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."

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."

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

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; ...