Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Burning bush

Paul Koli

you are a fire always burning ...

You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soul's selfish love; you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light. In your
light you have made me know your truth: You are that light beyond all light who gives the mind's eye supernatural light in such fullness and perfection that you bring clarity even to the light of faith. In that faith I see that my soul has life, and in that light receives you who are Light.

Catherine of Siena

Monday, August 25, 2014

Make haste to be kind

"In the early Christian communities to whom Matthew and Paul wrote, there was a strong sense that the Kingdom of God was coming soon. The familiar blessing paraphrased from the Swiss philosopher and poet Henri Frédéric Amiel synthesizes Jesus’ admonition and Paul’s advice: Life is short and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this journey with us, so be quick to love and make haste to be kind.
Jesus, in revealing that the messianic era is imminent, also explains how the disciples are to live in the intervening time: They are to live with the paradox of faith. One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is that the Messiah must suffer and die before he is raised to eternal life. This paradox makes a concrete statement of the Christological idea that Jesus is the embodiment of both the reality of the divine and the reality of this world. Jesus even issues his instructions to the disciples in the form of a paradox: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
We are to live the way of the great “I Am” and the glorious “I shall be.” We are to live a life of reverent prayer and a life of faithful action. We are to live as if we have not much time and as if we have all the time in the world.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, as he faced suffering with great faith:
“What remains for us is only the very narrow path, sometimes barely discernible, of taking each day as if it were the last and yet living it faithfully and responsibly as if there were yet to be a great future.”
This is the divine way. It is also the human way. This is the mystery and the paradox of faith."

Take your shoes off!

(see sermons page for full sermon)

I can remember adults shouting at me when I was a child, “Put some shoes on!” so it is welcoming to hear someone say, “Take your shoes off”.
It came as a surprise to hear people reading the story of Moses’ meeting with God and using an angry voice as if God was saying, “Take off your shoes, you stupid man. Don’t you recognise Holy Ground when you see it!” Maybe they were remembering a parent saying, “How many times do I have to tell you to take your shoes off when you come inside.  I've just washed that floor” or “You’re getting mud on the carpet!”
Our life experiences have an impact on the way we see ourselves and others and the way we see God. For instance, I see God as saying these words in a welcoming way; “Relax and make yourself at home”. God could be speaking in a playful way, implying, “Take off your shoes and give your toes a wiggle in the sand”. Or God could be caring, like saying, “Your shoes must be killing you. Feel free to take them off.”
Maybe some think that God was outraged by Moses’ curiosity and was saying, “How dare you approach ME with your shoes on!”
It is just as plausible that God was reassuring Moses, “This is safe ground. You don’t need shoes for protection here. I invite you to make yourself comfortable”. God may have been inviting Moses to retreat, come away from his everyday life to spent some time with God.
Depending on how we see God, one or another of these, or even a different interpretation may seem closest to what we think was actually going on in this exchange. This either reinforces what we always thought or challenges us to see in a new way.
It is not only challenging how we see God. It also relates to what shoes mean in our society. Christianity is one of the few religions of the world which doesn’t require people to remove their shoes when they enter a sacred place. For most people round the world, removing shoes shows respect.
Has our attitude to bare feet come about because, in our culture, we see shoes as status and fashion symbols? We have expressions such as ‘well shod’ and ‘down at heel’ which indicate what shoes might say to us

Are we ready to take off our shoes and engage with the work to which we are called?
REv Julianne Parker

From that time on.

From that time on

That day,
when he called us together
and gave us the talk,
changed everything;
our lives included.
No going back to the easy excitement
of those earlier times, halcyons,
when the message was new,
along with the company.

We move on.
The journey becomes more determined,
the actions more considered;
the serious stuff has begun.
It was never a light thing,
but now we talk openly
of the struggles,
the suffering,
the dying.

This chosen road passes
from light to darkness,
and back to light again.
It takes us into the shadowed places,
the dim corners of a world
that waits yearningly for a coming;
for those who might bear even a glimmer,
the smallest spark
of defiant hope.

From that time on
we began to be disciples.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Who do you say that i am?

Romans 12: constructive nonconformity

I love Martin Luther-King's sermons for their passion and depth of thought. In this sermon he takes the first couple of verses of Romans 12 as inspiration. (forgive his exclusive language; a product of his time). I think this is a message for our time as well in relation to a Christian stance on asylum seekers, global poverty and war.
"Men are afraid to stand alone for their convictions. There are those who have high and noble ideals, but they never reveal them because they are afraid of being nonconformist I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and discrimination, but they never took a real stand against it because of fear of standing alone I have seen many young people and older people alike develop undesirable habits not because they wanted to do i t in the beginning, not even because they enjoyed it, but because they were ashamed of saying “no” when the rest of the group was saying “yes” Even the Christian church has often been afraid to stand up for what is right because the majority didn't sanction it. The church has too often been an institution seeming to crystallize and conserve the patterns of the crowd. The mere fact that slavery, segregation, war, and economic exploitation have been sanctioned by the church is a fit testimony to the fact that the church has too often conformed to the authority of the world rather than conforming to the authority of God. 
Even we preachers have manifested our fear of being nonconformist. So many of us turn into showman and even clowns, distorting the real meaning of the gospel, in an attempt to conform to the crowd. How many minister’s of Jesus Christ have sacrificed their precious ideals and cherished convictions on the altar of the crowd? How many people today are caught in the shackles of the crowd? Many of us think we find a sort of security in conforming to the ideas of the mob? 
But my friends it is the nonconformists that have made history, Not those who always look to see which way the majority is going before they make a decision not those who are afraid to say no when everybody else is saying yes, but history has been made by those who could stand up before the crowd and not bow The great creative insights have come from men who were in a minority It was the minority that fought for religious liberty, it was the minority that brought about the freedom of scientific research In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist Now let us make it clear that nonconformity in itself might not be good There is a type of bad nonconformity. There is no virtue in being a nonconformist just to be a nonconformist. Some people are nonconformist just to get attention and to be different. So Paul gives us a formula for constructive nonconformity which is found in the second half of the text. In order to discern the true will of God and become constructive nonconformist we must accept a new mental outlook. We must be transformed Jesus’ phrase for this experience was the new birth. And so only when we have been born again can we be true nonconformist. We are called upon to be transformed nonconformists. This is our eternal challenge as Christians.
The spiritual strength and moral courage of Jesus amid the temptation in the wilderness is our eternal challenge. Jesus was born at a time when the majority of people thought of the Kingdom as a political kingdom and thought of the Messiah as the one who would restore this political kingdom with all of his power and pomp and riches And all of the temptations that Satan offered Christ were temptations to
fall in line with this type of material political kingdom. In other words he was urging Christ to conform to wishes of the mob. 
Who will take the attitude of Jesus and be a sincere nonconformist? Today we stand on the brink of moral and physical destruction and the great need of the hour is sincere nonconformist men who will stand amid a world of materialism and treat all men as brothers, men who will stand up in a world that attempts to
solve its problems by war and declare that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword"."

big questions about life

There are several big questions that people ask about life and the universe. Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?” is one of these fundamental questions that are in the hearts and minds of humans.
People say that the poor don’t drive cars, that indigenous inhabitants of Australia are not worth bothering about; that Muslims are terrorists; that all unemployed are dole bludgers and the elderly are a burden on society, that if you are rich you are to be admired, that if you are a top sportsman, you are worthy of idolisation etc… Often these opinions are conveyed in non-verbal ways. Jesus’ question calls us to reflect on who we say we are and who we say others are. It also challenges us to consider who we say God is.

If people asked us “Who do you say that I am?” how might they react to our stereotypical answers? In the reading from Hebrew Scripture, we heard that the new Pharaoh said the Israelites were a threat. Previously Pharaohs had said they were welcome members of society.  Things changed radically for them when the Pharaoh said this about them. Having labelled them a threat, he then felt compelled to eliminate the threat by ordering the midwives to kill boy babies. Midwives say by the very nature of their work, that all babies are important, welcome members of the community.
Rev Julianne Parker
(see sermons page for full sermon)

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Keys of the Kingdom

The keys of the kingdom have been lost.
We know that Peter had them,
but he swears that he hasn’t seen them
for a long while.
Rumour has it they ended up in Rome.

There’s been quite a succession
of claimants to the role of custodian,
but some of us aren’t convinced
that any of them really knew
where the keys were.

Traditionally they hung from a ring
on the keeper’s belt. In recent times
they were apparently stored away,
and brought out on ceremonial occasions
with incense, robes and choirs.

Big and bronze, the keys clinked and rattled,
but were mostly only used
to regulate and control.
They did that effectively enough;
until recently.

They’re gone; not much doubt.
Doesn’t matter though,
and there isn’t any real point
prolonging the search; it’s widely thought
that the locks have all been broken

for some time, now.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Do we dare take such risks?

We tend to think of faith as only our faith in God, but faith is much bigger than this. The section of Matthew’s Gospel which we are reading at present is about faith.
1Corinthians 13:13 says, “Now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”  Love is the greatest and the other two are almost as important. In some ways of looking at it, they form part of love. To love someone requires that you have faith in them and hope for them. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with hearts, minds, souls, and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves. [Matthew 22:37,39] This is also applicable to faith. We are to have faith in the Lord our God and in our neighbours as in ourselves.
The central tenet of our faith is belief in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also have other important trinities. In the two passages I have just spoken about we have God, others, and ourselves, as one trinity and faith, hope and love as another. When things are linked together like this, they have a special relationship to one another. 
We are wonderful and precious creations of God, made in God’s image but we can fail to give God glory by lacking faith in ourselves and others. We want God to do things for us which we CAN only do for ourselves.  Jesus could not walk on the water for Peter.  Peter had to do it for himself. The woman in today’s story had to come and ask as did the brothers of Joseph. Jesus did not take the initiative in many healings. People had to take the risk of approaching him and asking. This requires faith in oneself.

Do we dare take such risks?
Rev Julianne Parker (see sermons page for full sermon)


The Bible,
that most ancient collection of writings,
esteemed by some and held sacred by others,
includes traces of racism and religious prejudice.
More than a few fragments,
if we’re able to admit it.
Its stories include a powerful foundational myth
asserting a nation’s superiority
as God’s chosen people;
making the avoidance of such prejudiced conclusions
somewhat problematic.
Occasionally a reckless prophet- type person
came along to question that myth;
they were generally pointed
in the direction of the door.
It is still so.
Even Jesus, the travelling teacher from the north,
seems to have been comfortable enough
with established opinion on this matter.
It took some time,
together with the insistent and intrusive pleadings
of a desperate foreign woman;
but at last, we are pleased to say,
his metaphorical copper coin loosened,
and finally dropped.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sounds of silence

The silence of the Church in the 21st Century is deafening. Perhaps the silence rises and grows because the call from the liberal church for inclusive, distributive justice is drowned out by the fundamentalists’ exclusive, retributive message, which the media have assumed defines “Christianity.”
No wonder old Elijah emerged from the silence in such a negative state that God had to act to replace him.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence.
Christian “faith” has become believing in magic: walking on water, calming storms, curing terminal illness, finding parking places. While there are no magic wands or crystal balls, the cross has nevertheless conveyed magic power.
Christian “faith” is not just about Jesus coming back from the dead, nor is it about avoiding death altogether. Christian “faith” is trust in God as the source of Mercy, Hope, justice and compassion that holds sway in the Universe, despite us and sometimes through us.

Similarly the story in the gospel today about Jesus walking on the water is not about magic, even God’s magic, it is about the deeper truth that, even when we feel like we are sinking, or that God is absent or silent, God is still present to us and our distress and will walk with us and hold us up.
The news everyday is telling us that all is going to rack and ruin, but the gospel message is that God in Christ is moving all things to reconciliation and renewal.
And it is in the strength of that, with the strength of that vision that we continue to do the things we do.
The church’s call is to be that fellowship of reconciliation and renewal. 

glimpsing Jesus through the mist

The gospel reading is about Jesus inviting Peter, at Peter’s request, to walk on the water. Peter was one of Jesus’ chosen ones. Jesus called Peter and had faith that Peter could do this and encouraged him to do so. We have sometimes thought that Peter sank because he lost faith in Jesus, but this is not consistent with the story. When he sank, Peter called to Jesus to rescue him. If he had lost faith in Jesus, surely he would have tried to get back to the boat under his own steam, or he would have called to those in the boat to save him, not Jesus.  He lost faith in HIMSELF when he took his eyes off Jesus.
Peter literally got cold feet, something that many of us have experienced. Jesus brought him back to safety.
The underlying call is for the courage and confidence to do what we could not imagine ourselves doing in the following of Christ.  This requires faith in ourselves and encouragement from others in demonstration of their faith in us.

Where are we glimpsing Christ through the mist now?  Does it excite us?  Deep down, would you like to have a go?  Well, you know what to do, ask God and watch for the response!
Rev Julianne Parker (see sermons page for full sermon)

He Came

He came
stepping from wave to wave
defying Archimedes,
and the laws of gravity,
at least according to the story.
This, of course, is a sticking point
for many in our sceptical scientific age,
including me.

“Come,” says the journeying man.
“Come to me,
come with me.
Together we shall travel
to the shadowed places;
where despair is deep, fears imprison,
and worries and concerns threaten to overwhelm.
We shall whisper hope,
touch with love and life,
and bring to birth the peace
for which our weeping planet yearns.
And should the waves rise to engulf us,
and should the primeval chaos
reassert itself to swallow us up,
then we shall sink together;
embracing death
and finding fulfilment.”

© 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; ...