Monday, December 29, 2014

The Wise men - Chesterton

The Wise Men
By G.K. Chesterton
Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.

And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.
G. K. Chesterton, “The Wise Men,” in G. K. Chesterton Collected Works Volume X Collected Poetry Part 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 186-187.
- See more at:

Epiphany colouring 2

Epiphany coloring

God with us, all of us!!

"I attended a Christmas Eve service this year where a rabbi read this passage in Hebrew and where many of his congregants were in this Christian congregation. The pastor preached a sermon that announced in no uncertain terms that the birth of Jesus was the announcement of God's love for everyone. At an earlier service, a Muslim Imam had read this same text in Arabic, and the pastor had made it plain that the birth of Jesus was for everyone. By this he by no means meant that the rabbi and the Imam would have to convert to "belief in Jesus" to be included in this radical claim of universal love. Not at all! The birth of Jesus made it clear that such divisions had ended forever, and anyone who persisted in such divisions did not fully understand what the birth meant for the whole world. To top off this glorious evening's worship I ran into a Jewish friend (from New York!), a long-time teacher of preaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who was visiting her daughter and son-in-law in a much warmer place than the Big City. Her surprising presence in that Christian place made the promise of Isaiah and Matthew all the clearer to me. Luke put it well. "I bring you news of great joy that shall be for all people," he said. Not for some. For all.
"Stand up and shine, for your light has come," sings Isaiah. And those to whom he is singing exclude none. "The glory of YHWH has risen above you," you gays and straights, you Muslims and Hindus and Jews and Sikhs, you liberals and conservatives and libertarians, you "nones" and nuns. All of you. All of us. God is with us, all of us."

Read more:


On Epiphany day,
     we are still the people walking.
     We are still people in the dark,
          and the darkness looms large around us,
          beset as we are by fear,
                                        loss —
          a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.
We are — we could be — people of your light.
     So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
          as we wait for your appearing;
     we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
          as we exhaust our coping capacity;
     we pray for your gift of newness that
          will override our weariness;
     we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
          in your good rule.
That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
         your rule through the demands of this day.
         We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.
Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

The wisdom of God

The reading from Sirach is about Wisdom praising herself. In so doing, she is praising God from whom she comes. She is thanking God that she was with the Hebrew people as they came from Egypt. The final verse in the Wisdom of Solomon reading says that Wisdom enables us to praise by giving us the words and the ability to do so.
Perhaps unwittingly, those who banned Christmas celebrations encouraged people to look back over what has passed before moving on to the future. This is the wiser way to go. Too often we are too eager to get on with the new before we have come to terms with what has been before. Perhaps this is why so many New Year’s Resolutions fail.
There is much we can learn from Hebrew Scripture about the Wisdom of God. This was Jesus’ Scripture and that of the first Christians. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:24, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” This is a less familiar image of Christ for us, but we can be enriched by contemplating it.
The carol that turned the wise men from the East into three kings, has a lot to answer for! There is wisdom all around and available to us from God as there is love and joy. We are poorer for failing to recognise her and deliberately excluding her in some cases. There are very few hymns written in praise of or about joy which shows how neglected she has been.
The person who has prepared material for Seasons of the Spirit wrote, “While few of us enjoy being pulled outside our comfort zones, both word [written] and the Word [living] impel us there. We are invited to join with all people in being blessed children of this ever creating God. We are urged to set fear aside and be citizens of God’s realm – our true inheritance – rather than be bound to limited ideas and the small arena of our usual lives.” The person then asks us, “What is at stake for you if you step outside your usual comfort zone and into the wider realm of God’s love? Where and to whom can you turn to find courageous travelling companions for this journey?”

These are serious questions to contemplate. With the wisdom of hindsight, we can examine our past for clues and courage to answer them.
Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page above


Mortal flesh and bone,
the divine word comes unexpectedly among us,
breathing the planet’s atmosphere
and covering his itinerant feet
with earth’s red dust.
Here, in company
with the rest of humankind,
he will do his appointed work
of hope and love and freedom.

Later, this man we call “Light,”
clothed in the dust of ridicule and rejection,
(his words are too hard);
will steel himself against the harsh winds
of fickle opinion,
to inhale the deep and bitter air
of suspicion, abandonment and fear.
From there he will embrace the cold nothingness
of our own inevitable end.

And still the Light shines.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A moment of Christmas longing

A moment of Christmas longing                   Fay White

Christmas is loud percussion
in the symphony of my year,

discordant crass cash registers
beep beeping in my ears,

the tinny ding of tinsel decor
everywhere you go,
and clashing symbols, elf and angel,
songs that mention snow.

And everybody over-busy,
everybody tired,
and most of us  ambivalent
and many of us wired.

And I can hear the doof doof thump
of families in distress 
as Christmas seems to up the ante,
amplifies the mess.

I wish it was
a simple tune,
played on a flute,
or fiddle,
that could slip 
past my defences
and touch me
in my middle,

like the sweetness 
of a baby 
all fresh 
and soft 
and whole,

to light a lamp of wonder

in the midnight of my soul


Two formerly obscure old people
become Luke’s surprising choice
as his final witnesses
to the Messiah’s birth.
In his historically improbable
but still entrancingly wondrous
natal narrative, he retrospectively presents us
with the excited pronouncements
of an elderly man and an aging widow.
Salvation for Israel,
light and hope for the foreigners,
redemption for Jerusalem;
here, in this infant.

Imagine if a pair of old people stood up
to deliver such outrageous observations
in our own time.
There probably wouldn’t be a camera crew
on hand to record the event
or interview the key players;
it would be unlikely to make the papers.
At best, there might be a few smiling selfies
with the old people, the mother and child.
Some, no doubt, would end up online;
maybe with a paragraph in someone’s blog,
to be reposted by a handful of friends,
or shared with a link.
Most likely we’d offer a patronising wink or a smile
and shake our collective heads
before joining in the joking dismissal.

Let’s face it, the elderly
probably weren’t taken seriously back then,
either. No one else seemed to notice,
or bothered to remember;
only Luke.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

special to God

The prophet writing in Isaiah 61, knows that he is special to God because God honoured him by provided him with garments of beauty and value just as God clothes the earth. The writer of the Epistle to the Galatians pointed out that we are all adopted children of God and as such have been given the Spirit of Jesus.[Gal 4:5,6]  Everyone is special to God and Jesus showed us that God displays preferential treatment towards those who have special needs.
There are others who are special to God but are not considered special in our culture. These are older people. In the work place, people don’t need to be elderly to be undervalued. From the age of thirty, people are thought to be too old for some jobs and those who lose their job after the age of fifty find it increasingly difficult to find a new one. Many older people are made to feel they are a nuisance to society especially if they also have a disability. Many, many times I have heard older women say, “I don’t want to be a burden on my family.” Yet from early on in our Scripture we hear God telling people to take care of widows. Older people feature strongly in God’s scheme. Living to an old age was seen as a blessing from God. Abraham and Sarah were old. Moses was certainly elderly when he finished leading the Israelites. The Wise men would only have had that said of them if they were elderly. Simeon and Anna from the Gospel reading, were both elderly.

May we bring praise and thanksgiving to God by treating all people and all creation as special.
Rev Julianne Parker 
for full sermon see sermons page

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Interpreting the story

Gospel writers Matthew and Luke
are the approved suppliers
of the raw materials
from which we cobble together our Christmas stories;
faith being the thread that seeks,
gathers and ties the meaning.
The angels speak of the wonder
of the aching God who decides to take action
and to embrace uncertainty.
The girl-woman, Mary,
is a sign of human obedience
and willingness to let God’s perplexing purposes
take their unpredictable course.
Her carpenter husband, Joseph,
in determining to proceed with their marriage,
shows the persistence of human compassion
in the face of bewildering embarrassment.
And the baby, strange and vulnerable,
tells us of the mystery of divine love
found, unexpectedly and riskily,
among us.

So, what of the fat man in the red suit,
intruding uninvited into our neat nativity?
Perhaps he is God, laughing.

© 2009 Ken Rookes

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is this Love?

Tim went quiet in the group and then almost started sobbing out his questions, “What have we done? What have we done?”  What have we done to all girls and women and to God for nearly two thousand years in idolising what were said to have been God’s actions towards Mary? We have known for a long while that Mary was probably only in her early teens when this is said to have happened. How can we still continue to suggest such submission as a privilege when we know it is abusive, that people for whom such a scenario has been a reality? It denies the possibility of any pain and disgrace for Mary in being an unmarried mother. That is a major difference from how it is for most victims. However, it can be linked with the confusion some feel when the only person who is ever nice to them is the perpetrator,
Virginity has been glorified beyond all reason. A young couple from one congregation where I was went to another church on the morning after their wedding because the Uniting Church will not be part of a system that demands they bring the bed-sheets to the service to prove the virginity of the woman.
How differently we would see the love of God if we had been told Mary had conceived as a result of rape which would have brought shame on Mary’s family. Mary would have been blamed, disowned or even stoned to death. What if the story said God saved her by adopting and loving the child. That is more like what a God whom we call love is likely to have done. In these circumstances her singing of the Magnificat would have been poignant and its words meaningful to women and children who have been manipulated and victimised through the centuries.

Love says to the victim, “What would you like me to understand?” Can I hear your pain, anger and disillusionment and become more compassionate and proactive?” In the quiet love which is everywhere we look around, in every sight and every sound, let’s continuously ask of our thoughts, words and deeds, “Is this Love and are we reflecting the Love of God generously and unconditionally? Amen.

Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)


Like a scene from a carefully crafted play,
the angel messenger from above,
an apparition in glowing white
given the name of Gabriel,
passes uninvited through the door
(enter stage left), and approaches
the girl. The wardrobe department
has also dressed her in white,
for reasons which will become apparent.
It is a contest in whiteness.

The heavenly envoy tells the girl not to fear,
that she will give birth
to a Child of Light;
one who, when the stage lights are dimmed
for the penultimate scene,
will continue to shine
for all humankind.
The girl protests the improbability
of such a scenario;
she has not known a man.

She is told that the script for the second act
has already been written.
A divine spark
will overturn the laws of biology
when she is overshadowed
by a mysterious spirit something;
she has only to accept the role.
She does, without actually seeing the script,
thus allowing the rest of the drama
to proceed to its unpredicted ending.

© Ken Rookes 2014.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This is true! ...

The Jesuit priest and peace activist Daniel Berrigan (born 1921) reminds us in his Advent Credo that there are greater things that are true than injustice and futility:

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss —
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction —
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever —
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world —
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers —
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity, of peace, are not meant for this earth and for this history —

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Politicians, Company Directors and others have a duty to declare their interest in issues being discussed so I declare my interest in this subject of rejoicing in God and life and giving thanks for all things. On National Bible Sunday in 1988, the minister asked us what our favourite Bible verse was. I have had many favourite verses over the years and what I chose to say that day is the one you have just heard, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Pray without ceasing and give thanks to God in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” The next afternoon, I was standing with that minister, beside the body of my husband who had died suddenly aged 45. “Is this what it means to rejoice always and give thanks to God for everything?” I asked quietly. As a friend of Ed, the minister was too upset to answer.
I could not even begin to think what rejoicing in the Lord always might mean though I quickly realised I was praying more frequently. That might sound pious but I assure you it was a sign of how devastated and desperate I felt. Often I was frustrated, disappointed and my words were angry. There were also times when I wanted to leave God out of it altogether as God just complicated things. As for giving thanks for all things, that just seemed totally ridiculous. How could anyone give thanks for the mess we found ourselves in as more and more problems and expenses arose that were directly attributable to Ed’s death.
Incredible as it seems, I came into closer relationship with God through this terrible event and subsequent traumas. Somewhere along the line I was reminded of the first line of the Shorter Westminster Catechism which I learnt for confirmation many years earlier, “Our chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” I had skimmed over it before. We had been told that the way we lived our lives would bring glory to God and I was comfortable with that. But enjoying God seemed to be altogether another thing.
As with rejoicing and celebrating, enjoying God is about putting some time and effort into expanding our relationship with God. We can do that by living prayerful and grateful lives.
Many times it might feel as though we don’t have much to rejoice about. Is it unfair to expect us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and to give thanks for all things”? Probably not when we realise the size of the gift God has given us in anointing us to become the agents of release for those who are oppressed, captured or enslaved; to be a comfort to those who mourn and an encouragement to those who are dispirited.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength as we all learn to enjoy God forever.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Among you stands one

When your eyes are opened,
you will see him,
no longer hidden,
but unveiled, revealed
as the one sent from above.
You may remember this day
and my words.            No,
I am not he.

Who is he, what does he look like?
I cannot answer;
I simply know that he is coming,
perhaps even come,
among us; here, today.
What will he say to us,
what will he ask of us?
More questions.

Ready yourselves to make him welcome;
nothing will remain the same.
Do not fear his changes,
embrace them with courage;
the magnificent journey awaits us all.
It will be no easy passage.
Accept the risk, start now,
and join me in the water.

© 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; ...