He sketched, made models, practiced the form and shape over many months. Then a month or so ago, at one of our catch ups, he proudly showed me the finished work. 
I was very impressed and moved, but it took me a couple of weeks to really begin to listen to the message.
Here, in this symbol, was something that stood in stark contrast to my barbed wire canoe, and I began to hear the divine voice speaking to me through it.
This boat is gold, and, unlike the canoe, it has many oars, it is going somewhere and has many workers, and at its centre ....is the cross, a sign of the power of grace and love and the presence of the divine at the heart of our life."

So which is the greater truth?
It is important for us to know who we really are and what we are really facing, and that is powerfully represented for me in the symbol of the barb wire canoe, but the golden boat reminded me that there is more to the church than that.
In the golden boat I am reminded that the church at her best is a precious carrier of the message of God's love and the power of grace and compassion.

So there it is folks. The tale of the two boats. I guess one of them may give us one sense of the reality of our situation, but the other, for me, is a mysterious gift of God. One which is a gift of hope and perhaps a greater truth.

Make of it what you will, but may God bless our journey together, and may just such a golden vision inspire us to be together what God would have us to be.

Get on with it, Thomas


Get on with it, Thomas.

In the business of faith, so-called,
words are gathered on paper,
sorted into groups,
numbered and annotated,
printed with indelible ink,
framed behind glass
and made into standards
behind which combatants assemble
and accuse their opponents
of heresy and betrayal,
and by which fellow humans
are categorised as being in or out.
But faith is not about words,
or being right,
(or, even more importantly,
not being wrong);
faith is responding to grace
and risking all
on the wild adventure
of life and of love.
When, a week after he was raised,
Jesus told Thomas to stop doubting
and to have faith,
he was not so much worried
about the content of his beliefs
or his ability to put aside his questions,
or so it seems to me,
but simply telling him to get on with it.
Get on with it, Thomas.

 

© Ken Rookes

The first day


The first day

 

The first day of the week;
a new week, a new lifetime.
The newly-raised Jesus
breathes upon his surprised followers
a Spirit, most Holy;
who gathers them up and blows them
irresistibly into an unexpected future.
A breeze of gentle change, sometimes,
or revolution's blast;
a quiet whisper of forgiveness,
affirming the unworthy,
a blast of indignation
challenging the powerful
and calling the unjust to repent.
These emboldened friends
will continue love's work;
borne on the wind,
gusting unconstrained.

 

© Ken Rookes