Monday, October 31, 2016

The day of the Dead

Halloween and the 'Day of the dead' are big news this week. They reflect our understandable fascination with death and the after-life. The gospel this week tells the story of yet another smart-alec trying to trick Jesus with an ethics-twister of a question and yet again Jesus turns it all around. The Sadducees asked Jesus a question about the after-life and the nature of family and judgement and power. I remember once when i had just finished a grave-side funeral service, being approached by a friend of the family who was concerned that the person who had died had not been a Christian and therefore would not be 'saved'. I was taken aback by the question and the timing, but answered her that i felt that if we take Jesus' teachings about the after-life, then his main teaching was that only God knows the nature of that space after death. Just like in today's gospel, he gives an answer that points us more towards mystery that clarity. On the occasions that Jesus does speak clearly about the afterlife he tells us stories like that of Lazarus and the rich man that focus on the tables being turned and on justice for the poor and merciful. Much of our modern teaching about life-after-death is more tradition than theology. Our funerals imply that their is a heaven where we will meet our lost loved-ones, but this is not the church's teaching. Strictly speaking, the traditional teaching of the church is that the faithful will be physically resurrected on the day of judgement. This is one of the reasons behind the Roman Catholic church's seemingly strange pronouncements against the scattering of ashes.
For myself, i am happy enough to stay with the mystery that Jesus implies, and to rest in the spirituality that acts from the certainty that 'nothing can separate us from the love of God.'
Rev Gordon Bannon

In the resurrection, therefore.

Nine haiku for us sceptics

The Saducees ask
good questions: What does it mean:
resurrection life?

They already know
there is no life hereafter;
but does the teacher?

In the age to come?
The question is audacious;
It won't be like that!

God of Abraham,
God of Isaac and Jacob;
life with God goes on.

God of the living
with whom those who have long passed
share resurrection.

There can be no death
for those who find life in God;
they are God's children.

Jesus spoke of life
washed with eternal purpose.
They will die no more.

The disciple knows
that resurrection living
happens here on earth.

Can a Sadducee
also be a disciple?
Would that be all right?

© Ken Rookes 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Zacheus colouring

Room at the table

"As galling as it might be, Luke is telling us that until we are ready to welcome Malcolm Turnbull and Pauline Hanson to the table — no strings attached, no pre-conditions — we are not yet ready to take our place at the table ourselves. We are saved by grace alone, by nothing other than accepting the free gift of undeserved grace in Jesus Christ, but as long as we are trying to tell God who else is and isn’t worthy to receive it, we haven’t actually accepted the gift ourselves. We’re still buying into the idea that it is for those who deserve it. When we grasp that it is sheer gift, given with no strings attached to people we despise as much as to us, then we will know what it means to accept it or reject it. And unfortunately many will reject it rather than accept that they are no more worthy in God’s eyes than Bill Gates or Donald Trump. This is the table of scandalous grace, offensive grace. Here Jesus offers himself to all, without reserve, to all who will accept him and accept all who come with him.

Finally, the symbolism of this story appeals to me. Zacheus, who is a man like me, with warts and all, cannot see the truth, cannot see above the crowd. So he climbs higher so he can see above all the hubbub and confusion, above the crowd and their perspective, to see the truth in Jesus. Isn’t that our world?"

Monday, October 24, 2016

Here in Jericho

Haiku of generosity

Here in Jericho,
where the famed battle was fought,
other contests rage.

The tax-collector
climbs a sycamore's branches
for a better view.

The teacher invites
himself to the sinner's house;
he should know better.

The mean in spirit
call out generosity
shown to the worthless.

To this house: grace, hope,
salvation and life. He, too,
is a child of God.

The Son of Man came
to seek out those who struggle,
to befriend the lost.

© Ken Rookes 2016

and here's a golden oldie . . .  


The Bonsai Man

Zacchaeus the bonsai man,
growing stunted and gnarled;
his roots bound and starved
of human respect and affection.

Until the gardener looks up
into the twisted branches
of another tree, sees him,
calls him friend,

uproots him from the cruel pot
of judgement and derision
and offers him a plot
in the field of God’s kingdom.

There he can grow as God intends;
with space to send roots deep
into love, to stretch out his limbs,
and to be made fruitful.
© Ken Rookes

Monday, October 17, 2016

Not like other people

Attending the temple,
two men, one upright and proud,
one without merit.

The Pharisee stands,
eyes raised, confident and proud,
boasting before God.

I'm such a good man,
honest, diligent, faithful,
I fast and I tithe.

Go right ahead, God,
pour out your many blessings;
I am deserving.

The tax collector
stands apart from prying eyes;
head bowed to the ground.

Lowers his sad eyes,
aware of his need for grace;
God, be merciful.

They each return home.
The first untouched. The second
justified by God.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What a fool

"The fortunate thing here, again, is that God’s coming reign does not depend on us at all. God is at work for justice even when we are not. God loves and cares for all humanity even when we dehumanize and discard one another. God’s way of bringing justice is to join our suffering and redeem it, even when we suffer and visit suffering on one another. That is what we learn from Jesus way of being in the world.

And it is precisely this one who calls us and inspires us to follow this new way; just as God called people to resist oppression and form free societies here and elsewhere in the world; just as God called people to resist oppression with non-violence that lead to change in South Africa and India abroad, and in our cities and towns during the civil rights movement in our own nation over the last century. Those who lead these movements were people who understood that violent responses to injustice only breeds more violence and injustice. God’s way is to follow another path to freedom as oppression’s root cause, death, is made impotent by the resurrection of Jesus. The only question left is will we have the faith to participate in that freedom now? Or will we fail to see it and only hope and wonder why God is not answering our prayer the way that we want? In this case our persistent prayer is not about getting justice the way we want it so much as to connect us to God’s way of being in the world and to make us a part of his coming reign, which indeed is coming swiftly.
As they carry me to my grave one day, you might say, "He was crazy to believe all that time. What a fool." Maybe so. But the widow never turned away, never gave up, never lost heart. Neither will I. Neither will you. Amen.      "

Battle of Jacob and an Angel

Monday, October 10, 2016

Will he find faith on earth?

The Almighty,
according to this parable,
interpreted by one, Jesus,
who is also called God's son,
grants justice to those who seek it.
Whatever that means.
We could do with a bit more justice.
For refugees and asylum seekers,
women who are beaten,
children who are abused;
innocent victims
of air attacks,
lax gun laws,
racial bigotry, misogeny, and religious fear;
not to mention capitalism's excesses,
corrupt politicians
and dishonest jurists.
Like the judge in the parable.

We who seek justice, this story declares,
are encouraged to cry out day and night
to the aforesaid Almighty.
I might quietly suggest
that such crying out,
railing against such a raft of injustices,
loudly, persistently and annoyingly,
might in fact be the inconvenient duty
of all who follow Jesus.

© Ken Rookes 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Were not ten made clean?

Haiku of gratitude and surprise.

Ah, my friend, Jesus,
you travel to strange places,
sharing hope and love.

In the borderland
ten lepers cry to Jesus:
Have mercy on us!

Cleansing the lepers,
making real the reign of God,
revealing God's truth.

Just this foreigner.
The other nine, where are they?
Were not ten made clean?

Foreigners surprise
when they have more faith than us.
How embarrassing.

A Samaritan
is made the hero once more.
Another strange choice.

© 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; ...