Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Only speak

Just a question,
more a restless thought;
some might say a doubt.
Faith, doubt;
no longer convinced
there is any clear distinction.
A request in the midst
of uncertainty,
holding desperately the line
against fear
and hoping.
Just a doubt,
a fear,
a hope;
a seeking after grace.
Only speak
the word,

© Ken Rookes

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Grasping after the ungraspable
mysterious God,
who allows God’s-self to be glimpsed
touched, known and argued with
in the very human Son of Man,
as he walks dustily and hungrily
along lonely paths;
stepping among anxious people
who press insistently and demand answers.
Reaching after elusive meaning
in a world that weeps, mourns,
confounds and hides;
in which the surprising Spirit
of a strangely gracious God
emerges from human shadows
to disturb and shake.
She affirms the doubting,
lifts the faltering
and breathes stillness into the fear.
Always this servant Spirit comes
to brush tender tingling life,
hinting at the mystery
of the three-personed God
in whom all things have their beginning;
and their end.

© Ken Rookes


Monday, May 20, 2013

Trinity, Cranach, Lucas the elder

An amazing painting of the Trinity

the absurd doctrine of the trinity

From a wonderful sermon by Nathan Nettleton
"As Frederick Buechner puts it, the doctrine of the Trinity is an assertion that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is only one God.

The God whose voice thunders across the chaos in creation, whose very word is enough to bring into being that which was not before, is the same God who sits weeping on a donkey sobbing, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if only you would have let me love you like a mother hen loves her chicks.”

The God who hangs helpless, bleeding and choking to death on a crude wooden execution scaffold is the same God who shakes the earth, bursting open prison doors and shattering the manacles from the feet of the prisoners.

It’s so absurd, so counter to the evidence at hand, that if God hadn’t told us that this was him every time it would never have occurred to us. The mystery of the mighty God of the cosmos, the mystery of the vulnerable God who walked among us, and the mystery of the God nudging and whispering within us are all the same mystery, the same God. And if nothing else, then that means that you’d better not get too fixated on one aspect of the experience of God and start suggesting that it proves other images of God are wrong. God will always be bigger, more diverse and more surprising than you can get your head around.

This is finally what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday: not a centuries old doctrine, as important in the history of the Church as that doctrine is.  Instead we celebrate the story of God's love in Jesus, which restores our broken humanity and our broken creation."

Trinity sermon example

The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian who wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and to be able to explain it logically. One day as he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this, he suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a whole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup, came and poured it into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to her and said, "Little child, what are doing?" and she replied, "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole." "How do you think," Augustine asked her, "that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?" To which she replied, " And you, how do you suppose that with this your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?" With that the child disappeared.

Trinity joke

In New York lived a Jewish man who was a very militant atheist. But he sent his son to Trinity Christian School because, despite its denominational roots, it was a great school and completely secular.
After a month, the boy came home and said casually, "By the way, Dad, I learned what Trinity means! It means 'The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.'"
The father could barely control his rage. He seized his son by the shoulders and declared, "Morris, I'm going to tell you something now and I want you never to forget it. Forget this Trinity business. There is only one God... and we don't believe in him!" 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

we have been waiting for this Spirit ..."

"We have been waiting for this Spirit – somehow forgetting that the Spirit was given us a long time ago- in fact it was hovering over chaos in the first lines of the Bible.  We are waiting for one who has already come.  We are waiting for water that has already been poured fresh and sparkling into our cup.  We are waiting for a cool breeze in a desert of our own making.  We are waiting for a fire that has been burning incessantly within.  We are waiting for the life that we already have.

We are waiting, we say, and yet we have padlocked the door – out of fear.  We are afraid of this part of God that we cannot control or explain or merit, which is seductive and cannot be legislated, measured or mandated.  Let’s be honest.  We do not like this part of God which is dove, water and invisible wind.  We are threatened by this part of God “which blows where it will” and which our theologies cannot predict or inhibit.  We, like the disciples in the Upper Room, sit behind locked doors of fear, and still say that we are waiting and preparing for his Holy Spirit. 

Fortunately, God has grown used to our small and cowardly ways.  God knows that we settle for easy certitudes instead of gospel freedom.  And God is determined to break through.  The Spirit eventually overcomes the obstacles that we present and surrounds us with enough peace so that we can face the “wounds in his hands and his side.”  We meet the true Jesus, wounds and all, and we greet our true selves for perhaps the first time.  The two are almost the same.  “Peace be with you,” he says again."

Monday, May 13, 2013

El Greco, descent of the Holy Spirit

Title: Descent of the Holy Spirit
[Click for larger image view]I have always loved this painting by Greco. It's light and colour, and its focus on Mary at the centre are quite unique.

Pentecost colouring



In high-modern times
the church in which I was nurtured
and searched for faith,
neatly packaged Pentecost
and placed her in a box
labelled Whitsunday.

Whitsunday was bleached crisp white,
ordered and safe;
free of surprises,
like the era through which we moved.
By the time Whitsunday arrived
the wonder of Easter
had long passed.
Whitsunday was orderly, polite, tidy,
and waited patiently
for her annual fifteen minutes;
some years we forgot her.

One day, unannounced,
Pentecost, gale-like, roaring;
burst from her quiet carton,
crimson, wild
and burning with divine indignation.
She sent Whitsunday packing.

We’re still not sure about Pentecost
and what she might do next;
we tremble a little
each time that we pray:
Come, Holy Spirit!

© Ken Rookes



Below the sun’s relentless rays
the red earth bakes hard,
loosens with the passing feet and hooves
of creatures, wild and domesticated;
becoming dust again. Human feet,
some clothed in boot and shoe for protection
from hot earth and its sharp and stony projections,
others toughened by their habitual nakedness,
add to the wear of the animals.
The soil holds life,
waiting patiently for water
from largely cloudless skies.
With rock and tree and hill it holds stories,
a spirit library waiting for the singing;
waiting for the voices.

The water, too, holds life.
Borne upon wind, sometimes gathering
in clouded configurations,
anticipating the moment
when the swirling eddies of pressured and rushing air
achieve the necessary imbalance
for the soil’s saturation.
Undreneath the dry sand of occasional river beds,
the ever-present but unseen waters
receive and welcome the probing roots of trees;
which gather moisture, mix it with sunlight,
and fashion it into life for leaf, insect, bird and lizard.
In the scorching sun the leaves release their own
fragrant life offering;
the sharp and cleansing eucalyptian scent
that tells of hope and renewal.

Majestic birds, darkened silhouettes
ascend and wheel. They ride heated currents,
created by the fiery sun
as it works upon rugged valleys and hills.
These were, in turn, wrought slowly
from layers of ancient rock by that same sun,
together with persistent wind
and occasional rain.
Mortal beings.
earth-bound, like the large birds that traverse
these sun-drenched plains,
observe the distant aerial manoeuvres with wonder,
and dream. A few,
kissed by this vision of freedom,
determine also to rise and to soar.

The oxide-red earth;
the unseen wind, sometimes gentle, sometimes wild;
fire from above and within;
water, cool and clear;
the human heart, dreaming and hopeful;
here creation and spirit meet
a necessary and joyous union,
for the fashioning of life and love.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Deep within the hidden recesses of the lockup
the two men could be excused
for nursing their recently inflicted wounds
in silence. Instead they sang their songs
like kids at a camp, unconcerned
about mere details such as melody.
Their loud and sometimes tuneful voices
sporadically stumbled upon a harmony;
(almost certainly by accident).
The other prisoners enjoyed the diversion
along with a rare laugh.
The newcomers were quite mad,
but you had to admire their spirit.
Some of their co-incarcerates were impressed,
joining in the prayers
and entreating, in their own way,
that their gods and perhaps even this new divinity
might deliver them.
When the earthquake came and the chains fell off
they thought that some deity or other
must have been listening, but the short one
called Paul, managed to get them all to stay.
They listened as he explained
that walls and chains are an illusion
and that the only real prisons
are the ones inside. They only half believed him,
but they stayed anyway,
and often argued about it afterwards.

© Ken Rookes

Sermon poem with theology, hopefully relevant

Can we say we believe in the resurrection
when we cling so tightly to earthly life?
Do we fully walk the paths of freedom
while sisters and brothers live in bondage?
When we are anxious about our possessions
are we truly worshipping
one who gave everything away?
If our focus remains narrow,
can we ever be captive to a vision of the kingdom?
Are not our creeds of the Triune God
anything but dry and dusty dogma
when we ignore Jesus’ call to be united?
If we trust in God’s transforming Spirit
can we fear that which is new?
While we resent generosity
shown to the undeserving,
can we be truly grateful
for the blessings that we have received?
If we fail to respect our neighbour,
can we claim to be truly grasped by divine love?
Can we say we serve the God
who enthusiastically befriends mortals,
and pretend that reconciliation is not our concern?
Suffering may demonstrate faithfulness
but does not prove it;
nor does prosperity.
If we claim that God is in our heart
God must also be in our clasping of another’s hand.
The gospel of grace, once it touches the soul,
must be sung, spoken and shouted
and danced through all of life.

© Ken Rookes

My chains fell off!

When I was young person growing up in the church (about 13 or 14), I remember nothing moved me more in the church service than singing those words of the Wesley hymn “my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee.” I felt charged and close to tears with the passion of the words and the image in the story of Paul in prison. A few weeks ago at the funeral of Peter Hoare, that same hymn was sung by a packed church. I presume many of you have had the chance to sing that hymn in a packed church. It is very uplifting. But, at the same time as I was being carried away with this marvellous hymn, I looked up and, on the balcony of the church there were a large group of people who were not church people. It was fascinating to see the expressions on their faces as some of them tried to join in and others stood exchanging bemused and puzzled looks with each other. It occurred to me that some of them may have been impressed with the singing, but to most of them, the concepts involved in the hymn, the theology, was alien and unintelligible. 
To me, in my younger days those words spoke to me somehow of my own liberation from personal sin somehow. The joy I felt was about me personally and what I felt God was giving me.
I have also spent some time in my life when I have felt that those words apply to the sort of political liberation that God promises. It is a liberation from the politics of dishonesty and oppression to one of justice and compassion. In many ways that is where I am today when I think of our liberation.
As I grown older I no longer see things in that way. In fact sometimes when I look at my self in the church I feel like those people in the balcony. So we have before us the question, What do we ask of God when we say .. Be our Freedom Lord!
Rev Gordon Bannon

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The superfluous church

Millennial Jerusalem".... Now among all the startling images in this vision is a little reference to a feature of the new Jerusalem that highlights another second-best we’ve settled for. And it’s one that comes as a shock to many of us. When the reign of God comes to fruition and the new holy city is established at God’s command, it will be a city without even a single church building! Church buildings of all kinds - from the humblest chapel to the most grandiose cathedral, from the whitewashed preaching barn to the most ornate basilica - all of them will be abolished, and God will be glad to be rid of them!

John doesn’t go into any great detail on this. He simply says, while describing the city he saw in his vision, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

Why is there no special holy place of worship set aside in the city built by God? Because it doesn’t need one. Because ideally we would have never needed one, but God let us have them anyway because we weren’t coping too well without them. ...
As long as the church buildings and the liturgies and activities that take place in them are shaping a people who will worship God by the way they prayerfully live out their lives in love, mercy, justice and peace, then those buildings and their activities have a valuable place in our lives. But the history of such places shows how easily they can be corrupted so that we substitute the adoration of the place and its systems for the honouring of God in godly living. When God let us have a temple and later church buildings, it was always a risky move: a second best option taken as a concession to our need for ‘things’ to help us perceive the presence of God and taste the fruits of heaven. God allows us to make use of such things, and even honours our use of them, because God knows that most of us are still a long way short of being able to do without them. But if we are not reminded from time to time of the inherent dangers in our use of church buildings, then we are running a grave risk of repeating the mistakes that Jesus and the prophets spoke against.

Churches and their ceremonies can contribute to our ability to be the people of God who live out the love, mercy and justice of God in the world. But in the Revelation, John tells us that the day is coming when they will be utterly superfluous."

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; ...