Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Suspended

I had grasped God's garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it.
The ‘everlasting arms' my sister loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight
from falling, even so,
for though I claw at empty air and feel
nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
—Denise Levertov

I still do not want to die

“Lord, I believe, but help thou my unbelief, because I still do not want to die. I believe Jesus has power to raise the dead, only I do not want him practicing on me. I want a God who will cut my losses and cushion my failures, a God who will grant me a life free from pain. I want a God who will rescue me from death, who will delete it from the human experience and find another way to operate.

What I, what all of us, have instead is a God who resurrects us from the dead, putting an end to it by working through it instead of around it--creating life in the midst of grief, creating love in the midst of loss, creating faith in the midst of despair--resurrecting us from our big and little deaths, showing us by his own example that the only road to Easter morning runs smack through Good Friday.”
Barbara Brown Taylor

i ain't dead

Paddy fell from the scaffolding on a construction job and was knocked unconscious. Mike ran for the doctor. The doctor came, he took one look at Paddy and said, "He's dead." Just then Paddy came to and heard what the doctor was saying. Bleary-eyed, he said, "I ain't dead." "Lay down, Paddy," said Mike. "Lay down. The doctor knows best."

Monday, March 27, 2017

As the story goes

Haiku of unexpected life


As the story goes
Lazarus from Bethany
had been dead four days.

When Jesus arrived,
sister Martha did complain:
What kept you so long?

If you had been here!
I am the resurrection
and the life, he said.

Yes, Lord, I believe
that you are the Messiah;
God's Son, in the world.

Mary fell weeping
at Jesus' feet. Lord, she said,
If you had been here!

Had you come sooner
my brother would not have died.
Take me to his tomb.

Jesus also wept.
They removed the entrance stone
to see life triumph.


© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Looking, walking, being

Looking, Walking, Being by Denise Levertov
"The World is not something to
look at, it is something to be in."
Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking's a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
That's
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
looking,
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

The power of seeing

The Sun

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
as you stand there,
empty-handed–
or have you too
turned from this world–
or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

It was on the Sabbath Day.

Haiku for those who would see.

Jesus was working;
it was on the Sabbath Day
that he healed the man.

The Pharisees freaked,
the thing was most improper;
called an inquiry.

What have you to say?
He can't heal and break the law;
must be a sinner.

A sinner, you say?
He opened my eyes. I choose
to call him Prophet.

Yes, this is our son.
Yes, he was born without sight,
and yes, now he sees.

How did it happen?
Why are you questioning us?
Ask him, he will know!

They inquire once more:
His power must be from God,
says the seeing man.

The crowd was aroused,
the leaders were embarrassed.
So they threw him out.

Jesus found the man.
Now that you can see, he says,
keep your eyes open.

Some with eyes to see
choose the darkness over light;
they make themselves blind.


© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The whinging tradition

The places that the incident occurred at were named after the fact that the Israelites
argued at that place, and that was also the place where they asked Moses "Is God Amongst us or not?" This is not an isolated incident in OT history. In the OT Israelite tradition there is what scholars called the 'murmuring tradition'. This could more properly be called the whinging tradition. 'Oh Moses, why did you bring us out here into the desert? We were better off in Egypt.' They feel deserted by God and are angry and afraid. They grumble to God and God responds. They need a miracle and they get Water from a rock.
           Moses gets so concerned here that he is afraid that they are going to form a lynching party and kill him.
           But they really have a good question. "Is the Lord amongst us or not?" We can learn two things from this question.
           Firstly, the importance of whinging. How often if we are honest, do we feel deserted by God and ask the same question as the Israelites? Modern Christian tradition seems to discourage whinging to God, but Jesus seemed to have no trouble with it. In fact in a couple of parables he actually encourages nagging God till you get what you need. (parable of the widow) God is big enough God can take it. Complain, nag, moan and whinge to God. i.e Fiddler on the roof.
           But Secondly, there is more to this than getting what you want. The reality of life is that we don't always get what we ask for. The reality of the Christian tradition is that God does not offer to make the path pain free. What God does offer in the cross is the assurance that God travels with us into the depths of our pain and despair. The answer that Jesus would give to us regarding the question Is God amongst us? is an adamant YES.  And Paul would repeat that promise just as emphatically. "For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
           I read a sermon this week by Paul Tillich in which he spoke of the meaning of the concept of providence. The word is not one that vaguely promises that everything will work out in time; there are many things that will work out to a bad end. It is not having hope in every situation; there are situations in which there is no hope. It is not waiting for some time in history when God will come and make everything right. But Tillich says that Providence is... "When death rains down from heaven as it does now, when cruelty wields power over the nations and individuals as it does now, when hunger and persecution drive millions from place to place as they do now, and when prisons and slums all over the world distort the humanity of the bodies and souls of people as they do now - we can boast in that time, and just in that time, that even all this cannot separate us from the love of God."
           The Israelites had the right question, but in the midst of their suffering they could not see the presence of God. Instead they demanded a miracle and got one. But the real miracle that they missed was that God continued to be with them especially in the midst of their suffering.
When we are faced with great pain or suffering (as were the Israelites) then our hearts can be turned to stone, and it can take something as mighty as the power of God to split the rock and allow the water of meaning and love to flow again.
         

Monday, March 13, 2017

At Jacob's Well

Haiku for an opening dialogue

Did Jesus say Please,
when he asked her for a drink?
Let's assume he did.

Having slaked his thirst,
he smiled, offered the woman
water that's lasting.

She could play his game,
this Samaritan woman:
You need a bucket!

Not for this water;
You will never thirst again!
Yes, that would be cool.

Go get your husband.
Haven't got one, she replied.
Mostly true, he said.

They talk religion,
where best to worship God.
Your church, or mine?

He's coming, she said,
the Messiah, called the Christ.
You're talking to him.

Epilogue.

Much excitement!
A prophet, perhaps the Christ;
come see for yourselves!



© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Born again

Image result for born again cartoon

subverting conventional wisdom

"When God called Abraham, he subverted conventional wisdom and moved beyond normal and understandable human fears — ignorance, inclusion, and impotence. Instead of lamenting his ignorance and the loss of control, he embarked upon a journey into the unknown. Instead of fearing inclusion of the strange and the outsider, he bore God's promise of universal blessings for the whole earth. In the face of his own impotence, he believed that God could do the impossible. In so doing, Abraham became "the father of us all."

           Lent, then, is not merely about giving up chocolate, meat, or alcohol. Those are only external reminders of an internal transformation that we seek. Our ultimate journey is to move from a self-regarding heart curved in on itself to an other-regarding openness to the love of God, a love for others, and a love for all His world. That journey lasts a lifetime.           The longest and hardest journey is not the exterior journey without but the interior journey within. The geography of ancient Canaan pales in comparison to the complex geography of the human heart. Saint Augustine once cautioned Christians: "Whoever thinks that in this mortal life a person may so disperse the mists of bodily and carnal imaginings as to possess the unclouded light of changeless truth, and to cleave to it with the unswerving constancy of a spirit wholly estranged from the common ways of life — such a person understands neither what he seeks, nor who he is who seeks it" (The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, p. 286)."
http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20110314JJ.shtml

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hiding in the night


Haiku for the timid but curious.

Hiding in the night,
Nicodemus comes, seeking
answers from Jesus.

We have been impressed
by the things you've said and done;
God must be with you.

Truly I tell you,
if you would see the kingdom
you must be born anew.

Many years have passed
since I emerged from the womb;
can I repeat this?

Flesh gives birth to flesh.
You are spirit; from Spirit
your true life will come.

The Spirit-wind blows,
moving swift with mystery.
Be born of Spirit

You speak of wonders,
teacher. I don't understand;
how can these things be?

Listen to my words
and receive them, they are life.
Lift your eyes, and see.


© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To the God of the Godless


When I had tired of the wars around me
Longing for forgetfulness, the softness of arms and breasts,
I could not close my ears to the thunder of the living.

But tonight history has ceased to cry out within me.
My white flag of truce is hoisted, my arms are thrown to the ground,
My back is turned to the cannon and here I surrender.

The hunger of generations is nothing now? Nothing.
The brotherhood of heroes? The knowledge of vast constellations?
I have rejected my vision and renounced prophecy.

Love is the final quality, love and not courage.
Not the love of the Gentiles, the crucified love of disciples,
But the love of my love; it has silenced a thousand poems.

I have sought peace in war, serenity in struggle, pity in hatred.
I shall search no longer, the lights are turned down.
Only faintly, faintly, I still hear the marching step of the unborn,
Feet, feet, moving, moving.


‑ DAVID MARTIN

We are dust

“We are dust”:
We are dust in pain.
The light shines through us
as through-wave spray, dust of water
breaking, or the falling rain.  Ursula Le Guin