What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely. It [Christianity] proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new. It offers food without exception to the worthy and unworthy, the screwed-up and pious, and then commands everyone to do the same. It doesn't promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God's.
Take This Bread: The spiritual memoir of a twenty-first century Christian (book)
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
In those years
when we moved in evangelical circles
we welcomed Jesus into our hearts
being careful to get the formula correct.
This, we were assured,
would see us transformed,
by grace, into sons and daughters of God,
and ensure our entitlement to a place in heaven.
It didn’t make us disciples;
that may or may not have come later,
perhaps as a consequence.
It’s an uncertain metaphor;
making Jesus welcome.
There he is, knocking on Holman Hunt’s
weed-locked door with his lantern glowing
in the darkness.
Open your heart, let him in.
The cup of cold water
suggests a different welcoming.
Open your heart to the thirsty, the hungry
the struggling, the distressed,
the poor and the wretched.
Stand with courage to denounce evil
and oppose the unjust.
Repudiate the false idols
of wealth, comfort and power.
Give yourself, be a disciple,
create hope, make peace, do love;
that’s where the welcoming gets serious.
© Ken Rookes 2014
Jesus spoke of welcoming prophets and they have been some of the most unwelcome people in society through the centuries. It is the role of prophets to point out to people how they have strayed from God’s way and to call them back into relationship with God. Most people who are comfortable where they are, simply do not want to hear that they are on the wrong path and ignore the prophets or try to discredit or destroy them. Do we welcome the news about climate change and what we need to do to halt it? Do we welcome news about how our government is treating the strangers who come to our shores looking for help. Are we willing to welcome more people to share our land? Do we welcome the news that the Muslim people of Bendigo wish to build a place where they can worship the God of Abraham?
As Jesus implies, welcoming has implications. Welcoming Jesus means you are also welcoming the one who sent Jesus. Welcoming prophets and righteous people will bring the appropriate reward. A favourite hymn these days is “I the Lord of sea and sky.” It is usually sung lustily, especially the chorus where the words say, “I will go Lord, if you need me. I will hold your people in my heart.” In other worlds, we are saying that we will welcome God’s people into the most intimate part of our lives and love them. But God’s people, perhaps surprisingly, can be prickly and hard to welcome, sometimes ungrateful for our efforts. Are we prepared to go on welcoming them into our homes and hearts?
Sometimes when we are unwelcoming of thoughts like doubts, they seem to multiple on our doorsteps to trip us up when we are least expecting it. Soon you will be welcoming a new minister. Have you ever noticed the clause in the induction service which asks the people of the congregation if they will welcome the minister into their home.
God is welcoming of us into close relationship. Jesus welcomed sinners and drunkards. When we able to be welcoming to all who come, even with a glass of water, we will be truly rewarded, even if it may be in the most surprising ways.
Rev Julianne Parker
Full sermon on sermon page
Monday, June 16, 2014
When did sin become so important to Christians? When did we think that all that mattered to God was whether we were pure according to certain moral standards? When did we get the impression that God only loved us when we were obedient to certain sets of laws?
From the beginning of the Hebrew Scripture, we are presented with the conflicting understandings of God. One understanding is of a distant, fearsome God who we must obey or suffer the consequent punishment. The other is an ever-present God of grace who wants the best for each person and encourages love and life.
Towards the end of his life, Paul told the Corinthians that they were dead to sin. We died to sin when we were baptised. And just as Christ was raised after his death, we too, have been raised to walk in new life. Our resurrection life is like that of Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are free from sin. We have been freed from sin to live with Christ. The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once and for all. So we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. [Romans 6:5-11] But do we or are we trapped into thinking of ourselves primarily as sinners and that this is all that matters to God?
We are already saved from sin. We are not wretched sinners as the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” would have us believe. We are no longer slaves to the Law. We are free to live and move and have our being in God in relationship with God of love, justice and grace. We are free to consider for ourselves how our decisions will impact others and whether therefore we should behave one way or another. We have a more mature relationship with God who has faith in us to do what is good for everyone concerned. In doing so, we become less judgemental of others and ourselves.
Rev Julianne Parker
(full sermon in sermon section)
The literalists pedal frantically backwards
with explanatory excuses,
but fail to justify the misogynist cruelty
of the Hagar story.
The great Patriarch’s wife is portrayed
as complicit in the abuse,
even the initiator;
it compounds the betrayal.
The girl is a slave,
property of an aged and desperate couple.
She is a foreigner,
with none to look out for her interests.
Her body is not her own,
nor her fertility;
it is theirs to do what they like,
and they do.
Hagar gives birth to the child of hope,
and then, when circumstances change,
out of jealousy and fear they cast the girl aside;
her child too, driven out into the wilderness.
Somehow they survive.
The Patriarch’s god, we are told,
tacitly approves of the ill-treatment,
having promised to fix things up in the end.
Not one of his better moments.
© Ken Rookes 2014
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Images have been used such as clover leaves where the three segments are likely to be identical, or of a person as a daughter, partner and mother, in an effort to understand to the mystery of the Trinity. Rather than trying to explain the unexplainable, let’s look at what it might mean for humanity to be made in the image of this mystery.
One of the fundamental arguments for the Trinitarian nature of God is at the very beginning of our Scripture in Genesis 1:26,27. We have the words with plural pronouns, “Then God said, “Let US make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness….. in the image of God [he] created them; male and female [he] created them.” We are reminded that in Hebrew Scripture, the Spirit of God and the Wisdom of God are feminine. It would seem that the Trinitarian God is totally masculine and totally feminine as this is what humanity as a whole is like.
Throughout history no two humans have ever been absolutely identical. Even the most identical of identical twins have their differences. What does this say about the creator God? We expect people to be like us, not too different. If they are of the same race, socio-economic background, even family, we expect to be similar and, of course we are in many ways, but not all, by any means. As a consequence, we may subconsciously think that God is like us.
The Trinitarian nature of God models community and coming together in the diversity of how we were created and who we are with different height, body shape, tolerance, health, understanding and intelligence. We have complex differences in our personalities as we are along the continuum from extremely extrovert to extremely introvert.
There is wisdom and richness in diversity. Maybe the greatest gift to us in the image of God as Trinity is that it normalizes diversity for us. Humanity as a whole is made in the image of God. To imply that any one part of humanity is more God- like than any other part is failing God, others and ourselves. Life in all its fullness is about embracing and celebrating diversity of creation and especially among humans. When we can do this, we will truly be worshipping the mystery which is Triune God.
Rev Julianne Parker (full sermon in sermon section)
In the fabled first Genesis account
of the formation of the universe,
(six days of divine activity,
resting on the seventh), creation
was enthusiastically declared, “good!”
by the plural yet singular god
designated as creator.
Towards the end of the story
the divine handiwork was entrusted
to the recently instituted humankind;
along with the injunctions
to be fruitful and multiply,
and to fill the earth and subdue it.
We proved to be adept at all those things.
The subjugation of the planet
and the exploitation of its resources
(including its peoples),
were found to be particularly profitable;
especially the conquering, digging, blasting,
scooping, drilling, felling, clearing, refining,
selling, trading and dominating.
Less easy, and politically problematic,
was the task of maintaining creation
in its beauty, hope and goodness
for the benefit of all humankind;
not to mention the bees and the frogs.
© Ken Rookes 2014
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Monday, June 2, 2014
I love this image. At first glance it seems like multicoloured flames of fire, then you realise that it is actually a field of brightly coloured grass. (found at http://suzanneharaburd.com/2013/06/pentecost-iii/)
For this all you'll need is frosted cupcakes, mini marshmallows cut in half diagonally and red and/or orange colored sugar. Arrange the marshmallows dipped in colored sugar around the cupcake so they point upward. Go around the cupcake twice. Then for the middle put another dollop of frosting and three more halved marshmallows dipped in colored sugar.
We have John’s version of the imparting of the Holy Spirit as well as that from Acts, two quite different stories. Which one are we to believe? John’s version has been largely overlooked in favour of the more spectacular story from Acts. It is possible that it happened both ways. A number of times when there are two or more versions of something in our Scripture, we have chosen to stress one and ignore the other and by doing so, we often miss what the second telling has for us. We may fail to hear God’s voice in the neglected story and that is a loss for us.
Poor old Moses was having a hard time of it. The people he was leading to a new and better life were hungry, thirsty, tired, and grieving for their old way of life, uncertain of what the future held. Their life in Egypt had not been a bed of roses. There had been times when they had longed to be free but they hadn't thought that this was what freedom would be. They had become disillusioned.
It was not what Moses had signed up for either. The journey had been longer and harder than he had imagined and he was disheartened. Moses said to God, “I am not able to carry these people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once.” Numbers 11:14,15a. An amazing thing in this story is that when Moses told God how he was feeling, God immediately responded with help for him.
God instructed Moses to gather together seventy elders that God would empower through the Spirit to assist Moses in bearing the burden of the people. Moses must have been feeling a huge weight for God to enable seventy to help him. Many of our clergy are feeling like Moses, that the load is too heavy to carry.
In our Presbytery, we have many specially blessed by the Spirit to assist the flagging leaders. We have a pool of lay leaders God has equipped with the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. There are many wise ones and those who speak with justice, mercy and healing. Some of the most valuable are those who care and encourage in local areas. They are gifted to speak a language their neighbours understand. May God continue to bless them as we continue on our Pilgrim Journey.
Rev Julianne Parker
(full sermon on sermons page)
(full sermon on sermons page)
The essential otherness,
named by many as God,
having been credited with the creative endeavour,
generosity and love
out of which the planet is born and renewed,
once breathed life into the nostrils
of a figure sculpted from earth’s dust;
or so the ancient story tells us.
A man called Jesus,
sometimes designated child of God
and touched wildly by the spirit,
once re-enacted that mythical event;
at least according to another,
slightly less-ancient, narrative.
among a group of frightened and uncertain friends,
he pursed his lips
and blew gently upon their puzzled faces
with his spirit-breath invitation:
to live generously,
to love with passion, and,
drawing upon their reserves
of courage, grace and vulnerability,
to address the planet’s plaintive plea
for justice, hope and peace.
Or to at least make a start.
© Ken Rookes 2014