Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't tell anyone

Keep it to yourself, this encounter;
this meeting with a miracle.
He who unstopped your ears
and loosed your tongue,
now directs you to tell no one.
Hey there, friend!
How come you can now hear and speak
when you couldn’t yesterday?
What do you mean, you can’t tell me?
It was never going to happen.
You’ll just have to make the best of it, Jesus.
The excited crowds, the adulation,
expectations and demands;
they come with the job.
The job also seems to generate
a growing pack of fierce opponents,
baying from fear,
and anxious;
lest their comfortable world be inverted.
Your adversaries are right to be concerned.
Should they dare to listen, it might be
that these, too, will be required to consider
the demands of love;
and do something about them.
Don’t tell anyone.


© Ken Rookes 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The beloved

It’s spring time! A profusion of green paddock, budding fruit trees, golden wattle and warming days lifts our spirits. Almost subconsciously we head to nurseries to buy vegetable and flower seedlings and prepare the soil for later tomato plants. Spring is quite noticeable this year after the unusually cold, grey winter we have had. This season is well named. It really does put a spring in our steps and then facing the weeding which must be done, is almost a pleasure.
The only thing that can put a dampener on these feelings is looking at the Lectionary readings for this week. There are some parts of Scripture that are hard to deal with and we groan when we see them come up. What are we to say about them that may convey new understandings of the Love of God? There are even whole books that we avoid if we can and Song of Solomon has been one of these. We may look hopefully at all the other set reading for something that is easier to deal with. Song of Solomon is not easy for the older ones of us who were brought up with the prudish attitudes of the Victorian era still the predominant influence.
Many of us find it easier to talk about war, violence and murder than tender, erotic love. For many Christians who hold to the concept of Original Sin, anything sexual is seen as evil. God’s love, we were taught, was Agape, pure, and holy, unlike corrupted human love.  Christians for whom at least 90% of the portrayal of God is as Father and hence male, the idea coming later in our exploration of images of God as that of lover is almost impossible to contemplate.
 If you love God, then today’s set reading from the Song of Solomon is an invitation to spend some relaxed time with the One you love. It will be easier for many of us if we use the word, “Friend” instead of “Beloved”. For many of us a favourite hymn has been, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and through it we have become familiar with the concept of Christ as Friend. We have friends who get in touch and invite us for a coffee and a chat or to visit a gallery, one day soon. They are inviting, not demanding or compelling. They leave the response up to us and we know that even if we have to turn this particular invitation down, they will not stop being our friend. There will be other invitations.
...What Song of Solomon shows us is a light-hearted invitation to relaxation and enjoyment of our relationship with God who is always far more than we can ever imagine. It is a call for us to engage with the Divine with our hearts as well as our heads. We have been quite good with the head stuff but have often avoided more intimate relationship. To begin this requires listening with the heart which is about feeling what you are hearing; listening, feeling and then acting.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Song of Songs Haiku

Arise my fair one:
the lover’s invitation
to intimacy.

The beloved comes,
eager with youth’s desire,
leaping over hills.

Winter’s fear has passed
giving way to hope and life;
and with much singing.

The fruiting fig trees
join with the fragrant blossoms,
in love’s dance-song call.

Spring’s fecundity
of flowers and turtledoves;
Eros meets Yahweh.

Come away with me
and we shall be joined as one;
Arise my fair one.

© Ken Rookes 2015 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Health and safety for Christians

but as far as we know, the only people who had protective clothing were soldiers so that is the metaphor he used. The image of God as King has contributed to our imaging of God as a military leader as historically one of the main roles of a king has been to lead the army in war. This passage may also have contributed to military images of Christ.

In spite of Jesus’ non-violence, Christianity has been militarised through the centuries and much damage has been done, wars fought and lives lost because of this. Dave Andrews, head of Tear Australia, speaking at the Bendigo Library recently, reminded those present that all of the atrocities that are being perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq at this time, have first been enacted by Christians against Muslims. This statement would not surprise those who know the true history about the Crusades. It is disillusioning and even horrifying to learn about what really happened during the several hundred years that this fighting took place. The Crusades had been held up to us as a wonderful example of how Christians defended the faith, but it can be sickening and shameful to read details of deeds carried out that were said to be to the glory of God and to realise the cost financially, in lives and to human dignity. ...
 It is sensible both for every-day life and for our spiritual life, to have our means of protection on hand and in good order at all times so we are prepared for whatever comes. The fact that we are advised to use protective equipment tells us that being a follower of Christ is not an easy journey and our preparation may make the difference between life and death for us. Don’t scoff at the offered protection as some do, but be as fully prepared as possible. Keep alert, listening for the message which is the mystery of the gospel. [Ephesians 6:19]
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Difficult Words Haiku

Eat my flesh, he says,
as if it’s a normal thing;
this deep mystery.

Living forever;
the reward for believers.
Is there something more?

The spirit makes life,
he told those who would listen.
The flesh, conversely.

His difficult words
drove many away. Not me;
there is no other.

The fisherman spoke
for us all. Your words are life:
where else can we go?

© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Giving thanks

Why is this giving thanks important? In the reading set for today from Hebrew Scripture, God invited Solomon to “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon asked for and understanding mind, to discern what is good and what is evil. [1Kings 3:9] God replied that God would give him a wise and understanding mind and more besides. Perhaps that needs to be our prayer in seeking to understand what is behind giving thanks for all things. The Psalmist [Psalm 111] gave thanks to the Lord with his whole heart. I cannot in all honesty say that I have ever given wholehearted thanks to God for Ed’s death and some of the other pain we have suffered since. But God as I know God at the moment is okay with that. I do not believe it is being held against me.

James Finley writes, “If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” [quoted by R Rohr] This is about where my understanding is at the moment. I don’t believe God does these things to us. I believe that part of life in all its fullness is about going through such experiences with God to support and encourage so that we can then support and encourage and love others.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Abide in me.

Do I want to live forever?
It’s not a priority.
My mind struggles with notions of heaven;
of existing somehow, conscious and individual,
beyond one’s allotted days
in this corporeal world.
Across earth’s stones and tracks I journey,
love, rejoice,
wonder and rage.
I breathe its red dust and taste its sorrow;
here I belong
and yet am never quite at home.
Perhaps I never shall be.
Striving, longing and hoping
I seek the company
of those who also yearn
and weep and groan.
My comrades are my abode,
my sisters and brothers are my home.
Perhaps this is what the gospel writer meant
when he spoke of abiding in Jesus,
earth-dweller, brother of us all,
and true child of heaven.
(Whatever that means).
© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

God in a box

Once upon a time we captured God and we put God in a box and we put a beautiful velvet curtain around the box.  We placed candles and flowers around the box and we said to the poor and the dispossessed, "Come!  Come and see what we have!  Come and see God!" And they knelt before the God in the box.   One day, very long ago, the Spirit in the box turned the key from inside and she pushed it open.  She looked around in the church and saw that there was nobody there!  They had all gone.  Not a soul was in the place.  She said to herself, "I'm getting out!"  The Spirit shot out of the box.  She escaped and she has been sighted a few times since then. She was last seen with a bag lady in McDonald's.   -Edwina GateleyQuoted from Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women's Spiritual Writings  Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., Ed.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I am the bread of life


We take these words
and fashion them into a ritual.
A ritual meal of great beauty,
layered and filled with meaning
and mystery; which is almost certainly
what the writer had in mind.
Flesh is made bread.
The wheat is ground,
mixed, kneaded,
and baked in an oven. It emerges,
crusty and smelling of friendship.
So we tear the loaves in two,
break off pieces,
and share them.
And somehow, in this bread
and in the wine that accompanies it,
we take into the essence of our selves
the words the Teacher spoke,
the compassion, grace, and love he enacted.
Along with the power of his giving,
his sacrifice.
And somehow,
in this invitation to gather
at his table,
we are also invited to see with his eyes
and to behold the kingdom;
a world that may yet be transformed
by justice, hope and peace.
And in these fragments,
small, humble, broken,
we receive this man;
not to mention
his outrage
and his tears.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Would that i had died ...

On hearing the news that Absalom was dead, David immediately retreated to a private place to mourn. His poignant words have rung and echoed through every generation since. “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you.” Unknown numbers of parents have uttered words like this as news came to them of the death of their sons and now daughters also, in war. In fact, almost every time a child dies, the parents express such words, “Would that I had died instead of you.”
The story goes on to say that the victory turned into mourning for all the troops who instead of celebrating joined the King in respect for his grief. But then the twist in the story came. Joab one of the army commanders had specifically disobeyed David’s orders in encouraging the soldiers to kill Absalom and he wasn’t about to put up with David’s response to news of the death. He told David in no uncertain terms that he was letting down the nation by mourning the one who had betrayed his father.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the Prime Minister of England going to the Queen in Scotland to tell her she had no right to be mourning as she was when Dianna died.
In the book of Job, we read of how his friends tried to tell him how to grieve and why he had brought all this trouble on himself.  Unfortunately today, people still try to tell others how they should mourn and remind them too early of major responsibilities.
It is almost natural to ask questions following a death, especially a sudden one. Why did this happen? What could I have done to prevent it? David must have wondered why the army officers had not done what he asked.
It is not only parents who say “Would that I had died instead of you”. They were my words when my husband died. He was such a loss to the community as well as our family and I was just his wife. In grief there is confusion, despair, unbearable agony. The thing that the story of David tells us is that no matter how bad it gets or how badly we handle our grief, God is still there for us, in it and through it.

Perhaps the words of Psalm 130 are also ones that you have uttered in desperation, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading.”  People who haven’t experienced major grief fail to understand. Many mean well with their advice but grief is a thing that you have to do for yourself for the most part, with the help of God.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

The gift of righteous anger

In the Gospel reading set to go with Ephesians, the Jews were complaining about what Jesus had said about being the Bread of Life. [John 6:41] They were angered by his words. They felt indignant about his claims that were, to be honest, confronting. Their smouldering rage led to them having Jesus killed.
The Gospel of John was written around the end of the first century after the split between Jesus’s followers and the Jews. While there is little doubt that there was trouble between Jesus and some Jews in his life time, it seems that this has been expanded to include all Jews by the time this Gospel was written. Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life and likening himself to the manna in the wilderness would have seemed outrageous to many. However it can be a source of strength and encouragement for those fighting injustice.
If we are true followers of Jesus, acknowledging that we feel angry about an injustice is never enough. We are called to follow Jesus’ example of doing something to rectify the situation. What God requires is justice.[Micah 6:8] Feeling anger is to be followed by action by us as members of the body of Christ. Grumbling and complaining among ourselves is not enough. Justice for all is to be top of our agendas and we will be guided into the area of our work by examining our feelings of anger. Therefore, “Be angry, but do not sin and do not let the sun go down” without having begun to address the situation that aroused your anger.

May be richly blessed as a passionate member of Christ’s body ready to discern and respond to injustice.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons 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; ...