Monday, October 26, 2015

Could Christ be telling us "You do not know the scriptures?"


From childhood most of us have known this passage, “Listen, Israel; the Lord our God is the one, only Lord and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, “You must love your neighbour as yourself’”. [Mark 12:29-31 New Jerusalem Bible] 

As with many of the texts that we have been taught, we have focused on some words and ignored others. The part in this passage where the scribe says that these commands are more important than all offerings and sacrifices has not been part of the learning of many Christians. Sacrificial offering often in the form of obedience, has been drummed into many as what God requires from us. We have seen this attitude reflected in the way people have taught their children up until recent generations. A woman in her late seventies spoke recently of how her father’s idea had been that there was only one thing for a child to learn and that was unquestioning obedience.

Love had not come into her childhood and she was still struggling with relationships with other people. She was taught that love said God expected her to offer herself and sacrifice herself completely for others. It was only recently that she had realised that Jesus had been saying that love for God, others and yourself was the most important thing and such sacrifice as she had lived left her resentful and often wasn’t showing love for self.

So we get to the story of Ruth, one of the best known from the Hebrew Scripture. Ruth has been held up to women and girls of countless generations as a saint, modelling the sacrificial behaviour required of women in Christian context. We were taught to see her as a paragon of virtue in her servility.

Could Christ be telling us, “You do not know the Scriptures?”  Could it be that Ruth was a feisty lass who knew her rights and was sticking with her mother-in-law in order to ensure that her children inherited what was due to them under the Jewish system? Or it might have been that Ruth clung to Naomi because she understood Ruth’s grief better than others because of their shared loss?

What are we to make of the bitterness of Naomi’s grief? It is of utmost importance for us to learn if we want to be reasonable pastoral carers that statements people make when distressed may not be facts and questions they ask may not reflect reality. When Jesus asked from the cross, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” he was not saying that God had abandoned him but that that was what it felt like. Naomi was expressing a similar thing when she named feeling bitter because “the hand of the Lord” had turned against her. [Ruth 1:13]

Most of us do not have the loss in our entire life times that Naomi has suffered. In all his loss, Job did not lose his wife. We knew someone whose wife and four children were killed coming home from school, in the Ash Wednesday fires. Can one ever recover from such devastation? And yet one must if one is to go on living. It takes many years to recover from dramatic loss.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The first

Top commandment,
number one.
Call it the golden rule,
if you like.
Love your neighbour
as you love yourself.
Treat others with respect
and dignity.
Try to feel their pain,
Jesus says.
Your enemies, too;
love them.
Nothing else, really;
the other rules pale,
insignificant by comparison.
Love God,
love your neighbour.
Heart, soul, mind and strength.
No, not easy;
costly, sometimes.
Often. But no,
there is nothing else.
Determined, defiant, deliberate,
love.


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

Our ideas about God are like this

"...Our ideas about God are like this. To engage to the best possible extent with God, it is necessary for us to try new and different understandings that lead to new and different relationships with the Divine. Many Christians were not introduced to a variety of images and understandings early in their lives and so will only accept what they were fed as pre-school children.
Well, the truth is, whether we recognise it or not, to be fully engaged with God, others and ourselves, depends on us being willing to try out for ourselves how good the Lord is. We simply can’t rely on what others tell us to come to life in all its fullness. If we are willing to dare to grow in our understandings, God will introduce us to new things. Sometimes this may happen slowly, like an acquired taste. Sometimes it will be something we like and instantly respond to and then wonder why we never tried this before.
Job was forced by the circumstances surrounding the loss of all his family except his wife, and the loss of all his belongings to take a look at how he saw God. In the reading we heard, Job is acknowledging that God is far greater than he had understood prior to his losses. He said that before, he was relying on what he had heard about God but now he could see with his own eyes whom God is. He had found out something new about the greatness of God.
Many of us go our whole lives relying on we have heard from others about the Divine One. It sometimes doesn’t even occur to us that we can ask for an encounter with a member of the Holy Trinity, that we can experience God with us. Of course, that makes it sound a whole lot simpler than it is, but God is not inclined to intrude into our lives unless invited even though, paradoxically God is always present.

The blind man in today’s Gospel reading dared to find out for himself how compassionate Jesus was. Jesus not only healed him but also praised him for his faith. Each time Jesus praises someone for their faith, they have dared to step out, to do something others weren’t game to do, to try, to test, Jesus’ willingness to help. They were in effect, willing to “taste,” to see if Jesus would and could help them. ..."
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The beggar of Jericho


In Jericho's streets
a loud, annoying man, blind and embarrassing,
glimpses hope for the first time
and shouts excitedly above the noise of the crowd.
The reason for his agitated cries:
one Jesus of Nazareth, aka, Son of David;
who is implored to be merciful
and to use his influence with the Divinity
to heal the man's vision-less eyes.

He ignores all attempts to silence him
and calls even louder.
The itinerant teacher takes notice,
and invites him to come.
The man has faith, he declares,
and credits this worthy attribute
with the impending recovery of his sight.

He now sees things clearly, for the first time;
not just the physical world
of sunlight, shadows, refractions,
wavelengths and lumens.
His Jerichoean darkness cast aside
as was his cloak minutes earlier,
he chooses to journey on an uncertain route,
but one saturated with light and purpose.
Embracing the travelling man as master, friend and guide,
he follows him glowingly down the road.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The truth within them

If Job was repaid twice over, why aren’t all people who suffer given the same recompense? And what of Job’s wife; was she just collateral damage in it all?
It is perhaps not surprising that we have come to believe to Bible more than our own convictions. If the Bible says it is this way and we see it differently, we think we must be wrong, that we are evil even to contemplate that God is other than some stories depict. This leads us to constantly judge our thoughts and behaviour and that of others, rather than becoming aware of God’s presence at all times, everywhere, in everything.
These stories have truth within them, but the framework for that truth is very difficult for people of the 21st Century to see past. It hampers their understanding. Recently Barb tried to read Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Wounded Healer”, which was written in the 1970’s. She found it difficult even though she had lived through this era. The wording was so dated and the culture quite different to what we are living through today. How much more difficult it is to grasp what is being said in writing thousands of years old. Most people today find it too difficult to even begin to try. When what they read doesn’t go with what they feel, think and experience, they give up.
In Mark 10 we are told that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples things as profound as that he was to be betrayed, condemned to death, handed to the Gentiles, in other words, defiled, mocked, flogged and killed. They didn’t want to hear what he was saying. Instead they were arguing about getting the most important places in his kingdom. They hadn’t been listening and they totally missed the point about what it means to serve. When we are sure of whom we are in God’s love, we don’t need to seek positions of power to bolster our image. We are free to serve others rather than seeking favoured positions.
The God we are called to follow, with whom our hearts long to have a close relationship is inviting, encouraging, full of joy, peace and patience and does not demand absolute obedience. Part of the invitation is to live with unanswered and sometimes unanswerable questions without judgement.
Jesus said that he came to bring us life in all its fullness. It will include hard times and easy, good times and bad, highs and lows all within the depth and length and height and strength of God’s everlasting love. May you be blessed with knowing that you are loved by God and that all else is secondary to that.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Places of Honour: Haiku


Do us a favour?
The childish plea to ensure
the result you want.

Places of honour;
you don't ask for much, do you?
They don't come for free.

Will you take the pain,
and the suffering as well?,
No worries! they say.

The cup that he drinks,
and the baptism, speak death.
Do you dare to drink?

Places of glory.
These brothers still don't get it.
Only in serving.

First in the kingdom
will be those who lose their lives,
like their master did.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

God as Mystery

In the Gospel reading we hear of someone else being tested. A man asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. He did not have his possessions taken from him in the way that Job did. He was given the opportunity of giving them up himself and some people are given a choice in this way in the tests they face. It would be debatable as to whether it was more painful or less to make the choice yourself, though many given a choice would take the road with less pain even if it meant less gain. Some don’t seem to face much testing. Some come through the testing to a fuller, richer though not necessarily wealthier life. Why? We don’t know. We try guessing but that is often a futile exercise as Job was to find.
We speak of God as Mystery. We mere humans cannot ever comprehend God’s ways. We can come to a greater place of awe in our relationship with the Eternal Creator. We can come to say we Job, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” We can wonder, each for ourselves, about our classification of “good” and “bad”. It doesn’t help us if someone else does this for us. In Ephesians, we are told to give thanks for all things” [Ephesians 5:20] and that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.” [Romans 8:28] In the middle of our pain, this can be hard to hang on to.
What of the woman who dared to speak in such a way to God? Her troubles didn’t end. She left her home and fields and become a minister of the Word. When she was in her ninth home, she was complaining to her daughter who said, “Doesn’t it say somewhere that when you leave your home you will get a hundred more? [Mark 10:29,30] I figure that means you have 91 still to go.” Now she is up to either 47 or 49. She lost count somewhere and as for mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers well, the count must be well in the hundreds. While this has brought untold blessing it too has had its pain. Many times all that has kept her going was the assurance that God IS and memories of God’s faithfulness in the past have given hope for the future.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermon's page)

Monday, October 5, 2015

How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.


The wealthy,
while offering in principle support
for the concept of kingdom of God,
find the idea that God might want to direct
the ways that money is used
or disposed of,
somewhat disturbing.

Riches are from God, they assert;
our prosperity is proof enough
that we are virtuous and good.
The Lord would not have so blessed us
if it were otherwise.

With wealth comes responsibility;
we understand that,
and we take our obligations seriously.
Assistance must be provided
for widows and orphans;
the scriptures are strong on that point.
But the poor, as a category,
includes a range of people:
wastrels, profligates, intemperates and such,
not all of them deserving of our largesse.

When it comes to generosity,
it's best to err on cautions side.
A charitable trust, perhaps;
with appropriate tax benefits.

© Ken Rookes 2015