Monday, October 27, 2014

Making the path easier

In the Gospel reading for today [Matthew 23:], Jesus had seen that by their actions, those who were supposed to be leading the people were in fact restricting them, imprisoning them in unfair laws, limiting their movement by laying heavy burdens of unnecessary requirements on them. The Church has placed burdens on people in the way it has interpreted and taught the Bible and rules it has made.
For some years some in the church have been shedding some of the burdens placed on them by past expectations and understandings of Scripture. Many old perceptions have died or have been left behind as people have been freed to understand things in new ways or have come to know the historical Jesus better. At the same time there has been much wandering in the wilderness. We have been burdened with the upkeep of grand buildings sometimes built as a display of wealth and skills rather than to the praise of God.
Many laments for congregations that have been lost.
There is debate about whether sudden death is less painful than anticipated death. Is it better for death to come suddenly or for it to take months or years. I do not know. I think it is good to have time for good-byes.
Paul worked hard to avoid being a burden to the people he cared about. We can put burdens on people who are grieving by telling them they should be behaving in a certain way, according to a certain pattern. We can burden them with guilt by asking if they had done something differently might their loved one still be alive. We can burden them by putting our understandings of God, Christ and the Bible on them by saying things like, “God took him,” or “His work on earth was finished.” These kind of things aren’t always the comfort that is intended.

Can we make the path easier for others by acting with compassion and love, n helping to rid them of burdens.
Rev Julianne Parker
see sermons page for full sermon

Burdens great to bear

I worry and I fear,
I need and I want.
I am anxious;
I could lose everything.

I am free;
I am burdened.

Some burdens are my own creation;
I tell myself that I am dealing with them.
Others I have received,
unwelcome gifts weighing heavily
upon shrinking shoulders,
from Scribes and from Pharisees,
who, in every age,
know with certainty what is best for me

I am burdened;
I am free.

To feel, decide
to do, to don’t.
To open wide;
to will, to won’t
To bleed, to weep;
to give, to keep.
To rage, to rail;
to struggle, fail.

Listening to the silence
with eyes half-opened,
mind half-closed.
Seeing the ugly,
reaching after beauty,
coveting truth,

I am free,
I am burdened.

Holding on to freedom,
letting go the burdens.
Holding on to burdens,
letting go the freedom.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The feast of all-saints

A litany of all the Saints

A Litany of All the Saints
Holy ones present at our beginnings:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah,
makers of the covenant, forebears of our race:
Stand Here Beside Us!
John and Charles Wesley, preachers in the streets;

all whose power of speaking gave life to the written word:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Louis, king of France; Margaret, queen of Scotland;
Gandhi the mahatma, reproach to the churches;
Dag Hammarskjold the bureaucrat;
all who made governance an act of faith:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Mary Magdalen, anointer of the Lord's feet; Luke the physician;
Francis who kissed the leper; Florence Nightingale;
Albert Schweitzer; all who brought to the sick and suffering the hands of healing:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Holy ones who made the proclaiming of God's love a work of art:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Johann Sebastian Bach; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart;
all who sang the Creator's praises in the language of the soul:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Holy ones haunted by the justice and mercy of God:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Joachim of Fiora, prophet of the new age;
Johnny Appleseed, mad planter of Eden;
Sojourner Truth, pilgrim of justice;
all whose love for God was beyond containment:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Martin Luther King, shot in Memphis:Oscar,  Romero, shot in San Salvador: Janani Luwum, shot in Kampala:
Holy ones of every time and place:
Stand Here Beside Us!
From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Jesus our liberator, creator of all:
Stand Here Beside Us!
Jesus our liberator, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end: wisdom, for creativity, for energy and for liberation to new life.
(Prayers are shared or prayed silently)
for all this and for ourselves,
We pray in faith, O God. AMEN

(Source unknown)

A vision of wholeness for the saints

And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another's will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give away to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth's abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life's creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.

The peace of the Lord to all of you. 

 Judy Chicago (The Dinner Party)

All Saints day

Saints are different from people in the world, not because they
do more, but because of whose they are, who they love, and what
it is they strive to do .
Anthony De Mello, the author of several books of meditations - 
tells the story of a family of five that was enjoying a day at
the beach.  The children were swimming and making castles in the
sand when in the distance a little old lady appeared.
     Her grey hair was blowing in the wind and her clothes
     were dirty and ragged.  She was muttering something to
     herself as she picked up things from the beach and put
     them into a bag.
     The parents called the children to their side and told
     them to stay away from the strange looking old lady. 
     As she passed by were they were sitting, bending down
     every now and then and picking up things, she smiled at
     the family.  Her greeting was not returned.
     Some weeks later, while complaining about the weirdos
     to be found on the beaches, the father family learned
     that the little old lady had made it her lifelong
     crusade to pick up bits of glass from the beach so
     children wouldn't cut their feet.
What makes a saint different?
Well saints pick up the glass that others toss down,
they believe in people no one else believes in,
they help others that no one else cares for,
And that, finally, my friends, is what this Sunday is about -
     it is about the one who called to the poor and the hungry,
          to those who wept and mourned,
               to those who were rejected and cursed,
                    and gave to them God's blessing,
the blessing of food, of comfort, laughter, and finally the
blessing of an eternal home with the Father - in that place where
there is no more tears  or sorrow or pain or death anymore.
(source unknown)

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Muslim mystic, Rabl’a said, “To love God, not because of powerful institutions, or even because God commands it, but to do so in an act of unencumbered freedom, is the very source of mystical relationship.”
There is a gulf between theology [rational knowledge of God] and mysticism [experience of God]. Another Muslim mystic and martyr  from the 10ce[922ce] called Mansur al-Hallaj taught passionate, overflowing love as the heart of the divine being instead of blind imitation and obedience. Such love is the mystery of creation. He said, “Whoever seeks God runs ahead of God’s revelations, but whomever God seeks has revelations overtaking his running.” This is what God does for children and explains their experiences of God.
John of the Cross wrote that God does not reserve the calling to contemplation to particular souls. On the contrary, God hopes all will embrace it.
We heard last week that Moses asked God to let him know God more and we heard God’s response in giving him a vision of God’s goodness. How well do we know God’s goodness? Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic put it we have “not been created for small things.” Contemplating this is both exciting and daunting.

We are invited into a mutual relationship of love with God and then when we have been loved, we will be equipped for the sometimes enormously difficult task of loving our neighbours and ourselves.

Rev Julianne Parker
(see Sermons page for full sermon)

The greatest commandment

Any religion;
whichever myths have inspired it,
no matter how it connects its members
with divine spirit,
whatever its claims,
however it patterns its ritual
or intones its worship;
is an empty shell
if it fails to draw from its adherents
lives of creative generosity.

In the writings of a breakaway group
named for its reluctant founder;
the plethora of commandments
in the Hebrew scriptures
surrender their ground
to a pair.

The carpenter from Nazareth
spoke often of divine agape,
the source of all that is good and true.
His listeners were invited
to make their own fruitful responses,
to share the love.
He calls this costly agape stuff
the greatest of fruits,
and enacts it at every opportunity.
Love, along with her precious siblings;
generosity, forgiveness, peace, tears and hope,
provide the means, he assures us,
by which the planet,
along with its diverse and wonderful creatures,
will find life.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thus this text offers little or no guidance for tax season. It neither claims taxation is legitimate nor gives aid to anti-tax activists. It neither counsels universal acceptance of political authority nor its reverse. But it does raise the provocative and still relevant question: what belongs to God, and what belongs to Caesar? And what if Caesar is Hitler, or apartheid, or communism, or global capitalism? What is to be the attitude of Christians toward domination systems, whether ancient or modern?
-Marcus Borg

There is a paradox in this knowing business.

I can understand why Moses wanted to know God more. As he said, God knew him and relationship is about mutuality. It is always a bit disconcerting to talk with someone who obviously knows who I am but I have no idea who they are. They may have called me by name, and instead of concentrating on the conversation, I may be wracking my brain, trying to think of their name. I am searching for a clue as to who they are and wondering where we may have met. Usually it is someone I have met in a different place and this may become the key to unlocking recognition of the person.
After six months in a new placement, Fred said at an Elders meeting, “I hardly know you people yet and know little about you.” The unexpected reply he received was, “Why would you want to know us?” “So I can care for you better”, Fred replied.
There is a paradox in this knowing business. The less we actually know about any person or thing, the more we may think we know and the more we know, the more we realise how little we know. Yet there is a point where we can know more than we want to about ourselves and others because that knowing is too much for us to bear. We condemn the uncaring nature of the Church leaders who didn’t respond to the knowledge of abuse. Perhaps we could ask why they were unable to respond with justice and compassion in situations where justice and compassion where clearly called for. What had happened in their lives that we might not know about to lead them to deny help where help was needed?

I was recently reminded that meditation and worship are where we seek to know the Transcendent God while mission is about following the Immanent God. There is joy in knowing Christ… God gives us the honour of a deepening knowledge and relationship. We can give to God a willingness to consider what God would like us to know. It is from such deepening relationship that we are better able to give to God a willingness to follow the Way of Christ, inspired by joy and compassion.

Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

two realms???

"This passage has been understood by many people to say that there are two realms, those of politics and of religion. We should obey the state and obey God, and the two don’t overlap. Try telling that to Martin Luther King. Try telling that to Nelson Mandela. Try telling that to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the confessing church in Hitler’s Germany.

It has been coupled with Romans 13, which has been used for centuries to justify passive obedience to the state, even when the state has been monstrous. How could Paul be referring to the state when he said that the authorities are put there by God, and whoever resists them resists God? (Rom 13:1-2) He lived under the brutal and murderous regime of Rome!

I would suggest that we re-read Romans 13 with a completely different understanding. Perhaps the “authorities” Paul is talking about are the leaders of the church. In the surrounding chapters Paul is talking about the marks of the true church and how we ought to live together in peace and love. I can hardly imagine Paul telling us to submit to anyone other than to God and to each other as Christians. It doesn’t appear to be about obeying governments at all. And neither is Matthew 22, where Jesus’ punch line is “Give to God what belongs to God.”"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whose wife will she be?

When we have finished living,
after we die,
we will continue to exist; in some form.
So Jesus is recorded as saying
as he responds to the improbable scenario
put to him by a group Sadducees
endeavouring to ridicule
notions of resurrection.
This state of eternal existence will be quite unlike
that which we have previously known,
here among earth’s red dust;
he tells them.
Don’t expect family reunions,
welcoming friends
or the lovers embraces
so favoured by our imaginative reassurances
in times of grief.
And there will be no opportunity
to complete or to add
to the life that has been concluded.
The goodwill we have sown,
the love we offered,
the peace we made,
the grace by which we lived
and the hope, joy and laughter
we spoke, danced and sang;
these alone will stand.
Gentle, sometimes unnoticed,
they witnesses to the reality
of our faith and worship.

It is enough.
Would it be so terrible
if the Sadducees were right?

© Ken Rookes 2014

It is enough.
Would it be so terrible
if the Sadducees were right?

© 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; ...