Sunday, December 27, 2015

And the word became flesh and lived among us


The Logos-word came,
so the story goes,
sharing light and truth and wonder
with us earth-folk;
receiving, in return,
the planet's dust and strife,
along with our tears, regrets and weariness.
Hardly a balanced transaction.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Among the teachers

The boy was precocious, no question;

Speaking of God as father, and such.

Twelve years old, adrift in the temple
and taking it up to his elders.
Being advanced for one's age
is a quality not always welcomed
by the educated, wise and experienced;
Israel does not need another Samuel.

Still, his youthful idealism captured our attention;
in a decade or so,
given the benefit of our collective wisdom,
he might be made into something,
or Someone.

A useful Someone.
With proper guidance and direction
he could become a minor sensation.
Imagine: a peasant teacher from the northern provinces.
Never happened before,
he could prove quite handy.
Such a possibility is, of course, a long way off.

We'll get him to come back in a few years.
The first step will be to re-channel
that youthful idealism;
then we can begin his real education.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Poem A bell

Had I the power
To cast a bell that should from some grand tower,
At the first Christmas hour,
Outring,
And fling
A jubilant message wide,
The forged metals should be thus allied:-
No iron Pride,
But soft Humility, and rich-veined Hope
Cleft from a sunny slope;
And there should be
White Charity,
And silvery Love, that knows not Doubt nor Fear,
To make the peal more clear;
And then to firmly fix the fine alloy,
There should be Joy! 

 Image result for bell of hope

Singing for Hope

Image result for we shall overcome
I found this very interesting sermon about Singing as an act of resistance. 
http://www.davidlose.net/2015/12/advent-4-c-singing-as-an-act-of-resistance/
What struck me most was the insight that singing is spread right throughout the Christmas story and i think it was as an act of Hope rather than just resistance.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nativity Haiku


Shepherds and angels
conversing in the shadows,
illumined by hope.

Good news pronouncement;
Great joy! The one sent from God
breathes earth's air today.

Down in Bethlehem
while everyone sleeps; at last
something has happened!

No room at the inn;
so the man and the woman
had to improvise.

Why do you delay?
You should get yourselves moving
or you'll miss the show.

Entrusting their sheep
to the angelic choir,
they went to find him.

A baby is born.
It happens every day;
what's special this time?

This feed-box cradle
is offered as a sign. Strange,
but appropriate.

The shepherds returned,
sharing their wond'rous story;
couldn't keep silent.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bizarre rejoicing

For many unmarried women who find themselves pregnant, Mary’s rejoicing would seem almost bizarre. They do not feel that it is a blessing. Fortunately society does not condemn them as much as they did fifty years ago but it still looks down on single mothers. It may take many of them time to adjust to the new circumstances. It would be better for them and ultimately for their child and our communities if we were friendly faces they could turn to as Mary did to Elizabeth; if we were the ones who could give them space to contemplate the situation in which they find themselves.
We may think of the glory of God as being what is shining in God’s face. Moses asked if he could see the glory of God and was shown the goodness of God. God is far beyond what we can know and God’s ways are not our ways but God blesses us too, with glimpses to encourage us.
In the Hebrew tradition, the person pronouncing a blessing is making a commitment to carry through the promise embedded in the blessing. This is the tradition Jesus came from and that Christianity follows. Every time we sing the Aaronic blessing, such as at a baptism, we have a responsibility to help the person to whom we are singing it, understand and experience God’s face shining upon them. We are committed to lives which shine and reflect God’s love, acceptance and encouragement.
This is the week in Advent when we contemplate and celebrate love and the God of Love whose love was most apparent in the life of Jesus the Christ. What can we learn about the shining, smiling face of God’s love as we turn our faces towards the new born child this Christmas? Can we dare to take time out as Elizabeth and Mary did to contemplate the nature and purpose of the blessings of God? Can we face the God who faces us and say, “I delight to follow your way”?

May those of us who know the blessing of God’s face shining on us live in that blessing and pass it on in smiles of love given freely to those who need to see a friendly face this Christmas and for all of our lives.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Blessed the fruit of your womb


The story begins with a girl,
fecund, mid-teens,
belly beginning to swell.
It will get much larger,
as, within her womb,
the miracle of life claims its space.

An unlikely sign, vulnerable,
yet outrageously defiant;
a sign to engender hope,
to confront earth's bondage
and futility.

A peasant girl,
pregnant with purpose and possibility;
the lowly are to be elevated to positions of significance
while kings, emperors, princesses
and other persons of power and plenty
will be asked to descend from their lofty seats
to begin their acquaintance with earth's dust.

The girl could be anyone;
any place on the planet,
any point in its history.
She is caught up in this common human tale;
the wonder,
the waiting,
the struggle,
the pain
and the joy.

A sign for eternity.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Enjoying God

Enjoying God is about spending time together, listening to and honouring God and all God has for us! It’s about not taking ourselves too seriously. The writer of the piece of music we call “Jesus Joy of Man’s Desiring” must have known about enjoying God. I heard on the radio that a better translation of the title of this music would be “Jesus Remains My Joy”. What a delightful thing to be able to say! When we are enjoying God, it changes our life. We are more relaxed in other relationships and we are likely to read the Bible quite differently. Joy is about connecting with the things that really matter in life. It is a spiritual experience that helps us to be both gentle and generous.
Most of us will have known from an early age of the call for those who have two coats to give one to someone who has none and to share our food. We may have thought these were the words of Jesus, not realising that these words are attributed to John. Many of us have endeavoured to be generous in our sharing. We may have heard that we should not only tithe our money but our time and talents as well. Paul, in writing to the Philippians, urged them to be generous in their thanks, enjoyment and gentleness so that all people could see and experience it. [Philippians 4:5]
... Someone else had told of how once a year she sat down and worked out how much she had that she could give to charities like the Christmas Bowl appeal and Uniting World. We may, at times like our immanent retirement, spend some time contemplating our gifts and how we can use them productively for as long as we are able. A couple of times, Spiritual Mentors have spoken of the beneficial effects of choosing five things to give thanks to God for at the end of each day but I have never before heard of a near daily check on how generously and affectively we are using the gifts with which we have been blessed.

Perhaps when we are taking stock of things as New Year approaches, we might reassess our lives and the way we are using them, realising that it is a blessing to be alive. And of course, we are all familiar with the idea that if we have two coats we can give one to someone who has none, but we don’t often get around to doing this even when our wardrobes are full. 
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The people were filled with expectation

Our expectations are not high.
Should a prophet like John appear in our midst
to tell us how we should modify our lifestyles
so that the whole planet and all its people might benefit;
we would not listen.
We would dismiss him,
deny any truth in her message
and surround ourselves with clever people
to comfort and reassure us.
We would prefer, rather, that some Father Christmas fix-it-God
should descend from the heavens
with his big red bag of gifts for humankind
and sort everything out,
(world peace, climate change, terrorism, the poor,
domestic violence and such);
but most of us don't really expect that to happen.
In the end we find ourselves reluctantly admitting
that the prophet might have been right,
and that change
and fruitfulness
and real hope
might have something to do with the serious work
of repentance.
But, then again . . .



© Ken Rookes 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

may we bless our children and grandchildren

The blessing that we heard that Zechariah gave his son “You, child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” [Luke 1:76,77] is one that God the Father has given to each of us. We have tended to think that the role of prophets was to fore-tell the future. The role of Jewish prophets was to call people back to God and God’s Way. It was to help people have a realistic understanding of themselves as sinners and also to have a realistic understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. The prophets warned the people that if they continued to behave in certain ways, the inevitable consequences would be disastrous, often in the form of wars.  
Prophets all around the world have been warning for years that unless we take our responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and curb our materialism much more seriously, there will be more war as less privileged people fight for access to dwindling supplies of food and resources.
Today, unusually we had a second Gospel reading that gave us a glimpse of the man John, who had grown from the child whose birth and blessing we first heard about. He was living a simple life in the Jordan Valley as an example of the blessing. He taught about the need for people to be realistic about the things that they did wrong and to see they were on the wrong path; that the way they were doing thing was leading to “no win” situations. It was important that they realise this and that they alter the way they were going, their life style and turn to a different way to avoid disaster. John offered them baptism as a sign to show their commitment to this new way of life.

May we bless our children and grandchildren with our commitment to their future by rejecting the values of capitalism and committing to a simpler life-style. May we bless all children so that they know the peace in their hearts and lives which comes from close relationship with the God of love and peace.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, November 30, 2015

The word of God came to John



There must have been a number of them,
words, that is,
that drifted through the ether
to lodge themselves in the cranium of the prophet.

Repent, for one, springs quickly to mind.
It is an unfriendly word,
strident and uncompromising,
articulating its 'holier than thou' attitude
of judgement. Perhaps necessary;
all the same.

Prepare is friendlier;
along with the request
that we actually do something.
Prepare tantalises with its sense of expectation.
Something big is about to happen;
something wondrous and unprecedented.

Borrowing some more words
from the processes of creation
the prophet gets down to business.
The mountains will be razed, he tells us,
and the valleys filled!
Geologically improbable,
at least on the time scale
to which the prophet is working.
How many hundred million years would we need?

Get excited!
the prophet's hyperbole declares;
the Lord, (whoever he or she might be), is coming!
You may be present when she comes,
you may witness his arrival;
you may not,
but the hope embodied in this advent event
will be there for all humankind to see.
So get yourself ready.
Now!


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

the beauty and terror of this world

Barbara Kingsolver has a new book of essays called "Small Wonder," and it is a poetic proclamation of the power of hope. It is also a stinging criticism against a self-centered society. Taking a sharp look at the wars, the natural disasters, the political violence of the 21st century, she writes a modern translation of Luke's little apocalypse. By the end of the book, we know more than we need to know about the wastefulness of our beef consumption, the natural disasters caused by genetic crop engineering, the distortion of patriotism that blind flag-waving can produce, the barbarity of war and capital punishment. But she ends with soaring words of hope--a call to self-discipline and compassion and tolerance and moral living--a vision that matches the energy of Jesus' words to us today.

Rather than feeling hopeless, like a screen door banging in a hurricane, Kingsolver suggests that we should be the ones to bang and bang on the door of hope and refuse to let anyone suggest that no one is home. She writes, "What I can find is this and so it has to be: conquering my own despair by doing what little I can. Stealing thunder, tucking it in my pocket to save for the long drought. Dreaming in the color green, tasting the end of anger." She concludes: "Small changes, small wonders. These are the currency of my endurance and my life. It is a workable economy."


Today we Christians around the world light the first candle in a four-week journey through the darkness of Advent. Rather than hiding inside the secular sentimentality of a Christmas cocoon, we are called to open our eyes to see the chaos of the cosmos. We are called to recognize with a God's-eye view both the beauty and the terror of this world. And then with eyes looking up, we are called to wait for God's promise to be fulfilled, rejoicing in the small wonders and the simple graces of these danger-filled days.
http://day1.org/488-a_gods_eye_view

wait without Hope


"I said to my soul, be still, 
and wait without hope 
For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; 
wait without love 
For love would be love of the wrong thing; 
there is yet faith 
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. 
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: 
So the darkness shall be the light, 
and the stillness the dancing." 
 T. S. Eliot: (from the four Quartets)

There will be signs ...

As we study history and geography, we know that fighting and wars have been occurring as long as there have been people and earthquakes, floods and droughts and meteors smashing into our planet have been happening since creation. So what was Jesus on about in the reading we heard from Luke? This story is similar to the one we heard a couple of weeks ago from Mark’s Gospel. It begins in the previous chapter with Jesus condemning the scribes for devouring widow’s houses and continues with his comment on the widow’s contribution to the upkeep of the Temple at her own expense. Again the disciples are more interested in the grandeur of the Temple that Jesus says is to be torn down and they ask him when will this take place? Jesus told them that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and destruction, a dire prediction, ending with…
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and on earth distress between the nations, confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and terror.” [Luke 21:25,26a]

We know that the Temple had been destroyed before the Gospel of Luke was written.

Following all this terrible news, Jesus gave them hope by encouraging them to look for a sign in among all the horror that God was near. Some think a clearer translation of the word usually put in English as “near”, is “here”. We tend to read “near” as “almost”, a time thing, rather than as a geographic indication as in “close by”  Jesus suggested that as when they notice the sprouting of leaves on trees they knew that summer was near so when they saw all these terrible things they would know God was near. He went on to say that God was going to be with them in that generation. It seems that Jesus was pointing out that the world is in chaos all the time and that it is in the chaos that we can know God is near.
Where do you see God in all that is going on in our generation? The word, “near” for God could have been a time thing when Jesus said it. But for all generations since it has been a geographic reality. Christ has been with us even though the emphasis with Christianity has been on Christ enthroned in some distant heaven, we have the assurance from Matthew’s Gospel [Matthew 28:20] that Jesus will be with us till the end of time and from John’s Gospel [John 20:17-19] that Jesus ascended to the Father and returned to be with us on the day of resurrection. So even when it feels or seems that God isn’t with you, you can hold on to hope, knowing that others have felt like this before and have come to know that our feelings are not always logical even though they are valid.


Your desire to help your friends and neighbours at this time and in their distress, are the buds of the fruit of the Spirit growing within you. They are the indications that God is so near as to be within you. They are the signs of hope and encouragement that are so needed in your communities. May you be blest with the assurance of God’s Presence and unfailing care in the weeks and months to come.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Shine



If Jesus had been strolling around
southern Australia today,
rather than Palestine in the first-century,
he'd have dropped his fig-tree metaphor
and gone with the Jacaranda.
Look at the Jacaranda,” he'd say.
When it puts forth its purple-Advent flowers,
to compete luminescently
with the sky and to carpet the earth below
in a circle of blue;
can summer be far behind?
No; nor God's kingdom.”

Hail to you, wondrous tree of purple;
botanical immigrant,
transplanted two hundred years ago
from another new world.
Your dazzling hue has ensured your welcome.
Like the land's many human inhabitants
you regard yourself as a true-born native,
among the greens, reds and yellows
of indigenous eucalypts and wattles.

Hail, Jacaranda!
The arboretum's John the Prophet,
landscape herald of one who is coming
and of the remarkable kingdom
of hope and justice.
(For which, we still yearn.)
For a month you shine, harbinger
of the extraordinary,
until your flowers fall and fade,
your leaves of green resume their rightful place,
and we are returned to our ordinary lives.
There our achings are embraced,
tasks and challenges are taken up,
and we get on with it.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Embodiment

Constantine was the first Christian Emperor and a significant change took place in the church when Constantine was converted. Before this, the Christian Church opposed of most of the Empires law and government. This is what Jesus modeled for us. This is what we read about in the gospel stories. Jesus criticized the elite, the self -righteous and the proud. He reminded all that they would be called to account for their behaviour and attitudes.
The word ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for ‘Messiah’ which means ‘the anointed one’ and the same word in Latin is ‘Lord’. There are three ways in which Christians see Christ. Through the centuries the most commonly used image has been that of Christ the King in both the Eastern and Western Churches. This has led to a very hierarchical structure to the Church and the building of huge, opulent places for worship requiring exploitation of poor people to complete them.
The second way of seeing Christ is as a man who was adopted by God as his son either at his baptism as Mark’s Gospel says or at his conception as Matthew and Luke have it.
The third way of seeing Jesus is to see him as part of the embodiment of the Eternal Christ in the way that the writer of the Gospel we call John did when he spoke of Jesus as the embodiment of the Word of God present at Creation and therefore eternal with God. Paul also saw Christ as the Word and Wisdom of God. [1Corinthians 1:24] He also saw each believer as part of the body of Christ so part of this Eternal Creator One. The more we learn about the complexity of creation and such things as its age and size, the more we can see how inappropriate the image of Christ seated on a throne is, how inconsistent it is with the call, as part of the body, to take care of all creatures and all creation.

So as we celebrate the reign of Christ this day, lets examine how we reflect this to the world today, how the world sees us, for the good news is that we have been called to be Christ like by following the example Jesus set for us.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)

So you are a king? A group of Haiku.



Nazareth's native
handed over for judgement:
an unlikely king.

The foreign ruler,
intrigued, probes with his questions,
but gets no answers.

He asks, Are you king?
The charge is laid against you;
what, then, have you done?

Where is your kingdom?
You won't find it around here.
Then again; perhaps.

Try looking harder,
opening your heart, your mind;
God's reign has come near

For this I was born,
for truth I came among you;
listen to my voice.

So you are a king?
The question hangs in the air;
each one must answer.



© Ken.Rookes 2015

 and a short subsequent poem that takes us a couple of verses  beyond the RCL reading.


If he fell over it

For two thousand years
Pilate has been asking:
What is truth?
Like most people of wealth and power
he wouldn't recognise truth if he fell over it,
or if it stood before him.



© Ken.Rookes 2015


Thursday, November 12, 2015

one thing will remain

“So what I am telling you is exactly the same as what I am telling everybody else: there is only one game plan, love, love and more love. Forgive, forgive and more love. Keep yourselves on the ready at all times, lest you be lured back into the ways of suspicion, division and retaliation. Hold on tight to the hope that you’ve put your hands up to. None of this on-again off-again stuff! Think about how to stir one another up to greater and greater love and more and more ways to put it into action. Some people will quit gathering together as a congregation altogether. It’s understandable when the Church has failed so spectacularly, but don’t go down that path. Gather often, support and encourage one another. The closer we get to that final day the more you’ll need one another. The Church is coming crashing down, and the earth is being shaken to its foundations, and everything by which the powers that be maintained their delusions of peace is crumbling to dust in their deceitful grasping fingers. Stand up and rejoice, for when all the bullshit has fallen away, just one thing will remain, love in all its glory, for God is love.”
The Girl with the Dove Tattoo, Brian McLarren

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

fresh expressions of church

For many years we have been looking for strategies that will get people to “come to church” without much success. Many different schemes have been tried and plans offered, Messy Church being one of the latest. There have been after school and holiday programmes for children, contemporary services with bands instead of organs and cafĂ© services where all sit around tables and sip coffee. People may come for a while but then move on. Like Hannah, many in our congregations are weeping because we have no children or young ones to follow us. We sometimes blame ourselves or our ministers and are taunted by the sight of young ones at mega Churches, even though we do not see God as they do. Like Hannah we have become distressed and wept bitterly to the Lord, pleading for new life to come to us. We have promised God all sorts of things if only our congregation does not die.
Some members of the body of Christ have heard the promise that new life is coming and are preparing for it. They are developing fresh expressions of Church outside of and away from the traditional buildings. Instead of fruitlessly trying to get people “into the Church,” they are going to where the people are and meeting Christ there. They are showing God’s love in trying to bring justice for people of other faiths and for refugees. By facilitating rallies and candlelight vigils in public spaces, they have engaged with young people who do not normally come ‘to Church’. These events, at the same time have made meeting ecumenically easier than going to your Church or mine provides.
...
We are challenged by the God who dwells within us to decide what it is that our hearts are leading us to and how we may work towards fresh expressions of Church away from our buildings and understanding worship as far more than a Sunday Hymn Sandwich. Jesus said that he came to bring us life in all its fullness and so it is reasonable to think that in these fresh expressions will be opportunities to develop and use all our skills and talents in encouraging others. We do need to meet together as the reading from Hebrews points out, to show our concern for one another and stir and encourage each other to respond in love and good works. [Hebrews 10:24 paraphrased from New Jerusalem Bible]

In answer to the disciples’ enquiry about the end of the Temple, Jesus spoke of war, earthquake and famine indicating the very beginning of new birth. There is a way still to go, and the way may be painful, but no woman who has ever given birth would consider giving up at the first signs of pain because it will be worth all the pain in the end; so with new birth for the Church. May your pain be eased by hope for the outcome.
Rev Julianne Parker  (for full sermon see sermon's page)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Let them crumble


The columns and arches
shall be disassembled
the stones will be broken-up
and allowed to erode
in the wind and the rain and the sun.
The stone-masons' skills
have been brought to nothing.
Let the walls crumble;
no heritage order can save them,
money has not been put aside for reconstruction.
There will be no restoration project
driven by a grand vision
with its attendant fund-raising scheme;
religion, too, will be allowed to collapse.
The man who foretells the demise
of both Temple and Religion,
himself becomes the rock
upon which these flawed vessels
will be dashed and broken.
It will be thrown down,
all of it.




© Ken Rookes 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scribes


Arrayed in long, showy robes,
(first century Armani,
bespoke, suits cut to impress);
commanding attention.
We know that they are important,
social and religious heavyweights;
demanding to be taken seriously.
They are among the nation's leaders,
and clearly know better than the rest of us;
soaring high above the crowd,
magnificent, learned, erudite.
Highly respected,
these Scribes lack nothing;
except compassion.




© Ken Rookes 2015


Monday, October 26, 2015

Could Christ be telling us "You do not know the scriptures?"


From childhood most of us have known this passage, “Listen, Israel; the Lord our God is the one, only Lord and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, “You must love your neighbour as yourself’”. [Mark 12:29-31 New Jerusalem Bible] 

As with many of the texts that we have been taught, we have focused on some words and ignored others. The part in this passage where the scribe says that these commands are more important than all offerings and sacrifices has not been part of the learning of many Christians. Sacrificial offering often in the form of obedience, has been drummed into many as what God requires from us. We have seen this attitude reflected in the way people have taught their children up until recent generations. A woman in her late seventies spoke recently of how her father’s idea had been that there was only one thing for a child to learn and that was unquestioning obedience.

Love had not come into her childhood and she was still struggling with relationships with other people. She was taught that love said God expected her to offer herself and sacrifice herself completely for others. It was only recently that she had realised that Jesus had been saying that love for God, others and yourself was the most important thing and such sacrifice as she had lived left her resentful and often wasn’t showing love for self.

So we get to the story of Ruth, one of the best known from the Hebrew Scripture. Ruth has been held up to women and girls of countless generations as a saint, modelling the sacrificial behaviour required of women in Christian context. We were taught to see her as a paragon of virtue in her servility.

Could Christ be telling us, “You do not know the Scriptures?”  Could it be that Ruth was a feisty lass who knew her rights and was sticking with her mother-in-law in order to ensure that her children inherited what was due to them under the Jewish system? Or it might have been that Ruth clung to Naomi because she understood Ruth’s grief better than others because of their shared loss?

What are we to make of the bitterness of Naomi’s grief? It is of utmost importance for us to learn if we want to be reasonable pastoral carers that statements people make when distressed may not be facts and questions they ask may not reflect reality. When Jesus asked from the cross, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” he was not saying that God had abandoned him but that that was what it felt like. Naomi was expressing a similar thing when she named feeling bitter because “the hand of the Lord” had turned against her. [Ruth 1:13]

Most of us do not have the loss in our entire life times that Naomi has suffered. In all his loss, Job did not lose his wife. We knew someone whose wife and four children were killed coming home from school, in the Ash Wednesday fires. Can one ever recover from such devastation? And yet one must if one is to go on living. It takes many years to recover from dramatic loss.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The first

Top commandment,
number one.
Call it the golden rule,
if you like.
Love your neighbour
as you love yourself.
Treat others with respect
and dignity.
Try to feel their pain,
Jesus says.
Your enemies, too;
love them.
Nothing else, really;
the other rules pale,
insignificant by comparison.
Love God,
love your neighbour.
Heart, soul, mind and strength.
No, not easy;
costly, sometimes.
Often. But no,
there is nothing else.
Determined, defiant, deliberate,
love.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

Our ideas about God are like this

"...Our ideas about God are like this. To engage to the best possible extent with God, it is necessary for us to try new and different understandings that lead to new and different relationships with the Divine. Many Christians were not introduced to a variety of images and understandings early in their lives and so will only accept what they were fed as pre-school children.
Well, the truth is, whether we recognise it or not, to be fully engaged with God, others and ourselves, depends on us being willing to try out for ourselves how good the Lord is. We simply can’t rely on what others tell us to come to life in all its fullness. If we are willing to dare to grow in our understandings, God will introduce us to new things. Sometimes this may happen slowly, like an acquired taste. Sometimes it will be something we like and instantly respond to and then wonder why we never tried this before.
Job was forced by the circumstances surrounding the loss of all his family except his wife, and the loss of all his belongings to take a look at how he saw God. In the reading we heard, Job is acknowledging that God is far greater than he had understood prior to his losses. He said that before, he was relying on what he had heard about God but now he could see with his own eyes whom God is. He had found out something new about the greatness of God.
Many of us go our whole lives relying on we have heard from others about the Divine One. It sometimes doesn’t even occur to us that we can ask for an encounter with a member of the Holy Trinity, that we can experience God with us. Of course, that makes it sound a whole lot simpler than it is, but God is not inclined to intrude into our lives unless invited even though, paradoxically God is always present.

The blind man in today’s Gospel reading dared to find out for himself how compassionate Jesus was. Jesus not only healed him but also praised him for his faith. Each time Jesus praises someone for their faith, they have dared to step out, to do something others weren’t game to do, to try, to test, Jesus’ willingness to help. They were in effect, willing to “taste,” to see if Jesus would and could help them. ..."
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The beggar of Jericho


In Jericho's streets
a loud, annoying man, blind and embarrassing,
glimpses hope for the first time
and shouts excitedly above the noise of the crowd.
The reason for his agitated cries:
one Jesus of Nazareth, aka, Son of David;
who is implored to be merciful
and to use his influence with the Divinity
to heal the man's vision-less eyes.

He ignores all attempts to silence him
and calls even louder.
The itinerant teacher takes notice,
and invites him to come.
The man has faith, he declares,
and credits this worthy attribute
with the impending recovery of his sight.

He now sees things clearly, for the first time;
not just the physical world
of sunlight, shadows, refractions,
wavelengths and lumens.
His Jerichoean darkness cast aside
as was his cloak minutes earlier,
he chooses to journey on an uncertain route,
but one saturated with light and purpose.
Embracing the travelling man as master, friend and guide,
he follows him glowingly down the road.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The truth within them

If Job was repaid twice over, why aren’t all people who suffer given the same recompense? And what of Job’s wife; was she just collateral damage in it all?
It is perhaps not surprising that we have come to believe to Bible more than our own convictions. If the Bible says it is this way and we see it differently, we think we must be wrong, that we are evil even to contemplate that God is other than some stories depict. This leads us to constantly judge our thoughts and behaviour and that of others, rather than becoming aware of God’s presence at all times, everywhere, in everything.
These stories have truth within them, but the framework for that truth is very difficult for people of the 21st Century to see past. It hampers their understanding. Recently Barb tried to read Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Wounded Healer”, which was written in the 1970’s. She found it difficult even though she had lived through this era. The wording was so dated and the culture quite different to what we are living through today. How much more difficult it is to grasp what is being said in writing thousands of years old. Most people today find it too difficult to even begin to try. When what they read doesn’t go with what they feel, think and experience, they give up.
In Mark 10 we are told that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples things as profound as that he was to be betrayed, condemned to death, handed to the Gentiles, in other words, defiled, mocked, flogged and killed. They didn’t want to hear what he was saying. Instead they were arguing about getting the most important places in his kingdom. They hadn’t been listening and they totally missed the point about what it means to serve. When we are sure of whom we are in God’s love, we don’t need to seek positions of power to bolster our image. We are free to serve others rather than seeking favoured positions.
The God we are called to follow, with whom our hearts long to have a close relationship is inviting, encouraging, full of joy, peace and patience and does not demand absolute obedience. Part of the invitation is to live with unanswered and sometimes unanswerable questions without judgement.
Jesus said that he came to bring us life in all its fullness. It will include hard times and easy, good times and bad, highs and lows all within the depth and length and height and strength of God’s everlasting love. May you be blessed with knowing that you are loved by God and that all else is secondary to that.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Places of Honour: Haiku


Do us a favour?
The childish plea to ensure
the result you want.

Places of honour;
you don't ask for much, do you?
They don't come for free.

Will you take the pain,
and the suffering as well?,
No worries! they say.

The cup that he drinks,
and the baptism, speak death.
Do you dare to drink?

Places of glory.
These brothers still don't get it.
Only in serving.

First in the kingdom
will be those who lose their lives,
like their master did.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

God as Mystery

In the Gospel reading we hear of someone else being tested. A man asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. He did not have his possessions taken from him in the way that Job did. He was given the opportunity of giving them up himself and some people are given a choice in this way in the tests they face. It would be debatable as to whether it was more painful or less to make the choice yourself, though many given a choice would take the road with less pain even if it meant less gain. Some don’t seem to face much testing. Some come through the testing to a fuller, richer though not necessarily wealthier life. Why? We don’t know. We try guessing but that is often a futile exercise as Job was to find.
We speak of God as Mystery. We mere humans cannot ever comprehend God’s ways. We can come to a greater place of awe in our relationship with the Eternal Creator. We can come to say we Job, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” We can wonder, each for ourselves, about our classification of “good” and “bad”. It doesn’t help us if someone else does this for us. In Ephesians, we are told to give thanks for all things” [Ephesians 5:20] and that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” [Romans 8:28] In the middle of our pain, this can be hard to hang on to.
What of the woman who dared to speak in such a way to God? Her troubles didn’t end. She left her home and fields and become a minister of the Word. When she was in her ninth home, she was complaining to her daughter who said, “Doesn’t it say somewhere that when you leave your home you will get a hundred more? [Mark 10:29,30] I figure that means you have 91 still to go.” Now she is up to either 47 or 49. She lost count somewhere and as for mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers well, the count must be well in the hundreds. While this has brought untold blessing it too has had its pain. Many times all that has kept her going was the assurance that God IS and memories of God’s faithfulness in the past have given hope for the future.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermon's page)

Monday, October 5, 2015

How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.


The wealthy,
while offering in principle support
for the concept of kingdom of God,
find the idea that God might want to direct
the ways that money is used
or disposed of,
somewhat disturbing.

Riches are from God, they assert;
our prosperity is proof enough
that we are virtuous and good.
The Lord would not have so blessed us
if it were otherwise.

With wealth comes responsibility;
we understand that,
and we take our obligations seriously.
Assistance must be provided
for widows and orphans;
the scriptures are strong on that point.
But the poor, as a category,
includes a range of people:
wastrels, profligates, intemperates and such,
not all of them deserving of our largesse.

When it comes to generosity,
it's best to err on cautions side.
A charitable trust, perhaps;
with appropriate tax benefits.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Living with the questions

One of the puzzling things about the testing of Job is the lack of a clear purpose. One could maybe think that there was a point to it if he was being considered for a major role such as Moses had in leading the people from Egypt t the Promised Land.
Ultimately, the major test for us seems to be, can we sit with the questions? Can we have faith and trust God in areas we can never understand? In my personal struggle with this, there have been times when all I could say was, “I believe God is, that God exists. What is happening in my life is such that I am unable to see God as Love or as caring, merciful and compassionate.” It has sometimes felt as though God was playing with me as a cat plays with a mouse. One of my sisters said when my daughter-in-law died suddenly, “How many more experiences do you need to have to identify with the pain of others?” Perhaps there is some truth in this question.

Mystics call the ability to live with the questions one of the greatest blessings. They strive to live in the moment, trusting that God is and that ultimately all is well. Should we take the bad things from God as well as the good and give thanks for all things? Well, I would say it is worth giving it a try and may you receive many blessings in it as I have.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, September 28, 2015

These men


These men, leaders among their people,
strut their masculine importance
as they confidently command the teacher’s attention.
They put forward their testing question;
it has a decided hint of misogyny,
and more than a suggestion of male power.
Is it OK for a man to remarry
after discarding his woman?
Is it OK to use and abuse,
to beat and mistreat,
and to replace with a younger model,
the old one, when she has become worn and tired?

Your hearts are hard, impervious,
he tells them,
shaped by millennia of patriarchy and law.
But no, it isn’t right
for a man to do so;
nor a woman, for that matter.
Your partnerings are from God.
Your intimate comings together, too,
are precious gifts;
celebrate their blessings
and allow them to flourish.



© Ken Rookes 2015