Monday, January 30, 2017

Salt and light

A haiku sequence

You are salt and light.
Salt to enhance life's flavours.
Light to dispel fear.

Be salt to your friends
and salt to those who struggle.
Affirm their living.

Darkness encroaches,
threatens what is good and true.
Rage against the night.

Shine incandescent:
glowing is your heritage.
You are light, shine on.

Shine on with your love,
bring hope to the ones who weep,
illuminate them.

Go out of your way
to bring light to dark places.
They're waiting for you.

Be salt and be light.
This is your divine calling
as children of God.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

you are blessed

What does it mean for us as ordinary people and Christians to live righteously and faithfully as a person of God? All our readings have God asking things of us, but arguable, they are ordinary things. We are not asked to be heroes, but good common people. In many ways it is looking only to heroes for these things that leaves us ordinary people feeling that ‘goodness’ is just out of our grasp. Yet you are good people. The beatitudes are not aimed at extraordinary people. They describe ordinary people.
We are the poor in Spirit, we are the ones who mourn, who hunger and thirst for righteousness and peace. We are the ones who can show mercy and even purity. When Jesus spoke from the mountain, he chose to speak in a public place, not the synagogue where he might get the intellectuals or the righteous, but in a place where the ordinary people came to him. Jesus was speaking to ordinary people, not heroes, just us.
And isn’t his message so different to that of John the Baptist. John screams out “Repent! You bunch of no-hopers , or you’ll rot in hell.” And Jesus begins his ministry by saying “you are blessed”.

be ordinarily good

Micah 6:1-8 is good to read this famous verse from the prophet Micah in its larger context, which is a pain-filled exchange between Yahweh and Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you?” Sounds like a hurting parent trying to figure out an angry teenager. The relationship is broken. In verses 6-7 Israel responds, sounding very much like a surly teenager: “What is it you want from me?” “Burnt offerings . . . calves a year old . . . thousands of ram . . . ten thousands of rivers of oil???” Note that the amounts increase to the point of the ridiculous and that Israel seems to think God wants quantifiable stuff. No, answers God, it’s not about piles of stuff, it is about the direction and qualities of your life: to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. None of these can be reduced to specifiable quantities because it’s not about specific sacrifices; it’s about right relationship, with God, self and others. And it is not an extraordinary request. “This is all I ask of you! Be ordinarily good!”
This week, as people ponder about the horror of the murders in central Melbourne, it has been heartening to hear about the ordinary goodness of people just caring for each other in the midst of tragedy. 
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) once expressed his deep gratitude to Mary King, a simple cook by trade:

I do believe that I learnt more from her than I should have learned from any six doctors of divinity of the sort we have nowadays...There are some Christian people who taste, and see, and enjoy religion in their souls, and who get at a deeper knowledge of it than books can ever give them, though they should search all their days. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Matthew's Beatitudes

Haiku for malcontents.

The poor in spirit,
Matthew tells us, will be blessed;
God will be their king.

Those who weep and mourn
will receive divine comfort;
they will know God's peace.

Fairly straight-forward,
so far, these beatitudes.
Most reassuring.

The meek, we are told
will inherit the earth. But
it's hard to see how.

Those who are hungry
for righteousness and justice
will be filled. One day.

But if they dare act
against our wealth and power,
we will deal with them.

Those who show mercy
will be labelled 'bleeding hearts.'
(I made that one up.)

Those who have pure hearts
will see God. We will dismiss
them, call them naive.

The makers of peace
are God's children. They refuse
to abandon hope.

Their task is thankless.
Dismissed as fools, both their tears
and their smiles persist.

Blessed are the ones
who suffer for goodness' sake;
God will embrace them.

They may, however,
receive no justice on earth.
Should they be content?

What's a blessing worth?
Whether real or imagined,
can it compensate?

© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Jesus calls

Haiku for taking a chance

With John arrested
Jesus withdraws, goes back home;
north, to Galilee.

He leaves Nazareth
and moves to Capernaum.
There he makes his home.

What the prophet said
is about to be fulfilled;
a great light has dawned.

Commencing his work,
he begins to preach. “Repent,
the kingdom comes near.”

Walking by the sea
he sees Andrew and Simon
casting out their nets.

He calls the brothers,
“Come and follow, learn from me;
we'll fish for people.”

Best offer all day!
The fishers laugh, choose the risk,
leave behind their nets.

Further down the shore
He comes across more brothers,
sons of Zebedee.

In their father's boat,
Sons of Thunder, James and John,
also get the call.

In a flash, the pair
stop, weigh their options, and leave
dad to mend the nets.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Lamb of God?

A challenging poem by Denis Levertov

God then,
encompassing all things, is
defenseless? Omnipotence
has been tossed away, reduced
to a wisp of damp wool?

And we,
frightened, bored, wanting
only to sleep till catastrophe
has raged, clashed, seethed and gone by without us,
wanting then
to awaken in quietude without remembrance of agony,

we who in shamefaced private hope
had looked to be plucked from fire and given
a bliss we deserved for having imagined it,

is it implied that we
must protect this perversely weak
animal, whose muzzle’s nudgings
 suppose there is milk to be found in us?
Must hold to our icy hearts
a shivering God?

So be it.
Come, rag of pungent
dim start.
Let’s try
if something human still
 can shield you,
of remote light.

Denise Levertov

Monday, January 9, 2017

Two disciples

Haiku for those who are called.

John the baptiser,
had a group of disciples
learning from their lord.

A man of insight,
a prophet, fearing no-one,
pointing to the light.

When Jesus turned up,
the way the story is told,
John stepped to one side.

John saw him coming.
“Look, here is the Lamb of God,”
two friends were told.

When they heard these words
they took leave of their master
to follow Jesus.

Jesus turned, saw them,
asked: “What are you looking for?”
Top question, that one.

They did not answer,
asked him, “Where are you staying?”
“Come and see,” he said.

An invitation
for all who come with questions;
and much repeated.

The Lamb of God comes
bringing life and light and hope:
Don't wait, come and see!


Andrew found Simon.
“Come and meet the Messiah.”
Took him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him.
“You are Simon, son of John.
I'll call you Rocky.”

© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Needing to be baptised

Haiku for beginners

When he was ready
he travelled from Galilee,
south, to the Jordan.

There he came to John
with a baptism request.
John was reluctant.

You ask this of me,
I should be baptised by you;
the Baptist demurred.

Let it be so now,
Jesus answered. It's proper
and right to do this.

The river beckoned.
He sank beneath its surface,
finding his calling.

Emerging once more
from the darkness into light;
fills his lungs with life.

The white dove flies low,
with heaven's voice whispering:
this, then, is my son.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tales of wonder

Haiku of uncertain destination.

The tale is dodgy,
its historicity doubtful,
but still we wonder.

Driven by a dream
they seek the child of promise,
born to be a king.

They came from the east,
a vague description, at best;
those men of wisdom.

No maps, GPS,
their star takes them all the way
to Jerusalem.

They call on Herod;
(where else would you find a prince
but in a palace?)

Herod takes advice,
sends them off to Bethlehem;
asks to stay informed.

The child is threatened
by this late development.
God's plans are at risk.

Finding the infant
they offer their gifts: the gold,
frankincense and myrrh.

The gifts are laden
with meaning and importance
for a future king.

Having paid homage,
the pilgrims return eastward,
give Herod a miss.

The nations have seen,
the threat will be overcome;
the story rolls on.

© Ken Rookes 2017

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; ...