Monday, April 24, 2017


Haiku for an uncertain journey

For a few hours
Emmaus was the centre
of the universe.

Might as well go home,
the two said to eachother.
They had no idea.

An empty journey
devoid of joy, without hope.
Unanswered questions.

Friday's agonies,
Saturday's devastations;
now Sunday's stories.

How shall we believe,
what is left for us to hope,
when will we be healed?

The stranger asks them,
What are you talking about;
what troubles your hearts?

He speaks patiently,
arranging jig-saw pieces
to make the picture.

The falling darkness
leads to an invitation;
he is urged to stay.

The stranger takes bread,
breaks, and passes it around.
Their eyes are opened.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Anzac Day reflection

On Tuesday Anzac Day, prayers for peace will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral, for the third year running.
We will remember those who said no to war. As in the past three years, we will lament the carnage in which so many young people were killed. There is an irony in meeting in the Cathedral: as the prayers are offered, the sound of military drums and marching will be heard.
As we have prepared these prayers of lament for the killing fields so far from Australian shores, we have been made aware by the Australian historian Henry Reynolds of war fought on Australian land.
His recent books, The Forgotten War and Unnecessary Wars, are a shocking reminder of the dispossession of indigenous people as European invasion took place.
That is an uncomfortable truth. It also questions why Australians have been so ready to travel around the globe to fight in wars generated by imperial powers, the British Empire and now the United States.
Christians of all people are called to remember these things which are so easily forgotten. With Easter so close to Anzac Day we are brought face to face to the cross on which Jesus was killed by the Roman Empire. And to his call to be peacemakers.
This is particularly urgent this year as military attacks are being threatened or carried out internationally.
The following statement is included in the Order of Service.
This is a service of lament, repentance and hope on the centenary of the First World War. We will lament the destruction and waste of so many young men and women on all sides, the pain and anguish suffered by those who returned, by their families and communities.
This is focused in 2017 in recalling the slaughter of Passchendaele, Fromelles, and Pozieres, those who said no to war, the forgotten Aboriginal wars.
We will repent of the ongoing war and violence in our world and in our hearts, and hear again the hope of God’s gift of peace, given to us in the Crucified and Risen Lord, being lived out in many scenes of conflict.
We will honour the courage and self-sacrifice of all who fought in the First World War by praying for peace and doing all we can that makes for genuine peace, that young men and women may never go to war again.
In this time of heightened tensions, we especially pray that Australia and other nations will not be led into war again.
Rev Dr Wes Campbell

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

be a beginner

… be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Resolve to be always beginning - to be a beginner!
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke's Letters on Love

Monday, April 17, 2017

Struggling to believe

Haiku for faithful doubters

Thomas, called the Twin,

wasn't there with the others,
struggled to believe.

The resurrection;

life constructed out of death,
the seed bursting forth.

Jesus reaches out,
speaks words of acceptance, life;
inviting us all.

Thank you, friend Thomas,
for your precious gifts to us,
your doubts and struggles.

Jesus shows us faith,
Thomas teaches honest doubt.
We need both of them.

Embrace your questions.
Faith is not opposed by doubt;
no, but by fear.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

He came, touched by God.

Haiku for those who dare to hope

He came, touched by God,
sharing human pain and death;
brushing us with love.

The aching sadness.
He's gone, along with our hopes.
Can life endure death?

The promise of life,
our hearts strong with excitement,
crashing to the earth.

We weep for ourselves
as we shed our tears for him;
lifeless in the tomb.

Is anything left
from the storehouse of his life?
Was it for nothing?

A few words remain
from his wisdom and stories;
let us remember.

Surely not the end!
Darkness, hatred and fear
must never prevail.

Dawn's radiant light
confronts insistent darkness;
will it overcome?

We have heard rumours,
we want to believe they're true,
that somehow he lives.

Go on, look within
for the resurrection glow;
incandescent love.

© Ken Rookes 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The compassionate way.

The Dalai ‘Lama once said “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”
If this is so, if compassion is part of the business of being human and essential for our survival, then we are failing badly when it comes to our treatment of asylum seekers in this country. We have, sadly, entered into a time in Australian society where our sense of our humanity, of what it is be a part of a society where compassion and human rights are valued and basic, is under threat.

And we live also in a time when the nature of the truth about our treatment of asylum seekers is twisted. It perhaps began with the ‘children overboard’ lie, and extends to this time when we are being sold the lie that putting men, women and children into indefinite detention in places like the Manus island detention centre is somehow a compassionate act because it is stopping the boats. The great deception is to disguise expediency and selfishness as compassion and to disguise ugly politics as the protection of Australian society. 
On Palm Sunday we celebrate a story in which traditionally a king or messiah would come into a city triumphant on a great steed, but Jesus chose to come into Jerusalem riding a donkey to reinforce that he was not that sort of king. And though Jesus had been preaching and teaching about peace, compassion and an alternative paradigm of life in which the first are last and the last first, on this day, everyone wanted a powerful, forceful king.
The palm Sunday message calls us to live out Jesus' alternative way of being; to live the compassionate way and to find way to welcome the stranger. On Palm Sunday I will be thinking of those who have sought asylum in this country, particularly those who are on Manus island or Nauru. I will ponder their journey, their sacrifice, their shattered hopes, and I will vow to work and pray for transformation in our politics and society that will bring a better, more compassionate way.
The Dalai Lama also said that “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” As Christians we are called to shout 'hosanna' to this and to be just such a group of such radicals.

won't you fight for me?

I am reminded of the words of the people in the musical JC superstar, in which the crowd welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with the chant ...
Hey sanna Hosanna sanna sanna hey sanna hey sanna hosanna, 
hey Jc Jc, won’t won’t you fight for me, sanna hey sanna ho superstar. 
They expected, as we desire, a leader of power and force to save them from their repression. In our modern age this gospel lesson asks us if we are that much different. When we are feeling in danger from an enemy how many of us welcomed a George Bush of a John Howard who set themselves up as saviour figures and avenging angels of power? The message is no easier for us today to hear than it was for the people of Jerusalem. The power of Jesus and Jesus’ message is not of this world. It is the power of compassion, of healing and of grace. It is not a language that we yet understand but, it is a language we are called to seek to live as Christians even in our modern age. I believe that when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, he was weeping for all the generations and religions to come that would refuse to listen to the language of peace and healing.

Taming the Hosanna

We have tamed the word Hosanna more than a little in our churches also. 
It is a word of revolution. The word "Hosanna," like the words 
"Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani" is an Aramaic word--a reminder of our Jewish roots, 
our Jewish Jesus, our Jewish Messiah. 
But "Hosanna" is the prayer of Palm Sunday's triumphant (and triumphalist) Church, 
where "Eloi, Eloi" is the prayer of Jesus' rejection and despair. 
These are the old words of our story, words which are too freighted with meaning 
to be translated into any language, and so are left in Jesus' own tongue.  
We begin the liturgy today with Hosanna on our lips—our modern equivalent 
might be "Jesus saves!" except that does not sound very revolutionary.  
"Hosanna!" was a nationalist and revolutionary cry on the lips of an oppressed people.  
It was more like "Allah Akbar!" as shouted in the Israeli-occupied territories 
of Palestine today. It was inflammatory, not suitable for Sunday school.  
Roman occupation soldiers would have heard it as provocation, 
as a rock thrown by an Arab youth at Israeli occupation troops in the West Bank or Gaza.  
We sing it gladly as a triumphalist ditty, unaware of its political power. 
Perhaps the Church does not yet realize its own plight in the 21st century, 
or "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtahni" would be a more frequent prayer than once a year. 
We don't yet know the depth of our daily abandonment. 
Lucy Bregman

God's anti-empire

"When the crowds on this day so many years ago shouted Hosanna! to Jesus, they were certainly expecting great things politically, and perhaps militarily, from his arrival on the scene. They were buying into the notion that empire can and will offer them salvation of a certain type. They did not believe that Rome was capable of offering this salvation, since Rome was a nation that had many gods rather than the One. Only God’s anointed could rule God’s people with justice and righteousness. There are some who still await the coming of such a one.
The problem is that though they offer the right words, the hosannas that they sing invoke a salvation that is no solution to the world’s problems. A consistent witness of the Old Testament prophets was their condemnation of “empire” as a way of being God’s people in the world. Empire is the way of Egypt and its Pharoahs. Empire is the way of Babylon and Assyria. Empire is the way of Greece and the Seleucid Greek monarchs of Syria. Empire is Rome’s way of being in the world.
God’s people were established as a kind of anti-empire. They were formed in the Sinai wilderness around a covenant with a God whose desire was the restoration of a broken humanity. Israel was formed as an alternative to the pyramid class society of Egypt, with God dwelling among the people as sovereign, not an emperor or king. The people were seen as having equal standing, not with some occupying higher or lower status on the ladder. The power of empire to kill those who opposed it, supported by military might and religious belief was to give way to a power to attract all nations to the light of God, given in love to this special people. The hosannas of this day are misplaced when they expect a new Judean kingdom to supplant, but not replace the Roman Empire. Just as with the kingdom of Israel of old, the empire way would not work again.
The good news is that Jesus comes with a different set of expectations then we have, then the Judean crowd. Jesus comes not with a replacement empire, but to replace the claims and the authority of empire itself. If empire’s power lies in the threat of death to those who oppose it, then destroying the power of death trumps empire’s claim. Empire offers salvation to those lucky enough to be at the top of the pyramid. Love and forgiveness are for all humanity. Empires can and do fail. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Our problem is that our worldview is too small. Jesus has nothing but the restoration of all creation in his sights. We think of ourselves, our security in life, our personal vindication in death. Jesus thinks of others and their needs first, and finally the restoration of all things into right relationship with the Father."

Monday, April 3, 2017

Haiku of the end.

Should we pity him,
Judas, called Iscariot?
He made his choices.

Eat my body-bread
and drink of my red wine-blood;
remember my life.

Even you, Peter,
you will also run away;
three times denying.

In garden prayers
he asks to be delivered.
His companions sleep.

They come with clubs, swords
and a resolve to end it.
He is arrested.

Tried by Caiaphas,
convicted of blasphemy.
Never any doubt.

Taken to Pilate
to receive his death sentence;
this King of the Jews.

Silence, his answer,
he calmly accepts his fate;
trusts himself to God.

The crowd finds its voice.
Convicted and condemned,
he is led away.

The cross is shouldered,
and taken beyond the gates,
to the killing place.

There is no mercy.
The man is fixed to his cross
and lifted up high.

The skies are darkened.
A cry of dereliction
signifies the end.

They mounted a guard
at the entrance to the tomb:
what did they expect?

© Ken Rookes 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hail, Son of David!

Haiku for a grand entrance.

Jesus, the failed king
entering Jerusalem
riding a donkey.

The crowd goes crazy
greeting their king. Days later
they will turn on him.

Yet his words brought hope,
the promise of God's friendship.
Memories are short.

Hail, Son of David!
riding on your borrowed colt,
in your borrowed time.

© 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; ...