Monday, May 25, 2015

How can these things be?


Mysteries and intimations;
things unseen,
unknown and unspoken.
The merest flicker of light
shining in darkness;
gleaming life amidst earth’s dust,
passing beyond birth’s waters
into realms of the spirit.
Places of healing, hope,
regions of truth;
The story-teller from provinces,
famous for his riddles
and tales with unexpected endings,
spoke often of wonders,
things half glimpsed among the shadows,
fleeting and never quite grasped.
No, you can’t grab hold of the wind.
His erudite nocturnal visitor
can only shake his head
and mumble unanswerable questions;
How can these things be?
The mysteries are many,
deep, disturbing and full of wonder:
life, labelled eternal,
generous love, called grace,
discipleship of the passionate kind,
and costly sacrifice.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The gentle water bird

This poem by the Australian poet, John Shaw Neilson, is, for me, a Pentecost poem. The awakening of his heart to the bird and the Divine spirit within the bird, speaks volumes to me.

In the far days, when every day was long,
Fear was upon me and the fear was strong,
Ere I had learned the recompense of song.

In the dim days I trembled, for I knew
God was above me, always frowning through,
And God was terrible and thunder-blue.

Creeds the discoloured awed my opening mind,
Perils, perplexities - what could I find? -
All the old terror waiting on mankind.

Even the gentle flowers of white and cream,
The rainbow with its treasury of dream,
Trembled because of God's ungracious scheme.

And in the night the many stars would say
Dark things unaltered in the light of day:
Fear was upon me even in my play.

There was a lake I loved in gentle rain:
One day there fell a bird, a courtly crane:
Wisely he walked, as one who knows of pain.

Gracious he was and lofty as a king:
Silent he was, and yet he seemed to sing
Always of little children and the Spring.

God? Did he know him? It was far he flew?.
God was not terrible and thunder-blue:
- It was a gentle water bird I knew.

Pity was in him for the weak and strong,
All who have suffered when the days were long
And he was deep and gentle as a song.

As a calm soldier in a cloak of grey
He did commune with me for many a day
Till the dark fear was lifted far away.

Sober-apparelled, yet he caught the glow:
Always of Heaven would he speak, and low,
And he did tell me where the wishes go.

Kinsfolk of his it was who long before
Came from the mist (and no one knows the shore)
Came with the little children to the door.

Was he less wise than those birds long ago
Who flew from God (He surely willed it so)
Bearing great happiness to all below?

Long have I learned that all his speech was true;
I cannot reason it - how far he flew -
God is not terrible nor thunder-blue.

Sometimes, when watching in the white sunshine,
Someone approaches - I can half define
All the calm beauty of that friend of mine.

Nothing of hatred will about him cling:
Silent - how silent - but his heart will sing
Always of little children and the Spring. 

A Season of miracle and hopefulness

Many of us live in towns we would define as friendly towns, but in any place there is the possibility of defining people as either ‘in’ or ‘out’. Those from outside can sometimes come to be seen as of less value than our selves and this can lead to mistrust and even hatred. Community is a great thing, but when it is used as a tool to separate one from another, rather than to bring greater understanding it can be a tool of bigotry. It is a drive that sees us moving away from each other, rather than closer together.
We are in the Christian season of Pentecost and in this Season, Christians are reminded that the Spirit of God seeks to draw us closer to each other and to God. At the first Pentecost, there was a strange sort of event, where people from all corners of the then known world found themselves speaking in the same language. Though they were different, they understood each other.
This is the sort of community that God wants and this is the activity of the Spirit of God; to draw us closer to each other; to make the stranger a friend and to love the neighbour, who may well be different to us. But this sort of Spirit love does not always come easy or cheap. When those around you are telling you to hate it takes a divine power to move towards love. As John Williamson said “Anyone can hate. It costs to love.”

The work of Pentecost is one of profound miracle and hopefulness. It is a dream of a Spirit that can draw us closer, can assist us to truly know each other’s pain and dreams, and can draw us closer to a vision of a compassionate world. Let us pray for the gift of such a Spirit and know her presence in our midst.


 I was in the manse next door to the church building and Op Shop. The door bell rang. A young man in a uniform stood there. “Excuse me,” he said most politely, “Can you tell me what a manse is? I have come for to inspect the fire appliances. The women in the shop let me into the church and showed me the one in the shop. They said the last one was in the manse. I’ve looked around and I can’t work out what a manse is.”

During a recent hair cut, I mentioned that I had worked as a chaplain. “What’s a chaplain?” She asked.

These things reminded me of asking the minister what the word, ineffable, meant. It had been in the last hymn. “Haven’t got a clue,” he said.

The story of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in Acts, tells us that one of the most remarkable things about that day was that people gathered from all round the Roman world, heard the message in their own languages.  

When we speak in words others understand we are more likely to help them know God’s love.

Rev Julianne Parker

Monday, May 18, 2015

But you cannot bear them now


Spirit of Truth, Advocate:
you see all things,
know all things.
Reveal it,
show us; but not too much.
Open our eyes and let us see;
but, if you don’t mind,
keep hidden those things
that might cause anxiety
or shame.
You know what we can bear;
just a little for now.
A single LED rather than a floodlight.
There are scenes we would rather not view,
stories we would rather not hear.
Tales of suffering and cruelty
of which we prefer to remain ignorant.
Injustices, that, intruding into our pleasant reality,
might impel us into action
or compel us to change.
It’s not that we lack courage
to take on the many things,
but one at a time;
if that’s all right.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

the partnership of love and joy

We may see joy as part of love or as a partner to love. There was an old song which said, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Well, love and joy fit together like this or perhaps you prefer to think of them as going hand in glove. Whatever image you like, love and joy exist together in the Spirit in us. They are often intermingled feelings. It was from Jesus’ love for us that he wanted us to have his joy complete in us. All feelings are complex, almost never existing in isolation. Wine connoisseurs speak of this and that with a hint of something else; so our sense of loss can include feelings of sadness, disbelief and love, or anger, fear and jealousy. This complexity is one of the reasons why it is wise to examine them. Such things left unattended may spoil, contaminating all we do and are.
There is a psychological practice which says for us to behave in a certain way and we will come to feel whatever it is. If we behave in loving ways we will come to love. This requires great dedication, commitment. It is hard work and it may or may not happen. It apparently can work if you don’t get discouraged and give up. Some suggest we can learn to love by reading the Bible. It is true we can learn about God’s love this way but what we have then is head knowledge. The best way to come to love is by being loved. When we experience God’s love and know God’s joy in encouragement and hope, we will love and our joy will be complete.

The Aaronic blessing with its words, “May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,” is an understanding of God smiling upon us because God is enjoying us, our presence, our company. Imagine that! Surely one of the greatest gifts we can receive is this blessing. People of God, observe your feelings. Enjoy loving and being loved. Reclaim joy and enjoy God and Christ’s joy within you forever. May you be blessed richly in these things.
Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermons page

Sunday, May 10, 2015

He withdrew from them

He withdrew from them

Metaphor or historic reality,

it’s up to you. The ascension

serves its purpose.

Luke locates it at Bethany;

close to Jerusalem,

but away from the prying eyes

of the big city; it’s almost a secret.

He ties it to the promise of the spirit;

the Pentecost event,

also much celebrated.

Thus Jesus gives his friends their final instructions

and withdraws.

They are now on their own.

Except for the spirit thing,

and the knowledge that they have each other.

They are to speak of the things he did and said

and to be witnesses to love;

its sacrifices and its generosity.

Now we will see

how well they listened and watched,

how deeply they loved him,

and how truly they worship.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do this thing

At the centre of the story
is love. Nothing else.
A commandment,
said to be new.
Do this thing.
Right there at its core;
always has been, will be.
There, from its beginning,
and when it comes to its brutal end.
Which, at this point in the story, is not far off;
but perhaps it’s not really the end.
This love finds its greatest expression,
we are told, in sacrifice;
in spending oneself for others,
for those embraced as friends.

Love the same way the master does;
a rule for disciples
and all who come after.
Be courageous; do this thing,
and turn it into the fruit that endures.

© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

so that our joy may be complete!

Jesus said that he had told us about God’s love and our connectedness with God so that Jesus’ joy could be in us and our joy complete? [John 15:11] The Psalm set for today, 98, encourages all people and the whole of the earth, to praise God with much joy for his loving faithfulness. Many Psalms talk about enjoying God and ourselves.

But “Jesus’ joy”, where does THAT idea come from? Here we have Jesus saying that he has said these things so his joy may be in us and that our joy may be complete. [John 15:11] Is there a hint anywhere in what we have read or what we have been told, that Jesus enjoyed himself? Sure we know Jesus did good, but according to the Gospels which are the only source we have, he was continuously criticising the religious leaders and the impression we have is of someone who took life very seriously. The way we have heard the Bible read has never suggested any joy even when Jesus healed people or turned water into wine. Could he have been enjoying himself, being light-hearted, when he walked on the water? One could wonder if seriousness and joy are mutually exclusive.
...As we come to know God more through our friendship with Christ, may the love and joy in us so that the desire to judge will fade and more can come to know Love and Joy in all their fullness.
Rev Julianne Parker
for full sermon see sermon's page

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; ...