Monday, January 26, 2015

Demonic powers

"The unclean or demonic powers are primarily encountered in the places of religious teaching and worship, and it is the teachings of Jesus that expose them and cause them to rise up in frenzied opposition to him. And this points us further into just what it was that Jesus was teaching and challenging. This contrast between the clean or holy and the unclean or demonic is at the heart of what religious teachings and institutions claim for themselves. They are the places that determine and regulate who and what is considered holy and who and what is considered unclean, unacceptable, defiled and to be rejected. But when Jesus begins cleansing the “holy” places, you can quickly see that he is declaring that these “holy” places have in fact become havens for the demonic. All the way through the history of religions, including Christianity, our supposedly “holy” systems have mutated into forceful systems of control. They claim control of people’s fates, they prescribe rules, they limit freedom, they judge who is clean and unclean and who can come in and belong and who can’t. They confine and stifle and squash and oppose. And Jesus doesn’t just speak against them. His critique of these stifling holiness systems is balanced by bold actions of liberation and renewal in God's name. He makes it abundantly clear in word and deed that God’s love and mercy and joyous welcome will not be bound and regulated by our demonic systems."

Nathan Nettleton from

Do not be Afraid!

In the Gospel passage, Jesus saw past the loud and abusive voice of the man who cried out when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. He recognised that the man was ill and instead of arguing with him or being rude to him, he addressed the thing that was troubling him. He spoke to him in a way that brought inner healing and peace. We assume that we could not heal people as Jesus did and that may be true. But we could probably do more to help them if we were less afraid of them and saw them as loved children of an awesome God.
Has the Orthodox Church got something to teach us about the awesome majesty of God?
Recently, there has been as icon exhibition at the Ballarat Art Gallery. Christians have used icons for worship almost from the time of Jesus. Images of Jesus were painted on the walls of places like the Catacombs in Rome and later onto wooden plaques to help people focus attention in worship. Millions of Christians through the centuries have used these objects. God is never painted as we must never even try to come up with such an image, but Jesus was a historical person so it’s okay to paint him though the icons are not meant to be a photographic representation of the person. They are two dimensional images which suggest what it is about that person that demands veneration.
Icons are not objects of worship in themselves but are intended to assist people to worship. They come from such a different culture and practice from ours that it is easy for us to judge them and the people who use them from our perspective. The skill of those who produced most of the ones on display is incredible and they were obviously produced with much love and care. Most that we saw were of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of saints such as the Gospel writers. People pray to these people to intercede with God because they believe they are not worthy to speak directly with God. They are used by people whose form of worship shows their awe of God.

Paradoxically we hear over and over in Scripture, when a messenger of God appears, the first words are, “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid.” Like many other things associated with our faith, the fear of God is to be held in balance. We can be crushed by fear and we can be inhibited in our growth to wisdom by dismissing it. May the awesomeness of God and all creation lead you to wisdom and truth.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Stones for Stumbling

There is no shortage,
especially if you are young.
But then, nor are the mature exempt.
We trip, we fall,
we get up again.
We warn our comrades,
keep an eye on the vulnerable,
and remove those obstacles
that haven’t been bolted down;
or try to.

distracted, preoccupied,
failing to listen, or to see,
not vigilant enough ask the questions;
we stand quietly by
as new stones are lowered into place.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Darest thou now O soul

Darest thou now O soul,Walk out with me toward the unknown region,Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.

– Walt Whitman 1819-1892

Jonah and the Islamic State

I have been wondering this week whether, if Jonah was a modern prophet, he might have been sent to the Islamic State? This sermon excerpt from Laughing Bird asks us to think about the nature of God in relation to those who we most struggle with.
"God says to Jonah, ‘What right have you to get angry over this shade tree?’ Jonah says, ‘Plenty of right! It’s made me angry enough to die!’ God says, ‘How come you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere tree that you neither planted nor cared for, and yet you censure me for changing my feelings about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than one hundred and twenty thousand childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all those innocent animals?’ And so ends the story of Jonah.

I noted earlier that our scriptures tonight tell us something about what God is like; gracious, merciful, faithful, constant, all loving. Here we find that God is also willing to change His mind. God remains free to be gracious to those who deserve nothing but punishment. Notice, too, that Jonah also remains free, free to argue and resist. This story makes a significant contribution to the debate about predestination and free will. This story also tells us that God is inclusive, his love is universal. Here, a ship’s crew and a whole city of Assyrian Ninevites choose to worship the One, living God of Israel. Gentiles are saved. Jonah expects to be loved by God because he is supposedly a ‘Law-abiding’ Israelite. However, he has lived to the letter of the Law, not the spirit of the Law. It is quite a shock to his system to discover that God loves the Ninevites, who are not even Israelites, God’s chosen people! "

Monday, January 19, 2015

the tyranny of the clock

When Simon and Andrew and James and John responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow him, they had no idea what that would mean for them, or what a blessing they would be for future generation to our time. Before we can consider responding, we need to hear the call, to be silent and listen. As in the time of Samuel, the voice of God is not often heard, but that doesn’t mean that God has given up calling to us. Frequently God’s call is nonverbally communicated through the pleading eyes of babies and starving, orphaned children, the hopeless eyes of the elderly and terrified looks of those fleeing war zones that we see daily. We don’t require words. We have listened to enough sermons. We know what God wants from us and for us.

If you are unsure of what Christ is calling you to at this time, you might like to commit to a few minutes of silence each day for a week. It is likely things will become clearer for you. Put aside the tyranny of the clock and the floods of words and other noise. It could be that what you are being called to is a time of resting as Elijah in the cave. You too may be being called to follow Christ who holds all people in his heart which can be done anytime anywhere. If you can put into your covenant with Christ, a clause of commitment to silent attending, there are guaranteed that God’s grace will be sufficient for the task and there will be many blessings for you and others from taking the risk.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ready to go

Jesus often walked

the western shore of Lake Galilee

in the vicinity of Capernaum;

reflecting, praying, listening.

Perhaps he enjoyed the lapping of the waves,

the cool of the water on dusty feet,

the sounds, the beauty,

and the relative stillness

of the natural world.

He would have observed industry, too;

men with boats and nets,

and women, unnamed and forgotten,

helping to sort the fish

and effect repairs.

When Jesus made his lakeside invitation

to the brothers, Andrew and Simon,

James and John, suggesting

that soon they would be fishing for people;

was he meeting them for the first time?

Mark’s story does not say so;

but it is sometimes read that way.

More likely it was the culmination

of multiple encounters, conversations,

questions, debates, laughter and speculations;

so that when Jesus was ready to go,

so were these friends.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

seek out God

Many, many people, especially older ones are woken in the night by pain, grief, the inability to breathe, worries and concerns, noisy neighbours, uncomfortable beds and nightmares. Some live alone. Others have people or children in the home they are caring for who call them in the night. Is it just possible that any of these things could be God attempting to communicate, to give a message either for us or for others? Some have wrestled with these nocturnal disturbances waking them for a considerable time. They may be envious of Samuel having someone to alert him to their meaning or of Jacob that he only had to struggle for one night before he recognised God and was blessed by God.
In verse 1 of the story we heard from Samuel, it states, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” {1Samuel 3:1] indicating that there was a low expectation that God would communicate with them. Was it that God wasn’t speaking or that because of other distractions people could not hear or didn’t know how to recognise something that was “of God”?
Many might think that the word of God is rare in our day and that visions are not widespread. Could it be because we priests and church leaders are not expecting to hear the voice of God that we are slow to recognise when God is communicating with someone in this way?
The two passages from Hebrew Scripture can be comforting to people struggling with who they are and if they matter. They show God in serious mode, taking us seriously also. But God is also full of surprises and may let us think we can hide for a while if that is the game we want to play.
The Epistle reading set for today,[1 Corinthians 6:12-20] begins with the words, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial.” We could say this about hiding from God. We can try to do it, but is it beneficial in the long run? The rest of the passage is about not allowing one thing to dominate our lives because our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and part of the body of Christ. Do we hide because we like playing games, because we are ashamed, because we don’t know God would like us to reverse the game and the try to find God. As mature Christians, is it our turn to go “Hee” and seek out God?

One thing we can rest assured of from Jacob, Samuel, the writer of the Psalm, Phillip, Nathanael and Paul, is that it will be a life changing, joyful, exciting blessing when we find and let ourselves be found by God.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What are you looking for?

The same;
what everybody wants.

A sense that there might be purpose,
perhaps even a God;
who can say?

A belonging to somewhere,
or something.
some many.

An answer to the wonder;
and the beauty.

A settling with mystery;
sitting alongside,
accepting its peace.

Hope, in the face of uncertainty;
courage, in the face of fear.

A way to make the possible real;
to bring the justice home.

Someone to walk beside
on the track;
a partner in the seeking.

The same;
what everybody wants.

© Ken Rookes 2014

The first chapter of John’s gospel tells of Jesus’ call to follow him. First he calls two unnamed disciples of John the Baptist, (one of whom we later learn is Andrew, who tells his brother, Simon.) Jesus engages them with the question: “What are you looking for?”

In the reading for next Sunday, Jesus calls Phillip, who, in turn, tells his brother, Nathanael.

The question, “What are you looking for?” is a question asked of all who come to Jesus.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Are the heavens open for you?

"About ad 500 a book was written by a mystic or group of mystics called the ‘cloud of unknowing’, which talks of the mystical nature of belief, a sort of working in the dark.  
Do you feel that the heavens are opened for you, or are they closed and dark?

They were for Jesus, that was the whole point of this story. In everything this incomparable Person was and did. Jesus’ life and death embody the opening of the heavens. After this his life is transformed, he goes out into the world healing preaching and loving all those with whom he came into contact. His life was motivated by heavenly love and despite all the hatred and temptations to power that came his way, heaven remained open to him.
Interesting isn’t it, that when we think of the heavens being opened for us, we think of the effect of that being a new batch of miracles that take away the pain of the world around us, but for Jesus, the heavens being opened was about how his life became moved by the power of love and the goodness of God.
For us the heavens are never now closed. Never! In Christ and through Christ they are open! Our feelings do not determine the status of the windows of heaven. It has been determined in Christ Jesus. The Word and the Spirit flow free and are among us.

When the heavens are open, anything is possible."

Baptism cartoon

Baptism of Jesus - Daniel Bonnell

It is is not clear-cut like that

"On the first day of creation, as the story is told in Genesis 1, God was in the darkness and brought light into that darkness. God saw that the light was good and gave the world light, but only in equal parts with dark in the form of day and night. With so much artificial light, we may think that the split is around one third dark and two thirds light. From the beginning of the practice of Daylight saving there have been jokes about the extra sunlight, but ozone holes and global warming aside, there is still only the same amount of sunlight as there has always been.
Almost from the beginning, we have seen light as good and dark as evil. There is nothing in these verses to suggest that darkness was anything but good also. In and of themselves they are neutral. Both can be good in some ways and both can be used for evil. We have also spoken as if there is a sharp distinction between them, that there were no grey areas. It is only on the Equator that this is a sharp division between night and day. As we move further from the Equator so the time between dark and light, night and day, lengthens. Dawn and twilight take up more of each day. Could this be what the words “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” mean?
We speak of some people for whom everything must be seen as black or white, who cannot tolerate grey areas who find uncertainties about God difficult to live with. We believe God sent Jesus to give us more certainty about the nature of God and how God cares for creation, especially people. However, we get caught up in trying to put things into categories of right and wrong, night and day, light and dark. If there is one thing we can see in the life of Jesus, it is that it is not clear cut like that."

Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Let it be so for now

None of us knows

how the future will unfold.

Nor should we seek to.

The future is what happens;

it can be shaped and influenced

for good or for ill. We make our choices.

To be wise is to accept one’s place of beginning

but not to be bound by it.

To be faithful

is to see the possibilities for living,

and, from that eclectic array,

select and implement those that create hope

and lead to life. Regardless

of the consequences.

To fulfil all righteousness

is to do the work of love.

Nothing more;

nothing less.

These are the things that produce divine pleasure

and joy among the angels.

Here, among these waters,

is a beginning,

and the first of many.

© Ken Rookes 2015

My apologies; this poem was written in response to Matthew’s account of the Baptism of Jesus, not that of Mark, as it should have been for Year B. I got lost in the lectionary.

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; ...