inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting

john r. harrison

my other websites
The United Methodist Churches of Sheldon, Bronaugh, and Moundville

The Southwest District of the Missouri West Conference of The United Methodist Church

The Rotary Club of Nevada, Missouri

The Beloit, Kansas, High School Class of 1960

The Academy for Spiritual formation #17

books I've been reading
Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership, by John S. Mogabgab

The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath

The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley

Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century: Faith Stories of the Protestant Reformers

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard

movies I'd like to see
American Splendor


Lost in Translation

The Station Agent

Winged Migration

sermons in process
Ruth 1:1-18--"Why Go with Me?"

Mark 12:38-44--"Abundance and Poverty"

1 Samuel 1:4-20--"The Desperation of Hannah"

John 18:33-37--"An Interrogation"

Malachi 3:1-4--"Messages and Messengers"

lectures on tape in my car
Introduction to Renaissance Literature

Dante's Life and Times

Dante's Literary Antecedents

Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

Introduction to Shakespeare


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Tuesday, December 17

When the prophet Malachi foretells the coming of the Messiah, it seems to be a mixed blessing. One wonders whether to look forward to this with glee or with fear. In the opening verses to the third chapter we are told, “The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” In other words, we are truly looking forward to this; but will we be able to deal with it when he arrives? The fifth verse is a rather stern warning: “I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness.” Maybe the old adage is true: Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.

Jesus sends mixed messages regarding signs of the end of the age. He is recorded as saying that there will be no signs; but he is also recorded as saying there will be bunchesof them. I’m not sure how literally to take him. However, many of his instructions make a lot of sense. For example, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew he says, “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” No kidding. False prophets abound even today. They can come up with the exact day that everything is going to come to an end. In this chapter Jesus is probably best known for telling us that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

When I was in high school, I was in regular attendance at the First Methodist Church of Beloit, Kansas. By regular attendance, I mean I almost never missed worship services unless I was out of town. And one thing that sticks in my mind about those worship services was the benediction. Our pastor almost always used the same benediction. (Just as I now almost always use the same benediction in my worship services.) But at that time I just knew the words; I did not know where they came from. Well, after hearing the same benediction for dozens of times, one can memorize it. And I did. It was not until many years later that I learned that it was from the last two verses of the letter of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

The third verse of the opening chapter of letter to the Hebrews does a beautiful job of capturing the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah: “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

posted by John Harrison at 7:46 PM

Monday, December 16

In the twenty-ninth chapter of the book of Jeremiah, in the twelfth through fourteenth verses, God tells us that “when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.” It almost sounds like there’s a catch, but there really isn’t. God simply wants us to take God seriously. God wants us to seriously search for God: “seek me with all your heart.” How frequently do we spend a tiny bit of time in prayer and then get upset because God does not immediately answer our prayer the way we see fit? God will let us find God; but it must necessarily be on God’s terms.

posted by John Harrison at 7:10 PM

The opening verse of the final chapter of Hosea says that “you have stumbled because of your iniquity.” Can the reverse of that also be true? Might it be possible that we are “iniquitous” (boy, does that word excite a thesaurus) because of our stumbling? In other words, can evil happen almost by accident? Can we stumble, or be struggling to find our footing, and fall into undesirable circumstances? I imagine so. In the fourth verse we read, “I will heal their disloyalty.” Does this place disloyalty in the category of a disease? If God heals our disloyalty, is there anything that we need to do to merit this healing? If not, what should be God’s motivation for healing us, anyway? And at what point in our disloyalty does God choose to act?

One of my favorite themes of Jesus’ teaching is that of humility. In the eleventh and twelfth verses of the twenty-third chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, he is at it again: “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” But earlier, in the third verse, with regard to the scribes and the Pharisees, he says, “do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Might the same be said for the church today? We’re all supposed to be using the same Bible, but it seems that we have real trouble living up to Jesus’ concept of humility.

We like to think that the books of the New Covenant reveal a God of love, whereas the books of the Hebrew Scripture frequently reveal a God of wrath. Yet, there are passages in the epistles that can get rather nasty. The book of Jude is quite poetic in this respect. I’m not altogether sure where the writer of this letter comes up with all of this, and I suspect that some of it is extra-biblical, but like I said, the writer can be poetic. We read in verses twelve and thirteen: “These are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved forever.”

posted by John Harrison at 6:21 PM

Sunday, December 15

In the second chapter of Matthew strangers show up looking for Jesus. “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” Isn’t it interesting that they are not locals. Rather, they are “wise men from the east.” Indeed, when the locals find out--that is, King Herod--the wise men are manipulated to try to find out where this child is. When the wise men arrive, they strike quite a contrast with the original birth scene. Jesus was born in a stable with a manger for a bed. His first visitors were shepherds. This is a rather humble setting. In contrast, the wise men “offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Of course, we might understand that these are gifts befitting a king; but does this not run counter to the nature of king Jesus was to be?

posted by John Harrison at 6:57 PM

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me....” (Isaiah 61:1) Don’t we wish! I mean, don’t we wish that we could be this certain that God has chosen us to speak for God. Of course, I have heard preachers proclaim that theirs is “anointed word,” but how can they know? Yet, even if we cannot be absolutely certain, we can be uplifted by the word that Isaiah has been called to preach: “he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim lilberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” And maybe we know that God has spoken by the audience to which God has told us to go.

Did John the Baptist believe himself to be anointed? Or did it matter? The Gospel according to John tells that “he himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” (1:8) And from everything we know of John, I suspect that John was perfectly aware that he was not the light. He told folks of the Messiah, “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” John’s humility was beyond compare. I really cannot imagine his peer among most of those who call themselves ministers of the gospel today. Indeed, most humans are far more self-serving than John could ever have been. John characterized himself as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” How many contemporary pastors could make that claim?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances...” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) That’s really asking a lot. Are our lives deserving of such behavior? Can we truly find joy in everything? Is everything worth giving thanks for? Maybe the key to the answer is the middle injunction: to pray without ceasing. Are we truly in touch with God as much as we should be? Maybe we have difficulty finding joy in life because we do not have God’s perspective. Maybe we are not as grateful for all the circumstances of our lives because we do not have the same understanding of our lives that God does. We may never be able to find joy in everything, but by praying without ceasing, we can certainly come closer.

posted by John Harrison at 5:19 AM

thinking links

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