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

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Holy Spirit


Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, the Birthday of the church. An online service can be found here, a transcript of the message here. The Church came into being through the action of the Holy Spirit who energized the disciples as they waited together in worship and prayer.

Before Pentecost, they were afraid and unsure of what to do. After Pentecost, they were bold and gave their lives to the proclaiming of the Good News of the gospel, that Christ had died, that Christ had Risen and new life was available to all who put their faith in Him.

The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote “Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless. As an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted.”

Our direction and our energy are both dependent upon the action of God’s Spirit working in, through, and around our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, Christian life degenerates into a hard slog to attain unreachable ideals. Without the action of God’s Spirit inspiring us and renewing us, we maintain a graceless existence.

John’s gospel describes the Holy Spirit’s work as being “Living Water.” During the summer months, the temperature can rise and the health experts send out a message, “Stay hydrated!” If we feel our Christian life has become dry and lifeless, maybe we need to seek a Holy Ghost refreshing!

How do we do that? Through prayer. Through meditating on God’s Word. Through worship, be it in person or online. Through reminding ourselves that every day we live, we live in the shadow of an Almighty God whose love is for us in Jesus Christ.

As we continue to work through the crisis of trouble in our cities and the continuing shadow of the pandemic, we are not alone. God walks with us through the valley of the shadow.

For some music “Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Prayer: Lord, today we seek the refreshing wind of Your Holy Spirit to blow upon our lives. Remind us that our strength lies not in what we can achieve, but in what Your grace can do in us and through us. Fill us with Your Spirit this day. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Gathering Together


Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian our online service last week focussed on 'Church Unity.' A video can be found here, a transcript here.

Jesus describes His work among us, more than once, as a bringing together, a gathering. He speaks in terms of a common table, a common home with many rooms, fish that are brought together, a harvest that is brought in, a party to be started.

He uses the same image when He describes the mission He left to His disciples. They were the ones sent out to bring the guests together, they were going to be fishers of women and men, the harvesters that would bring the crops and fruits together.

We are called to participate in that bringing together. Jesus sees unity as an essential ingredient of discipleship. John 17:21 “As You, Father, are in me and I am in You, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me.

On the positive side, the current pandemic has seen many coming together in unexpected ways. Virtual communities. Online gatherings. Folk gathering food to provide resources for overstressed food banks. People making an extra effort to see that their neighbors are doing O.K. There have been great expressions of support towards those on the front-line, working in the medical services and other essential industries.

On the negative side there are some who have shown little concern for their neighbor and have complained about their individual rights. Religious, political, racial, and economic conflicts have not gone away, but in some instances been re-ignited by people's fear of the unknown. There has been an unhealthy obsession of looking for somebody to blame.

Our need for togetherness is more needed than ever before. The church is commissioned by Jesus to be a visible demonstration of unity, in a world that often pulls itself apart. Historically our faith communities have not been shining lights of togetherness. We are separated by past conflicts and present theological differences.

Yet still, Jesus prays for our unity. Still He gathers us. It is often in a time of crisis that we allow our barriers to come down and recognize that God actually is at work in those who differ from us.

For some music Bryn Haworth, “We're All One.

Prayer: “Lord, take away all that separates us from each other. Make us appreciate our differences. Help us to complement each other as we work towards healing the devastation the current pandemic has inflicted upon so many lives.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Heroism Around Us

The Heroism Around Us

An online service from this past Sunday here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, “Ideal Homes” can be found here. A transcript of the service is available here.

We read in Matthew 25:31-46 “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me.”

Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the most influential theologians of the 20th Century. When he was 59, he had a slight stroke which left him partially paralyzed on his left side. It cut his energy back to a fraction of what it had been. His wife, Ursula, adjusted her workload as a professor, in order to care for him.

Niebuhr wrote afterward that he had made a discovery. “I learned to know the goodness of men and women who went out of their way to help an invalid. Among the people who impressed me with their helpfulness were my doctors, nurses, and therapists, my colleagues, and friends.

I soon learned that some of these people, who entered my life professionally, or who served with me non-professionally with visits and walks, showed me an almost charismatic gift of love. And, of course, my chief source of spiritual strength was my wife. She was my nurse, secretary, editor, counselor, and friendly critic through all those years of illness and occasional depression.”'

The current pandemic has reminded us that our lives are surrounded by everyday heroes. We often forget the heroism of the ordinary people around us.

We can also fail to see the value of our own actions. We may not feel that the little things we do are making that much of a difference. They make a big difference to those who are positively enriched by them! Let us keep on doing the good that we can do and let us continue to lift each other up in our prayers.

For some music “It Is Well with My Soul” by BYU Vocal Point.

Prayer: “God, Our Savior, fill our minds with Your wisdom, so that even the 'little' things we do during these unusual days, may be enriched by Your love. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Gratitude


This past Sunday here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we gave thanks for our Parents and for 55 years of the educational ministry of our Nursery School. An online service can be found here, a transcript here.

In a time of disruption it easy to forget the many blessings that still surround us. As the quote above from Melody Beattie reminds us, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.” Here's a quick (in no particular order) list of ten blessings gratefully received.

1. Good Health (and health care). Even if your health isn’t great, it could be worse. The current crisis reminds us we are surrounded by angels in our health care systems to keep us alive!

2. Money in the Bank. Having just a few coins makes you richer than most people on Earth.

3. Good Friends. Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity. We can be friends at a distance!

4. Your Parents. Even if they were, or are, dysfunctional, they gave you life.

5. Pets. Pets offer one of the best examples of unconditional love.

6. Learning from Mistakes. If we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much, so it is definitely one of those things to give thanks for.

7. Music. If you can hum a tune that puts a smile on your face, then you have been blessed by the gift of music.

8. Breathing Fresh Air. Being able to step outside to breathe in fresh air is a great reminder of how many little things we should be thankful for.

9. A Bed to Sleep in. A bed is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted, until you don’t have one.

10. Laughter. Without laughter, the world would be a terribly sad place. They do say laughter is the best medicine of all.

And, truly, I could just keep on going and going and going. So make your own list. Make it 20, 30, 40 or more... An attitude of gratitude is never a bad thing to embrace! For some music “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord, O my soul ) by Matt Redman .

The Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Focus from the Scriptures


It's been months now. How quickly things changed! Maybe we feel impatient, living in close quarters with family members, or frustrated with how others are responding to this pandemic. We long for normalcy.

Because of the pandemic and the precautions we are taking to prevent its spread, life has turned upside down. Schools and businesses are closed. Shelves in grocery stores are empty. Normal routines have been replaced with new ones. Social distancing is a reality. There are many unknowns and uncertainties. Church services are suspended.

This past Sunday here at Mount Hebron we had an online 'virtual' communion service. If you wish to celebrate with us a link can be found here.

I have found that more and more, during this time of challenge, I have needed to focus on God's Word. Here are some Scripture verses that I have found helpful during this time of quarantine. I pray they may also be a blessing to you. Read through them... and take the time to meditate upon them.

Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change…

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice … The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 5-7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5-7

Deuteronomy 31:8 “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.

Isaiah 43:1-4 “I have called you by name, you are mine…you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Colossians 3:12-15 “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another… forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.

For further meditation, a musical setting of Psalm 91 by Esther Mui "My God, In Him I Will Trust."

However these days are finding you, I hope you will find comfort from God's Word.

Rev Adrian J. Pratt

Monday, April 27, 2020

Fire Safety (Rev. Cindy Maybeck)

 

Our online service from this past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church can be found here.
A transcript of the sermon and prayer is available here

Rev. Cindy Maybeck writes today’s post. Rev. Cindy is a great storyteller. She presents a weekend retreat about prayer and discernment at Bon Secours, in Marriottsville, MD, my favorite local retreat Center.

“What will you do if there is a fire in your house?” Miss Brady asked her class of third graders. We learned that hiding under the bed was the wrong answer. She taught us all about fire safety and assigned the homework of drawing a map of our house with a family plan about how we would escape a fire.

Here’s the problem. My bedroom was in the attic on the third floor. I determined my little brother could jump out of the window from his second-floor bedroom into bushes. He had already proved to be a pretty good jumper off high things like stone walls and garage roofs. I suspected he would be hurt but not killed; boxwood bushes would break his fall.

As for me, the only exit from a bedroom with flames leaping up the attic stairway was to fall three flights down to a paved driveway. My eight-year old head would be smushed for sure. I badgered my parents all evening. Should we construct some kind of ladder? Should we move my bedroom to the safety of the first floor? Should we put a giant trampoline in the driveway each night before I went to bed? I just couldn’t let it go.

Finally, after being told 17 times to go to bed; after being promised I would be safe, I would be rescued, I would be saved, I cried to my Dad – “but HOW? What will happen if there is a fire?” Dad brought me up to my bedroom, tucked me in and sat on the edge of the bed as I wept.

He calmly explained that after Steve and Mom jumped out of windows to safety, Dad would come upstairs to the attic. (I pictured him wearing a Superman cape and running up flaming stairs unscathed.) He would sit on my bed. (Just like he was in that moment.) And together we wait for the firefighter to come to the rescue. Together we would climb down the fire truck ladder. Together we would get to pet Sparky, the fire dog.

I took a deep shaky breath. I wiped my eyes. I leaned my head on his shoulder for a moment. That was the truth I needed to hear. More important than the specifics of a plan was the promise that I would not be alone while waiting to be saved.

Our news cycle spins with new information, updated precautions, images of pandemic and the destruction it will cause. But in the midst of your preparations, social distancing, or self-quarantine, remember the spiritual comfort of being held in safety and love.

Listen well, dear friends. You will not be forsaken, forgotten or forlorn. Arms of love will hold you through this crisis.

For some music: Fanny J. Crosby's hymn “Blessed Assurance.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, our God, for promising to walk with us, no matter what may come our way. Continue to guide us through our current situation, we pray. Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Everyday Holiness (by Rev. Becca Crate)

Our online service from this past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church can be found HERE. A transcript of the sermon and prayer is available HERE.

In these difficult days, I like to see what my fellow pastors are writing about. Here's a reflection from Rev. Becca Crate, who is the pastor of Springfield Presbyterian Church, in Sykesville, Maryland.

“As our traditional sacred spaces of sanctuaries and chapels close the doors due to the pandemic, we are called to find a new way to experience the holy. It is in uncertain times like this where we remember again and again that the church is much more than a structure, a building, a place of bricks and mortar. The church is a faithful group of people journeying together, lifting each other up, and learning how to translate what they know of God into their everyday lives.

These three pictures are places in which I have found holiness
 
  
The first image, the isle of Iona, entrench me in reminders of the saints who built an abbey in the 900s, with stone and masonry, leaving something for generations of faithful who would flock to the island. When you turn from this viewpoint, you are surrounded by bare beaches and land untouched, which reminds me of the wonder of God’s creation.



The second image is an alley in Boston, and even there in the unexpected, we find the sacred. In the dumpsters, the urban landscape, the very grit of people working and living together in tight quarters. It is also an alley in a busy part of the city, so taking a moment to step into the silence and the quiet in the midst of busyness is a reminder for us to sidestep into the holy spaces.


 The third image is my backyard, in rural Maryland, as you look out to my neighbor’s barn, the small stream that runs through the brae, and the sun that beautifully shines on the trees. Overhead there is usually a hawk, sometimes an eagle, and more often then not you find God’s creatures of all kinds in this landscape. This is a reminder that outside my door, if I stand still, the holy and sacred places are right there. 

We may miss the fondness of stained glass windows, of organ pipes, and of pews, but may you know that the holy isn’t entrapped in that place. You can find the holy and sacred wherever you go, if you stop and look and wait and watch. In the green hills, in the breath of the wind, and in the symphony of the city streets, God is waiting. You ultimately have the opportunity to decide what is sacred and what is holy. Go, find the holy and rejoice.”

For some music “When I Look Into Your Holiness.

Let Us Pray: Generous God, I come before You now, seeking Your presence and the comfort of Your Spirit. Lead me, guide me, and turn me towards the sacred and holy, where I experience a joy, a peace, a solace like no other. Amen.