Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"at Lent God speaks and acts in ways that are different from the ways of the world, and different from what I might expect or notice if I don't pay careful attention.

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder,
because of God's silence. But how naive,
to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves,
English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours,
the French of Haiti.

Yes, that was one way omnipotence chose
to address us-Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever the patriarchs
chose in their turn to call what they heard. Moses
demanded the word, spoken and written. But perfect freedom
assured other ways of speech. God is surely
patiently trying to immerse us in a different language,
events of grace, horrifying scrolls of history
and the unearned retrieval of blessings lost for ever,
the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent.
God's abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice
utters its woe and glory in myriad musics, in signs and portents.
Our own words are for us to speak, a way to ask and to answer.

Denise Levertov

Lent is a liberating reminder that I'm not stuck. Because God speaks in new voices and in unexpected ways, change can come. Renewal is possible. And in the ultimate Christian mystery that awaits us a few Sundays from now, even physical death leads to resurrection life."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Divine things

All around us,
divine things;
elusive butterflies of different hues
catching the light and reflecting it
in rainbow colours, flashing
as they flap their delicate wings.
From shade into brightness
and back into the shadows they flutter;
intermittently visible,
persistently present, fragile.

Tears and generosity,
humility, sacrifice, and discomforting truth,
these things; born out of love,
and vulnerable. Like god.
They dance, unconstrained,
through the dappled sunlight,
precariously present.              
Divine things,
all around us, (and within);
keep your eyes upon them.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Names for God

It is said that the Hindu people have a thousand names for God and that the Muslims have ninety-nine name for Allah. In Christianity, we have largely limited our names for God to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The titles Messiah, Christ and Lord all have the same meaning, that of military leader/commander in chief.
In their minds, the disciples had named Jesus, Messiah. The problem was that their understanding of that name was quite different from how Jesus understood his work. When he tried to explain clearly that this meant he would be killed if he continued, his followers did not want to hear. They were even more reluctant to hear that he wanted them to be willing to follow the same path.
The name that Jesus gave to himself, son of man, the church has written with capital letters as with Son of God. But this may not have been Jesus’ use of the term. At the time it was a common way people referred to themselves.

The question comes for us today, which stage of development are we at in our lives of faith as individuals and as congregations. Is our name the most important thing? Are we clinging to who we are because we are not yet certain of who we are for God? Have we just moved far enough into the second stage to be critical of others while not being secure enough to face all of who we are? Are we willing to die to all that we think we are and think we know for sure to grow into the wisdom of the mystery of God who is beyond all names and follow the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching?
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


On the day when Jesus
strolled down to the Jordan
to meet with John and to be baptised,
the heavens, it is said, were torn apart.
They’ve been tearing apart ever since,
not just with Jesus,
who was outrageous enough;
some of those who came after him
have ripped things up a bit, too.
They broke laws, defied the powers
and governments, and challenged
the fearful and loveless status quo.

Here are some of the outcomes;
divine fragments,
torn from the heavenly interface
like squares from yesterday’s newspaper
and layered with earth’s paste
as they are fashioned into something new
and surprising.
A papier-m√Ęche new creation, disturbing,
defiant, and more than a little foolish;
it is flimsy and fragile,
a vulnerable reliquary
of sacred hope.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Remember o Mortal

The power of Lament

I sit within the Uniting Church tradition in Australia, a tradition which, by and large, does not 'celebrate' Ash Wednesday as part of our church life. In my ministry i have spent some time within the episcopal (Anglican) tradition where i have learned the value of taking this day seriously. I still remember the first time that i was part of an Ash Wednesday service and the power of having my forehead marked with the sign of the cross, a sign of my mortality, but also my grief and sadness at my own and our corporate human fallibility and violence. In a time when we continue to inflict violence on each other and the environment in so many ways, i feel that this day plays a vital part in our Christian life. To paraphrase part of a sermon (see below) by Jan Remont ...
Image result for Ash wednesday  as Ash Wednesday grows close – and as I hear the news each day, look around me, and search my own heart – I find myself thinking of ashes as . . . ashes. Ashes in their stark deathly reality, not ashes as ground that can still sprout – but in my mouth is also the taste of ashes. I want to weep. In Iraq and in Africa, ashes of war and ashes of hunger. The last ashes scattering in the wind and no hope of fire to cook more food, because there is no food left and no fuel for fire. Ashes of the many who continue to die in conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria. Ashes of Auschwitz, whose memories are deep within us.  Ashes of our Australia's integrity as we continue to treat Asylum seekers as criminals, Ashes of the dead Egyptian Christians beheaded by the Islamic state last week. Ashes of the Rainforests that are burning even now to fuel human greed.
There is great power in Lament and it is a power to acknowledge our truth and to begin to strive for change.
Rev Gordon Bannon

Ash Wednesday, the agitated God

"On this Ash Wednesday, how can we not lament? What other godly way is there? The Ghanaian Methodist theologian Mercy Amba Oduyoye speaks of God being agitated. This agitation – described in kindred words in many biblical texts – is both compassion and distress. Most of all, Oduyoye writes, God is agitated at suffering and injustice.
God is agitated, friends. God is appalled. God weeps. And God the Lover longs for us to return Godward, with tears.
...It happens sometimes without our noticing: We have become numb to suffering, habituated to the sly creep of resignation, inured to the ways the powers and principalities exercise their insidious reign. Then, on this day of ashes, the trumpet blows and we leave numbness behind. It is not something we do alone. Part of the power of the day is the witness of its collective, public lament.
Many of us are reluctant to lament in public and to do so with the force of religious language. To do so with specificity, naming the causes of our lament – intimate and personal but more often social, economic, local, regional, planetary, political – is especially difficult. Personal inhibition, perhaps – we are not just numb to others' grief but sometimes to our own. Or perhaps we and our religion are too polite. Or we have bad memories of Christians being offensively public (like the hypocrites of Matthew's Gospel) or of Christians calling for repentance in ways that deny the holiness of the body and of sexual desire.
Or perhaps we have fallen prey to the privatizing of religion. Here in the U.S., there is not as much distance as it appears between “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior” and the feel-good spirituality of those who abhor this kind of language and have left Christianity behind. Both are personal and only personal. But Christian faith is not only trust in Christ to cherish and make whole our individual lives; it is proclamation of Christ as "savior of the world."
To this savior of the world we turn our hearts and our actions, together. This is not a convert-making feast, leading others into the fold. It is the feast of our own family attending to the state of its own house. Ashes on our foreheads, we lament the state of earth and its inhabitants, its wounds and cries, and the silence and dust of death. In repentance, we lament our own complicity in the inflicting of earth's wounds, our standing by when earth and its creatures were wounded, all the times we have distanced ourselves from others who like us are made of earth and with whom we will share on this earth the same dusty end.

The task of Lent

As i ponder the task of the Lenten period and all the traditions of  "giving up stuff" for the period in order to improve one's spiritual condition, i am reminded of what i think is the real task of discipleship and therefore all we should be focusing on in this Lenten time.
“To learn to love
is to be stripped of all love
until you are wholly without love
until you have gone
naked and afraid
into this cold dark place
where all love is taken from you
you will not know
that you are wholly within love.”
(From Lines Scribbled on an Envelope, New York: Ferrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969)

God winking at you

Some years ago, after my husband had died, I was driving the 50kms to work.  I had with me the three teenage children of our workman who I took to the High School in Naracoorte.  It was a showery, winter’s morning with the sun shining intermittently.  Things were not going well for us at that time.  Interest rates on our loans were still climbing and the price of wool had fallen so that you could hardly give it away. I was having trouble paying the bills and wages.
I noticed a partial rainbow in the sky away across a paddock to my right.  As I turned to look at it, the thought crossed my mind that this was God winking at me.  I was horrified at the thought and quickly turned back to look at the road.  This was totally ridiculous.  God doesn’t wink at people!  Where on earth did such a thought come from.  I tried to block it out. The thought persisted, though, and I could not resist turning back to look again at the rainbow.  I realized that I was smiling and wondered if the three teenagers had noticed.  I tried to keep a straight face so that they wouldn’t.
As we drove on, we saw many partial rainbows.  At every bend in the road there seemed to be a new one.  I had never seen anything like it.  At last we came up over a hill to go down into Naracoorte and there was a complete double rainbow over the town.  It was spectacular.  As I worked with people during the day, I asked them if they had noticed the rainbows. Several said that they had seen the one over the town.  I was careful NOT to mention the idea of God winking.

After work it was my custom to go to the home of a friend for a cup of coffee before heading home.  I started to tell her about the rainbows and a strange look came on her face so I asked her what the matter was.  She replied, “Yesterday, when you were here, you were so down that I asked God to give you a rainbow to remind you of how much God loves you”.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, February 9, 2015

The glory of God

"In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul indicated that he believed that each of us has the same brilliant light of the glory of God present within us. The glory of God is shown in goodness. The glory of God within us is shown in our goodness. While it is unlikely ever to shine from us to the degree that it did from Jesus that day on the mountain, never- the –less it still can and does show in us, in every living creature and in all creation when we are being who we were created to be and when we are loving and caring. In Genesis 1 we are told that as God completed different parts of creation, God declared them good and when God had created humans, God declared they were very good. All creation and especially us, reflect God’s glory.
For centuries our mantle of goodness has been shrouded by the cloak of emphasis on sin that has been laid on us all as the church has only been interested in us seeing ourselves as sinners and not as blessed prophets of God in the line of Moses, Elijah and Elisha.
The appearance of the light of the glory of God within every person has been dimmed because of this. Like the disciples, we haven’t been listening carefully to what Jesus has been trying to tell us. Like Peter, our own agendas often obscure the true reality of Christ. And when we don’t listen to God, we probably don’t listen to those around us either. We may fail to hear their anguish and to follow Jesus’ example in trying to eliminate the causes of pain and suffering in our communities and the world.

We, like Elisha have been blessed with the Spirit that was in both Elijah and Jesus. We are in effect, witnesses to Jesus death and Jesus told his followers that they would do greater things than he did. The mantle of Jesus has been passed on to us. In grief and in joy, we have been blessed. Let’s listen to Christ and work to show people and all creation, the Good News of God."
Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page

This imperishable wreath

We have replaced the perishable wreaths
with bags of gold,
and with shining medals,
and plates and cups of silver and crystal.
These reflect loudly the applied light,
demanding to be polished
as they slowly capture dust
on shelves and in glass cases.
The heroes of field, track and arena
are lauded and celebrated;
while celebrity becomes their greatest achievement.
Yet this too will pass,
the ephemeral silverware and all the rest;
even the undimmed glow of the gold
will one day lie forgotten,
beneath earth’s dust.

Empty, and yet abundant,
profoundly connected, deeply alone.
Torn and bleeding,
sometimes triumphant,
humble, hoping, defiant,
having nothing to do
with honours and earthly reward;
for all who compete
this imperishable wreath. 

© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015


He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Isaiah 8:29

God is idle,
declares the small white badge
purchased from the NGV
after viewing an exhibition of contemporary art.
In spite of the confident declaration
of the ancient prophet,
I find myself forced to agree.
The god who intervenes in human affairs
giving power to the faint and strengthening the powerless,
appears to have gone missing.

Who has less power
than those who cross hazardous seas
in nervous wooden boats;
fearful, fleeing; seeking, pleading
for refuge and compassion?
Their anxieties compound, multiplying
behind iron gates and barbed wire.
They cry out in desperation, but god
and the bastard gaoler politicians
who pretend to serve him,
neither hear nor act.

We can only hope
that there might be another god,
human-shaped, bleeding, weeping;
whose spirit resides in at least a few faithful hearts.
Perhaps this god is listening;
perhaps the servants of this god
have open ears,
and are not idle.

© Ken Rookes 2015

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; ...