Friday, December 29, 2017

but at a cost

but at a cost

The three-fold terror of love: a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?
-W.B. Yeats 1865-1939

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The old people sing

Haiku of fulfilment

Old people hang out
in churches and in temples;
watching and waiting.

Something might happen.
You never know, it might be
the day God appears.

Righteous and devout,
old Simeon was patient;
he would see the Christ.

His words erupted!
This child, he would be the one;
light and salvation!

The old man blessed them.
It is enough, I’ve seen him
Let me go now, God.

He spoke to Mary.
There will arise much turmoil
on the road to peace.

Anna, the prophet,
saw the child, raised her old voice,
and joined in the song.

Wisdom and insight
come not just with the years,
but with openness.



© Ken Rookes 2017.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The new place of Christians at Christmas

This echoes my sentiments and the whole article is worth a read.

"There's no doubting the church has been a mixed bag over the centuries. My own experience as "the son of a preacher man" was one where I saw up close the best and the worst of the church community — the charlatans, the crazies and, yes, the ones you knew to avoid as a kid. But I also saw lives of undeniable beauty and grace and joy. These were unheralded, and in many ways unspectacular, lives of women and men whose commitment to caring for others, especially the unfortunate, left a lasting impression.

That's not everyone's experience of course. But it's with that memory that I will recall the baby born in a stable this year, with all the mystery and profound promise that he carries. To my mind that remains the best antidote around to Christmas-induced anxiety, stress and disappointment"
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-24/can-the-christmas-story-counter-anxiety-sadness-disenchantment/9275328

Saturday, December 23, 2017

When the song of the Angels is stilled

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The Work of Christmas begins: To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
Then indeed we shall be blessed!  

Howard Thurman:

A subeversive gift of Peace

In the Christ child born in poverty in a stable the divine brings a subversive gift; 
The gift of a powerless baby where the world demanded a king, 
the gift of vulnerability and innocence where the world wanted a warrior and justice, 
the gift of peace where the world was preparing for war.
And what I like in this story is the presumption that the gift of peacemaking is ordinary 
and in all of us. We are all princes/princess of peace, 
we all have the divine child of hope within, 
and the gift of Christmas becomes the turning of swords into ploughshares.
(Rev G Bannon)

John the baptiser

Original painting by Rev Dr Wes Cambell
used with permission

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Census


haiku for losing control

As the story goes
Augustus and his minions
decreed the counting.

A census gives us
the needed information
to order our world.

Numbering people,
keeping control and power,
imposing taxes.

The count brings the man,
along with his pregnant bride
south to Bethlehem.

But in this baby
God upends all creation;
here is the promise.

Humble mum and dad,
common tradesman and his wife;
folk the same as us.

Find them a stable,
a shelter for giving birth.
How appropriate.

No fancy cradle;
he can sleep in a feed trough,
there among the straw.

Invite some shepherds,
poor and lowly witnesses;
they’ll proclaim his birth.

Something about God
spurning grandeur and power;
these are good stories.



© Ken Rookes 2017.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Annunciation

Haiku of wonder

In these ancient tales
unexpected pregnancies
convey the wonder.

God, they assure us,
is at last doing something
to sort the world out.

An agéd woman
has managed to conceive, now
it’s her cousin’s turn.

The angel’s busy
conveying surprising news.
The girl is nonplussed.

Do not be afraid!
Easy to say, Gabriel;
it isn’t your womb!

You will bear a son.
You’ll call him Jesus. He will
do amazing things!

That, we know is true.
We will follow his story;
we will follow him.

Her fears overcome,
the girl agrees, allowing
events to proceed.

Only Luke gives us
these strange announcement stories,
stretching the waiting.

We’re left to ponder:
is wonder the same as truth;
and does it matter?




© Ken Rookes 2017.

Monday, December 11, 2017

His name was John

Haiku of promise.

His name was John
He pointed to light; shining,
challenging the dark.

Down beside the creek
he spoke of revolution.
People sought him out.

A man sent from God.
The leaders came to see him:
Who the heck are you?

If you’re not the Christ
are you Elijah; are you
some other prophet?

I am a loud voice,
lonely, crying in the dark:
Make straight the Lord’s path.

Why do you baptise;
you are not the Messiah?
No, but he is here.

I’m using water,
he who comes will do much more;
wait, watch and see!



© Ken Rookes 2017.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Prepare the way

Haiku of expectation

The brutal powers
wink smugly, worship Mammon,
plan their victory.

John the baptiser
stands tall and immovable,
prophet for us all.

Hear the earth weeping,
as she waits for her offspring
to remember love.

Something might happen
if we want it hard enough.
Make yourself ready.

The messenger comes
sent to speak God’s awkward truth,
to prepare the way.

One is soon to come.
He brings a word of hope, life,
not to mention love.

Far greater than I;
in him the heavens draw near
with the Spirit’s kiss.

We need more prophets;
women unafraid of truth,
men who make a stand.

They won’t be silenced.
Like the master they follow
they’re driven by love.

Make the pathways straight
for the one who brings true life,
who makes all things new.


© Ken Rookes 2017.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Again the question

Haiku for reading the signs


Apocalyptic
imagery to puzzle
and to disconcert.

In those days, he said,
even the skies will rebel:
the sun, moon and stars.

The end times have come,
not because heaven says so;
the planet is lost.

Look at the fig tree,
or at the barrier reef;
the extreme weather.

We ask the questions:
Where is God in all of this;
what are we to do?

When the master comes
the servants are expected
to have done their jobs.

Keep alert! Wake up!
The hour, the day is coming;
perhaps it is here.

Again the question:
What does he expect of you,
who carry his name?


© Ken Rookes 2017.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Of all his stories

Haiku for a servant people

Imagination
is engaged less by constructs
than by parables.

He told his stories;
cunning, sneaking up on us,
causing us to think.

Many parables
cause us to squirm. Banish them;
choose other verses.

His stories trouble.
This one disturbs more than most;
gives no place to hide.

Unavoidable!
The king, (Jesus), expects us
to care for others!

Naked, in prison,
hungry, homeless or stranger;
we must show them love.

The neighbour in need
is an opportunity
to love your master.

Make no excuses.
We will be judged by our deeds;
by how we have loved.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

the parable of the faithful servant

I want to admit first of all the difficult nature of this parable. It is not a fair sort of parable and again we have some uncomfortable images of God.
If we take this parable at face value we have a parable that is a justification for capitalism and investment on the stock market. We also have a vision of God as a cruel tyrant worthy of any rapacious corporate boss.
Ched Myers, a contemporary Christian theologian, has argued strongly that this is a parable which Jesus would have been telling with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek.
We have to take this reading in context. The parable before and the one following inform this one. There is no way that Jesus normally talked about the poor being relegated to hell, just the reverse. It is usually the comfortable and wealthy that have to watch out. And perhaps here is the key. The message that Matthew obviously wants to give us is that (like in the previous parable of the bridesmaids) the lesson is that we must live in anticipation of the imminent return of Christ. Therefore we cannot afford to rest upon our laurels and slacken of with the use of our gifts. We must keep using our gifts to further the reign of God’s Justice and peace.
 So what does this have to say to us as the church in this age and as individuals.
First of all this parable recognises the myth of the level playing field. Just as people are born with different levels of intelligence, different social and educational opportunities, and different levels of love and security offered to them, so too churches start out with very different prospects. 

We are not going to find many answers about how to use our gifts from this parable. It tells us to invest wisely but it will not tell us what to invest in. It will not tell us, as the church, which mission strategies or worship patterns or leadership structures are the most productive use of our gifts. And if I can risk heresy here, just waiting on the Lord for guidance probably won't give us many answers either. God's guidance is most often given to those on the road, not to those thinking about the road.

The one thing that I know for sure is that God is looking for wise stewards of God’s gifts, and that God will continue to give new blessings to those who learn to use wisely and productively what has already been given.  If you use the talents God has entrusted to you in ways that most strengthen the shared task of God's people, God will surely be seen as the faithful restorer of his people and you will be among the privileged recipients of his word, “Well done good and trustworthy servants; you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Finally I want to say that, this does not have application only for the church. In our lives it is all too easy to live in the sort of fear that the third servant lived in; the fear of losing his own gifts by using it. Lets face it, none of us use our gifts to the utmost, and it is our constant challenge to overcome that fear and face the giftedness and strength that God has given us.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Playing safe
Haiku for faithful stewards

Talents were immense
lumps of money, like a big
CEO payout.

The so-called experts
don’t agree, but a million
will get somewhere near.

Another story.
This time three slaves are summoned,
trusted with big bucks.

Their freehanded boss
is going on a journey.
Take care of my things.

You know how it goes:
Five talent man makes five more;
two talent man, too.

When the boss returns
he commends them. You’ve done well,
I’ll trust you with more.

The one talent man
got cold feet; panicked, anxious,
hid it in the ground.

Here we are! he said
when he came before the boss:
All safe and secure!

He is not impressed.
Security is worthless;
learn to take some risks!

Get out of my sight!
You cannot serve God’s kingdom
if you play it safe!


© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Youmust be ready

Haiku for the faithful

You must be ready!
He tells his friends a story,
as is his practice.

Ten bridesmaids with lamps
go out to greet the bridegroom;
a flaming escort.

The neighbourhood girls
invite themselves to the feast
with dancing and song.

The bridegroom is late.
The maids rest their heads and sleep.
The lamps keep burning.

The shout at midnight:
Here he is! Come to meet him!
Bridesmaids trim their lamps.

Five have brought spare oil.
The other five entreat them:
Give us some of yours!

There won’t be enough.
Make haste and rouse the dealers;
buy oil for yourselves.

They return, their lamps
recharged and burning brightly.
The rest have gone in.

The door has been shut.
Lord, lord, let us in! they cry.
Sorry, you’re too late!

Set your sights upon
the kingdom, Jesus told them,
make yourselves ready.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scribes and Pharisees

Haiku for servants

Scribes and Pharisees:
religious establishment,
power and bluster.

Religious heavies
still imagine that they rule,
brandishing their keys.

Creating burdens
is the thing they excel at;
they will weigh you down.

Telling the people
that they are not good enough
to make it with God.

Look how good we are!
Try your best to be like us;
we’re exemplary.

Measure our fringes,
see our wide phylacteries;
don’t we look the part!

Do not play their game.
Be humble, self-effacing,
a servant of all.

You are my students.
Don’t call yourself a teacher;
you have one teacher.

They still know better
than the rest of us; they still
tell us how to live.


© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Psalm 90 and our significance

This week i have been captivated by Psalm 90. Both the psalm and the reading from Deuteronomy provide a focus on our mortality.
I love this insight from the 'Journey with Jesus' Website

"Life is difficult," wrote M. Scott Peck in one of the most famous first sentences ever (The Road Less Traveled). "This is a great truth," said Peck, "one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it."
           Psalm 90 conveys a sense of Weltschmerz, a feeling of melancholy, apathy, and world-weariness. The poem acknowledges the inherent futility to life, such that "we finish our years with a moan." Whether we live eighty, ninety, or even a hundred years, "yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, / for they quickly pass, and we fly away."
           We're all "fighting the long defeat," said Tolkien. And nobody gets a free pass.
           Despite the passage of time and the pain of life, the psalmist doesn't cave in to stoicism or despair. He prays to be a person of joy and gladness. "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, / that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. / Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, / for as many years as we have seen trouble."
           There's a delicate balance here between living in reality rather than denying it, and nonetheless trusting our little lives to God's greater providence. In his poem The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, the poet-farmer Wendell Berry thus advises:

"Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts."

Monday, October 23, 2017

Which is number one?

Haiku of the essential

Some Pharisees came
to ask another question;
to test and trick him.

Which is the greatest?
Of all of God’s commandments
which is number one?

No hesitation.
Love the Lord with all your heart,
and your mind and soul.

But wait now, there’s more:
You have to love your neighbour
like you love yourself.

Forget all the rest,
live according to love’s rule!
Nothing else matters

Good answer, Jesus.
With love, grace and forgiveness
the world is transformed.



© Ken Rookes 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A coin trick.

"Doug Adams notes that when Jesus asks the Pharisees to produce a coin, they do so...
Even though a strictly pious Jew would never carry a coin bearing the emperor's image with an inscription proclaiming him to be king and God!

These presumed righteous citizens are thus carrying around coins that break two commandments! The behaviour of the Pharisees is incriminating,
embarrassing, and amusing, to say the least.

And certainly noted by all the ordinary people who have had to 'toe the line'!
Robert Funk suggested there is no indication that Jesus returned the coin to the Pharisees. According to Funk, as Jesus proclaims the punch line -"and (pay) God what belongs to God!" he pockets the coin and has the last laugh. (i really like that image)


There is a lesson from Jesus in humour and debating skills and some deeper meaning, Perhaps it is not guidance for taxation or political authority/

But it does raise the provocative and still relevant question:
What belongs to God? What belongs to the emperor?
And what if 'the emperor' is Mugabe, or school yard bullies, or global capitalism, or al Qaeda?

The issue here is not just about money, it is about obedience to the state. Sometimes the church has chosen to disobey the law of the state for a greater law. 
In this story Jesus is anything but stupid and knows, as we do in our hearts, that there are times when there is a conflict between what the state demands and what our faith tells us to do. What would Jesus do when this happens? We need only look again to the cross to see what happens to Jesus when the state demanded worship and Jesus would only obey the law of his God.

Perhaps we still need to ponder this story some more. Perhaps another take on this story is for us to really ponder what impact it has upon us, upon our church, to really know that all/everything belongs to God."


Monday, October 16, 2017

Tell us then, what do you think?


Haiku for cutting through

Should we pay taxes
to the Emperor? they asked,
trying to catch him.

He can’t answer Yes;
but nor can he reply: No.
Both create problems.

They are hypocrites
and he tells them so. Show me
the coin for the tax.

A denarius.
Whose head is this, on the coin;
what is his title?

It’s the emperor!
Then give to Caesar those things
that belong to him.

And, while you’re at it,
give unto God all those things
that belong to God.

They make no reply.
Departing in amazement
they leave him; for now.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spurning generosity

"The people on the king's A-list refused his extravagant generosity. They spurned an invitation to the most prestigious party in town.
           There's historical precedent for such erratic behavior. On October 30, 1918, King George V and Queen Mary summoned Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence to Buckingham Palace. Lawrence was only thirty years old. He thought the meeting was to map out the new boundaries for the Arabs whom he had helped to liberate from the Ottoman Empire.
           When he entered the palace ballroom, Lawrence saw the royal dignitaries, the costumed courtiers of medieval traditions, a small stool at the foot of the king's throne, and a velvet pillow on which there rested numerous medals. This was a rite of investiture.
           Lawrence was to kneel on the stool while the king draped him with a sash, decorated him with medals, tapped him on the shoulder with a sword, and recited an ancient oath. All to make Lawrence a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
           But instead of kneeling, Lawrence refused the honor. In almost 1,000 years of knighthood, nothing like this had ever happened. What should everyone do? A stunned King George and a furious Queen Mary watched as "Lawrence of Arabia" turned and walked out of Buckingham Palace. You could have pushed them over with a feather.
           It's hard to believe, and it doesn't make any sense, but some people refuse royal generosity."
https://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141006JJ.shtml

the odor of sanctity

"There is almost nothing worse in the world than religious people who think they are holier or better or less sinful than other people. I love the limerick which says, “The power of hell is strongest when the odor of sanctity creates the smell.” Yes, the odor of sanctity does stink.
Martin Luther said a similar thing when he wrote:  “O Lord, deliver me from Christian churches with nothing but Christian saints in them. I want to remain in and be part of a church which is a little flock of faint-hearted people, weak people, who know and feel their sin, their poverty, their misery, and they believe in the forgiveness of God.” 
 That is what Luther wanted. Nothing about colorful programs. Nothing about great music. Nothing about great preaching. What Martin Luther wanted to be part of community which had faint hearted and weak people who know and feel their basic humanity. Luther wanted to be part of a real family, a Christian family, a small family that cared for each other.
I like the following definition of a church. “The church is somewhat like Noah’s ark. If it were not for the storm outside, you couldn’t stand the smell inside.” That is true. There is that smell to the church. The church stinks. This is what Jesus was talking about in our reading from Matthew today. Who are the ones who are invited to this wonderful party God is throwing? It is a bunch of ratbags from the streets. It is us.
The church is a family of imperfect people who help each other mature in love."
 http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_a_the_church.htm

Monday, October 9, 2017

Like a wedding feast

Haiku for the hopeless.

Like a wedding feast;
the kingdom invitation
is there for us all.

Still one more story;
a parable to confound,
also to offend.

The king sends his slaves:
It’s time, come to the banquet!
Lots of excuses.

A second time: Come,
everything is ready now!
They make light of it.

The affronted king
declares them all unworthy,
decides to move on.

Go out to the streets
and, whoever you find there,
bring them to the feast.

Everyone came
and all were made most welcome,
both the good and bad.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Caring for the vineyard

The parable in some ways addresses the Jewish people and the way they had misused the trust put in them by God to take care of the world into which they had been placed. they had been placed in the position of caretakers. they had been given a position of trust and privilege and they had misused it.
           A strong parallel could be drawn between this situation and our modern world which God has created and placed in our care.
           But what does this say for us in our spiritual lives? What can be said from this parable that we can take away in a transforming, liberating way. Firstly, perhaps, that the sort of relationship that God wants to generate with us is one of trust and intimacy.

Perhaps secondly, we have reaffirmed that God is a god of passionate justice. Thirdly, that in our trusting relationship, we have let God down in terms of the environment, in terms of just relationships. In this story, we are called to be faithful, but we are also called to play the role of the messenger. We need to hear God’s disappointment about our relationship with our world and respond out of that to behave in a radical manner to take care of the vineyard that is on loan to us. Albert Schweitzer spent all his life exploring the meaning of a little phrase “reverence for life”. If  we explored this sufficiently then we would find our lives revolutionized. Perhaps we would be more moved to live a life of ecological sustainability.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Paying the rent.


Haiku for a new order

Parables abound,
and here’s another vineyard.
This one’s rented out.

Shades of Isaiah.
Fruitlessness still the problem,
but it’s not wild grapes.

This time the tenants
refuse to pay the due rent;
and with violence.

Slaves are beaten, killed.
Not even his son is spared.
What were they thinking?

The owner will come
and deal with these reprobates.
It won’t be pretty.

He will start again.
Other tenants will be found;
they’ll produce the fruit.

The rejected stone
becomes the one that is key;
how unexpected!

Religious leaders:
pay attention! It is you
who must give account.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

water from the rock

"... Today’s reading - the story of the water coming from the rock in the wilderness - is a case in point. Taken only as a one-off literal event, it has very little to say to us. Once upon a time, several thousand years ago, the Israelite people got thirsty and disgruntled in the desert and, on instruction from God, Moses whacked a rock with a stick and fresh water came gushing out and the people lived happily ever after. So what? Often we have done nothing more with such stories than make them some kind of test of faith - do you believe that this miracle literally happened? Well, whether I do or whether I don’t, what difference will it make to the shape of my discipleship tomorrow? I’m willing to believe that it happened, but I’m not likely to be part of a thirsty tribe in the desert any time soon, and even if I am, there is no promise here that the same thing would happen again. So what are we to do with it?

Now this story from Exodus, this story of the water coming from the rock is using some symbols to make a similar point. The truths about God and us which are evident in this story continue to be true and evident in many situations, and that we can therefore see things here which hold true for us.

Is it not true that the Israelite people can symbolise us today in our tendency to point the finger at the community leaders as soon as we feel dry and undernourished? And isn’t it true that the wellsprings of spiritual nurture are bubbling away underneath us but we are often oblivious to them? And isn’t it true that God is always ready to provide more than enough to sustain us, but that often fail to either expect God to do anything or to ask God to do anything? Christ is the rock whose wounding becomes a source of life and spiritual hope for us, and that too is part of a pattern of the way God acts.

This story reminds us that even when everything seems hard and dry and inhospitable, those seeds or springs of love and grace are there, perhaps hidden beneath the surface, but ready to break through if we will prayerfully listen for the voice of God and discern which rock God is calling us to knock on and crack open."

http://www.laughingbird.net/SermonTexts/0429.html

no safe answers

As we continue with the same-sex marriage debate i wonder if this reflection has something to say to us about how we listen and discern??
"Jesus hammers them, and insults their self-righteous religiosity by telling them that the prostitutes are entering God’s Kingdom before them.
Oh, that must have gotten their goat.
I like to think that if they had given an honest answer—even the wrong answer—that Jesus would have had compassion on them. Perhaps he would have gently set them right.
But, to seek first a “safe” answer, and then do the safest thing they could—give no answer at all—is a clear demonstration of their willingness to put their own self-preservation ahead of their pursuit of God and the Truth.
At least the prostitutes were honest…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for searching for the middle way. I’m all for looking for gray in the midst of a world that so much prefers black-and-white.
But, people who pursue the Kingdom of God and the way of Jesus aren’t called to blurt out safe answers. Expedient answers. Popular answers.
Preaching the Good News, and living the Good News, and seeking the Kingdom, means sticking your neck out. Searching for the truth. Being wrong, and turning back onto the Way that leads to Life. It’s fumbling in the dark—looking into the glass darkly—but always seeking out the kind of Truth that brings healing, hope, redemption, and reconciliation."
http://www.rickmorley.com/archives/974?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=proper20a-gospel

Monday, September 25, 2017

Doing the Father's will.

Haiku for those who are called.

They came enquiring:
Who gave you authority
that you do these things?

He does not answer.
Was the Baptist sent from God?
he asks in return.

It is a stand-off.
They refuse to answer him;
he will not tell them.

Instead a story.
A father asks his two sons
to work the vineyard.

The first answers: No.
But later has second thoughts,
works among the vines.

The second says: Yes,
(to keep the old man quiet).
But he never fronts.

Which one, asks Jesus,
did the will of his father?
They reply: the first.

Stop your pretending!
How can you do what God wants
when you won’t listen?

The ratbag sinners,
who you dismiss as worthless,
believed what John said.

You still won’t believe.
These sinners go before you
into God’s kingdom.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Haiku of concern


Count them, two crazies.
Shrill voices, sabres rattle;
threatening us all.

Nuclear weapons;
these global obscenities.
There are no good guys.


© Ken Rookes 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

a matter of rights?

"The issue raises the matter of rights. These days it is common to ally the gospel with the demand for human rights. There is a sense in which this undersells the gospel. Our response to people is not to make sure they get their rights, but because they are people and that will often mean going beyond what, according to accepted norms, they have a right to claim. Love of this kind goes beyond human rights. It also assumes the worth of people, human dignity, need for shelter, sustenance, self determination and the like. Needs and rights are closely related and will often overlap, so affirming human rights belongs to caring for people according to their needs, but such caring does not stop there. The argument against human rights that we have no rights and deserve nothing from God sounds pious enough and has validity, but Jesus is trying to get us used to the idea that God is not playing the game of 'Look how good I am; you have no rights and I am generously giving you what you do not deserve! So worship me!' In Jesus we are learning that God is not working with a rights and deserts scale and making exceptions, but simply loving because that, not rights, is what is at the heart of God's being. If we persist in thinking of God in terms of God's rights, we will inevitably view all of life in terms of rights and miss the point of the gospel."

http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MtPentecost15.htm

undermining our sense of privilege

"The subversive and easily overlooked purpose of this parable is to make us realize how deep our sense of entitlement exists (and if you wonder if this true, read ahead to James and John, Matthew 20:20-28). How our sense of privilege is operative in how we envision what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. How we have convinced ourselves that all, in equal measure, have indeed experienced the love and grace of God in their lives when in fact that is so very far from the truth. How quickly, easily, comfortably we settle in as the church chosen. Assuming we have the dominant theological voice. Supposing we are the ones blessed to carry on a manifestation of Christianity that, were we to go back and read the New Testament with any sense of honesty and dexterity, is unrecognizable.
The deep-seated, systemic, institutional reality of privilege, especially white-privilege, and more especially white-male-privilege continues to wreak havoc upon the basic principles of freedom and justice for all, but even more so these days, has allowed perpetuations of the Kingdom of Heaven with nary a Beatitude in sight.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard does exactly what Jesus’ parables are meant to do. And the uncomfortable aspects of Jesus’ parables are exactly what need to be preached these days. Far too long, we have attempted to tame these parables, to fit them into the molds of our constructs of God, when in fact, the parables are meant to accomplish the opposite."
http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4970

The first shall be last

Image result for cartoon the first shall be last

Monday, September 18, 2017

The politics of resentment.

Haiku of generosity

A new parable
to illustrate the kingdom,
turning things on end.

Vineyard labourers
hired in groups through the day;
get the harvest in.

Some worked twelve hours,
some laboured for only one.
Pay them what is fair.

The last are paid first.
They get a full day’s wages.
A happy surprise!

The twelve-hour workers
rub hands in expectation;
but get basic wage.

The grumble is great.
Quit whingeing says the vintner;
it’s what we agreed.

If I deal freely
with my money, that’s my choice;
why should you complain?

Others might get more
than they deserve, that’s all right.
Be happy for them.

This story disturbs,
offends our sense of justice.
Best to ignore it.

(We all take offence
when those who don’t deserve it
receive more than us.)

© Ken Rookes 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

perhaps a bit too close to the bone?


Ghandi on forgiveness


Forgiveness


 My heart was heavy, for its trust had been 
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong; 
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men, 
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among 
The green mounds of the village burial-place; 
Where, pondering how all human love and hate 
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late, 
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face, 
And cold hands folded over a still heart, 
Pass the green threshold of our common grave, 
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart, 
Awed for myself, and pitying my race, 
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave, 
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

George William Russell

Look me in the eye

If you want a good example of  forgiveness then have a look at the first episode of  the new sbs series 'Look me in the Eye'. It had me in tears.
"Look Me In The Eye explores what happens when two estranged people come face to face - without conversation - to look each other in the eye. Hosted by Ray Martin, Australians from diverse backgrounds are genuinely looking to reconnect with someone in their life. This emotional and riveting series seeks to discover if eye contact alone can help bridge personal rifts, and reveals what happens when only eye contact is used as a form of communication between two people who are estranged. In this episode, former Sudanese child soldier Ayik tries to forgive his prison guard, Anyang."

https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1030915651642/look-me-in-the-eye

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seventy-seven times.

Haiku for forgetting to keep score.

Peter came and asked:
How often must I forgive
my comrades in faith?

Would seven times do?
Not really, Jesus answered;
add seventy more.

Another story.
A king forgives a huge debt.
Well done, your highness!

The king shows pity,
his debtor is much relieved.
High fives all around!

Relieved and grateful,
the man will show like pity
to others, won’t he?

Quickly forgetting
the forgiveness he received,
he demands payment.

When you have known grace
how can you not live by grace?
Unbelievable!

We forgiven ones
are expected to forgive.
End of the story.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Grounding in love

In the passage from Matthew's gospel, Jesus has come down from the mountain after 
the transfiguration and has been teaching lessons that clarify or cast 
question on the Law and how it is enacted and what it really means. 
In the verses read this week, Jesus is teaching the proper ways to 
handle conflict among the disciples. He recognizes this is bound to 
happen. We don't know about your life, but there are about 15 
practical applications of this teaching in our life DAILY. Imagine 
reviewing this prior to staff meetings or visiting it at a family 
dinner once a week. These are practical guidelines - especially for 
groups working together in love. If we truly are living out the 
command to love one another, doesn't this set of guidelines help us 
out? 

And finally, in Paul's letter to the church at Rome, Paul has been 
teaching about authority and has turned to Love - not the love of self 
but a guiding love of "other," of the neighbor, that he understands 
should permeate our lives. He's providing guidance - the commandments 
he references all come down specifically to loving with selfless care 
and concern another person. 

We are where we are today because of the places from which we have come and the rituals and practices that have shaped us. 

God, help us as we attempt to 
focus our energies 
on loving 
and respecting 
each other 
while we 
remember 
the ways 
we have been 
loved 
and 
respected. 
Amen. 

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org