Monday, October 28, 2013

The big complaint

This was the big complaint,
the one that had them all grumbling:
He has gone to be the guest
of one who is a sinner.
He’s hanging out with the ratbags,
the worthless ones;
the dodgy people that nobody cares about.
Taking seriously his message,
(he says it comes from God),
of life-changing love,
and grace without limit;
he takes it beyond the mere words
of earlier stories
and moves confidently
into disreputable reality.
Apparently unconcerned
by the great offence he has caused
to those who practise polite religion,
he claps his hands,
laughs in celebration
of the unexpected new beginning;
and calls it ‘salvation’.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Come down, Zacchaeus.

The crowd offered no help
to the short-in-stature man, whose face
confirmed their initial impression
that this was one Zacchaeus, chief
among the ratbag tax collectors.

The tree was a sycamore;  its gnarled
and twisted branches offered a convenient
means of elevation, enabling the man to rise
above his dilemma and successfully view the teacher,
whose reputation had travelled ahead of him,
all the way to Jericho.

Perhaps the Zac-man’s reputation
had also preceded him. Who can say?
When the teacher looked through
the shadowed leaves and branches
he saw the face of the climbing man,
and called him down with an unexpected invitation.

Hospitality is extended and accepted,
much to the grumbling derision  of the good religious people,
who could offer only sneering observations
about who one should choose as friends.
The teacher laughs them off,
captive to a larger vision of divine friendship.

Unsettled by such disturbing grace,
sinner Zacchaeus offers compensation
and justice to any he has defrauded;
a sure sign that the gospel has been truly proclaimed
and the kingdom has indeed come near.

© Ken Rookes 2010

The Bonsai Man

Zacchaeus the Bonsai man,
growing stunted and gnarled;
his roots bound and starved
of human respect and affection.

Until the gardener looks up
into the twisted branches
of another tree, sees him,
calls him friend,

uproots him from the cruel pot
of judgement and derision
and offers him a plot
in the field of God's kingdom.

There he can grow as God intends;
with space to send roots deep into love,
to stretch out his limbs,
and to be made fruitful.

© Ken Rookes

Paul Gauguin, The vision after the Sermon, Jacob wrestling with the angel.

 "For me in this picture the landscape and the struggle exist only in the imagination of the people praying owing to the sermon, which is why there is contrast between the life-size people and the struggle in its non-natural, disproportionate landscape."
(Paul Gaugin)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I am flawed

I am flawed:
not what I could be,
not what I should be.
I need your grace, Lord,
to paint me a picture
to see what I might become.
Let me look into your mirror,
and let me be brave and strong
and filled with enough love
to go at least part of the way.
God, be merciful to me,
a sinner.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Standing far off

Standing alone
while the good people pray out loud;
aching with the deep sadness of one
whose life lacks the easy handles
of the uncomplicated
and comfortably righteous.
Standing separate
in the unfashionable garb of the outsider,
with head scarf and turban
as the indelible red stamp
inviting the special treatment
of those who are different.
Standing in isolation
in the designated space
in the appointed queue,
watching as doors are opened
for a moment
and shut again, tightly.
Standing apart,
yearning to belong,
waiting for the word, crying:
Lord, have mercy!

© Ken Rookes

Monday, October 21, 2013

My own ponderings

Pondering our situation in the church at the moment. The churches in our Synod are going through a process where many churches are being sold to raise money to cover a debt, This sale is being done, at times against the will of the congregations concerned. Of course the Synod has attempted to do it in a pastoral manner and to follow through where there is anger and grief (and there is a bit of that), but we are left with a great deal of hurt and blame perhaps, a little self-righteousness.
Into this situation comes Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and i cannot help but feel that it speaks to our human situation. When we are hurt and angry, we can tend to lash out and try and blame others, making ourselves out to be more righteous in our pain. When we are in places of power and influence, we are vulnerable to that sense of blame and therefore to being defensive of our position and our own 'righteousness'. In both cases we put up walls between each and and between ourselves and our God.
Jesus' answer?
Recognise our own weaknesses, our own vulnerability and open our hearts to God and to the other. Break down the walls that our self-righteousness puts between us.
Easily said, i know. But in the power of the Christ? Who knows?
Gordon Bannon

The Pharisee and the tax collector

The Pharisee and the Tax-Collector by Duncan Long

What Jesus is interested in.

 "Jesus is not interested in our comparing ourselves with the Pharisee or the tax collector or anyone else. Jesus is not interested in our identifying who is like the Pharisee today and who is like the tax collector. Jesus is interested in our hearts being open before God and so being open to discovering what is of true and ultimate worth, discovering the unique person we were created to be. The judgment of God can be a window into how our life can be and how our life has not been all that it could have been. If, as and when we can hear God's judgment in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, then beating our breasts and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," is not a bad response. It will renew our trust in the source of our life. It will strengthen us to live in love even when we find ourselves in turmoil and foment."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Where might faith be found?
Perhaps he would start at the Vatican,
moving on to the Holy Land,
grand cathedrals, mosques, stupas, synagogues
or country churches.
Or would he look for it in kitchens, parks or factories?

And among whom might he look for it?
The rich and the prosperous,
the powerful and the comfortable,
or among the poor, the weeping, and the desperate?

Among the convinced,
or the questioning?
Confident creed reciters,
or honest doubters?
Reckless lovers,
or staunch defenders?

And what will faith look like?
Traditionalist suggest it will be cross-shaped,
polished timber and silver,
designed by a sculptor.
Or it could be an intersection thing,
a vertical timber, rough hewn,
supporting a horizontal;
red stained with rust marked holes?

More likely it will be less obvious,
like tear-streaked faces
and dirty hands, reaching.

© Ken Rookes 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

In exile

In exile,
the forcibly dispossessed people of Yahweh
receive a letter from afar.
The mad and lonely prophet instructs them to stop resisting,
to make peace with their conquerors.
Reluctant dwellers in an alien city,
they have expended many tears for Jerusalem,
and the God who dwelt in its temple.

The holy city they called home, lies ruined;
they are cut off, abandoned.
Now, the prophet tells them,
in his long-distance epistle,
their separation from those ancient stones
must not lead to despair.
They are to trust impossibly
that the strange purposes of their apparently absent God
will yet be revealed.

“Become dual citizens,”
the treasonous words of the missive urge.
“Make yourself neighbours to your enemies,
and seek their well-being;
along with that of their heathen city.
Accept offers of friendship;
build, plant, take jobs, establish businesses
and call this place home.
Fall in love, take wives, beget children
and look to the time
when you can take pleasure in your grandchildren;
you will be here for some time yet.
But it will be all right.

“Don’t forget, covenant people of God,
to pray for your adopted city,
and its people.
In this way your enemies will become your friends
and you will all benefit.
Yes, and it will be all right.”

© Ken Rookes 2013

turned back, praising

My skin connects me to the world,
its creases and lines are my interface
with everything and everyone else.
When people look upon me it is my skin,
framing my eyes and giving form to my soul,
that they see.
When I greet friends,
and our hands clasp
and our lips and cheeks touch,
it is my skin, and their’s,
that momentarily join.
When I embrace, and make love,
it is my skin, damp and flushed,
that unites me with my lover.

My skin betrayed me;
it turned leprous.
I became frightful,
a disfigured object of separation;
even children, normally curious and accepting,
were instructed to run away.
No-one would look upon my face,
there was none to touch or caress;
my pain was made complete in my despair.
Nor was there anyone to greet me,
save my equally reluctant comrades in disconnection.

We lived in places in between,
where people passed through
out of need, not choice.
Thus the Teacher came by one day;
we shouted from a distance, not daring to approach.
Showing the requested mercy,
he spoke his words of generous healing,
restoring skin and life,
and releasing great joy.

© Ken Rookes

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; ...