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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Help Needed!

Last week we were on Treasure Hunt. It was great to see a number of visitors attending with us for a  baptism. Truly our little ones are one of the greatest treasures God allows us to care for.  The sermon from the day can be found here

This coming Sunday we'll be taking a look at a passage from John 5:1-8 in which Jesus meets a crippled man by a healing pool (purported to have miracle qualities). Jesus asks him an unusual question. 'Do you want to get well?' My first thoughts on hearing that question were to respond, 'Well do you really think he'd be sitting by a healing pool if he wanted to remain sick? Who would do that?' In response to the question the man starts to tell Jesus how every time it looked like a miracle could happen, he could never get to the healing waters in time.

You start to wonder if that was really the man's problem. Had he become so used to his condition that he could not imagine anything in his circumstances could ever change? Because of disappointment in the past, was he just tired of asking for help? Was there something he was trying to hide? Was he just too proud to admit his need? We are never told why he was reluctant to answer the question, but we are told Jesus eventually told him to get up and walk!

There are times in each of our lives when we are reluctant to ask for help. Maybe we think it’s a sign of weakness. Maybe we are not sure what the consequences might be if things were to dramatically change in our situation. Maybe we have been hurt or become disillusioned by past failure. We tend to think of pride and self-sufficiency as purely positive things, yet they can both go against the grain of a healthy dependence upon God and the power of God's Holy Spirit in our lives.

It is a humbling thing to admit that we have needs. We can be fearful of asking others for help. What if it reveals some weakness? What if it shows that I am only human after all? God made us to relate to one another and to love one another. We weren’t made to live life alone. If we’re 'the strong' one that is always lending a hand and seeing to it that others are taken care of, it’s hard for us to let someone know we need help, but it’s important that we do.

Jesus asks a simple question,which turns out to be a challenge. 'Do you want to get well?' Are we willing to admit that we need His help? Are we prepared to face the challenges that belonging to His kingdom and living His Way places before us? Or is it more comfortable to stay as we are, stick with what we know and do what we have always done?

There’s an old saying that goes something like this; be smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it. And for some music, how could I resist the Beatles classic 'Help!'

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hidden Treasures

When my kids were younger they used to enjoy watching the Indiana Jones movies. It seemed there was always some new treasure or lost artifact Indy was willing to risk life and limb to pursue! Many real life stories of hidden treasure continue to circulate.

Shortly before his death in 1935, New York mobster Dutch Schultz loaded $7 million in cash, bonds, and diamonds into a waterproof safe, then buried it somewhere in the Catskills on the banks of the Esopus Creek. He was gunned down by a hitman not long afterward, leaving no trace of his treasure.

That hasn’t stopped folks from looking for it, from hauling shovels up to the mountains to trying to contact Schultz in the great beyond, which one psychic says she accomplished. The mobster refused to give up the whereabouts of his loot even from the afterlife, saying, “If I were to tell you exactly where the treasure is, then there’d be no more search. There’d be no more fun, and I wouldn’t be famous anymore.”

The Book of Proverbs suggests that we shouldn't waste time contacting psychic's. That there is treasure available to us all through faithfully seeking God. Proverbs 2:2-5 “Let your ears listen to wisdom. Apply your heart to understanding. Call out for the ability to be wise. Cry out for understanding. Look for it as you would look for silver. Search for it as you would search for hidden treasure. Then you will understand how to have respect for the LORD. You will find out how to know God.”

I never cease to be amazed by the insights that Scripture can offer for our lives. Some of it is very obvious. 'Trust God' 'Help others' 'Pursue love'. But there are other times when God can speak a word from scripture that seems to apply to our personal situation right when we need to hear it.

On Sunday I'll be taking a look at a short parable from Matthew's gospel in which Jesus tells us "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. (Mat 13:44). (Last Sundays message on 'Resurrection Hope' can be found here)

There are many things in life we can treasure. Our families. Our friends. Our health and well-being. But there are also treasures to seek for. One of the greatest of those is a relationship with God. We can nurture that relationship through worship, prayer and service of others. Indeed it is sometimes through practicing these things that we find undiscovered riches.

May God's rich blessing overflow in our lives in such a way that we always have treasure to share with others!

Apparently this week is 'Old record Celebration' week. So here's a country gospel oldie from 'The Inspirations' that talks about gospel treasure. It may (or may not) be your style but the sentiment is fitting for this particular musing.

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

After Easter

What a joy it was to celebrate my first Easter with the congregation here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian (Sermon 'Easter's Alarm!'can be found here). We had a good crowd. Some folks were home from college. Some were visiting. Some who don't come every week came out for the Easter Day service. What's more we had brand new lights in the Sanctuary, so an additional brightness graced our celebrations.

But now it is back to normal. Back to work. Back to the everyday realities awaiting us in our world. It can be quite a challenge to allow the joy of Easter to transform our everyday world.

For the first disciples Easter was marked by a period of waiting, during which Jesus appeared to them in a number of different ways, culminating in His Ascension and their instructions to meet in an upper room until the next steps became clear. We read of encounters on a road to Emmaus, of Thomas overcoming his doubt, of Peter deciding to go back to being a fisherman and a seaside meal of fish the disciples shared with their Lord.

In many of these encounters there is, at first, a failure to discern that it actually is Jesus who is with them. Those on the Emmaus road do not realize His presence until bread is broken around a table. Thomas needs to see scars before he will believe. Peter and the other disciples share a meal of broiled fish with Jesus before they can accept that He was not an apparition!

Maybe that's how it has to be after the initial joy of Easter. We continue to encounter God's love, but it takes us a while to recognize His presence is with us.

In C.S Lewis's wonderful book for children, 'The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe', 'Aslan', the lion who symbolizes Jesus, dies upon a stone table. But he is resurrected to life and helps restore joy to Narnia's land. Once evil is defeated Aslan makes only fleeting appearances to his followers as they seek to restore order. The character 'Mr. Beaver' explains that Aslan is expected to leave and only return whenever necessary.

Maybe this was C.S. Lewis's way of explaining that not every day can be an Easter Day. Not every Sunday is going to be an Easter Sunday celebration. Yet we can rest assured that, when we need some reminder of God's love or some special grace to get us through a trial or difficulty, then God will be there for us.

For you to view  (especially for those who never saw the movie); the death and resurrection of Aslan - courtesy of YouTube.  May this post-Easter season be one in which we continue to be reminded of God's living love.

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt