Monday, February 29, 2016

Missing Out: a haiku sequence

The tax-collectors
come to listen to his words;
he greets them as friends.

The righteous grumble
while the Pharisees complain;
avoid such sinners.

He tells a story
of a father with two sons;
weeping for them both.

One son travels far,
he wastes the family's wealth
then he smartens up.

His dad is waiting,
not in anger but in love;
calls for a party.

They are reconciled.
Love, forgiveness, grace; these three
renew our living.

The older brother
is unimpressed. He reckons
he's been missing out.

“These years I have slaved,”
the son complains “And for what?”
“It's all yours,” says dad.

“I wept for my son
when he was lost. Now he's back;
we have to party!”

We are all the same;
the worry of missing out
extinguishes love.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

But unless you repent

The story of Job
was written to show how the innocent suffer.
We ignore it, preferring to believe
that people get the treatment they deserve;
or at least that they should.
The poor are made to struggle
because it's their own fault;
they are lazy and lack our virtues.
The wealthy, on the other hand must be deserving.
The Almighty, we like to assert,
rewards the righteous
and punishes those who are not.
It's a convenient shorthand
that allows us to pass safe judgement
upon our fellow mortals.
Forget Job,
and Jesus, for that matter;
for neither will permit us to indulge the smug comfort
of dismissing the unworthy.
Jesus, in particular,
tells us to stop looking at other people;
and to take a good hard look
at ourselves.
We never asked for that.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Guerrillas of Grace.

For those who don’t know me too well, I am an avid gardener. A few years ago I heard about a new movement in gardening called “Guerrilla gardening” which is the practice of finding a public space which has been left to go to ruin and resurrecting it into a beautiful new garden. The ‘guerrilla’ part of it is that it is done without asking permission of local council’s etc. One of the catch cries of the movement is “Let’s fight the filth with forks and flowers!” The idea appeals to the rebel in me but also it attracted me on a spiritual level. I feel that it is a very ‘God-centred’ action to play a part in turning ruin into beauty.
I also love to buy books of poetry and prayers and I recently ran across a prayer book by Ted Loader called ‘Guerrillas of Grace – prayers for the battle’ (book which was originally printed 20 years ago). In the foreword he says “The notion of guerrillas seems to be rooted in the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition. The Old Testament prophets can easily be conceived of as guerrillas doing battle with the established powers of their day… Jesus was the pre-eminent guerrilla of grace; he confronted repressive institutions and liberated captive minds and hearts with his words and his life.” In reality I believe that there is nothing more subversive than the power of grace. Grace is taking the loving action in an unexpected place and time.
And there are so many issues on which can today be guerrillas of grace as Christians in the modern world. When the churches stand alongside the refugee and pronounce the church building as a place of sanctuary, or when we make a public stand in protest against government policies that turn away genuine asylum seekers, then we are being guerrillas of God’s grace. When we pray for our enemies instead of taking on the public rhetoric of hate, we are being guerrillas of grace. When the church resists being just another institution, but instead seeks to be place of honesty, integrity, of vulnerable open hearts seeking to live lives of compassion, mercy and justice; then we are being guerrillas of God’s grace.
And internally, within the church; when we live our lives differently with each other and seek to become a community who truly love each other, despite our differences, our imperfections and our brokenness; a community that sees Christ in each other; then we are being guerrillas of grace in perhaps the most difficult place. As Leunig says in one of his prayers, “Love one another! It is as simple and as difficult as that.” In my experience, the church is a place in which we need this more than ever.
In this Lenten time, when we are called upon to examine ourselves a little more closely, perhaps we have the opportunity to try out being Guerrillas of God’s grace. Come-on! Be a little subversive!
Rev Gordon Bannon 

The fox and the chooks

"Jesus knows what is coming to him if he keeps pushing ahead on the path he’s on. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” And then comes a very famous image that is probably a whole lot richer than we normally notice. “Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” We too often hear this line on its own out of context to get the full force of it. What has Jesus just called Herod? A fox. And what does he now call himself? A chook looking after a brood of chicks. We are supposed to hear those two images together. In the paraphrase we heard read earlier, it was a mother swan and a vicious dog because, if I remember rightly, the week it was written there had been a well publicised series of attacks by feral dogs on nesting swans down at Albert Park Lake.

So here we have Jesus staring down the fox, knowing himself capable of calling down more than twelve legions of angels, but instead offering himself as the one who will absorb the full force of the violence without reciprocating it. He goes clucking into the city that stones prophets with his little brood under his wings while the foxes circle ever closer and the firestorm of hatred and hostility comes raging across the barnyard. Actually, a firestorm may be a helpful image in understanding what Jesus is describing here. No doubt there were plenty of chickens killed by that big grassfire on the northern outskirts on Tuesday, and there are often stories after fires of farmers finding live chicks huddled under the dead burnt bodies of their mothers. That’s what Jesus is saying to you. When the fires of hostility and violence come your way, he longs to be able to throw himself over you and take it all on himself to protect you. “But you were not willing,” he says. We make it impossible for him to shelter us when we are always running away to avoid being too close to the one who doesn’t run away.

But if Jesus wants to protect us so badly, why doesn’t he call down that twelve legions of angels and do just that? After all, usually when a mother chook throws herself protectively over her chicks, the fox or the fire simply take the mother first and the chicks next. The success rate as a protection strategy is very low. Why not the twelve legions of angels, or at least a couple of Acacia’s flying side kicks? A thorough response to that question can’t be jammed into a sermon that has already pretty much done its time, so let me just give one little bit for now. Jesus’ desire to liberate us from violence is not just in the immediate, but always also in the big picture, and Jesus knows that violence can never be defeated by violence. When violence is applied to violence, it always begets more violence. Sometimes it leads to immediate escalation, and sometimes when one side is vastly more powerful, it leads instead to festering resentment that eventually explodes in further violence. Jesus knows that if he calls on the twelve legions of angels to bring more violence into the system, it simply means that there is now more violence in the system and therefore everybody is even more in danger than before. Retaliation and retribution only ever increase the sum total of violence spiralling around in the closed system. There are only two ways that the total volume of violence is ever reduced, and they usually go hand in hand. One is by soaking it up, by absorbing it without returning it. “Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings in the face of the violence of the foxes.” And the other is by injecting the only known antidote to violence into the system, and that is mercy. And those two so often go hand in hand because mercy is at its most potent when it is offered by the immediate victim of the violence."
Rev Nathan Nettleton (for full sermon visit laughingbird -

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jerusalem Lament

Jerusalem Lament.

Unconcerned Jesus,
ignoring the monarch's threats;
he will not retreat.

Jesus the reckless,
challenging Herod the fox;
continues his work.

He is on his way.
His calling nears fulfilment.
Next, Jerusalem.

Sad Jerusalem!
City of wailing and death;
here's one more prophet.

Mother-hen Jesus
weeping for the absent ones;
those who will not come.

Watch! One is coming,
touched by the divine Spirit;
you will cry 'blessed!'

© Ken Rookes 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

entering a new life

Jesus, in the reading from Luke, was about to enter a new land in his life. He was beginning a new thing. From the moment he stepped back from this time in the wilderness, it was going to be full on for him. It was not going to be easy making the change from being a village carpenter to being a wandering preacher and teacher. There would be many challenges but there were also going to be time of joy and satisfaction as well as frustration. Some translations speak of testing rather than tempting which makes the purpose of this time in the wilderness a little clearer.
It is still early in the New Year and each New Year can be a fresh start for us, but so can any day! Today can be the day when you decide to ask questions of things you have not dared to question before. From now on, you can resolve to make informed decisions when you come to vote in this year’s elections and when you are debating right and wrong of attitudes, ideas and behaviour.
Like the Israelite people, and Jesus, God the Holy Spirit has been journeying with us, encouraging and sustaining us through these years even when we have felt we were wandering in a wilderness. Each new day can be the beginning of something new for us. It will be good because God does not lead otherwise; with the promise that like it was for the Israelites so it can be a productive time for us. It may be scary and a challenge, but the guarantee is that we will thrive in this place.

Do not forget to celebrate the achievements you make by giving thanks to God. God will bless you all in this.
Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermon's page)

In the wilderness

There must be a thousand temptations,
any dozen of which assail us
in any given twenty-four hour period.
Each one is subtly different,
but when we collect them
and place them under a microscope
we find that they all share the same essential DNA;
that they have all evolved from the one stem.
Power, wealth, comfort,
(I must have that!)
To be left alone to enjoy a peaceful existence,
(somebody else's problem, not mine /
I've done my bit / am I my brother's keeper?)
To be free from pain, suffering
(and therefore to forsake the work of love).
These, and the countless others,
all share in the same evolutionary taxonomy.
One, three or a thousand,
we all face our temptations,
every day.
Like Jesus in his forty-day wilderness struggle,
and through the years that followed.
Every day we face our temptations
and hope, like him,
that we can overcome.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

What should we do?

What should we do?

After this, a group of politicians brought a family before Jesus to accuse them.

“We caught these foreigners crossing our borders without permission,” their leader said. “How should we deal with them?”

“What do your laws say?” he asked them.

“Our laws permit us to send them far away, where they can be locked up among barbed wire, mosquitoes and despair,” said the leader.

“What have you to say for yourselves?” Jesus asked the family.

The man stepped forward. “Our land was filled with fear and fighting,” he said.

His wife stood at his side, as the children clung to her. “We gathered what we could and fled. We came here hoping to find a place of refuge; where our children could be safe and grow and thrive.”

“There!” exclaimed a woman. “You have heard it from their own lips, they deserve to be sent away. What do you say?”

Jesus crouched, and drew with his finger in the dust. Then he stood, looked about him and spoke. “Let the one who has never feared an election defeat be the one who turns the key.”

The crowd became enraged. They seized him and handled him roughly.

Their leader spoke. “You are nothing but a bleeding-heart lefty!” he said. “What would you know?”
Then they cast him headlong into a ditch; and dragged the family away.

Some other people saw what happened, and wept for shame. They went looking for Jesus. He was sitting on the side of the ditch, wiping the blood from his face.

“This is all wrong,” they said. “What should we do?”

Jesus stood up. Looking into their eyes he embraced each one, and said, simply, “Everything. We must do everything that we can.”

© Ken Rookes 2016.

Hiroshima and Transfiguration

What we have heard today requires a leap of imagination. Such an leap shouldn’t worry those skeptical scientists because they use their imagination day in and day out, imagining the seconds after the big bang, the coupling of sperm and ovum, the sudden appearance of a new galaxy. Physicists work with light, as do makers of cinema, as do teachers.

...On this day, 6th August in 1945, at 8.15am, one atomic device nicknamed Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, then three days later, 'Fat Man' devastated Nagasaki, the Christian city of Japan: These strangely named bombs  reduced the people of these Japanese cities to ash, leaving survivors to carry in their bodies unseen radiation. The flash of the explosion has been called the light brighter than a thousand suns. Photographs of people who looked at the nuclear flash show that they had their eyes burnt out.
Since that morning in 1945 we have lived under a nuclear cloud, a radioactive fog. Notice how the images of light, and sleep and fear are in both Hiroshima and the light of Jesus.  

On witnessing the first test of the atomic bomb Robert Oppenheimer later said:
We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.

I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Today, along with all nuclear States, we must pray that Israel is released from fear, and gives up its attempt to gain security with nuclear devastation. That prayer also includes Australia, prepared to accept nuclear protection by allying with the United States, the so-called Christian nation.
Our true safety comes not from fear and anxiety prompted by the atomic cloud; but from the God of life whose light heals and gives hope for life.

So, today we are presented with two names: Hiroshima and Transfiguration.
Hiroshima, with its devastation, stands as a warning of the devastation we can unleash;
The Transfiguration of Jesus has the liberating power to bring us to the light of the Creator who wants all to flourish.

Aren’t Christians called to be the first to seek the abolition of nuclear devices, and the first to celebrate for all a world without weapons?

So let us go from here trusting the God who in the beginning broke the darkness, and with light utterly transformed Jesus,
chose him to be the Beloved Son, fed him at his mother’s breast, anointed him with the Spirit; and is calling a company of people marked by his light.

Let yourself be claimed by this same God of light. Take hold of Jesus Christ whose light was witnessed on the mountain and in his resurrection. Join in his celebration of life.
Rev Dr Wes Campbell (for full sermon see sermons page)

Monday, February 1, 2016

The opening of eyes

The Opening of Eyes, by David Whyte
That day I saw beneath dark clouds 
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Transfiguration coloring

Don't just do something! Stand there!

Saul Alinsky, a community organizer from Chicago, once said "Don’t just do something. Stand there!" In your own experience, how do people react after an encounter with mystery (for example in worship, beautiful scenery, listening to music)? Do you give yourself space for reflection of these things, or is there too much activity in life to allow an appreciation of glory? What space have you for the encounter with glory? Is there too much pressure in the world to allow us to reflect on God’s glory appropriately?  When was the last time you were astonished at the greatness of God?
"Let's stay here forever! Can't we go past noon, just this one Sunday?"

Are we missing out because we are too busy?

Mountain Haiku Sequence

Come with me, he says
to Peter, James and John;
time to climb up high-

Mountain-top prayers
where earth and heaven come close;
connecting the two.

Wonder and light. Ah,
these things take away one's breath;
eyes and hearts grow wide.

Moses, Elijah
standing there, bleached and glowing;
speaking mysteries.

The one they followed
also shines, shares the wonder.
Who can this man be?

A cloud, descending,
hides the light-washed ones from view;
then the voice thunders.

It speaks approval:
He is my Son, the chosen;
listen to his words.

The cloud is lifted.
The four remain in silence,
alone with their thoughts.

© Ken Rookes 2016

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; ...