Father Harrison’s Blog

By the Way…

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by Father Harrison

Two human attributes regarding how folks in his day approached their human and divine existence, and their God, really bugged Jesus.

First, people thought as long as they followed the rules, the original ten handed down through Moses, with an ever increasing number of clarifications added on by the people to suit the day (even to this day), they thought they would be in God’s favor; that’s all it took. And second, the religious authorities would cast away anyone who did not follow the letter of the law; that’s all it took.

Jesus brought and taught a new interpretation of the law -“grace”- and sadly, that caused trouble for him.  Jesus was teaching, (trying to teach), the people that the law had nothing to do with God’s favor and grace.

Jesus said over and over: knowing God is present (in love) depends entirely on trusting God and God’s way, (having faith, as we say), and then simply embracing God and the mystery of God’s presence, and love, faithfully.  In spite of the trials of this life, faith and love is ours was Jesus’ message. We live in God’s love in spite of a sometimes seemingly loveless world. That’s grace.image (1)

By the Way …

Posted on: February 21st, 2015 by Father Harrison

Most everyone in and outside the Church feel as though they know the story about Noah and his Ark.  This story is one that most all of us can easily tell to our children. God tells Noah to build a huge boat, fill it with pairs of all animals, birds; the fish would be OK.  “Load the boat with food,” God said, “Enough for your family for a long time, get on the boat, and wait for the rain.” We think we know enough of the story to pass it along just as it is.  Actually, there have been two understandings of this story in popular culture.  The most common is the favored version that our children can handle:  it is a story about animals and rainbows. God loves the little animals so much that God saved them from a great flood. No adult dare mentions to a child that God was responsible for all that rain.  Rather, we make it clear that God promised there would never be another flood. God sealed the promise with a colorful rainbow, that every time we see one today we can enjoy its beauty and relax, the rain will stop, maybe we’ll find a pot-of-gold at either end.  A famous frog of our lifetime had a hit song about rainbows with no mention of the great flood – good frog, that Kermit.  The other account is much more confusing even stunning.  We grow up from the cute animal and rainbow version and say, “Hey, wait just a minute!  This is a story about an angry, unforgiving, merciless sort of God.  I’m not sure I want anything to do with this God, a God who would drown, wipe out his own creation over some dissatisfaction with our behavior.  Bad God!

The good news is neither of these stories are accurate to completion. The not so good news, for those who endorse and re-tell these short and wildly inaccurate versions of this most important tale is:  well, you’re going to have to go to your bibles and re-read the story, read in between the lines, you’ll have to read it again, sit with it, pray to God to explain God’s actions, and hear what the spirit has to say -Photo04071720 maybe.

By the Way …

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by Father Harrison

I don’t have to explain to folks who live in and visit Colorado what a “mountain top experience” is.  Folks live here and come here to ski down, or hike up and down, or bike up and down, Colorado’s mountains.  Likewise, for many of us, mountain top experiences are part of our life of faith, which brought many of us to a church, or perhaps a new and maturing faith, and we know religious mountain top experiences have their ups and downs as well.

After exploring 2 healing stories from Mark, chapter 1, over the past couple Sundays, this Sunday (2-15-15), we skip ahead 9 chapters in Mark to hear his description of The Transfiguration; Jesus’ mountain top experience.  We consider this a story about the transfiguration of Jesus, although a closer look tells us Peter and James and John “terrified” at what they witnessed, had their own mountain top experience and were, no doubt, changed as well.  But that’s another sermon.  I feel, what is most important about Jesus’ mountain top experience is he did not stay there, he did not ascend into heaven from that lofty place – he left the mountain.  He returned to the life of a struggling human being, to his bickering and confused disciples, to the secular, political, power struggle battles of the day, back to the people, the poverty and pain, spiritual and physical illness, all that this world is known for, when he could have just stayed up there, or perhaps gone home where he came from – ascend into heaven.

The story of the transfiguration can cause us to keep Jesus up on that pedestal we have been taught to keep him on top of, but he came down. The “coming down” part of this story is the heart of what all the gospel stories are all about.  In his status of “God on Earth,” the divine human, Jesus was careful not to misuse his status or manipulate the people with the power they recognized in him, instead he left all that “up there” and emptied himself as one of them, as one of us.

It is easier (safer) to just keep him up there, on that mountain, than consider him down here (or there, or over there). But the truth of the matter is we are invited to try every day to be more like Christ, and we’re given a new chance every day, (thanks to God’s grace), and the fact that we will fall short of “being like Christ,” hard as we try, well, that is the great paradox and mystery of being “divine” and human.

Hard as he tried not to, Jesus became a supernatural phenomenon in his day and (unfortunately) remains so today.  But, up there, nobody gets close to him.  Glenwood SpringsDown here, he is one of us.



By the Way …

Posted on: February 6th, 2015 by Father Harrison

The gospel story from Mark, which we mulled over last Sunday (2-1-15) ended at the 28th verse of chapter 1. This Sunday (2-8-15) we pick it back up at verse 29 and hear that Jesus releases Peter’s mother-in-law of the illness which has overcome her; just as he freed the man in the synagogue of that which overcame him – back to back stories of how Jesus set himself to set away from us those things that trouble us. In these stories we can understand that Jesus was unswerving in his dedication to stand between us and all weaknesses that keep us from the good life God plans for each of us.

This Sunday’s healing story is within the pattern of other stories Mark wrote for us.   The possessed man and Peter’s mother-in-law are healed – restored to community and purpose; not just back to “good health.”  That evening, many more were cured and restored, and in a sense “the whole city” was healed.  That is how we want to know Jesus Christ, as the One who can make all things right for us, the One who can save us – our savior.

That is all good and well, but there is another layer to understanding the gospel stories – living the gospel stories, which appears a confusing theoretical or theological concept for the modern Christian.  It could be we think too much about what Jesus was up to (is up to) with his healings; forget the fancy words, theoretical and theological, and just open your mind and heart.

Consider this: could it be that Jesus sets us away from all that spoils our lives – and – at the same time sets us back into our purpose as Christians; living a life of meaning and  offering Christ-like acts.  Call it responding to the gospel – giving Christ to others, not just taking from Christ, in our own time of need, for only ourselves.

Ever wonder about what happened to all the people who Jesus healed?  We don’t as a rule approach the gospel stories that way, we focus on the miracle and hope to claim one of our own.  After all, Jesus did tell a fair number of those he healed they not say anything about their healing. To some he said, “Go show yourself to the priests in the Temple.”  In that they would be restored to worship. To some he said, “It is your faith that made you well.”  He most likely hoped they would go home and rejoice in their faith – teach others the power of faith and hope. Jesus healed people from that which haunted them, and then left them to their new life – he went away from them to be alone, to pray, to hear what the Spirit had to say was next for him, and for his people.

As I understand the first bible story, sometime after God set people free, out into the world, (cast out of the garden, we like to think), God actually invited us to go and live into our “God given capacity and Godly image.” The “Garden of Eden” story is in a sense a story like Mark’s healing stories – the “first” people were overwhelmed in their curiosity (which may have been a bit unhealthy) so God graciously freed them for a new purpose.  I prefer to consider God showing his people the door, setting them free if you will, was not some act of divine punishment, rather a gift, God’s invitation to join God in the divine purpose to love and bless the world. (Although I doubt God said it, think, “Go in peace to love and serve the world.”).  Sure, since then, throughout history, with humans set free in the world, things became messy at times, but all things considered, we do our best to love and bless all that this world is about.

Make a prayer this week that you and your days are not Eagle-wired-for-sound2controlled by dis-easeliberated to be the person who God is telling your Spirit you can be.

By the Way …

Posted on: January 31st, 2015 by Father Harrison

I understand these things to be true about the culture of preacher and hearer (of the Word) today:  People wish to understand and appreciate how a passage from the Bible can advise and enlighten their daily life – and – they want to hear (again and again) of God’s love for them and the world  – and – they prefer to be offered ways to “think about” the questions they have (about God, faith, religion, judgment) rather than having their questions answered by the person in the fancy clothes and collar standing in the pulpit.

More clearly; I believe people who show up to hear a sermon on Sunday wish to be participants in connecting their faith to their life rather than being only hearers, watchers, audiences of a sermon.  It is not so much about what the Bible says, as it is how it (the Bible) can help, preacher.

Then along comes Sunday morning and a gospel story about an exorcism (Mark 1.21-28) with words like “rebuke,” and “authority,” and “commands,” all those sort of biblical power words that shut-down a modern-day reader’s and listener’s (and preacher’s) chance to even consider whether or not the story, its telling, and its language are relevant to any of us today.

There is an art to story-telling; we all have our favorite authors who captivate us (over and over again) with their story telling – it is their method, their art, in the telling of the story, which brings us into the story.  And every time we read or hear Bible stories, we are actually encouraged to notice the details of the art (the method) of the writer, and their telling of the story, in order for us to consider what they are saying; how the spirit and spirituality of a 2,000 year old (or older) story is relevant to us today.

So this: this exorcism story can transform lives still today – it is relevant. Here is how; try this: Mark starts his story with Jesus in a bare-knuckles confrontation with an unclean spirit.  Not a confrontation with the man “possessed”, he receives compassion and mercy in his trouble.  Jesus takes on the “thing” that has a hold on the man; and for all of us, whatever problem or trouble (or thing) has a hold on us, convulses, shakes, trembles, agitates, causes each of us to shudder at times; there lies the story’s relevance today – we can face anything with Christ with us and for us.

Yeah, Mark opens with a fight scene, and we know who is going to win the fight for us – Jesus Christ, our savior.  Relevant today?  You bet. Jesus came to oppose everything in this world that separates us from the love of God.  That message is the same today.   God wants only the best and most for us in our days as human beings.  God wishes us joy and people, and purpose – all that is most dear to us.  God does not want anger, fear, work, abuse by any substance or person or thing; God does not wish any of that to own us or define who we are.  God wishes to love and assure  us so much we are able to say, “So what!” into the face of whatever seems to own or define us – “So what!  I choose to live in spite of you, you, you unclean spirit!”

Hold on to this in the coming week: In our trouble and problems God is not distanced or hiding from us. God draws near to us, in particular, when disappointment occurs. Yes, God does.  Yes, God does.

Mark tells this story of Jesus resisting the trouble a man sitting his place of worship has, and with a new teaching of love and compassion Jesus frees the man of living poorly.

This dramatic story is at the heart of the life we are invited to live: Wrestle with those problems boldly, say, “So what!  I choose to live well.”

Others will want to know how you do it, and you will help – you will help.

By the Way …

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by Father Harrison

Another “call” story for us this coming Sunday; this one written down for us by Mark (1.14-20).  We also hear Jonah (3.1-5) answer his call to, “Get up and go to Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”  Jonah went bearing not so good news for the folks of Nineveh, but they responded to the message, better than the prophet probably thought they would, and their city was saved.  And then there is Paul’s message to the Corinthians that they ought not rely too much on their relationships and the things of this world because, “The present form of this world will pass away.”  Another way of saying, “All things will be made new.”  Three short, yet stunning, stories for us to consider this Sunday, but Mark’s story about Jesus calling Andrew and Peter, and James and John is the story we are most familiar with and perhaps (I feel) although familiar in its “follow me” theme, this story is also a bit worrisome if we consider it is speaking to us today – the Spirit of the Word here has something to say to us, again.

Most people then, in the 1st century, like us today, were probably bound to (they were more able to) consider and follow Jesus in a general, by and large, here’s what I can do to help, manner. Twenty centuries later, ours is the same approach – we are more agreeable with following Jesus in general, than dropping everything to follow.  We can’t.  We won’t.  Our lives are too general in their scope for us to consider one thing as “the” thing.

Here’s the good news, here’s the truth, here’s the thing:  We don’t follow Jesus “in general” at all.  Setting aside any out of reach biblical bench mark understanding of Mark’s story, and discerning the actual and well-defined ways one can follow, it becomes quite clear that we can and do say, “Yes,” we follow Jesus, and we do it “immediately.”  We do work that helps. We work in healthcare.  We become teachers.  We go to school. We volunteer at the hospital, the Veterans Home, the library, Habitat for Humanity.  We work for government agencies.  For peace and justice. We “serve and protect.” We pick up trash along the highway; pick up someone who has fallen down.  We look out for and listen to each other in times of need.  We know when to step back into estranged relationships (without condition) helping, caring, when hope of forgiveness and reconciliation seemed lost.  We are as generous as we can be with our money and time; even if it is spread thin, sometimes hardly enough.  We encourage others when it is ourselves that need encouraging.

These “following Jesus in general” approaches are what is at the heart of being a Christian.  “Being,” a Christian, not “becoming,” a Christian.  It is about “trying” to imitate him,“trying” to obey the Way of Christ – try to embrace, forgiveness, love, compassion, inclusiveness – at least try to accept the call to grow one’sClark fork faith.  That’s a good thing.


By the Way …

Posted on: January 16th, 2015 by Father Harrison

This coming Sunday’s (1-18-15) scripture readings are two great stories about divine selection: “the call” and being “called,” considering the call, being told by God, what God would have us do and where to do it, and following – called to do something new perhaps at least imagining and trying to appreciate what the Spirit may be saying about the journey.

A sense of calling represents a step toward greater self-awareness. To become aware of a call is to be aware of oneself in a new way, to become one who will be of benefit to others, rather than one who will benefit from other’s or God’s favor.  It becomes clear that God has “sought you out” for something; then one stops asking, “what about me God,” and begins asking “what can I do to help, God?”

This sense of God’s call applies to a church congregation as well; what is God calling us to do?  How can we be aware of ourselves in a new way?  How can we draw others to God, through us?  Could it be that God would seek us out to do something new as a church in today’s community?

This Sunday, I mark and celebrate my 12th year in the priesthood of the Church.

After 2 quiet, sometimes holy, often isolated, and certainly difficult years of discernment, working in a boat-building shop, then a dairy farm – 15 years ago the good people of The Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, opened its doors to my admission and matriculation. In all that, I began to understand and answered my call to dedicate and prepare myself for this vocation and I will always rejoice in saying, “Yes, here I am” – I certainly hope all those who carried me, worried about me while I was gone, do as well!  I rejoice in having given into knowing myself as someone “called,” and now assuring others (as best I can) that they are known by God, no matter the circumstances of their lives, no matter where they go, they only need to listen.

Letting oneself become “known by God,” giving up on “that’s just the way things are,” or “that’s the way life is” is the best way out of the modern “poor little me” dilemma.  Rather than thinking oneself as victim of a random or illogical life, we can choose to live as one who is known by God, by name, and with a divine connection and purpose.  The same applies to a chruch congregation.

Obedience, or going out to the ends of the earth, or ordination are not required of us, (individually or as a congregation), just know and trust God will speak to you, through his human likeness, Jesus Christ – God will lead you through this life.

Just go that way, and you have answered the – your – call.

By the Way …

Posted on: January 1st, 2015 by Father Harrison

The day the church recognizes as the day of the Epiphany, (the sudden and striking realization by 3 wise men that Jesus is the Messiah), occurs

this coming Tuesday, Jan. 6, and it marks the end of the Christmas season – Monday is the 12th day of Christmas. Matthew takes us to visit the nativity scene one last time in just a few short words from his gospel text this coming Sunday; “After the wise men were gone …” and with their departure the Holy Family fled for Egypt.

Right around this time each year I wish the days, the season we celebrate the birth of Christ could last a little longer. Easter lasts some 7 weeks.  Pentecost, around 21 weeks.  Lent 6.  Advent 4.  But Christmas, 12 short daysAnd, in some cases, if not for the song “The 12 days of Christmas,” some folks would not realize we can celebrate Christmas abundantly for more than 1 day.  Then, right in the middle of it all comes the importance of the New Year’s Eve traditions that shorten our attention span before Christmas is lost to resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, be a better person, end of year bills and taxes, the looming discussions about the business numbers of “being a church,” and so on.

Celebrating Christ born as one of us and with us always, I believe, ought to be a way of life, in everything we do.  I work at just that.  I try my best to emulate just that.  Hoping others may find peace and grace in attempting to consider the same.   Not with all the packed together effort we go through to celebrate the birth of Christ; food and drink feasts, gifts, parties, decorations, musical and church extravaganzas.  While the season and its celebrations pass, the hope and new life they promise are just beginning.

Truth is, Christmas is not over when we reach the day of Epiphany.  The birth of Christ propels us forward into new life, again.  A life that could be seasoned with sudden and striking realizations of Christ with us, year after year.IMG_20150101_121913

By the Way …

Posted on: December 27th, 2014 by Father Harrison

Preachers ought to take a hint from John (the Evangelist) this Sunday morning, not only about what to preach about a few days after Christmas Day, but also how.  Given the “glorious grandeur” of our (and many others around the world) Christmas Eve services, this Sunday we have an opportunity to contemplate more quietly, more peacefully, more easily, the profound mystery of the Incarnation, which is the heart of Christmas.

Consider this this morning; John gives less attention to the details of Jesus’ birth because he is ultimately more interested in our birth, our new life as children of God.  According to John, Christmas is not really Jesus’ birthday at all, it is ours – All who take him in and believe in him become his children- born of God.

Christmas is the day we celebrate our birth as the “human” children of the “human” God.  We have received the gift of God keeping of all God’s divine promises.

It is the new beginning of all creation. DSCF1657

By the Way …

Posted on: December 24th, 2014 by Father Harrison

crossI grew up in a family that celebrated Christmas most abundantly on Christmas Eve; so this night has always been very special to me.  Christmas day, for me, was somewhat anti-climactic. That changed all throughout the years that my own daughters were little girls; Christmas was celebrated Christmas morning.  But now they are grown and married and I’m back to relishing Christmas Eve as I did so many years ago, including opening presents on Christmas Eve.

I’m not actually sure how my family’s “Christmas” came to take place on Christmas Eve, but by the time we attended our church’s mid-night Christmas Eve service, rushed home to find what Santa had brought us, opened all the packages, gobbled some late night candy and cookies, goodies that no parent ought to allow their kids consume after mid-night, (before bed-time), after all that for all intents and purposes Christmas seemed over on Christmas Day.

We had Christmas dinner, of course; always at my Grandparents home.  They owned a “rooming house” in a German neighborhood of St. Louis, MO.  There was always an odd mix of folks who happened to be living in their 3 story, stone, row house at dinner, coming and going and mingling with my family, and other relatives there.  I had no idea who they were, but they added something special to the gathering –  happy people, happy to be with others on Christmas Day; all characters in the Christmas stories of my life. And that is what so much of Christmas is all about, story, gathering, happiness, at last.

When you get right down to it, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ seems downright improbable – hope and peace and grace, in the appearance of a baby – dog-gone impossible.  Think about it – that the creator of every cell of the universe would even care we exist, let alone love and cherish us the children of God?  That is almost too good to be true.  But just for that reason, we have this story we cherish, the story that brings us to a church on Christmas Eve, that we can hear again that God born as the human Jesus came here, offering hope against all hope.  It’s the one true story we encounter, year after year, for our lifetime; the one story that matters to us significantly.

This year let the story, and your birthday of Jesus Christ celebration be something more than a cherished tradition. Let it seep and ooze into the cracks of your heart and soul. Into those spaces where heartache is more prominent than happiness. Into those spaces of wondering if it is true.

This is the night to be of good cheer. Go home after church and open a present or two this evening, give the kids chocolate before bed, and “sleep in heavenly peace.”

 Merry Christmas!












By the Way …