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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Beginning of Life as we Know it

I don't go to the movies or the theater very often, but when I do, I always try and pick a seat where I can achieve the best possible viewing experience. I carry with me the hope that somebody extremely tall, or who is wearing a vision blocking hat they refuse to remove, does not occupy the row in front of me.

I say a little prayer that I will be protected from intermittent chatterers and folk incapable of consuming a box of popcorn quietly. It's not that I'm a theater snob. I just want to be in a position where I can enjoy the experience without interruption or distraction.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we began our journey through a book by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee called 'The Story'. Our kick-off sermon can be found here.

Throughout this week we will reading Chapter One of the book, which is all about creation and the beginning of life as we know it. The first line in both The Story and the Bible reads, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' (Genesis 1:1).

Right from the start we find the main character in the story is not you or me. It is God. And the rest of The Story unfolds out of the nature and person of God's character. It doesn’t take long to find out what God’s great passion is. Birds? Nope. Animals? Not quite. Sun, moon or stars? Good guess. But no. In Genesis 3:8 we find that God is walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve in the 'cool of the day.'

Sounds nice if you are in a hot, humid climate, doesn’t it? And yet the 'cool of the day' is not the focus. God is, and God is near. God is right with Adam and Eve. God is right here with us. God's simple vision for humankind was to spend time with them every day. God’s supreme passion is to be with us.

Some of us have been given the impression that God is some angry cosmic kill-joy who sits in the heavens and waits for us to make a mistake. Or, we feel God is distant and doesn’t care, or has simply forgotten us. But from the beginning God has shown us this is not the case. God wants to be with us. God has not forgotten us.

As we read the scriptures and travel through The Story we will discover that this is a reoccurring theme. If you want some questions to consider relating to the first chapter, they can be found here.

When thinking about some music that would fit with Chapter One what came to mind was a song by 70's Jesus-rocker, the late Larry Norman, titled 'Deja Vu'. Of particular relevance is the line 'Once we were happy, once in the garden, but then a lie broke the stillness, and our hearts began to harden'. 
 
There is a possibility that we may not have a service this coming Sunday because of inclement weather. If that happens we will have to do some rescheduling. But we will have a whole extra week to read the book :-) So please watch the website and Facebook page for details of any cancellations!

Rev. Adrian Pratt

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Upper Story and the Lower Story



This Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we begin a 31 week long program that focuses on a version of the Bible known as 'The Story' that has been put together by two authors, Max Lucardo and Randy Frazee. More details can be found here. 'The Story' is a chronological arrangement of the Scriptures that seeks to uncover how the different books in the Bible are linked to one another by a number of common themes.

Some parts of the scriptures appear in summarized form and others, particularly where there is a lot of repetition, are omitted. So, technically, it is not the whole bible but it covers the highlights. Whilst certainly not a replacement for Scripture, 'The Story' offers a way to glimpse the 'Bigger picture' that unfolds throughout the biblical books.

What is revealed through looking at the Bible in this way is that there is both an 'Upper Story' and a 'Lower Story'. To quote Randy Frazee; In the Lower Story we are dealing with things in the here and now; paying bills, dealing with conflict, getting over a cold, finding a job, winning a race, stubbing your toe and what you say after you stub your toe. The Lower Story is our Story. In the Upper Story we discover what God is up to; how God is weaving our story into God's one divine love story.

We'll also see how God uses the most unlikely strategies and circumstances to touch peoples lives and reveal God's purposes to the world. Throughout the Old Testament we will see many indications of how God was preparing to do something new in Jesus Christ. The New Testament gives us the story of His ministry and the developing life of the earliest church as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Whilst traveling through 'The Story' we are going to be looking at the same chapters in our worship, our bible studies and our children and youth programs, so hopefully this will generate discussion across the generations about the themes we discover. We'll be offering weekly 'questions to ask' (Chapter 1 questions are here) as people read the chapters, and of course, making the weekly sermons available on the sermon blog.

Copies of the book are available in numerous formats. A search at Amazon.com or any other book retailer reveals many bargains! If you choose to engage with 'The Story' I'm sure you can find a version to suit your needs.

The program has been used very successfully by many other congregations. Those who have experienced it say that it has provided a fresh way of understanding God's Word. Hopefully it will impact many of us in the same way. This coming Sunday we'll be offering an overview of the 'Upper and Lower Stories of the Bible'. As we begin this exciting journey I hope you will be in a position to travel with us!

For some music, a blast from the eighties, as Amy Grant sings; “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet”.

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Same But Different


 
Happy New Year to all. You are prayerfully wished every blessing during 2016. Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian it looks like an exciting year! On January 17th we begin a 31 week discovery of the bible in chronological order, using a book by Max Lucado and Randy Freeze called 'The Story'. More details are available here.

This Sunday we'll be welcoming a small group of youth, who, along with myself and two of our young people - Cliff Ritch and Krista Schumm - attended the Trinity Youth Conference held each year in Schellsburg, PA. They will be helping myself conduct the morning worship, which we'll be presenting along similar lines to that experienced at the summer camp. It will be the same, but different.

What will be the same is that all the usual elements of our worship service will be in place. Music, Prayers, Confession, Readings, Offering and Message. What will be different is that we'll have the youth leading the music, sharing the message and celebrating a weekend of reunion. As I write this I'm still not exactly sure how this will work out. It will be the same, but different!

As a church we have embarked on a Presbytery initiated process called 'New Beginnings'. It provides an opportunity to review our life together in the light of our changing world and seek for new ways of doing mission and engaging our community. Our mission statement states that we are 'Growing in Faith, Called to Serve'. That stays the same, but we want to explore different ways of pursuing the vision.

I think that is the best possible way to celebrate the New Year. We build upon the experiences of the past, while at the same time seek new ways of being the people God is calling us to be. We learn from those around us that, the same things can be done in different ways, that bring new life and enthusiasm. Change is always a challenge. Yet growth can never take place without change.

As we think about our personal lives it pays to ask ourselves the question, 'What can we do that is the same but different?' What lessons have we learned in the year gone by, that will change the way we travel through the year ahead? What has changed in our circumstances, or in our relationships, that requires us to rethink how we approach tomorrow?

Let us also recall that as we lay our lives before God we are promised guidance and help for the living of these days. Who knows what they will bring? One thing is for sure. It will be the same but different!

For some music... the Trinity Youth Conference in full voice - way back in 2006.  'Hallelujah!'

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.