Monday, November 30, 2015

The word of God came to John



There must have been a number of them,
words, that is,
that drifted through the ether
to lodge themselves in the cranium of the prophet.

Repent, for one, springs quickly to mind.
It is an unfriendly word,
strident and uncompromising,
articulating its 'holier than thou' attitude
of judgement. Perhaps necessary;
all the same.

Prepare is friendlier;
along with the request
that we actually do something.
Prepare tantalises with its sense of expectation.
Something big is about to happen;
something wondrous and unprecedented.

Borrowing some more words
from the processes of creation
the prophet gets down to business.
The mountains will be razed, he tells us,
and the valleys filled!
Geologically improbable,
at least on the time scale
to which the prophet is working.
How many hundred million years would we need?

Get excited!
the prophet's hyperbole declares;
the Lord, (whoever he or she might be), is coming!
You may be present when she comes,
you may witness his arrival;
you may not,
but the hope embodied in this advent event
will be there for all humankind to see.
So get yourself ready.
Now!


© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

the beauty and terror of this world

Barbara Kingsolver has a new book of essays called "Small Wonder," and it is a poetic proclamation of the power of hope. It is also a stinging criticism against a self-centered society. Taking a sharp look at the wars, the natural disasters, the political violence of the 21st century, she writes a modern translation of Luke's little apocalypse. By the end of the book, we know more than we need to know about the wastefulness of our beef consumption, the natural disasters caused by genetic crop engineering, the distortion of patriotism that blind flag-waving can produce, the barbarity of war and capital punishment. But she ends with soaring words of hope--a call to self-discipline and compassion and tolerance and moral living--a vision that matches the energy of Jesus' words to us today.

Rather than feeling hopeless, like a screen door banging in a hurricane, Kingsolver suggests that we should be the ones to bang and bang on the door of hope and refuse to let anyone suggest that no one is home. She writes, "What I can find is this and so it has to be: conquering my own despair by doing what little I can. Stealing thunder, tucking it in my pocket to save for the long drought. Dreaming in the color green, tasting the end of anger." She concludes: "Small changes, small wonders. These are the currency of my endurance and my life. It is a workable economy."


Today we Christians around the world light the first candle in a four-week journey through the darkness of Advent. Rather than hiding inside the secular sentimentality of a Christmas cocoon, we are called to open our eyes to see the chaos of the cosmos. We are called to recognize with a God's-eye view both the beauty and the terror of this world. And then with eyes looking up, we are called to wait for God's promise to be fulfilled, rejoicing in the small wonders and the simple graces of these danger-filled days.
http://day1.org/488-a_gods_eye_view

wait without Hope


"I said to my soul, be still, 
and wait without hope 
For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; 
wait without love 
For love would be love of the wrong thing; 
there is yet faith 
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. 
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: 
So the darkness shall be the light, 
and the stillness the dancing." 
 T. S. Eliot: (from the four Quartets)

There will be signs ...

As we study history and geography, we know that fighting and wars have been occurring as long as there have been people and earthquakes, floods and droughts and meteors smashing into our planet have been happening since creation. So what was Jesus on about in the reading we heard from Luke? This story is similar to the one we heard a couple of weeks ago from Mark’s Gospel. It begins in the previous chapter with Jesus condemning the scribes for devouring widow’s houses and continues with his comment on the widow’s contribution to the upkeep of the Temple at her own expense. Again the disciples are more interested in the grandeur of the Temple that Jesus says is to be torn down and they ask him when will this take place? Jesus told them that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and destruction, a dire prediction, ending with…
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and on earth distress between the nations, confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and terror.” [Luke 21:25,26a]

We know that the Temple had been destroyed before the Gospel of Luke was written.

Following all this terrible news, Jesus gave them hope by encouraging them to look for a sign in among all the horror that God was near. Some think a clearer translation of the word usually put in English as “near”, is “here”. We tend to read “near” as “almost”, a time thing, rather than as a geographic indication as in “close by”  Jesus suggested that as when they notice the sprouting of leaves on trees they knew that summer was near so when they saw all these terrible things they would know God was near. He went on to say that God was going to be with them in that generation. It seems that Jesus was pointing out that the world is in chaos all the time and that it is in the chaos that we can know God is near.
Where do you see God in all that is going on in our generation? The word, “near” for God could have been a time thing when Jesus said it. But for all generations since it has been a geographic reality. Christ has been with us even though the emphasis with Christianity has been on Christ enthroned in some distant heaven, we have the assurance from Matthew’s Gospel [Matthew 28:20] that Jesus will be with us till the end of time and from John’s Gospel [John 20:17-19] that Jesus ascended to the Father and returned to be with us on the day of resurrection. So even when it feels or seems that God isn’t with you, you can hold on to hope, knowing that others have felt like this before and have come to know that our feelings are not always logical even though they are valid.


Your desire to help your friends and neighbours at this time and in their distress, are the buds of the fruit of the Spirit growing within you. They are the indications that God is so near as to be within you. They are the signs of hope and encouragement that are so needed in your communities. May you be blest with the assurance of God’s Presence and unfailing care in the weeks and months to come.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermons page)

Shine



If Jesus had been strolling around
southern Australia today,
rather than Palestine in the first-century,
he'd have dropped his fig-tree metaphor
and gone with the Jacaranda.
Look at the Jacaranda,” he'd say.
When it puts forth its purple-Advent flowers,
to compete luminescently
with the sky and to carpet the earth below
in a circle of blue;
can summer be far behind?
No; nor God's kingdom.”

Hail to you, wondrous tree of purple;
botanical immigrant,
transplanted two hundred years ago
from another new world.
Your dazzling hue has ensured your welcome.
Like the land's many human inhabitants
you regard yourself as a true-born native,
among the greens, reds and yellows
of indigenous eucalypts and wattles.

Hail, Jacaranda!
The arboretum's John the Prophet,
landscape herald of one who is coming
and of the remarkable kingdom
of hope and justice.
(For which, we still yearn.)
For a month you shine, harbinger
of the extraordinary,
until your flowers fall and fade,
your leaves of green resume their rightful place,
and we are returned to our ordinary lives.
There our achings are embraced,
tasks and challenges are taken up,
and we get on with it.



© Ken Rookes 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Embodiment

Constantine was the first Christian Emperor and a significant change took place in the church when Constantine was converted. Before this, the Christian Church opposed of most of the Empires law and government. This is what Jesus modeled for us. This is what we read about in the gospel stories. Jesus criticized the elite, the self -righteous and the proud. He reminded all that they would be called to account for their behaviour and attitudes.
The word ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for ‘Messiah’ which means ‘the anointed one’ and the same word in Latin is ‘Lord’. There are three ways in which Christians see Christ. Through the centuries the most commonly used image has been that of Christ the King in both the Eastern and Western Churches. This has led to a very hierarchical structure to the Church and the building of huge, opulent places for worship requiring exploitation of poor people to complete them.
The second way of seeing Christ is as a man who was adopted by God as his son either at his baptism as Mark’s Gospel says or at his conception as Matthew and Luke have it.
The third way of seeing Jesus is to see him as part of the embodiment of the Eternal Christ in the way that the writer of the Gospel we call John did when he spoke of Jesus as the embodiment of the Word of God present at Creation and therefore eternal with God. Paul also saw Christ as the Word and Wisdom of God. [1Corinthians 1:24] He also saw each believer as part of the body of Christ so part of this Eternal Creator One. The more we learn about the complexity of creation and such things as its age and size, the more we can see how inappropriate the image of Christ seated on a throne is, how inconsistent it is with the call, as part of the body, to take care of all creatures and all creation.

So as we celebrate the reign of Christ this day, lets examine how we reflect this to the world today, how the world sees us, for the good news is that we have been called to be Christ like by following the example Jesus set for us.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)

So you are a king? A group of Haiku.



Nazareth's native
handed over for judgement:
an unlikely king.

The foreign ruler,
intrigued, probes with his questions,
but gets no answers.

He asks, Are you king?
The charge is laid against you;
what, then, have you done?

Where is your kingdom?
You won't find it around here.
Then again; perhaps.

Try looking harder,
opening your heart, your mind;
God's reign has come near

For this I was born,
for truth I came among you;
listen to my voice.

So you are a king?
The question hangs in the air;
each one must answer.



© Ken.Rookes 2015

 and a short subsequent poem that takes us a couple of verses  beyond the RCL reading.


If he fell over it

For two thousand years
Pilate has been asking:
What is truth?
Like most people of wealth and power
he wouldn't recognise truth if he fell over it,
or if it stood before him.



© Ken.Rookes 2015


Thursday, November 12, 2015

one thing will remain

“So what I am telling you is exactly the same as what I am telling everybody else: there is only one game plan, love, love and more love. Forgive, forgive and more love. Keep yourselves on the ready at all times, lest you be lured back into the ways of suspicion, division and retaliation. Hold on tight to the hope that you’ve put your hands up to. None of this on-again off-again stuff! Think about how to stir one another up to greater and greater love and more and more ways to put it into action. Some people will quit gathering together as a congregation altogether. It’s understandable when the Church has failed so spectacularly, but don’t go down that path. Gather often, support and encourage one another. The closer we get to that final day the more you’ll need one another. The Church is coming crashing down, and the earth is being shaken to its foundations, and everything by which the powers that be maintained their delusions of peace is crumbling to dust in their deceitful grasping fingers. Stand up and rejoice, for when all the bullshit has fallen away, just one thing will remain, love in all its glory, for God is love.”
The Girl with the Dove Tattoo, Brian McLarren

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

fresh expressions of church

For many years we have been looking for strategies that will get people to “come to church” without much success. Many different schemes have been tried and plans offered, Messy Church being one of the latest. There have been after school and holiday programmes for children, contemporary services with bands instead of organs and cafĂ© services where all sit around tables and sip coffee. People may come for a while but then move on. Like Hannah, many in our congregations are weeping because we have no children or young ones to follow us. We sometimes blame ourselves or our ministers and are taunted by the sight of young ones at mega Churches, even though we do not see God as they do. Like Hannah we have become distressed and wept bitterly to the Lord, pleading for new life to come to us. We have promised God all sorts of things if only our congregation does not die.
Some members of the body of Christ have heard the promise that new life is coming and are preparing for it. They are developing fresh expressions of Church outside of and away from the traditional buildings. Instead of fruitlessly trying to get people “into the Church,” they are going to where the people are and meeting Christ there. They are showing God’s love in trying to bring justice for people of other faiths and for refugees. By facilitating rallies and candlelight vigils in public spaces, they have engaged with young people who do not normally come ‘to Church’. These events, at the same time have made meeting ecumenically easier than going to your Church or mine provides.
...
We are challenged by the God who dwells within us to decide what it is that our hearts are leading us to and how we may work towards fresh expressions of Church away from our buildings and understanding worship as far more than a Sunday Hymn Sandwich. Jesus said that he came to bring us life in all its fullness and so it is reasonable to think that in these fresh expressions will be opportunities to develop and use all our skills and talents in encouraging others. We do need to meet together as the reading from Hebrews points out, to show our concern for one another and stir and encourage each other to respond in love and good works. [Hebrews 10:24 paraphrased from New Jerusalem Bible]

In answer to the disciples’ enquiry about the end of the Temple, Jesus spoke of war, earthquake and famine indicating the very beginning of new birth. There is a way still to go, and the way may be painful, but no woman who has ever given birth would consider giving up at the first signs of pain because it will be worth all the pain in the end; so with new birth for the Church. May your pain be eased by hope for the outcome.
Rev Julianne Parker  (for full sermon see sermon's page)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Let them crumble


The columns and arches
shall be disassembled
the stones will be broken-up
and allowed to erode
in the wind and the rain and the sun.
The stone-masons' skills
have been brought to nothing.
Let the walls crumble;
no heritage order can save them,
money has not been put aside for reconstruction.
There will be no restoration project
driven by a grand vision
with its attendant fund-raising scheme;
religion, too, will be allowed to collapse.
The man who foretells the demise
of both Temple and Religion,
himself becomes the rock
upon which these flawed vessels
will be dashed and broken.
It will be thrown down,
all of it.




© Ken Rookes 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scribes


Arrayed in long, showy robes,
(first century Armani,
bespoke, suits cut to impress);
commanding attention.
We know that they are important,
social and religious heavyweights;
demanding to be taken seriously.
They are among the nation's leaders,
and clearly know better than the rest of us;
soaring high above the crowd,
magnificent, learned, erudite.
Highly respected,
these Scribes lack nothing;
except compassion.




© Ken Rookes 2015