Monday, February 24, 2014

Six days later

With his introductory, Six days later,
Matthew follows Mark in sending us backwards to his previous story; 
with its talk of losing and finding one’s life. 
A triumvirate of friends accompanies their master up the mountain, 
where the gentle swell of casual conversation
empties abruptly into a wave of light, awe and mystery.
Two glowing figures from their nation’s glorious past
emerge from among the rocks to confer with the teacher,
while his companions look on, bewildered.
One of them, as clueless as his comrades,
feeling overwhelmed and useless,
offers his services in cubby-house construction,
before being rendered speechless,
as the luminous wave rolls into a cloud of brightness
that subsumes all other lights.
Not satisfied with dominating the visual realm
the cloud finds its voice to declare the presence of a divine son,
and to command attention:
Listen to him!
When he speaks of a discipleship
that deals with suffering, dying and rising,
and when he speaks of taking up crosses;
Listen to him!

© Ken Rookes 2014 

Time out

Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus and his three closest friends having some ‘time- out’ together and the beneficial consequences of doing this. They had been having a busy time and for Jesus, it was becoming more apparent that his activities and teaching were annoying the religious authorities. They were frequently questioning him and trying to trip him up. Just before this story [16:13-16], he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the son of man is?” The term, “son of man” was a way in which people of the time referred to them-self. After they had answered, Jesus had asked, “Who do you say that I am?” and seemed pleased with the reassurance he got from them, which was different to his reaction recorded in Mark’s Gospel [Mark 8:27-29]. Perhaps Jesus, in his humanness was having a crisis of identity and was wondering himself just who he was.
...As I was writing this, there was a programme on Radio National about disciplining children. Many times during this hour, people mentioned ‘Time Out’ as a punishment which is very effective. I am always saddened to hear this. It is a shame if people think and children grow up understanding, that taking time out is a sort of punishment. While time out does generally change people, it may not be for the reason those doing the disciplining think. As we can see from our stories today, time out is a privilege, a gift we can give to ourselves and to others and a necessary part of our relationship with God.
These times out are a gift from God for us, another form of Sabbath rest in which our relationship with God others and ourselves can grow. I urge you to follow Moses and Jesus’ example, whether for one day or up to forty days. There is no way of knowing before what you will see and hear, but it is guaranteed you will come back transformed. You will see Christ in a new way and that will enrich your relationships. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you accept the invitation for some time out with God. You, too, may be radically transformed by the experience.
Rev Julianne Parker

affirmation of faith for Transfiguration

Affirmation of faith
Let us affirm our faith together:
We believe in a God who is
never confined to our imagining,
is never in bondage to our beliefs,
and never held fast in our dwelling places.
Our God is the mystery of divine
and human bound together,

of power and vulnerability, of crucifixion and resurrection.Our God is the wonder of truth and compassion,
of liberation and responsibility of
eternal wisdom and costly grace.
We celebrate this God who leaps free of all our boundaries in love
 stretching out from horizon to horizon,
and in mercy bending deep into fragile human hearts.

Dorothy McRae-McMahon

a sense of beyondness

“[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

And a Good Friday was had by all

And a Good Friday Was Had By All
 You men there, keep those women back and God 
Almighty he laid down on the crossed timber 
and old Silenus my offsider look at me as if to say nice work for soldiers, 
your mind's not your own once you sign that dotted line 
Ave Caesar and all that malarkey Imperator Rex

well this Nazarene didn't make it any easier really‑
not like the ones who kick up a fuss 
so you can do your block and take it out on them

Silenus held the spikes steady and I let fly with the sledge‑hammer, 
not looking on the downswing
 trying hard not to hear over the women's wailing
 the bones give way the iron shocking the dumb wood.

Orders is orders, I said after it was over nothing personal you understand‑
we had a drill‑sergeant once thought he was God 
but he wasn't a patch on you

then we hauled on the ropes and he rose in the hot air
 like a diver just leaving the springboard,
 arms spread so it seemed over the whole damned creation 
over the big men who must have had it in for him and the curious ones 
who'll watch anything if it's free with only the usual women caring anywhere 
and a blind man in tears.

Painting by Rev Wes Campbell (used with permission)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

But I say to you, love.

If we wear his name
and pretend to listen to his words,
then we know that we’re expected
to do a lot of loving.
The God he called Father?
Fair enough, once you get your mind around
the concept of an immanent Deity
whose nature is grace and compassion;
the loving becomes our response.
One another?
Would appear to be do-able,
but there are still occasions
when one’s capacity for loving is tested.
Your neighbour, (as yourself)?
Meaning the people you meet and deal with;
creating emotional commitment
where none previously existed;
this certainly makes heavier demands
upon our limited supplies of love and goodwill.
Your enemies?
Here we rule the line on loving.
We are not alone:
millennia of tradition in the church,
and the culture shaped by it,
have managed to set aside this teaching
as excessive, inappropriate and ill-considered.
Not to be taken literally.
But then, if you’ve really got a problem
with loving your enemies,
don’t have any.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Being generous is the key

In the three readings, Leviticus, Corinthians and Matthew, we are being encouraged to be generous in ways we may not have thought about. We limit the concept of generosity when we think of it only as the physical act of giving. It is also an attitude of mind and spirit; part of a loving nature, such as when we give someone the benefit of the doubt, when we give our time, talents and energy, and when we “fore”-give.
Generosity is an attribute of God and is listed as a fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22]. Paul reminded the folk in Corinth that God’s Spirit lives in us. So we are able to be generous as a result. “For all things are yours…-- all belong to you”     [1 Corinthians 3:21,22] and in the story of the two sons [Luke 15:31] the Father told the older son, “All that I have is yours.” You can’t be given more than that!
The common theme through our readings for today is God’s call for us to be generous in our attitudes. God doesn’t call us to be what God is not. It is not just about being generous with our physical belongings and our wealth. It is about being generous in every aspect of our lives; generosity of spirit, generosity in forgiveness, in giving of our time and skills and of the gifts we have received.
The ways in which we can behave with a generous attitude include treating people with disabilities with respect. It is interesting that three thousand years ago people were being urged not to treat deaf people as though they unintelligent. It is a problem they still have today. Often we are unsympathetic and impatient with people with this disability. It takes a generous attitude to listen patiently and to speak clearly when communicating with them.
A generous spirit allows us to not be judgemental and to forgive more easily. Having worked as a Prison Chaplain, I know that there is not much generosity shown towards criminals. As a society, we judge them harshly and call for longer sentences rather than work to eliminate the circumstances that lead to criminality.
From Matthew, turning the other cheek, giving your cloak as well as your coat, going the extra mile, giving to beggars and lending to borrowers are all generous acts.
When God gave us freewill, God must have known that we would make a mess of things, that we would choose unwisely and selfishly and so God generously planned before to give us the freedom to make new starts. This is ‘fore-give-ness’, the gift enables us to get on with life without the burden of guilt.
Many of our prayers lack an understanding of, or trust in God’s generosity. We may plead over and over for God to give us something when we could have a generous attitude to God and trust that God will not withhold any good thing from us if it is within God’s ability to give it. God constantly shows a generous attitude towards us. Let’s take hold of the promise from Paul [1 Cor.3:21b-23]. “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.” Because of God’s generosity, we have abundantly more than we could ask for or even think of.
As we love because God first loved us, so may we be generous in all aspects of life.
(REv Julianne Parker)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

But I say to you

Master rhetorician,
Jesus from Nazareth,
knew the primacy of the law
in the minds of the people
who ran religion in his country.
He felt the weight of the
shadow cast across a millennium by Moses,
knowing how his words had sought
to guide the nation
and to inform the lives of its citizens.
It was part of the deal with the Almighty,
constructing limits to bad behaviour,
and establishing righteousness and justice
as the preferred shapes of national life.
“You have heard it said,’
he was wont to say,
cleverly grounding his teachings in the law,
“But I say to you;”
cunningly suggesting that there might be
a worthwhile idea/thought/action
that takes us beyond law.
He was also wont
to name that possible something
as generosity, forgiveness,
and love.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

the tension between justice and mercy

A missionary, home on furlough, came to speak to the congregation. Among other things he told how a young man, newly converted to Christianity had taken literally Matthew 5:29. He had looked longingly at the wife of one of his friends and he knew this was wrong according to the Bible. The Good Book says, “It is better for you to lose one member than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” so he tore his eye out. He died painfully a couple of weeks later from the infection created by the damage he had done to himself. Is this what Jesus meant? Is it what Jesus wants from us?

In Deuteronomy 30, and many other places, the Bible urges us to choose life.  Maybe the young man had not chosen death, but it was the consequence of his action. Jesus also said he had come that they might have abundant life [John 10:10].
...As we understand more about the Jewish faith of which Jesus was part, and the Hebrew people, we see that they didn’t see the commandments as absolutes for perfect obedience. They saw them as guidelines for living that gave people the option of considering for themselves the right way to behave in any given situation.
Recently one of the lectionary readings was Micah 6:1-8. Verse 8 reminds us that what God requires of us is to act justly and love mercy. Throughout Scripture there is a tension between justice and mercy. We know they are probably the most important components of God’s love and living God’s Way. But we can never be completely just and completely merciful at the same time. When we are being just to one person we tip the scales away from being merciful and when we are being merciful we are often being less than just to someone else. We are called to hold the two in tension.
...When we look at the Gospels as a whole, we see that Jesus practiced what is called situation ethics where he decided in each situation how to respond to the needs of people to be fed and healed. His words in Matthew 5 seem unnecessarily harsh and incompatible with the compassionate nature of God. We can only guess at the reason for this teaching.
We can respect our maturity and chew things over before deciding in any situation if the commandment about this is one to honour.  We can seek to balance justice and mercy in decisions. In my ministry I have met a number of older women whose lives have been hell in abusive marriages and I am pleased that we now encourage people to escape abusive relationships.
In the reading from Deuteronomy 30, Moses was pleading to the people to choose life. Immediately before the part we heard is the verse, “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” These words are encouraging the people to trust that they can tell and will know what to obey and when not to.
When we look at Jesus’ actions as well as listening to his words we are guided in how to behave. It is good if we can put more emphasis on the trust part of trust and obey; trust Jesus’ leading, trust others and trust yourself as Moses urged and you will find there are many ways to be happy in Jesus as well as trusting and obeying.
(excerpts from Rev Julianne Parker's sermon for the week, see here for complete sermon)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Be different

Who is the light of the world?

It always interests me that our reading this week has Jesus describing us as the light of the world, but so many of our images neatly duck-shove that responsibility onto Jesus. Take it on board folks, the wonder, the power, the affirmation that we have in Jesus describing us as "the light of the world"

You are salt

The salt gives of itself,
accepting its modest part,
and knowing that its culinary duty
is not to dominate,
but to enhance.
Its freedom is generous,
it is there for the other;
profligate as it imparts its saltiness.

The master gathers his followers;
calls them salt,
at large upon earth.
The disciple pours out self recklessly,
to enhance the justice,
to build the peace;
knowing that hope is an elusive costly thing,
and that the apparently foolish vision
of a world seasoned and shaped by love,
was never imagined.

© Ken Rookes 2014

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; ...