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."

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."

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."

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."

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


 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."

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?

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 

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 
the ways 
we have been 

© matt & laura norvell 2011 

It's about community

"As much as I may not like what feels like an inherent legalism in this pericope -- and, truth be told, in much of Matthew -- when I get over this bias and read the passage carefully I realize that Matthew's deep concern in this passage and in so many other places is community -- honest-to-goodness, authentic Christian community. And the two things I've discovered time and again about community is 1) we all say we want it and 2) we usually have no idea how difficult it is to come by.
Community, after all, is one of those feel-good words that draw us into idealisms -- we imagine a place where you're accepted for who you are, where you're never lonely, and where, of course, everyone knows your name. But the really difficult thing about community is that it's made up of people! And people -- not you and me, of course, but most people -- can be difficult, challenging, selfish, and unreliable. Which means that usually when we're daydreaming about community we're often prompted to do so because we don't particularly like the people -- i.e., the community! -- we're currently a part of.....
To get even more succinct, I'd put it this way: Authentic community is hard to come by. It's work. But it's worth it. Because when you find it, it's like discovering a little bit of heaven on earth; that is, it's like experiencing the reality of God's communal fellowship and existence in your midst. And, as Jesus promises, when you gather in this way -- with honesty and integrity, even when it's hard -- amazing things can happen because Jesus is with you, right there, in your very midst, forming and being formed by your communal sharing."

Monday, September 4, 2017

Be in agreement

Haiku of the disappointing

Sinners in the church!
How could it be otherwise?
Flawed humanity.

Work through your issues;
quietly if possible.
Maintain fellowship.

Try to practise grace,
forgiving one another.
Sort things out with love.

Rules are enacted
to limit bad behaviour;
love doesn’t need rules.

Accept correction
from your sisters and brothers
as a caring gift.

Agree together
on your Father’s purposes;
advance God’s kingdom.

Where two, three gather
in my name, to seek my will,
I am with them there.

© 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; ...