Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Monday, August 13, 2018

Real Meat

 
As a child growing up in the United Kingdom, there was always a great choice in food that we could eat. Chicken, Lamb and Pork were regular features on the dinner plate. Beef, though a traditional dish (often served with something known as 'Yorkshire Pudding') was seen as something of a luxury we saved for special occasions. We very rarely had steak. A driving factor in that decision was simply the fact that, at that time in the U.K, beef was expensive!

I recall, after we moved to West Virginia over 20 years ago, being invited to a neighboring ministers house for a Barb-Q. We were astonished when he pulled out, what to us, were these huge steaks of beef and proceeded to cook them on the grill. Honestly, we had never seen steaks that size before in our lives. In addition, not long before we left the U.K., there had been a health scare that had made beef even less available.

A visitor from the homelands, after I had described the experience to him, said that it sounded like I was getting some “Real Meat.” 'Real Meat' in the sense that here was something to get your teeth into and chew down upon.

Last Sunday, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we were thinking about Jesus being “The Bread Man” (sermon here). This coming Sunday we'll be looking at a passage from John 6:51-55, in which Jesus uses the phrase “For my flesh is meat indeed.” (King James Version). These are strange words if you take them out of context! Most bible commentators see this phrase as being related both to communion and to the message that Jesus gave to His disciples.

There is something about the gospel message that needs to be chewed upon and digested, before it starts making a difference in our lives. Part of the process happens as we meet with others in worship to break bread and share a communal cup. The other part takes place as we individually seek to apply to our hearts and minds the gospel message.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews complained that he couldn’t give those he wrote for “Real Meat.” “You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Understanding the message Jesus has given us takes time. It's not something that comes to us in a single serving. It's deep. It's meaty. It's a life long journey. The challenge is to discover the “Real Meat” of the gospel, in such a way as we no longer see the need to feast upon the shallow things and empty messages that often surround our daily lives.

Only Jesus claims to be able to fully satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts and lives. So for some music; “In Christ Alone” by Adrienne Liesching and Geoff Moore. “Real Meat!”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bread of Life

 

As I write this our Vacation Bible School program “Shipwrecked” is in full swing. The mornings have been filled with songs, games, activities and a host of lively children and attentive leaders. My thanks go to each and everyone of them.

Last Sunday, during worship ,we were thinking about “Every Day Miracles.” Feels like we are witnessing many during our week of VBS. (Our sermon can be found here). This coming Sunday, August 12, we will be looking at John 6:35,41-51, a passage where Jesus speaks of Himself as being “The Bread of Life.”

As the activity of the week has rolled by, we have been aware of our need for food to fuel our activity. The energy level soon drops if we sense a need to eat! Thank goodness snacks are a part of the morning VBS routine, so our needs have been well catered for.

Bread is such a staple of our diets. It has been that way for many, many years. Bread makes up a significant part of the daily diet of people around the world. Every culture seems to have their own unique take on bread: baguettes, pitas, naan, challah, matzo, tortillas, biscuits, focaccia…even mass-produced, pre-sliced, American white bread lining the grocery store shelves in branded cellophane.

Bread symbolizes our need of sustenance, and features regularly in Scripture. The Israelites in Egypt, were instructed to bake their bread without yeast at the Passover when God saved them from slavery. God provides them manna—bread from heaven—as they wander through the wilderness Bread demonstrates God’s love and care for people: God knows what we need, and God provides for us.

Jesus uses bread in His teachings, parables, and miracles. When tempted by the Devil to turn stones into food, Jesus responded by quoting scripture: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

We are familiar with the phrase in His model prayer... “Give us this day our daily bread.” We were thinking a few Sundays ago about how Jesus broke bread and provided enough for 5,000 hungry folk to be satisfied.

In this weeks passage Jesus refers to Himself as bread; “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus—God in human flesh—knows our physical and spiritual hungering. Jesus knows that we need bread for sustenance: He is our Daily Bread, the Bread from Heaven.

When we are hungry, bread satisfies. God provided bread for God's people throughout their history, supplying for them in their need and when they could not provide for themselves. At the last supper, Jesus speaks to His disciples “This is my body…take and eat.” We are encouraged to feast our lives on the love God provides.

It's been a busy week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian. God has provided everything we needed and there has been a sense of satisfaction in what we have achieved. That's how it is when we trust God to lead us and guide us! May we continue to grow in the knowledge of our wonderful God, who sustains us and feeds us for the adventures of God's kingdom. That way, spiritual life never becomes stale!

For some music Steve Angrisano sings “Bread of Life”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Shipwrecked!

 

Beginning Monday August 6 Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church hosts their annual Vacation Bible School. The theme this year is “Shipwrecked” and the curriculum looks at the many ways that Jesus rescues us from the troubles of our lives. VBS is always an exciting week, that brings us together as a church and reaches many in our community.

The theme song for this year declares 'Through every storm of life, I know You're by my side, so I'm holding on to Your promises. You are the God who holds my future, all my dreams, so I am holding on. You never let go of me!” These are encouraging words for both participants and leaders. We never know exactly what life is going to bring our way, but we can know that God can be trusted to guide us and lead us.

Last week during our worship service we were thinking about thankfulness. Our sermon “5000 Thankful Folk” can be found here. On August 5, before VBS week starts, we will be gathering around a table laid with bread and wine and thinking about a passage from John 6:27-35. In this passage Jesus reminds the crowds of the miracle their ancestors had witnessed in the wilderness, when God provided for their hunger and manna came down from heaven.

The crowds are anxious for some new miracle to be performed before their eyes, but Jesus is telling them that miracles were all around them, if only they could open their eyes and see them. The greatest miracle of them all, that of Jesus Himself, was right in their midst, but they seemed unable to comprehend that He truly was the answer to their searching.

Last week some of our youth attended the Trinity Youth Conference at Camp Living Waters in Pennsylvania. From speaking with them, I know that every day they were there, they experienced God's blessings through the staff and through interaction with their peers. It's always an amazing week where the presence of God seems to break through in unexpected ways.

My prayer for all our gatherings of worship, and for our VBS program, is that we will be very aware of God's presence in our midst. That this discovery will enable us to be more awake to the every day possibilities that God opens up to us.

For sure we have those times when we feel 'all at sea', or even feel totally shipwrecked. There are times when we feel we can't be of much help, but that we need to be helped ourselves. At precisely such times we are reminded that the mission of God, through the love of Jesus and the presence of good people around us, is to rescue us and help us through.

Wherever the coming days find us I pray we will try and remain open to the possibility of every day miracles. For some music, our VBS theme song written by Jay Stocker and titled, “Never Let Go Of Me.”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Not Accepted in the Homelands

Last week in worship here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about “Jesus the Healer.” This week we'll be taking a look at Mark 6:1-13, a passage in which Jesus preaches to His home crowd... and does not receive a good reception. The text tells us that He could do no “works of power” among them and that “He was amazed at their unbelief.

There is a saying that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The oldest known use of the phrase comes in 'The Tale of Melibee' one of 'The Canterbury Tales' written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1386. Over the years the phrase has had a number of applications.

The most common one is when we don't recognize what an amazing person somebody is, because we happen to see them every day. Such a sentiment can even apply to things we own. Our close acquaintance blinds us to the value of what we have. As Jesus explains in our passage from Mark, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country.

When applied to things we own, such as tools, or engaging in dangerous activities, we discount the danger, because we are used to it. We fail to remain safe by forgetting to be respectful of the harm that can come from our familiar tools or our familiar activities.

An example I read about was the farmer who raises corn and shreds it before blowing it up into the top of the silo. The shredder frequently gets jammed. Routinely un-jamming it every day makes the farmer careless, until they, or one of their worker,s gets a hand caught and shredded. Apparently in rural communities this is not a rare occurrence. Over-familiarity can be dangerous.

If a boss is over-familiar with his workers, (or vice versa) they may lose the necessary degree of respect that makes the working environment work! In Nazareth that day, Jesus could not do the work He was called to do among the people. They dismiss His authority by saying, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James....(and all the rest of the family)?

Maybe the most dismissive place of all to place limits on what God can do, is the arena of our own lives. We simply can't believe that God do anything wonderful in the heartlands of our daily activities. We limit the work of God's Spirit because we dismiss the possibility of any real change happening in such a familiar place as our every day experience.

Because of familiarity, Jesus was not accepted in His homelands. He couldn't work wonders because they assumed that nothing good ever happened in their neighborhood. Let us try not to make the same mistake in our own lives. Let us be open to the possibilities that exist, even in the midst of the familiar. Let us not dismiss our lives, our families, our church, or our community as being a place where Jesus can work the miracle of Kingdom building. 

For some music Hawk Nelson sing “He Still Does (Miracles)

Note: Blog is taking a months vacation. Musings will resume in August

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Healing

 
Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we were thinking about stormy days and had a sermon titled “With Jesus in the Boat...” (Sermon here). This week we move onto consider one of the most significant aspects of the work of Jesus … His healing ministry.

It is a ministry that the church has sought to continue, through prayer, through establishing and supporting medical services and being a community where mutual support can be experienced. Many hospitals recognize the importance of a spiritual dimension to the healing process and employ chaplains of various religious traditions to assist in their work.

I was reminded of the advances that science has made during the time my daughter was recently pregnant. When the baby tried to come early, they were able to slow things down. When baby did decide he could wait no longer, my daughter experienced a traumatic delivery, losing a couple of pints of blood in the process.

The medical team and doctors successfully managed the whole procedure and daughter and baby are both fine. I couldn't help but reflect, that had this been thirty or forty years ago, the outcome could have been much less favorable, and the possibility of losing both a daughter and grandson would have been real. I feel very blessed to be living in age where miracles take place daily in our hospitals. Who knows what advances we may yet see in the future!

I am blessed to live in a nation that has such wonderful medical facilities. Recognizing and supporting those who seek to bring such blessings to those less fortunate than ourselves is an ongoing mission of the church. Many Mission organizations exist, such as the PC(USA) Medical Benevolence Foundation, who have supported healing ministries and programs in over 100 hospitals and clinics throughout the world since 1964.

Likewise, in this nation, working for reform and change in the healthcare system, so all receive adequate access to the best care possible, whatever their ability to pay or their demographic location, remains a concern of the whole Christian community.

I am also a great believer in prayer. I truly don't know how it works. In the reading that we will be looking at on Sunday, (Mark 5:21-43) a woman, who is described as having “suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, receives healing when Jesus declares “Your faith has made you whole!

Scripture encourages us to lay all our needs before God and trust that God will meet us in the midst of those needs. Such does not grant to us immunity from disease, nor is a guarantee of everlasting youth. St Paul talks about how the physical body ages and the tent in which we dwell eventually passes away. He also encourages us to see our bodies as temples of God's Spirit and care for them like they were sacred places.

Over my years in ministry I have witnessed some truly miraculous changes in peoples health, that the doctors were not able to fully explain. I've also known that for some, their true healing was to depart this life in the hope of an eternity where tears and pain and suffering are no more.

So... be thankful for this age in which we live. Take care of your physical self, your emotional self and your spiritual self. Pray for another. Trust that God knows our needs and the needs of those we pray for. Trust that faith can make us whole. Trust God, that at the end of all things, God's love has the last word.

For some music, Michael W. Smith sings “Healing Rain.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Facing The Storm

 
Gil Fronsdal, a spiritual director and teacher, invites her readers to contemplate the following story.

“Imagine two people setting out to cross a large lake, each in a small rowboat. The first sets out on a clear day with the lake surface still and flat like a mirror; a gentle breeze and a steady current push the boat from behind. Each time the oars are dipped into the water, the boat shoots across the lake. Rowing is easy and delightful. Quickly the person reaches the far side of the lake. The rower may congratulate herself for being quite skilled.

The second person heads out across the same lake during a great storm. Powerful winds, currents, and waves move in the direction opposite the boat. With each pull of the oars, the boat barely moves forward, only to lose most of the distance gained when the oars are raised out of the water for the next pull. After much effort the second rower makes it to the far side of the lake. This rower may feel discouraged at his lack of skill.

Probably most people would prefer to be the first rower. However, it is the second rower, who though discouraged, has become stronger from the exertion and is thereby better prepared for future challenges.”

Often in life we don't get to choose to row into the storm... the storm finds us anyway. That's a message sadly reinforced by recent events in downtown Ellicott City which, for a second time, experienced such devastating flooding. Traveling through the storm, can make some stronger, but for others it is not only discouraging, but defeating.

Seeking to maintain a positive outlook during a time of crisis is never easy and sometimes impossible. It is at such times we realize that we function best when we are connected to others. That none of us can go it alone. That there are days when we have to to admit defeat, let go and let God!

In the face of adversity “letting go” is not the same as “giving up.” I had a friend who always tried to face any crisis, major or minor, with the question; “So?” “So what do we do next?” “So, now this has happened and that has ended, we are faced with two choices. So which one do we make?”

Returning to our illustration of the rowers. The one who rowed across the lake and exited the boat feeling rather pleased with themselves, had done nothing wrong. They did what they needed to do. And when we have days like that, we can be thankful.

The one who crossed the lake in the storm and exited the boat feeling discouraged, is in a good place to ask themselves the “So?” question. “So what did I just learn? That going out in storms isn't always a good idea? That when I'm under stress I tap into resources I never knew I had? That I can make it through to the other side, even when I'm not sure I can do it?” You feel that the second one has gained more than the first. Next time a crisis comes along, they are in a better shape to face it.

Life will bring storms. Some of them will leave us feeling defeated and discouraged. But we may also discover that it is the tough times that strengthen us in ways we are not even aware of. We are not alone. We have others around us to lift us when we fall. We have a God who takes what is broken and creates beautiful things from the wreckage.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were thinking about how little things can become big things. Our sermon “Seeds of Faith” can be found here. This coming Sunday we are looking at a passage from Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples of Jesus find themselves caught up in the middle of a storm.

For some music (a song which may well feature as part of our Sunday worship) “Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church Junior Choir” sing “With Jesus in the Boat wecan smile through the Storm.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Seeds of Faith

 
Seeds. Such small, tiny things. Yet within every seed is all the potential for growth that is needed. Of course there has to be the right environment for growth to take place. And there are things, such as disease and unexpected uprooting, that can prevent growth taking place. But within the seed, the potency is all there.

Jesus used the image of a seed to talk about faith. He seemed to suggest that within each of us was all the potential for spiritual growth that we require. He indicated that faith could do amazing, unexpected things... like removing mountains and casting out demons. Faith is viewed as something powerful and world changing.

Such a picture can make us feel that our personal faith is lacking in potency. Maybe the environment in which we live today is not the best for nurturing faith. There is a distrust in things we cannot measure, quantify or truly explain. “Faith” is sometimes viewed as simply wishful thinking or misguided dreaming.

To counteract the view that “faith is beyond us,” Jesus speaks about the quantity of faith that we need. He tells us only a “mustard seed” worth. A mustard seed is an exceptionally small seed. He talks about how mustard trees grew out of all proportion to the tiny seed that they came from.

Little things. Little things that lead to big things. Is that the way it works? It often seems that way. That “seed” of an idea, that is mentioned in casual conservation, takes root and becomes the launching point for something we had never imagined. That little gesture of helpfulness or friendliness from a stranger, becomes the most uplifting moment of our day.

Those few moments we took out of our day to pray, or to practice meditation or mindfulness, became the framework for a day when we overcame obstacles we hadn't even known were going to arise. That slight change in our daily schedule meant we met somebody who had an impact upon us that would never have otherwise happened. Little, seemingly insignificant, “things” with big results.

Every persons journey is a combination of smaller steps. There is a beauty in small things that we should never dismiss or ignore. Every step is important. Every seed has potential. Every little thing that we do is part of the process towards what comes next.

It has been said that “God is in the details.” I would want to add that no detail should be considered too small for God's involvement. That there is an intimacy to faith that should be recognized and embraced. In a loving relationship, you notice the little things. The little things are often the big things.

Scripture teaches us that “God is love.” It is within loves embrace that we are called to grow. It is the knowledge that our lives are infused with unknown potential, that encourages us to take risks and face new challenges and attempt to move forward.

Do the little things. That seems to be the way faith works. That is how things grow. Small steps. Little Seeds. Growth is always a work of grace. And the result is always in God's hands.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we celebrated our Scottish heritage with an outdoor service that took the topic, “Drovers, Cowboys and Pilgrims.” This week we return to a series called “Mark My Words” and will be looking at Mark 4:26-34, a passage all about seeds. Come and join us if you are in the neighborhood!
For some inspirational music Cece Winans & Andre Crouch sing “Through it all.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.