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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Lutheran Christmas Pageant in 1659


Last Sunday we contemplated the dreamy struggles of Joseph as he sought to come to terms with Mary bearing the Christ-Child. That sermon can be found here.  This coming Sunday our youth and children present their Christmas program. The tradition of Christmas services involving children has a long history. Paul Gerhardt, Lutheran deacon at the Nikolairkirche in Berlin in 1659, gives a vivid description of their Christmas service. Here is an excerpt...

The church is cold. Candles are lit as people take their places. There are musicians with violins and woodwind instruments gathered around a small movable organ. Also a male quartet, and a military band with trombones, drums and kettle drums. After the organ prelude a hymn is sung and three clergymen appear at the altar. The entire liturgy is sung by the choirs and the schoolchildren.

Next, a college student, dressed as an angel with large white wings sings from the pulpit an Old Testament prophecy. More chanting from the choir and then the principal door of the church opens, and in comes a procession of girls, beaded by their teacher, all dressed as angels. They proceed to the high altar, and sing in two part counterpoint. After the sermon the instrumentalists play a boisterous 'Te Deum'.

Things now begin to happen in the organ loft; over the railing is raised a cradle with a doll, while small boys with incessant mooing imitate the animals in the Bethlehem stable. The choir and congregation sing a hymn, and at this point high up on the organ facade a Bethlehem Star, illuminated and supplied with small bells, is turned around and around, operated by an organ stop.

Three wooden images, representing the three wise men, with their traditional attributes, solemnly move forward and bow before the doll in the cradle. At the same time we notice two puppets, representing Moors, standing on each side of the central group. One blows a trumpet, and the other beats a drum. Throughout this scene, on the gallery railings, the musicians play a musical refrain. Then a boy soprano intones 'In Dulci Jubilo' which is continued by male voices accompanied by shawns and bombards.

The song is scarcely over before a sight exceedingly beloved of the children appears in the center aisle. It is old Father Christmas himself in his white beard, with pointed cap on his head and a large sack on his back, soon surrounded by 'angels' and children, who vie with each other for the good things that are to be given out. When the large sack is empty and Old Father Christmas has disappeared behind the sacristy door, then is sung the closing chorale.

Sounds like quite a production. Every Christmas since then many churches witness the annual miracle of the Christmas program all coming together at the last minute. Don't miss it. It's a long tradition. Support your local nativity play.

For some music... not from 1659, but 2010, when the Matt Wilson band premiered their album "Christmas Tree-O" at my previous church, First Presbyterian, Baldwin, NY. (Matt Wilson is an elder there). They are currently touring the West Coast before doing two nights at the famed Jazz Standard club in N.Y.C. But it all started in Baldwin! Here is their version of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' (complete with congregational participation). Apologies that it doesn't quite make it to the end... darn those memory cards And a merry Christmas to all!

Rev. Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dreamers Welcome

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (Matthew 1:20 )

I confess that, from within my 21st Century worldview, I find it easier to accept angels coming to people in their dreams than actually appearing in physical form during their waking hours. Both sorts of encounters appear within the scriptures. Last week at Mount Hebron we talked about an angelic visitation to a young maiden. That sermon can be found here. Zechariah, Mary and a whole gang of shepherds have close encounters of a physical kind. However the angelic encounters of Joseph come during his sleeping hours.

Joseph's encounter is no less life changing than those of his contemporaries within the Christmas story. Being guided by his dreams becomes a feature of his life. In three other incidences, an angel appears in his dreams to tell him to flee the murderous intentions of Herod and then, later, to return to Israel and finally settle in Nazareth.

For Joseph these dreams were powerful. They persuaded him to go against everything his culture told him he should do if his betrothed wife informed him she was pregnant outside of their marriage. The expectation was that their relationship would end and that she would be punished. Thankfully, not only did Joseph love and trust Mary far too much for that to happen, but through his angelic dream he understood that this was a God thing.

As he was fully involved with the raising a new child, Joseph probably had no idea about the crazed intentions of Herod to murder all the children in his region because he had heard rumors one of them might turn out to be a rival for the throne. Yet, Joseph, on the premise of a dream, uprooted his family and headed to unfamiliar territory. If he hadn't, then there may have been no Christmas story.

And on the strength of a dream, the family return and set up home in a place called Nazareth. Matthew's gospel tells us that this took place to 'Fulfill what was said through the prophets, that the child would be called a Nazarene.' On the strength of a dream, Joseph fulfills a prophecy he may never even have known about.

When it comes to the purposes of God, dreamers are welcome! Particularly those who act upon the dreams they believe God has placed within their hearts. As we draw near to the end of another year, it is always a good time to dream dreams for our future. Christmas offers us a message which tells us that 'Dreamers are always welcome'.

So here is the challenge. What are our dreams, for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, for our communities, for our nation, for our world? Maybe we should write them down. It may take a while to figure out which are simply wishful thinking and which are things God is calling us to pursue. But often, over time, it becomes clear to us where our passions lie. Involving ourselves in disciplines such as worship and study, prayer and service can help us to clarify our goals.

We may not have the luxury of angelic encounters, physical or otherwise. Yet God has a way of guiding lives that are open to possibility. As we travel through this Advent season, dare to dream!

I could not resist posting Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas'. Yes, I know. It's not a carol or a hymn nor even a praise song. But it is the best selling single... ever... and I just happen to love it. If you want to sing more traditional carols... then visit your local (church) as soon as you can!

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Safe Places

Last week at Mount Hebron we began a sermon series looking at some of the angelic encounters in the Christmas Story. The tale of Gabriel and the Doubting Priest can be found here. This week, the second Sunday in Advent, we move onto consider Mary, who is greeted by Gabriel with the words; 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you...You will bear a son.'
 
We tend to picture a warm, glowing Nativity scene, a shiny angel with a tinsel crown smiling at Mary, and she responds happily, 'I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said.' (Maybe kind of like this Storyteller video clip).  She holds hands with Joseph as they walk with their donkey to Bethlehem. Soon they kneel in a neatly swept, odor-free stable gazing down at their pink-skinned, blue-eyed baby— 'the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.'

But Mary’s irate parents? Joseph’s confusion about whether to divorce Mary? Those scenes don’t usually appear in our imaginations. Imagine how it really was. Think of your teenage daughter, or sister, or friend. She is smart, pretty, set to go to college on scholarship, meet a nice guy and settle down. Then she finds out she’s pregnant, and claims it was by an angel. How does Dad respond? The church? Youth group? The neighbors? The boyfriend?

An unplanned pregnancy was decidedly mixed news for an engaged virgin in first century Nazareth. The bad news, which the angel discreetly left unsaid, was worse than Mary’s plans for her life being waylaid. Unmarried women who found themselves pregnant in first-century Judea were unlikely to find a good husband or respectable livelihood. What could her future hold? At best, she might live out her days secluded in her father’s house, or maybe support her child by prostitution. At worst, she could be stoned to death.

Imagine dad’s reaction.'You are grounded for life, young lady!' Might he have considered contacting the religious elite to take drastic action against his own daughter? The law permitted death by stoning. Although Joseph did not consider the death penalty for Mary, it was a legal option. The scripture states that she was 'much perplexed,' and the angel specifically says, 'Do not be afraid.' Perplexed? She must have been terrified!

We are told 'She set out with haste' to her cousin Elizabeth’s house where she stayed for three months. When Gabriel addressed Mary as 'favored one' Mary might not have felt that this was such a great favor. Yet she responded with trust and faith. Though alarmed, she responds, 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord' ... and then she fled for her life!

There has been much talk in the news about folk around the world fleeing persecution and war. The vast majority of them are simply trying to find a safe place. They never dreamed they would one day be forced into looking for a new homeland but have been placed in a situation where staying where they are is not an option.

Organizations that deal with situations of domestic abuse or seeking to combat human trafficking create much needed safe places for those whom they feel they can help. Such places are not intended to be permanent homes, but places of transition. The church here at Mount Hebron has supported organizations such as 'TheSamaritan Women', a national Christian organization that seeks to provide restorative care to survivors, and bring about an end to domestic human trafficking through awareness, prevention, and advocacy.
 
Hebrews 13:12 tells us 'Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.' Let us thank God for all those who are seeking to provide much needed 'safe places' in today's world and seek to support them in whatever we can. To do so is honoring an often overlooked part of the Christmas story.

Couldn't resist posting a link to vocal group 'Pentatonix' and their inspired version of the Christmas song "Mary Did You Know".

Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

John's Dad - From Hebron


I guess most of us who go to church are familiar with the character of John the Baptist. He's the wild guy who lived out in the wilderness eating locusts and honey, started preaching shortly before Jesus came along, then baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan. But what do you know about John's dad?

John's dad was from Hebron. Not Mount Hebron in Howard County, Maryland. Hebron in the hill country near Jerusalem. His name was Zechariah and he was married to a lady called Elizabeth. He was part of a rota of priests who went into the temple to offer an annual offering.

Zechariah was elderly and had no children. Elizabeth was not able to conceive a child. At least not until God intervened. According to the gospel of Luke, Zechariah's temple duties this particular year are a game-changer.

As he went about doing his priestly duty, Zechariah is startled by the presence of another person in the sanctuary. It turns out to be an angel who identifies himself as Gabriel. If that wasn't unbelievable enough, Gabriel informs Zechariah that his wife is about to have a baby. For Zechariah this is a 'Say, What?' moment. Your mind can play tricks in your old age. Seeing angels at his time of life, maybe that was understandable. But Elizabeth having a child... now hold on a minute!

The angel Gabriel is quite specific. He is to name the child John. The child is going to have the unique mission of proclaiming the birth of one who will be a Savior for all the world. Zechariah protests. You can't just walk out of situations like that and expect anybody to believe you.

The sign of the reality of the events is that his power of speech is temporarily taken away. Zechariah is not allowed to say another word until some nine months later his baby boy is born. Only then is he able to relate the tale of what happened.

That's not where the story ends. His wife Elizabeth is relative to a young mom called Mary, who not only experiences an unexpected pregnancy, but has a close encounter of the third kind with the angel who calls himself Gabriel. When Elizabeth and Mary eventually get together, the babies they are carrying in their wombs leap for joy.

There's a whole lot more to the Christmas story than we can ever squeeze into a Nativity play. Maybe that is why the church came up with the idea of having a whole season called Advent, to get us ready for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

So many twists and turns. Rather like our lives. It can be hard to explain how we end up where we are, doing the things we do. Family. Tragedy. Unexpected journeys and encounters. Partings and Homecomings. The ordinary and the extraordinary all mix together.

During this Advent season take some time to consider your own families amazing story. The season from Thanksgiving to Christmas can be a wonderful time for telling tales and rejoicing in family heritage. I mean, who knew? John's dad was from Hebron!

And for a musical Thanksgiving smile... it's all about that Baste

Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Famous Last Words


An exercise I've observed at youth retreats is to invite the participants to think about what they would wish their tombstone to read. Such an exercise sounds a little dark and morbid, but it is meant as a way of encouraging them, whilst still young, to think about what kind of legacy they want their lives to leave after they have gone. If you have an idea what you would like your life to become, then it is never too early to start thinking about how you can make it happen.

As a preacher, who has as part of his job description, the giving of eulogies at funeral services, one is sometimes put in in the position of not having known the deceased person as well as everybody else in the room. A colleague once shared a story of how he was called in at the very last minute to conduct a service for a family when the scheduled minister didn't turn up.

When it came to time for the eulogy, he asked the congregation if any of them had words to say about the deceased. He was greeted with a stony silence. 'Surely' he asked again, 'There must be something you can share about the departed as we gather at this solemn time?' After a few moments of further uncomfortable silence an elderly gentleman, in very gruff voice, said, 'Well... he wasn't as bad as his brother!' With that my colleague decided it was best to move straight on into a time of prayer.

This coming Sunday in the liturgical calendar is known as 'Christ the King Sunday'. We'll be taking a look at some of the last words attributed to David, Israels greatest king. (2 Samuel 23:1-7) These are not the only 'last words' attributed to David. There are a couple of passages where his final utterances are mentioned.

What they have in common is that they are overwhelmingly positive. They mention nothing about some of the moral failures David experienced. To put it mildly, David had his less than exemplary moments. But, as this passage fails to mention them, then like a preacher giving a eulogy, we'll stick with the good points.

At his best David was a fearless leader with a deep trust in God's ability to meet the needs of God's people. When he was confronted by his wrongdoing he was prepared to take the consequences and truly repented for his sinful actions. He recognized that his mistakes didn't just touch his own life, but brought into question the goodness of the God he served.

Seeking to be a faithful friend to others and being prepared to admit to the mistakes that we all make... if when we are gone we were remembered for just those two things, then I think it could be said that we have lived well. Should it be also judged that we have been faithful to our God and that we have given some people some joy along the way, then I'd be content with that as well.

As for 'Being better than my brother'? Well, if you'd met my brother, you would know he is an awesome guy. At the end of the day, we shouldn't be worried about what other people think of us, but simply endeavor to be the people we believe God is inviting us to become. 

For further thought here is an excellent song by Nicole Nordeman titled 'Legacy'.

Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Faith


Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we've been traveling through the Book of Hebrews and we have heard a lot about faith. Last Weeks Sermon 'How Much More?' can be found here.

 Faith sounds so simple. 'Just have faith' people say 'And everything will be fine'. But what is faith? According to the biblical Book of Hebrews 11: verse 1 “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Faith isn't hope. We hope for a lot of things in life. We hope our team wins. We hope our health doesn't fail. We hope the sun is going to shine if we plan a picnic. But our team loses. We do get sick. Sometimes it rains on our parade.

We have heard people say, 'Seeing is believing'. Faith here is spoken of as believing in what we do not see. Rather than just hoping or actually seeing, faith has to do with confidence and assurance. It does have a little bit of hope in there, and it seems that as we glimpse what faith can do, then we become confident and assured that God can get us through whatever it is we are facing.

Faith is about trust. The dictionary definition of 'Confidence' is 'The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.' 'Assurance' is defined in the dictionary as 'A positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.' Throughout the Scriptures are many assurances that, if we trust in God, then all things will be well. Not always 'easy' … but 'well'.

Faith is a gift. St. Paul, writing to the Ephesian church, tells them 'For it is by grace you have been saved - through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is not so much something to generate from within ourselves but something to be received from God.

As we go through our lives they take many unexpected twists and turns. We just never know what is coming our way. Life does not always play nice! But we can trust that, over and above the changing circumstances of our lives, there remains the unchanging love of God. That the ever evolving scenes of our lives are lived out within the larger framework of God's desire to bless us, lead us and guide us.

What seems to us to be a setback can often turn out to be a blessing. What appears to be an obstacle turns out to be God's way of sending us in a different direction. What we thought was an unnecessary burden turns out to be a challenge God placed before us to strengthen us for helping somebody else. What we interpreted as an unwelcome interruption becomes a golden opportunity.

Faith is about viewing our lives as being lived out within the larger framework of what God can do. It is having confidence in God's eternal purposes. It is trusting, on a daily basis, that in the midst of the craziness, God is still at work, creating order out of chaos and weaving something beautiful from the tattered threads of our lives.

For some music, a band called Kutless sing 'What Faith Can Do'. If you prefer a live acoustic mix without the lyrics... hey... they can do that. After preaching this Sunday - November 8...on the theme  'Faith' and looking at Hebrews chapter 11 ...I'm taking some time out for personal study.... and maybe even some guitar strumming. We all need to find spaces and places where grace can revive our faith. 

Sunday November 15 our Children and Youth minister, Evan Stewart, will be preaching for the first time in the pulpit of this church he serves. All are welcome to come along and hear him. Wherever the coming days may lead you, may God blessings be found!

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Much More?

Over the past few weeks in our services at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we have been looking at passages from the New Testament book of Hebrews. (Last weeks message can be found here). We have seen how the author seeks to explain that Jesus Christ has a significance that is far above that of any other religious figures. He is greater than angels, greater than prophets that came before Him, and by virtue of the fact that He was the Son of God who gave His life upon the Cross to free the world from sin, greater than any priest that had ever served the people.

In the passage we will be thinking about this week (Hebrews 9:13-15) the writer tells us that if Jesus is so much more than those who came before, then He is also so much more able to help us travel through whatever life throws at us.

Here's part of that passage from 'The Message'. “If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.

We all have times in our lives when we ask ourselves 'How more can we take?' There are situations that come our way when we ask ourselves 'How much more can I be expected to give?' We are sometimes in relationships, at work, with family or even with friends, when things become strained and we ask, 'How much more do you want from me?'

This passage speaks about the God of 'How much more'. It speaks about how, if we can but recognize it, the love and grace of Jesus Christ are more than enough to carry us through every challenge that we face and every situation that life brings to our doorstep. To apply that thought to our lives we often have to take a step back, take a deep breath and offer up a heartfelt prayer, yet as we consider the lengths that Jesus went to prove to us we are loved by God, it can grant us a fresh perspective on our trials and concerns.

Central to that picture is the Cross. The Christian claim for the death of Christ is that, as the Message Bible tells us, 'The blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out'. To put it another way, whatever is going on around us or within us, God has got it covered and can help us through it. If we feel like all our efforts are leading us down a dead end street, then, in the light of the resurrection, we see that 'dead-ends' can sometimes turn out to be glorious new beginnings!

So if you are in one of those 'How much more can I take!' weeks, turn to the God who can give so much more than we dare imagine, the God who came to us in Jesus Christ and promises to send His Holy Spirit to accompany us as we journey beside cool clear waters or through deep dark valleys.

One of the most popular contemporary Christian songs of recent days has been Hillsong's - 'Oceans (where feet may fail). The lyrics speak to those times when we feel totally out of our depth and the ability of God to not allow us to be drowned in a sea that is more than we can handle. “I will call upon Your name, And keep my eyes above the waves, When oceans rise, My soul will rest in Your embrace, For I am Yours and You are mine.” 

(If you ever check out the comments section following 'youtube' videos, there are many postings following the song from folk struggling with what life has thrown at them.  As with all unfiltered internet conversations, some are random, some are just strange, but among them are some inspirational thoughts on how the God of 'how much more' has helped people through difficult days.)

Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Once. For All.


There is always a sense of satisfaction whenever a project is completed. The greater the task, the greater the sense of relief. If I reach the end of a lengthy novel, finish up a series of studies or even get to the end of a lengthy movie I always feel like I can give myself a pat on the back and say 'Well... that's it. Done with.'

One of the things the biblical book of Hebrews suggests to us, is that during His earthly life, Jesus completed the task God had set Him to do. According to John's gospel some of His last words upon the Cross were 'It is finished'. (John 19:30)

The author of Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining how the greatness of Jesus surpassed that of all those who had come before Him. (See last weeks sermon here). He was greater than Abraham, Moses or David. He was greater than any angel, prophet or priest. What He did through His life was greater than the things they could do.

In chapter 7 (which we'll be looking at this coming Sunday in our worship service at Mount Hebron Presbyterian) the author compares the ministry of the High Priest in Jerusalem, who had to every year go back into the temple and make a sacrifice for his personal sins... and for the sins of the people... to Jesus, who made a 'once and for all' sacrifice of His life upon the Cross.

Hebrews 7:27 'Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.

O.K. So what has that got to do with our lives? I like to think of it this way. We often live with feelings of 'incompleteness' or a sense of being 'unfulfilled'. We tend to stumble from one crisis to the next. We are aware that a lot of the dissonance in our lives is due to our own shortcomings and mistakes... our 'sins'... if you prefer to paint such things in religious terminology.

The good news of the faith message found in Jesus Christ is that we don't need to let such things hold us back. We don't need to stay at the level of our inability, because, through what Jesus achieved upon the Cross, God has got it covered. Jesus died once. An unrepeatable action. God's final action in the campaign waged against all that can separate us from God's love. Jesus died for all. 'All' is an inclusive enough term to apply to every one of us. We all have the potential to be set free from wallowing in our past failure and to explore the new horizons of an unknown future.

The challenge in all this, is believing enough in the greatness of Jesus Christ, in all that He did and can do, and applying it to our own circumstances. We are invited to trust that God is greater than our failures, our sins and our mistakes to such an extent that we are freed from them, rather than indulging in the constant temptation to revisit them.

Once. For All. Was the death of Jesus Christ really the final answer to our sin? Are we among those God wants to set free to live lives that are abundant with grace and love? According to the author of Hebrews... a huge big … 'YES'. Jesus died once. Jesus died for all. 

For some music...Laura Story singing  'He is Mighty to Save'
 
Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Calling All Priests!


We recently began a sermon series in church on the Book of Hebrews. Last week message about 'Holding on to Faith' can be found here. But this week we move on to a consideration of priests.  If you can join us, we would love to welcome you, but if not, well... we send our greetings via the internet. So then. Priests.

Back in the Old Testament days, if you needed any kind of religious service taken care of, you had to call a priest. The office of priest was not just for anybody. It was a hereditary appointment. You needed to be a descendant of Aaron. You had to be anointed with special oil and approved by various governing bodies. There were different ranks of priesthood, the greatest of them being the 'High Priest' who had the special job, once a year on the day of atonement, of going into the most holy of holy places, to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of peoples sins.

There was a lot of sacrificing to be done. Every infraction of the laws of Moses incurred some kind of penalty that meant some poor animal had to be offered up as recompense. Barbaric as it might seem to our minds today, it was a powerful reminder that when we don't do things God's way, there is a price to pay. Sin was a matter of life and death.

The New Testament teaches that, with the coming of Jesus Christ, a huge change came to the idea of priesthood. Hebrews 9:26 tells us about Jesus that 'He has appeared once for all ... to remove sin by the sacrifice of Himself.' From the earliest days the church taught that because Christ died for our sins, the system of sacrifices and priests has been superseded by Jesus. Hebrews describes Him as 'Our great 'High Priest' who gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice.

So what became of the idea of priesthood? Over the centuries different denominations have viewed priests in different ways. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches retained the idea of priesthood. In their traditions the priest remained an intermediary between God and God's people. The priest has to fulfill certain obligations and perform certain duties, such as hearing peoples confession and offering the Mass.

Many Post-Reformation churches have a doctrine known as the 'Priesthood of all believers'. In my own Presbyterian Church we often put the phrase in our bulletins, 'Ministers; The Congregation'. The idea is that as Jesus is our great High Priest, we don't need any intermediary before whom to confess our sins, nor do we need anybody to make a sacrifice or say a prayer on our behalf. Through Jesus Christ we all have direct access to the heart of God.

Most reformed denominations do though still have an ordained ministry of some kind. They may be described as 'Priests' or 'Clergy' or 'Ministers of Word and Sacrament' or even - in my own PC(USA) - 'Teaching Elders'. Though we acknowledge that all Christians are called into God's service, we still set aside some folk to perform certain functions, such as administering the sacraments of baptism and communion, leading worship services and preaching. We often add to that expectations of pastoral care and taking responsibility for governance within a particular church.

I'm not trying to put myself out of a job.... but I do like that concept... of every Christian being part of the new priesthood instituted by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us 'You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people!'

In practical terms I understand that as meaning that every person who belongs to a church has a unique role to play within their faith community. While some folk may well be set aside for particular roles, the life and health of the church depends on every body playing an active part.

That can happen in so many ways! Through prayer, Through giving. Through service in the community. The list is endless and there are things on it we have yet to think of! So.... 'Calling all priests! Calling all priests!' Your church needs you. Now.

For some music, a classic hymn 'All to Jesus, I Surrender'. See, that's another thing about priests. They have to allow God to work through them if they are to be effective ministers of God's love and grace. But that's another story....


Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

All Dogs Go To Heaven


Recently our household lost a family member, our 14+ year old cross boxer/St Bernard dog called Harpo. It's amazing how a family pet can occupy such a huge place in your heart and you certainly grieve for them when they have gone.

At a time in history when we are hearing of school shootings, floods, a huge refugee crisis, folk battling terrible diseases and dealing with all kinds of bereavements, the death of a pet seems like it should be a minor consideration. Yet whenever you lose a relationship with anything in your life that has been a source of love and comfort it takes a while to adapt to the changes.

As a pastor, a question I am sometimes asked is 'Do our pets go to heaven?' The eternal destiny of our furry friends is not spoken of in Scripture. However, the Christian hope has always been that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth where everything finds it rightful place and in which justice and righteousness reign supreme.

It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that, if God designed a creation that has within it as a positive thing, pets who tug at your heart strings and bring great joy to your life, that any future creation would have similar features. Heaven is often pictured as a place of reunion where we are reunited with those we have loved and lost and once again experience the joy of their fellowship.

Of course if you are allergic to cats or afraid of dogs, this thought may not bring you much comfort! But to pet owners everywhere it appears a positive sentiment. A 1989 animated movie made the bold claim that 'All dogs go to heaven'. For some of us the idea of a new creation without our furry friends seems untenable. As with many things in life we just have to trust that God has got that whole eternity thing sorted – both in regard to humanity and ALL of creation.

In our services last week we began looking at the book of Hebrews. (First sermon in the series can be found here). It is written to a church community going through some disturbing changes. It seems some folk are being persecuted, others being led astray by weird and wacky teachings and yet others are simply giving up on believing.

The overall message of the book seems to be 'Hold on to faith'. Such is a message that we often need to hear. Be it in times of personal loss and change, or as we consider the pressing issues of the day, that challenge – to hold on to faith – resonates in so many different ways.

The writer of Hebrews is insistent that whatever crisis we are traveling through, the love of God that can be found in Jesus Christ, is greater than any obstacle that comes our way. God's Spirit is greater than our weakness and with such strength empowering us we are encouraged to hold on and keep pressing forward.

Of course that is never easy. Loss is never easy. Change is never easy. Solving the great dilemmas of the day is never easy. Letting go is never easy. Holding on is never easy. Yet somehow, if we can find a space each day to be thankful for the many blessings that we receive and add to that the hope that God actually does have a clue how all things can work out... then I think we can find a faith to carry us through. 

For some music, a song called 'Hold On' by a band called '33 miles'. 'Holding On' will also be our sermon this coming Sunday. Check back next week, or maybe even come and join us at Mount Hebron Presbyterian this (or any other) time! 

Rev Adrian J Pratt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Like A Crown!


Friday September 18th 2015 will always be a date in my personal history as that is the day my wife and I became Grandparents. To our daughter Helen and husband Glenn was born a beautiful daughter named Rose. We are thankful to the many people surrounding our lives who have congratulated us and grateful to God that all went well and the new family are home safe and sound.

According to Proverbs 17:6 “Grandchildren are like a crown to older people. And children are proud of their parents. (NIRV). I'm not so sure I went to make too much out of the 'older people' part of that verse, but I'll happily wear the crown. If I'd read this verse, before we went to Burger King on the way to visit the hospital where she was born, I might just have asked if I could have had one of their cardboard crowns as an expression of my new biblical appointment. However with every biblical appointment there also comes responsibility!

A rabbinical story tells of a character called Honi who is journeying along the road when he sees a man planting a carob tree. He asks him,' How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit? The man replied: 'Seventy years'. He then further asked him: 'Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?' The man replied: 'I found grown carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted these for me so I too plant these for my children.'

The idea in the story is that wherever we are in life, be it in our youth or our old age, be it as parents or grandparents, we are in the business of creating a legacy. Although the seeds we plant in the lives of others might take time to bear fruit, our responsibility is to be faithful planters. It is a wonderful thing as a parent to witness your children becoming parents. There is a prayer on your lips that however you are involved in the life of this newly created extended family, that your influence can be a positive one that helps new life mature and grow.

Nobody can predict the kind of challenges and situations each successive generation may face. When one considers the world into which we were personally born, to the world as it is today, there are moments when you just stand back and say 'Never saw that coming!' Yet there remain some constant themes that do not change.

Love. Hope. Faith. Encouragement. Tolerance. Kindness. Generosity. Joy. Such are timeless foundational gifts and virtues. These are things we can all pursue and plant in each others lives. Though the world around us will constantly change and sometimes confound us, if we continue to focus on the core values that bring contentment and peace then we are creating a heritage that can be passed on from age to age and from generation to generation. Maybe for all of us our legacy is our crowning achievement! 

For some music... what came to mind was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and their evocative song "Teach Your Children Well"and this video which addresses the song's theme: 'What are the social ramifications of our actions on our children?' Timeless subject!

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why did the chicken cross the road?


I was talking to my brother Steve over in the U.K. He likes to pass on snippets of wisdom that folk have shared with him. This weeks was; 'I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.'

Such surely speaks to the judgmental and critical society that we have become. Words are so often used to cast doubt, rather than to encourage. It doesn't matter how genuine your intentions may be, or how positive your actions, it seems like there is always somebody out there who will question your motives.

The theme of our sermon last week was 'Taming the Tongue'. This week we continue in a similar vein as we look at James 3:13 –4:8. One of the big problems James sees in the church community to which he writes is that they have forgotten how to talk gently and respectfully with each other. This was creating all sorts of problems.

Everybody seemed to have an opinion that was the most important one that needed to be listened to. So they were all fighting to be heard, rather than seeking to listen to what God may be saying to them through each others lives. In James 4:1 he writes 'Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

His solution? Look up. Upgrade your perspective. Get your mind out of conflict mode. 'The wisdom that comes from heaven is pure. That's the most important thing about it. And that's not all. It also loves peace. It thinks about others. It obeys. It is full of mercy and good fruit. It is fair. It doesn't pretend to be what it is not. (James 3:17)

The gospel reading from Mark (9:37) this week is the one where Jesus speaks about greatness. He demonstrates what He means by firstly suggesting that it has to do with how willing we are to be of service to others. Then He takes a small child in His arms and says "Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me.

There are few things more vulnerable than a small child. Their very survival depends on those around them. They have no option but to trust. If we wish to be people through whom the love of God impacts our world in positive ways then we need to operate from within that kind of vulnerability. We can only do that by totally trusting in that 'wisdom from above' and in God's ability to provide all we need to be the sorts of people God wants us to be.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Never mind! Just welcome them to your side of the street. And if they need help with anything...try and be there for them. 

For some music? Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt invite you over to the 'Sunny Side of the Street'. One thing I love about this is that you have to listen for a while before you ever get to the lyrics. So enjoy a couple of jazz masters, hold your tongue and tap your feet. There's more here than can be said by words! 

Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we continue our journey through James. I'll be inviting folk to upgrade their operating system. Find out more 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, or check back here for the sermon after then.

Rev Adrian J. Pratt

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sticks and Stones


Sticks and Stones, may break my bones,
But names can never hurt me”

So went a nursery rhyme from my youth. It was well intended. It carried the idea that the negative things people say about you are not as bad as being physically assaulted. There's certainly some truth in that idea. Better to be called a fool that be punched on the nose for being a fool.

What the rhyme fails to convey is the true power that words actually have. What it doesn't portray is how lives can be ruined, reputations destroyed and violence done to others through gossip, misinformation and lies. Whenever a nation goes to war one of it's chief weapons is propaganda – the task of making those who were once friends now appear to be devils who deserve no mercy.

In recent days we have heard tragic stories of young people who have taken their own lives after being bullied, not in the school playground, but through social media. Unkind words can literally sap the life out of people.

Last week, as we looked at the book of James, we talked about how a genuine faith could be evaluated by the actions it produced. James was not a fan of those who said they were faithful people but whose lives were a safe haven for prejudice and intolerance. (sermon here)

In this weeks lesson (James 3:1-10) he talks about 'Taming the Tongue'. He has a lot to say about the way we use our words. He writes about how a forest can be set on fire by the smallest of sparks. Then he tells us;The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell!”

As people of faith we are cautioned to be very, very careful about how we use our words. Words are incredibly powerful. John's gospel starts with the phrase “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Book of Genesis, the very first words in Scripture, picture God speaking the universe into being. 'God said 'Let there be light' and there was light.'

Words can create order out of chaos. Yet they can also do the opposite. Create chaos where everything seemed settled! Maybe you are familiar with the “Thumperian principle”?

In the Disney movie 'Bambi' a young rabbit called 'Thumper' comments that the young deer Bambi is "kinda wobbly". Thumper is reproved by his motherwho makes him repeat what his father had impressed upon him that morning, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." Not bad advice at all. I think James might approve!

For some music this week Jason Mraz sings a version of Bob Dylan's song 'Man gave name to all the animals' The connection between this song and next weeks sermon? 

Well... you can either check back to this blog next week... or you could even join us for an outdoor service on the beautiful grounds of Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City as we kick-off our new Sunday School year. Worship begins 10:00 a.m. Sunday Sep 13th. A picnic will follow :-)

Rev Adrian J. Pratt

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

 
Last week in our morning service we began a series of messages on the Book of James. (First sermon "Hear-Do" is here). We saw how James was not impressed with the kind of faith that was more words than actions. He does have some strong things to say about 'words' in a later chapter, but in his second chapter he talks about what kinds of 'works' he expects a living faith to produce.

In verse 13 James uses the phrase 'Mercy triumphs over judgment'. We can apply that verse in different ways.

We apply this verse to the message of the Cross. Central to the Christian message is the claim that at the Cross, what seemed like the ultimate defeat was actually the ultimate victory. Jesus, according to John, was the lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Through His grace we can find love and forgiveness. Through faith in His resurrection power we can find new strength for living. According to Paul, we “were full of darkness” but now we have “light from the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).

We can apply it to ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We become full of thoughts about 'not being good enough' or 'not up to the task'. Sometimes we feel that our contribution to changing anything is so minimal that we give up trying. We get held back by our mistakes. We feel a sense of shame about past failures and compromises. This verse 'Mercy triumphs over judgment' encourages us to recall that through Jesus Christ we are forgiven and God looks at us as God's children, free and in the process of reconstruction and capable of doing beautiful things.

We apply this verse to others. James is pretty clear that a genuine faith is a welcoming faith. That a faith that makes others feel like outsiders is the exact opposite of the way Jesus made people feel. In fact, the people whom Jesus made feel most uncomfortable, were those who used religion to make themselves look better than everybody else. Jesus was known as a friend to the outcast, to the sinner, to those whom others rejected. Following His example we are to be known by our love and compassion for all, without prejudice.

Such a a focus on mercy can seem a little scary. It means welcoming those whom we don’t like, or don’t agree with. It means loving and blessing our enemies, friends, family, outsiders, insiders and all in between. To live like that is to be both hearers and doers of the Word! We certainly can't do it alone. We need all the help the Holy Spirit provides. We need each others encouragement and practical help.

These insights of James weren't new. Centuries before James wrote his words, the prophet Micah had spoken of God's requirements for faithful people. 'To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'(Micah 6:8)

'Mercy triumphs over judgment.' A gem of a verse from the book of James! I came across this song about forgiveness and mercy by singer/songwriter Amanda Cook, called, appropriately, 'Mercy triumphs over judgment'. Enjoy!

And if you in the area and want some more about James, then come by Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, 10:00 am this Sunday :-)

Rev Adrian J. Pratt

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to Reality!


It's always great to have vacation time. The negative thing about a vacation is that it always seems to come to an end far too speedily. So it's back to life and back to reality for me! It's not that I don't love my work and feel incredibly fortunate to be the pastor of such a great group of people as Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church. Rather that a break from the routine is always refreshing for the soul and it grants a refreshed perspective for our daily routines. (My first sermon back after vacation, a reflection on Psalm 23, can be found here)

In our services through the coming month we are going to be taking a look at the New Testament Book of James. James is a very practical little book. For James faith isn't so much about what we believe (although he thinks that is important), it is more about what we do. For James the evidence for having faith is seen, not through the words we say, but in the actions of love and acceptance of others that our lives demonstrate.

He has harsh things to say about people who make religion a way of getting on in the world. Those who court the influence of the powerful and ignore the needs of those the world sees as insignificant. He warns people to be careful with their words, because he recognizes that words can be powerful vehicles of hatred and intolerance. There are many echoes of gospel stories in this short letter. He talks of enduring troubles, praying for healing and leaving judgment of others in God's hands.

He suggests that we all have a battle on our hands when it comes to living a Christ-like life. That it doesn't come easily. That the ways of the world influence our lives in more ways than we often realize. We should therefore be careful in regard to what we nurture our lives upon. If we feed our bodies and our minds and spirits upon garbage, then we will probably produce a corresponding output. James is a 'back to reality' kind or writer. He doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the business of 'walking the talk'.

An ancient tradition, held as genuine by many scholars today, is that the James who writes this letter is the same James who was the brother of Jesus and a prominent leader within the earliest church. Certainly the tone of his words support such an observation.

When asked about the business of living productive spiritual lives, Jesus responded (In Matthew 7:15)... 'By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?' 'Fruits' meant good works of any kind. By observing what faith produced, you could determine if it was genuine or not! This is a common theme for James.

As we begin a new season in our lives it is never a bad thing to get back to reality. The Book of James can help us do that... so I highly recommend it for your study. For sure it is great to get away from time to time. But life is not a vacation and love always challenges us to take the needs of others with great seriousness. In such a way we often discover God blesses our lives in unexplained ways!

For some back to reality, back to God music, here's a country ditty from Randy Houser titled 'Back to God'. Not sure if James would be a country fan (then again, why not?) but pretty sure he'd endorse the statement Randy sings - "Ya gotta keep on praying"! (See James 5:13-18).

Rev Adrian J. Pratt

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Home from Trinity


So myself and 94 others (including two of our own youth) had a most excellent week at the Trinity Youth Conference. We sang, worshiped, studied and played together. Sometimes there were even opportunities to sleep. We put away our cell phones and electronic devices and sought to listen for other voices that may be out there in the wild wide universe.

There was much laughter. There were many tears. I never cease to be astonished by the battles many of our youth and young adults have to fight. Broken families. Violence. Discrimination. Temptations to drug abuse and other forms of over indulgence. Constantly being bombarded by the pressure to both consume and achieve.

My prayer for those who were there is simply that they will continue to find a place where their lives can be centered. That the connections they made during the week, both with their peers and their spiritual self, will strengthen them and guide them into making good decisions and assure them they are never alone. It truly was a privilege to be involved in such an event and I thank the congregation at Mount Hebron for their support.

But now... back to reality.  Well, actually a few days of reality (during which I did manage to preach a sermon about 'Trusting and Telling' which can be found here).... but then I take a couple of weeks vacation. So this little blog will also be taking a break!

We do have some excellent preachers lined up whilst I'm gone. Rev. Robert Culp, a long time friend and regular attender at Mount Hebron, will be leading worship on August 9th. On August 16th we welcome to our pulpit Rev. Doris Cowan. Come along and be revived by the message they bring.

Also the next two Sundays our new children and youth minister Evan Stewart will be meeting with folk after worship to talk about his plans for Sunday School and Youth development. Exciting times! We continue to pray for God to grow our church and ministry to both young and old, seeking to be faithful to our mission statement; 'Growing in Faith, Called to Serve'.

One of the songs that has been sung at the Trinity Youth Conference the last couple years has been 'Revival' by Robin Mark. It's great little tune that just builds and builds ... and a lot of fun to sing with a crowd! Wherever this month leads you, may you find moments of personal revival, be it through recreation, worship or just in the midst of that everyday same old, same old.

 I'll be back.
 Rev Adrian Pratt.



Mount Hebron Folk at TYC


The Whole Crew





Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trinity Youth Conference


Next week I'll heading out to Camp Living Waters, in Schellsburg, PA, to be part of the leadership team of the annual 'Trinity Youth Conference'. A couple of our youth will be in attendance. Please pray with me that they have a fruitful and inspiring time.

'TYC' is a week-long event for high school youth and college-age young adults. The conference focuses on spiritual and leadership development, discipleship, and evangelism through daily worship, small group activities, and various workshops with topics based on the theme, which this year is “For Such A Time As This” (based upon Esther 4:14).

The conference has been in existence for over 40 years. Originally it was a part of the Synod of the Trinity, but these days is self funded by 'Friends of TYC'. Some of the current leaders first came as campers many moons ago and have stuck with it. One of the longest serving, Rev. Mitch Miller, who is attending for his 21st year, not only met his wife at the camp, but through it's ministry felt a call to full-time Christian service. He now annually drives a van load of teenagers and young adults all the way from Oklahoma so they can experience it!

One of the unique features of the conference is the mixing of college aged young adults with High School participants. The college age folk (who are mostly those who have attended for a number of years) often become marvelous mentors to the younger ones and let them know what college life is really like, in particular in regard to holding onto faith.

A number of pastors, youth ministers, church leaders, lawyers, engineers, top chefs, and others have said that T.Y.C. was the primary place where they grew in faith and developed the leadership skills they use today.

A former participant, now an ordained Minister in the PC(U.S.A.), writes; "Trinity Youth Conference is the place God really started to make sense to me. While at TYC, I started discovering that God isn't just out there, but living right here in community with people who believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of their lives and this world. TYC helped to shape my faith. If it wasn't for TYC I don't know where my faith might have gone."

As of writing this year we have 92 participants registered for the conference. My role at the camp has been everything from music leader to preacher. This year I'll be responsible for leading one of the workshops. Leadership is only by invitation of the 'Planning Team', a group of adults and youth who are elected annually by the camp participants.

For me it is a HUGE privilege to be part of the leadership team for another year. The youth and young adults teach me so much about what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is like in today's world. Hopefully I can pass on some thoughts that will enable them to continue along that road!

In my absence, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian, we will be welcoming to our pulpit Rev. Heather Bobbitt, from Severna Park, MD. I'm told she always brings a good message and I'm hoping folk will turn out to hear her. Wherever we are, may God's blessing be with us all in the midst of these hot summer days!

For some music (and to give a taste of the Trinity Youth Conference)  a video from TYC 2013.
 
Rev. Adrian J. Pratt.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Camp Discovery


'Camp Discovery' is the name of our Vacation Bible School this week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church. The whole place has been decorated with an outdoor theme, lawn chairs, a tent, trees, a camp fire, a teddy bear on a zip-line and lot's of animal pictures. Folks have really gone to town creating the right atmosphere.

The kids have rotated through a series of craft making, science projects, storytelling, song times and game times, each coordinated by a willing group of volunteers, many of whom are young people – 'C.I.T.'s' (Counselors in Training). Their enthusiasm matches the kids exuberance. I'm sure as the end of the week draws near, we'll all feel a little more tired and a little less enthused, but for now the adrenalin keeps us moving along!

This congregation is blessed with so many wonderful folk who give of their time and talents to make this a fun week for all involved. I know we couldn't do it every week, but it is great we can have one special week to 'Discover' together, in a camp setting, more about the gospel message.

The bible verse we are focusing on is 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us”. We are exploring how God can work through our lives to help others. This is a lesson that everybody, is sharing in, volunteers and participants.

We have thought about the virtues of different bible characters. The courage of young David who faced down a giant, the wisdom of an early Israelite Judge named Deborah who led the nation to victory over a feared enemy. The tenacity of Shadrach, Mischach and Abednego, who refused to bow down and worship an image of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and faced a fiery ordeal, yet discovered God was there for them.

We have talked about a blind man, called Bartimaeus, who received a new vision from the touch of Jesus upon his life, and we'll be talking about character called Ananias, who was sent to minister to a one time opponent of Christianity called Saul; though we know him these days as the apostle Paul.

When talked about in a communal setting like 'Camp Discovery' it can really bring these characters, and the message of their life, alive to us. We hope and pray that our Bible School will be a positive influence on young lives, and that we will all know we are loved by God and grow in the desire to share the love of Jesus Christ with others. 


If you are around on Sunday and wish to join us for worship we'll be having a V.B.S. themed service. Come and be part of the fun!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Story-Tellers


Stories have tremendous power. They are capable of carrying great truths in a way that makes them extremely memorable. Whenever Jesus wanted to say something really important He usually told a story. Many of His stories, like the 'Good Samaritan' or 'The Prodigal Son' immediately remind us of a message, just with the words of the title.

Much of the content of the 66 books of the bible is offered to us as story. Those who dismiss religious writings, as being myth and fable, seem to forget that it is through such vehicles truth is often revealed. Likewise, those who hold to a literal interpretation of scripture passages, seem to have lost the awareness that truth is a many faceted jewel. To insist that such and such really happened, in this actual way, at that particular time, can obscure the deeper meaning of many a text. Biblical literalism can destroy biblical stories.

As an example take that story about the 'Good Samaritan'. (Luke v10:29-37). It's a classic story about loving our neighbors. Among other things Jesus reveals the arrogant self-justification of the questioner, challenges Jewish prejudice against their Samaritan neighbors, ridicules religion that was all talk and no action and lifts up compassion as being a far greater virtue than legalistic observance of ancient traditions.

The sting in the tale comes with the final words 'Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The lawyer said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

The truth the story carries does not depend on there having been an actual incident where a man was robbed and three different folk reacted to him in different ways. Two, who should have known better, walk on by. One, of whom not much was expected, becomes a true friend to a fellow human in great need. Compassion wins! "Go and do likewise." Even if this whole conversation were a fictional account, it would still carry exactly the same truth.

We know very little about the childhood of Jesus but can presume that, like youngsters of every age, He was raised by folk who surrounded His life with stories. We do the same today for our own children and grandchildren. Stories have power. They take us to the dark side. They teach us right and wrong. They instill values. They stretch our imaginations. They stay with us.

At Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are approaching our Vacation Bible School week. Bible School is a time for telling stories. Over the last few weeks in our services we've been looking at biblical characters. (Last weeks sermon on Ananias is here). It is important that children hear stories about people of faith. The actual historic details of characters such as David, Deborah, Shadrach, Mischach and Abednego, Bartimaeus and Ananias are probably lost to us. What we do have are stories about their lives, to inspire us to adopt virtues such as courage, wisdom, fearlessness, faith and service.

On Sunday morning, during our outdoor service, I'll be offering to the congregation some Jewish stories that Jesus might have heard when He was just a lad. Will they be true stories? Did Jesus really hear them? Was He influenced by them? Who first told them? It doesn't matter. What matters is the truth the stories contain. Stories matter!

For some music here is a song called 'Storyteller' by Morgan Harper Nichols (with Jamie Grace).

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt. B.D.