Thursday, December 29, 2016

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

BY W. S. MERWIN

Our own innocence

"There is a type of child-like innocence which we must not allow to be corrupted or destroyed. It is the innocence which believes that love can conquer evil; that torture is always wrong, that the earth must be cared for.
If we lose our innocence we lost our faith
And if we lose our faith there is no hope.
We are (like the Christ child) surrounded by forces that wish to massacre our innocence.
The Christ child is a sign to us of the survival, and power of that innocence and the power of love.

May these days of Christmas be times of looking outward, seeking the family which has been left outside, bringing home those who have been refugees, aliens and strangers, and looking inward to maintain and build the power of our own innocence."

protect the vulnerable and the needy.

"Here is our call, our responsibility this Christmastide and all through the year. God with us, Emmanuel, encourages us to face down the power of this world in order to protect the vulnerable and the needy. This Love made Flesh challenges us to see the face of God in each refugee, each alien, each immigrant, every stranger. The Prince of Peace calls us to look away from the comfortable and the pastoral to see the stark reality of suffering and terror in our world. We are called to see with the eyes of the Word of God – eyes which see everyone as relatives, tribal members, kin, family, equally welcomed at God's table. We are called to see those who scare us the most as those who are sought by the family of God – those who can help us all to carry the Love Incarnate to the world."

https://frsimon.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/sermon-holy-family-year-a-2013/

the possibility of surprise

The readings for this New Year's day are challenging. The Gospel in particular faces us with the reality of the cruelty of the human race and our capacity for fear and violence. Yet in the midst of that there is the promise of a Divine presence that persists and will not go away. 
The New Year season teaches us to be prepared for unexpected results – to be open to the possibility of surprise. The new year is always a mystery. But in an odd way, this new year thing is really important to us, so that we can have punctuation points in time for us to forgive and make new. We want and need new beginnings. In fact that is why I believe we celebrate it. We want new beginnings; a new start. Each year we discover that a song or prayer, long ignored, could touch us in unexpected ways; a long lost friend may turn up in the next row, and a wound that we have been carrying throughout the year, may just start to heal.  We should be prepared to face a different world, and that we must look at this world, and all her people with new and different eyes.


Rabbi Harold Kushner was stumped once when asked a question about the Torah.  He was asked, “What command is repeated more than any other in the Torah?”  Kushner thought and responded that it was the command to help the poor.  I would have thought that the answer was to remember the stranger.  We both were wrong.  The answer is: “Fear not – do not be afraid.”  God said it to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to the Israelites at the Red Sea and when they prepared for battle. Jesus repeated it endlessly to his followers. The message of New Year is: Fear not – do not be afraid.  God is here, and we are not alone, but surrounded by God’s people.  One of the lessons of the past year, is despite what so many try to tell us is that we cannot live our lives being afraid.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dealing with dark forces

haiku of ambivalence.

When light is coming
the dark forces congregate;
seeking to destroy.

A classic story.
The child of blessing, threatened,
survives the danger.

Like Moses, floating
on the river, the baby
lives to overcome.

Herod, the despot,
becomes his first enemy.
Will not be the last.

The angel returns
with a warning and advice:
Take the child and flee.

The land of bondage
becomes the place of refuge.
History reversed.

Back in Judea
the story is less pleasant.
Evil has triumphed.

The years pass, as does
the danger. The family
return to their land.

They choose Nazareth
in Galilee, to the north.
There they make their home.


© Ken Rookes 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Story


Carol night

Carol Night.
Candles glow amidst the tumult;
everywhere there is noise and movement
wonderful noise, wonderful movement.
People joining voices
sharing food and blankets
And the Children, the children
they are just children?
They cry and scream,
laugh and tumble.
They are not angels are they?
One girl child, with glowing, stubby candle,
sits amidst the din;
stunned or dazzled,
amazed or distracted?
She sits,
an image of stillness
with a stare at times
almost vacant,
or perhaps focussed
on the infinite?
She moves at last
to stand before her mother
and exclaims with pure awe,
“ Mummy, they’re just like stars!”
then moves back
to her place of watching.
Her mother,
sensing more than most
the ‘other’ in her daughter’s words
weeps tears of joy and wonder
at the beauty in the child.

 G Bannon

The energy of joy


A different Nativity


And is it true?

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare —
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

John Betjeman (1906–1984)

incarnation

What we find in the message of the Christmas story is the idea that the Sacred, the Spirit of Love, is incarnate in the world; incarnate in that most profound symbol of new life, of possibilities, of hope—in a child. This was not a once and only event. The incarnation of Love was the very creation of the beginning of time—it happened before the birth of Jesus, it happened then, and is happening now. It is present and active in all things and all people—at all times and everywhere. Wherever hope abides amidst despair; wherever joy abides amidst sorrow; wherever love abides amidst hate; wherever peace is spoken amidst war; Love is happening there. This is a compelling truth of the story. This is what the child announces to us. In this time and this place, for us and for all beings—a love at once particular and universal draws us to a life peace and hope. We gather with friends and family at Christmas to be inspired by the possibility that in a time of rampant war-making the idea of peace on earth and good will toward all may become more than a slogan, may somehow take hold. For this is the time of the year that we most dare dream of renewal and peace, most dare to hope boldly. Let us know that Love whispers to us all, in every breath calling us to remember that each night is holy and all life is sacred. ~ Beth Johnson

Monday, December 19, 2016

He was in the beginning

Haiku of the coming

In the beginning.
They are indivisible,
the Logos and God.

Into the nothing
the Logos-God mystery
find their voice and speak.

The word, now spoken,
all creation comes to be.
Here is wonderment.

The Logos brings life;
life and light for humankind,
defeating darkness.

Logos, always there
in the world he created,
passes through, unseen.

Among his people
he finds no welcome nor home.
The loss is their own.

Yet some received him,
believed, and living by faith,
were made God's children.

To be born of God,
transcending earthly limits;
this, then, is glory.

The Logos took flesh,
our flesh, and lived among us;
full of grace and truth.

© Ken Rookes 2016

A wondrous yarn

Haiku of an often told story

There are no records
of the birth of the Messiah;
just an old story.

An anxious couple
seeking a place of shelter.
The time is at hand.

In a crowded town,
a stable, strangely, becomes
a delivery ward.

A baby is born,
this thing of joy and wonder.
Happens ev'ry day.

Shepherds tending sheep,
angels winging in the sky;
a fabulous yarn.

Go and check it out!
The baby in a manger,
with his mum and dad.

The infant is found;
it was as the angel said.
They are all amazed.

The shepherds return
singing, “Glory!” praising God,
They tell everyone.


© Ken Rookes 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Found to be with child


Haiku of mysterious birth

The birth of Jesus,
as befits a Messiah,
was less than routine.

Matthew's birth stories
are designed to assure us:
things are in order.

Isaiah the prophet
provides a girl giving birth
as a sign of hope.

Found to be with child!
One way of looking at it;
the girl was pregnant.

With child, and engaged
to a man not the father.
It's complicated.

Her husband, Joseph
is a good man. He still cares,
does not want her shamed.

Dreams can be useful
to spark possibilities
and provide answers.

The angel appears,
reassures the sleeping man:
somehow God is here.

Do not be afraid,
take the girl to be your wife;
the child is from God,

When the man awoke
he took the angel's advice;
brought her to his home.

When the day arrived
the girl delivered her son.
They named him Jesus.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Baby named 'Save'

"So Matthew prepares us right at the edge of Christmas. He gives us an angel's message in a dream that is beyond our control or expectation. He tells us that it is God's Spirit who makes all things new through this baby, and he names the baby twice. The baby is named Save, and Jesus saves from all that kills and is flat and sad. He names the baby God is with us, and we are not alone. Notice that this story does not ask us to do anything. But I believe it invites us to be dazzled. It invites us to ponder that, while our world feels unsavable, here is the baby named Save. Our world and our lives often feel abandoned, and here is the baby named God with us. So we are to be ready to have our lives and our world contradicted by this gift from God. We may rest our lives upon the new promise from the angel and we may be safe and we may be whole and made generous because Christmas is coming soon."
Walter Brugemann - http://day1.org/622-a_new_world_birthed

The vulnerable Divine

We celebrate this child that is called the Christ but I wonder how much we understand it. When we find our hearts softened when we look at a child we are receiving a profound message about the nature of ourselves and the spiritual power of the child.
This Christmas many of us are feeling pretty vulnerable ourselves. The human race seems hell-bent on its own destruction and the destruction of the planet. As a Christian I continue to be horrified at the way our nation is treating asylum seekers and at the wars and cruelty that continue to plague our world. The church is also in a time of great vulnerability and uncertainty. As individuals I am sure there are many of you facing personal challenges that confront you with your own mortality and weakness.
In these times especially the subversive message of Christmas couldn’t be more significant. The message of love and vulnerability that this child is bringing is to transform the world. It is to bring a great light into the darkness. It is to tell that the power of the divine is not in powerful structures or domination, but that true power lies in vulnerability and love.
The way the Bible tells it, the baby worked a kind of magic on the surrounding world on the night of his birth. Here is a new image of this ‘God’ not as an all-powerful God but rather as a helpless, vulnerable infant. The magic that surrounded the baby lifted people above the misery, cold and darkness that surrounded them so that all they could think about was the birth of this child. But it did something far more powerful than that. It was a message of hope that God is present in the small, shy places of the world. Today, Jesus would be more likely to be born in Aleppo in Syria, or in an indigenous community in Central Australia, or in Palestine. This is a message of hope to the powerless of the world. Our God is not only on our side but lives with us. At the heart of this sacred time lies the message of a God that is Emmanuel - God-with-us!
Christmas is about an event that many believe changed the world but also one that continues to have the ability to do so. It is a day to celebrate. I urge you to pay attention to your inmost self sometime on the day. Take time to give honour to all that is vulnerable, innocent and holy within you and in the world around you. Christmas is a time of the heart. Allow the spirit of the child-Christ to lead you on a journey to the manger where the tender and vulnerable God lies.
And in this may you find blessing and hope this Christmas.
Rev Gordon Bannon

Friday, December 9, 2016

Haiku for Advent

Christian faith is an
unexpected weed growing
in a polite field.


© Ken Rookes 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Magnificat: a haiku sequence.

Haiku for a revolution

A young teenager,
so the ancient story says,
offered up a song.

The girl is with child;
this is a thing of wonder,
of hope and of joy.

Nobody special,
she is God's lowly servant;
humble, accepting.

Magnifying God,
she sang with praise, rejoicing
at God's strange favour.

Mercy unconfined,
across the generations,
for those who trust God.

God's strength surprises
to scatter the great and proud
in their vanity.

From their noble thrones
the powerful are brought down.
Let the day come close.

The poor, down-trodden;
these will be elevated
to God's chosen place.

The hungry will eat,
they will dine upon good food;
the rich will miss out.

From this young girl's lips
came words of revolution.
Most disconcerting.

© Ken Rookes 2016

When John heard in prison


Haiku of enquiry
 
We missed you, Baptist;
your amusing desert rants
made us think again.

The authorities
were less amused; took offense,
waited for their chance.

If you'd stopped and thought
you might have backed off, instead
you're locked in prison.

So you sent your mates
to find out what's happening.
They seek out Jesus.

They ask: are you he,
the one we are expecting,
or do we still wait?

Open up your eyes,
what do you see, and hear,
as you look about?

The blind see again,
lepers are being made clean,
the lame are walking.

And as for the poor,
they're hearing the good news
with joy and with hope.

Go, tell the prophet
that God's kingdom has come near.
Tell him: be at peace.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

John the Baptist song

I have found this Song by Peter Kearney to be very insightful about John the Baptist.
JOHN AND JESUS         Peter Kearney
Of John and Jesus, the rise and the fall -
John was the prophet, the greatest of all
And Jesus the saviour whom God did send
They had the same message and came to the same sudden end.

 John kept to basics in food and in dress
He made his home out in the wilderness
The down and the out were his neighbours there
He showed us a way when we didn't know where to begin.

He said: Come on everyone to the river to drown
To be tumbled and tossed, turned upside down
Change your heart, come clear your mind
And find your feet on new ground.

One day the Pharisees came from the town –
Smooth talkin' men in their fancy gowns
And John he said - "you're a brood of snakes
You know every law but not what it takes to be good!"

He spoke without fear and news of him spread
The poor, like children, came to hear what he said
He wasn't giving them stones, he gave them bread
They fed on the truth - every word that he said said it all.

John gave a warning- "destruction is due!"
The people asked him - "just what should we do?"
"If you've got two coats then one is to share
If you have power, be sure you are fair to the poor."

You know that Jesus, when he came along
He went straight to the river to be baptised by John
He took his place where John took his stand
Brought news of a Kingdom where the poor of the land could belong.
*
Herod the King liked to hear John speak
What he said made him nervous but he sure was unique
Then John criticised his plans to rewed
So they put him in prison - before very long John was dead.

And how many people since Jesus and John
Spoke out the truth and soon were gone
After naming the names of the snakes in the pile
They're gone - but just for a while.
*
"What did you go to the desert to see?
Was it a reed shaking in the breeze?" "
Oh no it was a wiry tree

Growing up strong in a place where a tree shouldn't be!"

http://www.peterkearneysongs.com.au/
Song also available on Itunes to download.

John the Wild Man

Wild Man John exhorts people to fight within their times against their temptation to believe that they can have the riches of Caesar’s kingdoms and the endless pleasures of the empire and still be God’s people.
John inveighs, calling them a brood of vipers who choose to flee from the real work of preparing the world for God. Repent! he exhorts them, urging them to follow a different drummer – him, and the One who is to come.
... God’s earth has always belonged to all people  – people who have moved across  continents and seas, moved bodies and souls, languages and religions with them. Somehow the church has allowed privatization to encroach upon our minds and our land. And somehow the church has allowed  hospitality for the stranger, the persistent biblical theme, to fall into dishonor among the people of God.
Our flight has been into fantasies that are ungodly at best, demonic at worst. The fight Wild Man John urges is for us to separate ourselves from all of this, in a warfare of repentance, of turning away.
This infested darkness, this bog of angers that has hold of our souls, is the place where the Presence will come. Born into no palace but in an animal’s stall, laid in an animals’ trough, then fleeing from war, the Child and his immigrant family have no papers as they arrive in Egypt, where they live as refugees outside the system, the father working any job he can find, the mother, too.
John’s repentance begins with an acknowledgement that God does not need us. We need God, who insists on joining us together as brothers and sisters, us and all the despised people in the world, this motley crew of religions and pieties.
Just getting to that relationship requires a terrific fight.
Everything else follows on from there."
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/biteintheapple/advent-fight-or-flight/

John and Jesus

"John dreamed of the peaceable realm and so do we. He never lived to see its full embodiment, but he planted seeds that enabled Jesus to move forward as its messenger and embodiment. John is Advent personified: he embodies the fierce urgency of the now, but not yet. He is impatient with our foolishness and sin, and wants us to be better. As Advent messenger, he knows that salvation occurs through the transformation of one person at a time. This very moment is the right time for us to let go of the past, turn away from our half-heartedness and complicity with injustice, and find a new pathway to God’s peaceable kingdom, one step and one breath at a time.
The uniqueness of John’s message is a good theme for this Sunday’s sermon. His radical vision, preparing the way for Jesus, challenges us to prepare the way for Jesus’ mission in our time. Our preparation is a matter of deeds as well as words. Walking in the way of Jesus involves a commitment to constant transformation and renewal, to changing our ways in response to God’s wondrous gifts of grace. Like John, we are challenged to announce the coming of a world not yet born, critique our own and our community’s hypocrisy, and recognize that Christ’s presence demands a radical reorientation of values so that we might recognize the realm of God already emerging in our midst."
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2013/12/the-adventurous-lectionary-the-second-sunday-of-advent-john-jesus-and-spiritual-friendship/

Monday, November 28, 2016

Prepare a path

Haiku of readiness

The Baptiser came;
a voice, calling, defiant.
Preparing a path.

In the wilderness;
broken stones and tangled weeds
of human despair.

Through the wilderness
one is coming to bring hope;
a way must be found.

It is drawing near,
this strange kingdom of light, life
and revolution.

Make yourselves ready,
bring forth the repentance fruits;
grace and compassion.

Through the scrub he comes
with his words of love and life;
most unexpected.


© Ken Rookes 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

The day is not known

Haiku for watching and waiting
The day is not known,
nor can the hour be guessed at;
the accounting time.

The days of Noah;
doing our everyday things,
expecting the same.

Eating and drinking,
marrying – things to be done
as our lives proceed.

The mythical flood
comes to change everything,
surprising us all.

Fearful images;
one is taken, one is left.
The day is not known.

Keep awake, therefore.
You don't know when the thief comes.
You must be prepared.

The Son of Man comes
when we are not expecting;
the accounting time.



© Ken Rookes 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Dawn is coming

“God has called you to your life.  Let it speak.  Let nothing get in the way of being the person that you are.  Zachariah claimed in his prophecy that through the birth of Jesus, “we have been rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear.”  We need no longer fear.  We need no longer hide from God or from each other.  We are free to use the gifts that God has granted us for God’s purposes.  We can serve God in our homes, in our churches, and in our workplace.  We can serve God with our hearts, hands, feet, and minds.  We are free to love God, because it is only in freedom that love is possible.  We are free to love ourselves because we know that we were created in the image of the God that is love.  We are free to love one another because God has called us to do no less.
… Through our freedom, humanity has created many dark and terrible places.  The shadow of death at times looms large over our world, but in the midst of darkness a baby is born.
Zachariah saw a great purpose in his son’s life.  People wondered, “What then will this child be?”  John grew to be the voice in the wilderness that cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

What then will you be?  For what purpose have you been created?  Use what you have been given to do as John did.  Prepare the way of the Lord.  Show people the way of salvation.  Find those that sit in the shadow of death, and sit next to them.  Hold their hand.  Weep with them.  Give them love.  Show them the light, and declare that the dawn is coming.  Declare that the dawn is coming, and let the Holy Spirit guide us on the path of peace.” (fatpastor.com)

Zechariah's prayer

this year i feel prompted to look at the Luke reading that gifts us with Zechariah's prayer.
I think this is, in part, due to my need for a hopeful response to darkness. I love this poem by Carter Heyward which i think is a response to this gospel.

And you whose spirit is sad and unsure, try to remember
the very best parts of your life, the loveliest
feelings in your body self,
occasions of bold delight and quiet confidence,
moments of unambivalent commitment and unrestrained joy.
Try to remember when you have believed passionately in
something or someone human or divine.
Try to imagine that someone now believes in you
because she trusts your loveliest feelings
… commitments… confidence… joy.
She goes with us as we are called forth to go, with one
another, evoked by historical memory
and voices audible only to ears that can hear the
power of God in history.
Her name is love.
Carter Heyward: