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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What does prayer mean for you?

What does prayer mean for you? God is the great Mystery we can barely begin to know and yet, paradoxically, are called to know and prayer often seems even more of a mystery and paradox. Many people can give examples of prayer being answered and maybe even more of prayer seeming not to be answered. When you start talking about frustration with unanswered prayer, people are likely to tell you that it’s your fault that it isn’t working, you are not doing it right. This is frustrating.
Perhaps it would be easier for us to understand pray if we gave it a different name and expanded our view of it. The word ‘prayer’ may make us nervous and we be anxious about getting the right words or we may think that only certain people can pray or even that God only listens to some people. Prayer is communication with God and we are aware of the importance of body language in communication. It is about our attitude and activities as well as our words.
It is intended to be two way but we sometimes don’t let God get a word in. It doesn’t always require conversation. It can be about being present to God the way we spend time with friends. If we talked ceaselessly in any given situation, our friends would soon become tired of us so sometimes it is better to remain silent. Meditation and contemplation are forms of silent prayer and Lectio Divino is prayerfully asked God to speak to us through contemplation of Scripture, creation or a particular situation.

Unfortunately, most of us never get anywhere near the pinnacle of prayer experience. That requires dedication, concentration, practice and commitment. It also about realising that more is available and possible for us than we have ever dreamed of in relationship with God.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Whoever is not against us is for us.


Jesus, the gospel-writers tell us,
was an all-in-together
type of person. Welcoming,
including, overlooking,
forgiving. Sharing bread,
drinking wine,
laughing, and enjoying the company
of his friends.
 
His followers, it has to be said,
have found this aspect of his personality
a little challenging.
 
His splendid work of gathering and embracing
was translated through the coming millennia.
These years of ecclesial consolidation
saw exorbitant quantities of energy and passion
directed towards separating and excluding;
in determining who is in and who is out,
who will get to heaven, (whatever that might be),
and who won’t.
 
Sort of missing the point,
really.
 

© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Children are not the future

“The children are not the future. The living truth is the future. Time and people do not make the future… Fifty million children growing up purposeless, with no purpose save the attainment of their own individual desires, these are not the future, they are only a disintegration of the past. The future is in living, growing truth.” D. H. Lawrence

Say no by saying yes.

"...Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes."

Wendell Berry - Look out

figures of Torture


Art By Rev Dr Wes Campbell
figures of torture. A response to places like Abu Graib. The blindfold and gag remind us that torture is taking place, also in Western prisons and detention centres. Jesus himself was submitted to that in the Garden and at his trial. People fleeing from torture seek our welcome and protection

The Yawning Jesus.(Read the storms in the Gospel according to Mark chapters 4 and 6). Jesus orders his disciples to enter the boat and they endure a storm. People have travelled by boats in dangerous sees to seek asylum in this country.

Asylum Boat

A painting by Rev Dr Wes Campbell 

Is Christ divided? Another boat in stormy seas, with a wall (reminiscent of the wall dividing Palestine) reminds us of the divisions and fear experienced by our sisters and brothers.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gender issues and the body of Christ

Can the Church ever claim to be taking justice issues around gender equality seriously while it still has readings such as the one from Proverbs set for today in the Lectionary? It has been used for centuries to keep women in their place. It has been used, usually by male preachers in recent times, to refute claims of control of women by pointing out that this woman was free to make decisions such as buying and selling land. While the woman was ensuring that her family was well taken care of, her husband was sitting by the gate probably doing nothing more strenuous that chatting, discussing or philosophising. This was the custom for men of the status of the woman depicted. She was in a substantially better off household than most of the women in the world. These sermons generally leave the women listening, feeling inadequate for not living up to the standards set and the men gloating because what was being said didn’t apply to them.

There is no corresponding passage in the Bible about how a good husband should behave. Sure, occasionally there is a sentence directed at men. We have in Genesis 2:24 that a man should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. Deuteronomy 24:5 says, “When a man is newly married he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife who he has married.” and in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” NRSV.  But these are all, and in our rural areas it has been far more likely that the wife has had to leave her parent than the husband would leave his.
.... There has been focus on domestic violence in the past year and again recently. We as members of Christ’s body, the Church, must ask how much we are contributing to the plight of battered women by our understanding of how women should behave and how men may treat them. It is time we questioned closely how our beliefs may affect others and ask if this is what Christ wants for people.    How can we condemn the practices of genital mutilation and the burning and acid throwing attacks on women in other cultures and the murder and harm done in our own if we have not learned better than this by now? ...In prayer, we can ask for Christ’s guidance for gender issues of this time and not think we heard the final word on it three thousand years ago. When we are in closer relationship it is easier to ask questions. You are part of the body of Christ. Do not be afraid to question and question and question as you ponder God’s Way and what is meant by God’s goodness and love. Remember that nothing can separate you from God’s love, not even what may seem like the most trivial of questions. The answers may take a while. They probably won’t be what you expect but God will bless you with interesting answers.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermon's page)

But they were silent

 

They kept their mouths shut
embarrassed
naughty children caught out
arguing.
 
I’m better than you,
cleverer,
more worthy,
with leadership qualities.
 
He gathered the silenced ones
together. All twelve.
Maybe even some of the others,
like the women.
 
Be the greatest, he told them.
The best at caring and loving,
the first among servants.
Be friends of children.
 
They still had nothing to say.
Not sure what he was getting at,
but afraid to ask.
Speechless.
 
 

© Ken Rookes 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The writer of the Gospel of Mark believed that God adopted Jesus as his son at his baptism when God said, “You are my Son, the Beloved.” [Mark 1:11] The writers of Matthew and Luke’s Gospel saw Jesus as Son of God from conception. [Matthew 1:18-20, Luke 1:35]  And the writer of the Gospel we call John believed that Jesus was the Divine Christ who had ever been with God and was present at Creation. Paul started out thinking that Jesus was a pesky rabble rouser who needed to be stopped at all costs and then, after his Damascus Road experience, he understood Jesus in a similar way to that of the writer of John. He went on to expand this idea further to include us all in the Divine Christ with the explanation, “You are the one body of Christ and individually members of it.” [1Corinthians 12:27]
This is no surprise to most of you who have known this quote for many years but how do we understand this? Are we members of the church as we might be members of Probus where we go along regularly to listen to a speaker; or members of a golf club where we may play a more active part; or members of a choir where the aim is to all sing from the one hymn sheet? Or might Paul’s image indicate a closer relationship, one suggesting that we are of the same substance as the Christ, that we are one with the divine nature of The Christ as well as one with his human nature? It is important for us to know who Christ says we are before we can answer the question of others. John’s story of Jesus saying, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” seems to tell us plainly that we are part of the body of Christ.
Around the world the voiceless scream of refugees asking, “Is no one listening to me? Who do you say I am? Who do you say my family is that you will not help us?”

Our readings for today call us to listen carefully to the other so we can be better placed to answer their yearning question with respect and then act according to our calling as members of the body of Christ. Wisdom still calls to us to treat her and all others with dignity and respect. May we humbly acknowledge who we are, respectfully acknowledge others and honour and live in awe of the Wisdom of God.
REv Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him


 

The stern Jesus;
a half-frown upon his divine countenance
and voice lowered to underline the seriousness
of the situation.
You’ve got to keep it secret, he tells them,
lest people get the wrong idea.
Which wrong idea, Jesus?
there must be a handful to choose from.
 
The inner circle got one of them,
anticipating their share in the glory
of his earthly rule.
You are the Christ, declared Peter;
and we are your right-hand men, so to speak.
We will hear no more talk of suffering,
so please desist.
 
The Scribes, Pharisees
and sundry religious associates
managed to get a wrong idea, too;
frightened, as they were, of these new teachings
that put grace ahead of law.
He cannot be from God! they protest,
as they make plans to prove it.
 
Two millennia later
there is still no shortage of wrong ideas.
Power and Wealth conspire with Polite Christianity
to pretend that its founder
never said anything disturbing, or challenging;
being only really interested
in good order and respectability.
 
Don’t tell anybody.

 

 

© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Challenge to care

The reading set for today [Proverbs 22:8-9] links justice with generosity. Despite the huge difference between the wealthiest in Australia and most of us, even pensioners here are financially better off than 97% of people in the world but like spoilt children unprepared to share, most of us go to almost any ends to hold on to what we have. “This land is ours; we got here first!” we say with our actions as well as our words. “It’s ours; we worked hard for it,” we say about our assets to those less well off as if they have not worked hard. We back up our words with the actions of our government. It refuses to make taxes fairer for the poor and employs the navy to ensure that no one we deem underserving gets a share of what we have. It vilifies people who are unemployed even when there is not enough work for everyone. It makes it harder and more expensive for people to gain skills. This is not just and it is far from being generous either with our possessions or our attitudes.
Proverbs 22:22 says, “Do not rob the poor or crush the afflicted at the gate”, but isn’t that just what we rich nations are doing to refugees world- wide? For years we have been seeing how the USA protects its southern borders and now it is Europe that also has the problem. Unless we learn to share more and have more concern for bringing justice our future generations are going to spend their lives under siege. More and more people will want to flee here. Our lack of generosity will cost us dearly as we need to build bigger and stronger barricades, fences and walls and employ stronger navies and armies to keep poor people from seeking a share of what we have in our relatively peaceful democracies. If we were prepared to be more generous in what we pay for goods produced in some of these countries and in other ways helped to lift the standard of living of the people, it would be a start towards bringing justice for them.
...
So far, we who still sometimes claim to be a Christian country, have, contrary to Biblical teaching, successfully crushed the afflicted at our gate. Most have applauded the “offshore processing” option. It means that these people are no longer banging on our gate. They are out of sight because reporters and cameras are banned from the facilities, and so they are largely out of mind. But it is only a temporary solution. Our borders are too long to erect fences right round and the country too big to wire for alarms. We fool ourselves if we think this will work long term. As we become richer, more people are going to want to come to this country. We denigrate many who are trying to reach our shores by calling them economic migrants, but it was for such a better life that most of our ancestors came here. It is time we looked more seriously at how we can make life fairer for others.
Proverbs 22:2 reminds us that “The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.” The writer of the Epistle we call James follows up on this centuries later, calling for us to behave justly in recognising all people as precious, not just the one’s we prefer the look of, or wish we could be more like.
We can see the rationale behind this, but it is not what we are called to do as followers of Christ. Jesus gave preferential treatment to the poorer people, the less attractive ones in society. He wasn’t impressed by wealth and fine clothes.
The celebrity and the materialistic aspirational culture by which we are surrounded makes it more difficult for us but it is never impossible. Our Government happily welcomes migrants who can bring millions of dollars with them. It is only those who have little we don’t want. Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Those who are generous will be blessed.” It is about being generous in our hearts and minds, in our attitudes and behaviour. Like Jesus we might just want to get away from it all for a while.[Mark 7:24] But we can take heart from his example and see that we do have the strength to help those who come and those who are in need of justice here and on the other side of the world.
The writer of James challenges us to action. Through the centuries the institutional Church has put great emphasis on Orthodoxy, right doctrine. Jesus by his life actions put his emphasis on Orthopraxy, right practice. James [2:14-17] stresses that faith without right action is dead.

 May we never forget how privileged we are and may we be generous in our attitudes and actions to bring justice and help others wherever we  can.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)