Monday, February 19, 2018

Those who lose their life

Haiku for disciples

He taught many things.
Pay attention, disciples,
you have most to learn.

He will suffer much,
the Son of Man; he will die,
killed by the bosses.

They reject his words,
fearing that they pose a threat
to their ordered world.

He spoke of his death,
and of his resurrection.
His friends can’t grasp it.

Hardly surprising.
Peter said, Don’t say these things,
they disconcert us.

Jesus spoke sternly:
Just because you don’t get it,
doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

To follow, he said,
You too must embrace my death;
lose your life for me.

Take up your cross.
Don’s, t be frightened, or ashamed.
You might just find life.

Hold life too tightly
and you’ll find it disappears.
Learn to let it go.

© Ken Rookes 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Ministered to by angles

James Tissot: Jesus ministered to by angels

Australian Wilderness

a perhaps pertinent poem for an Australian Lent.

A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: 'we live' but 'we survive',
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
 Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second-hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind, -
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.

- A. D, HOPE

Monday, February 12, 2018


Haiku of commencement

Mark takes up his pen
to write upon the parchment:
Jesus makes a start.

Departs Nazareth,
leaves the family behind.
South to the Jordan.

Finds the Baptiser,
raises his hand, comes on down;
Baptise me too, John.

As he emerges
dripping wet from the water
the Spirit descends.

Does the voice boom loud,
or is it a mere whisper:
My beloved son.

The Spirit takes charge,
drives him into wilderness;
a place for testing.

A time for praying.
Forty days of questioning;
forty days of doubts.

The days pass. He comes,
back to his people, convinced,
now, of his calling.

The time is fulfilled,
God’s kingdom is drawing near.
Good news: trust in it.

© Ken Rookes 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Angels in the wilderness

This edition of the River of Life we are focussing on the journey towards Easter that we call Lent. Our scripture at the beginning of that Lenten journey is the Gospel story Jesus in the wilderness (often called the Temptation). This story has always been one of my favourites in scripture. It is full of danger and temptation, but underneath it all it is a story about the quest for meaning. Jesus is being faced with the core question that faces us all… ‘How will we spend our life?’ The temptation story is full of power and passion, danger and potential violence. The story in Mark only rates one verse but we are familiar with the expanded versions in the other gospels which make it clear that in the wilderness he faced the darkness of the world embodied in the Devil or ‘the Tempter’. And so in Lent we have often also focussed on our own temptations and out own darkness. Yet in all these years of reading about Jesus in the wilderness I missed the angels!
Jesus spends a self-imposed, agonising time of self-examinatio
n in the wilderness but he is accompanied not only by his lonely questions but he is also attended by angels. In fact in our version from Mark the angels are just as present as Satan. Unlike the other gospel writers Mark rarely refers to angels at all yet they are important in this story. Lent can be a time to take stock of our lives, to come clean about the things that tempt us and the things that scare us. It can be a very helpful time of self-examination but in the midst of this deep time the angels are a reminder that we are not alone. God promises to be with us in the wild, lonely places of our lives and God promises to bring us blessing out of these deep times.
I must say also that many people regard parts of our beautiful presbytery as being wilderness. For me Loddon Mallee contains a lot of wild open spaces, big wonderful skies and vast horizons and, if we choose to accept it, spaces to reflect and be. And that our Presbytery is ministered to by angels I have no doubt. I meet them all the time, but I need eyes and a heart to know them. I invite you to make this Lent a time to recount the angels you have known and the ones who currently attend you, the ones who attend you in your wilderness times. I read an article recently that referred to the angels, in the words of William Sloan Coffin, as the one who remind us that there "is more grace in God than sin in us."
So this Lent I invite you use the time as a time for an inner journey of reflection and the search for meaning, but be reminded that in doing so that you too, like Jesus, are being ministered to by angels, both human and Divine.
Rev Gordon Bannon
painting by Cheryle Bannon at

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

transfiguration colouring


Quite a few years ago i visited Israel and, as a part of that pilgrimage, i went to the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. It is a beautiful place set on a mountaintop from which you you can see for miles over the surrounding plains. the church itself is quite stunning, full of gold and blue mosaics. It shines! 
On reflecting upon the Transfiguration story this year i have been deliberating on our own transfigurations. Like many aspects of Jesus person-hood, we are not called just to stand by in awe at Christ, but to be Christ-like. When Jesus was transfigured, the story tells us that he was shown as his own true self, in all his truth and beauty. So, i am called by the transfiguration to be open to my true self. I am called to know myself as God knows me and to be transfigured by that knowledge. I guess when I imagine myself as God knows me I usually think of only my shadow and darkness. This story calls me take the more challenging path of seeing the beauty, divine light and creativity within me and in others around me and so to be transfigured. The story also calls me to be a Divine agent by having the loving eyes of God and seeing the beauty and light in others. So perhaps transfiguration is not just a pretty story about Jesus. It's about us. 
Rev Gordon Bannon

Monday, February 5, 2018

Just Jesus

Haiku of bedazzlement

Upon a mountain
a man with his closest friends,
seeking some answers.

A lighting display
worthy of the harbour bridge
on new year’s eve.

They gasp in wonder,
dazzled, those three companions;
what does it all mean?

Two guests from the past,
Elijah stands with Moses,
prophet stands with law.

Its all about light,
from above, in our darkness,
shining hope and love.

In the cloud of light,
the voice of affirmation;
he will be the one.

Fade to normal light.
They are alone, just Jesus
standing with his friends.

Once more to the plain
they descend with their master.
Tell no-one; for now!

© Ken Rookes 2018.

Monday, January 29, 2018

the Mysteries of prayer

"For those of us who like to earn our way, or prove ourselves to God, ourselves, and to others, it's hard to do nothing at all but accept God's love. Edwina Gateley's beautiful poem is full of wise advice:
Be silent.
Be still.
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God—
Love you.
           Yes, God is infinite and Wholly Other, and therein lie the mysteries of prayer. But in his own prayers Jesus reminds us that God is also intimate, like a Loving Father.
           To experience God's love is the true end of all true prayer.
           Paul prays for the Ephesians that, "being rooted and established in love, you may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
           And so, says the English mystic Juliana of Norwich (1342–1416), "the greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.""

Make him a wonder worker

Haiku for establishing credentials

Jesus the teacher
spoke of forgiveness and love;
the way to true life

Forget other stuff;
love and generosity
create peace and hope.

His words of promise
bring great joy to hungry hearts.
They make him welcome.

But words are one thing:
make him a wonder worker
to prove he is God.

In bed with fever,
Simon’s wife’s mother is ill;
Jesus makes her well.

They came that ev’ning,
the sick and the troubled ones;
all of the city.

Jesus had pity.
He looked on them with mercy,
healed and blessed them all.

On to other towns;
his words must be spread widely.
This is why he came.

Peace and grace abound;
God’s undistinguishing love
is for all people.

© Ken Rookes 2018.

Monday, January 22, 2018

What have you to do with us?

Haiku of authority

At Capernaum
he entered the synagogue,
and taught the people.

They were astounded
he spoke with authority;
most unusual.

A man most troubled,
(an unclean spirit, they said),
cried out in anguish.

His question was good:
What have you to do with us?
We wonder the same.

He does not answer.
Speaks firmly, commands silence,
casts the spirit out.

Now they are amazed.
His word has authority;
what’s its origin?

From where has he come?
The speculations mount up;
his fame increases.

© Ken Rookes 2018.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jonah's hard way

Several years ago Michael Lerner wrote a book called “The Politics of Meaning.” Lerner said that too often we give up on our deepest held values of compassion, caring and community because they do not seem practical in the real world. Instead, an ethos of selfishness and materialism prevails by default. These are the values that we settle for when our deeper values seem out of reach. Selfishness and materialism erode community and make it less possible to live the life we want. It puts us more out of purpose. Jonah’s way seems easier at first, but in the end we will get thrown overboard and end up in the belly of the whale.
And so we lose our perspective so easily on what God is really calling us to.
In the church there is a relentless battle for the orthodox high ground. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians don their traditional  denominational colors to joust back and forth.
The most contentious issues relate to baptism (when and how), the nature of biblical inspiration and authority, the limits of the atonement, the creation debate, not to mention sexuality .
Somebody said of Church people that “we would rather be right than nice,".
While I'm not sure being a Christian equates with "nice," the point is well-taken. Although Paul maintains that while faith, hope and love abide, "the greatest of these is love," I believe that many Protestants have decided that the greatest of these is actually faith—as in "orthodoxy" of one sort or another—and that little else matters, least of all incarnation.

S.T. Kimbrough suggests that evangelism is increasingly difficult not because our pluralism, consumerism or attention span makes us resistant, but because we fail to incarnate the love we preach. We can't persuade others that we are people of peace because there is so much strife and contention among us—and we are often more eager to be right, or to win, than to be loving. We offer forensic invitations to discipleship—come think like us—instead of a mutually transforming hospitality: come be with us; let's learn together.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cast your nets with me

Haiku for risk takers

The time is fulfilled
and the kingdom has come near.

Turn your life around,
put your trust in the good news:
find life, hope and love!

Hear, fisherpeople,
and all who toil and struggle;
your labour bears fruit!

Cast your nets with me,
gather what is true and good.
In the name of love.

The kingdom awaits,
as do all the aching hearts.
Come, travel with me.

Leave your boats and nets.
Bring a heart that is open,
a soul that is true.

Which way will we go,
and where will we sleep at night?
He gives no answer.

He looks upon them,
repeats the invitation:
Come and follow me!

© Ken Rookes 2018.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

under the trees

This week's lectionary reading is another of many scripture stories that feature people under or in trees. This week Jesus makes a reference to having seen Nathaniel under the fig tree (a scripture reference allusion to Micah 4:4 "everyone beneath their vine and fig tree). by this reference Jesus relates him to the messianic prophecies and to the Divine. In Micah and in this gospel reference the the tree is a sign of the presence of God.
I am reminded of Elijah sitting under the tree in the wilderness and finding rest and sustenance, of Adam and Eve with the trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil, of Jonah enjoying the shade of the tree whilst he looked over Ninevah, of Zaccheus taking to a tree to see Jesus and of the trees in the midst of the garden in the center of the New Jerusalem.
And i know that when i sit under a tree and take time, that i am taken closer to the source of all Life and the Ground of my being. Perhaps what Jesus was saying about Nathaniel was that he was a person who took the time to sit under trees, and therefore saw him as a reflective and prayerful man who valued time with God.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

under the fig tree

"Here is a Jewish Roots clue.  The term "under the fig tree" is an ancient Jewish idiom that means studying the messianic prophecies.  The idiom stems from Micah 4:4, in a passage describing the future messianic kingdomEach of them will sit under his vine, and under his fig tree.
...Our first clue to the fact that Nathanael was a scholar of the messianic prophecies is his comment regarding Nazareth.  He knew that scripture clearly taught that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but wasn't so sure about the Nazareth connection.

[The prophecy regarding Nazareth is a bit more hidden (Isaiah 11:1 speaks of the branch, which is netzer in Hebrew, and the town of Nazareth, (netzret in Hebrew), means "branch town").]

When Yeshua first spoke to Nathanael, He was referencing the second part of Isaiah 53:9:
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yeshua was not calling Nathanael righteous. Yeshua was quoting the very prophecy that Nathanael had been studying, in order to emphasize that He Himself was the Messiah."

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

We stopped listening

Haiku for the respectable

We stopped listening
to Jesus some years ago.
His words were too hard.

We much prefer wealth
and power and influence.
We vote for Mammon.

We like the idea
of being known as Christians,
just not the method.

He said Love Neighbour
but failed to clearly define
the limits to love.

We believe in love.
We do our bit. The failure
must lie somewhere else.

We like the concept
of justice. We just don’t think
we should bear the cost.

One thing that he said:
The poor are always with you.
We agree with that.

Some people languish
behind gates and barbed wire.
Nought to do with us.

We do not much like
the idea of grace, unless
applied to ourselves.

We are deserving,
unlike the many who aren’t.
Jesus rewards us.

We are disciples,
following our Lord Jesus,
anchored to the ground.

© Ken Rookes 2018

This poem doesn't respond  to a specific lectionary  reading. Perhaps it responds to a number of gospel passages.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I saw you

Haiku of surprising discovery

Hey, comrade Philip,
you’re the man I’m looking for:
come and follow me!

Having met Jesus,
Philip went to find his friend:
Come, meet the teacher!

Could he be the one
the prophets told us about;
the one sent from God?

Nazareth, you say?
How could the Messiah come
from that backwater?

Ah, Nathanael,
I’m very pleased to meet you;
such an honest man!

I’ve never met you,
Jesus, and yet you know me?
Very impressive!

I had a vision.
You sat beneath a fig tree
as Philip approached.

Rabbi, I’m seeing
God’s Son, and Israel’s King.
Teacher, you’re the man!

Give me your answer!
Come, join us on the journey;
you’ll find so much more.

© Ken Rookes 2018.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My name is John

Haiku for beginning

Give me camel’s hair,
leather belt around my waist;
feed me with locusts.

Give me a loud voice
enough to shake foundations.
Feed me wild honey

Find me at the creek
with the rocks and croaking frogs.
Water is my home.

Put away your sins;
the darkness in your living.
Let’s wash it away.

Come and be baptised.
Show that you are eager, keen
to begin anew.

One comes after me.
He will do much more than I.
He brings the Spirit.

. . . .

He came from up north
to meet John at the Jordan.
Baptise me, comrade.

The heavens opened
with the voice of approval.
The Spirit came down.

© Ken Rookes 2018.