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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pentecost

Last week we finished up a series of sermons from Peter's first letter with some thoughts on “Casting Cares.” At Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, this coming Sunday, June 4 2017, we meet around a table laid with bread and wine for a birthday celebration better known as “Pentecost Sunday.”

Following the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples were promised that the Holy Spirit would come to them and empower them for their work. The Church was born as the Holy Spirit descended with rushing wind and tongues of fire that energized the disciples as they gathered together in an upper room for worship and prayer.

That experience spread out into the streets. People heard, in their own languages, the disciples praising God. Peter stood before them and in Acts 2:16-17 we hear him declaring; This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.'”

The Baptist Preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once wroteWithout 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 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 like ‘Living Water.’ As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now Jesus said this about the Spirit, which believers in Him were to receive.”(John 7:38-39.)

As summer approaches we can expect to experience some days with high temperatures. No doubt our weather broadcasters will be offering warnings telling us to stay hydrated and seek the shade.

Another image of the Holy Spirit is that of being a refreshing wind. On a blistering hot day there is nothing like catching a refreshing breeze to grant us some relief from the heat!

If we feel our Christian life has become dry and lifeless, maybe we need a Holy Ghost refreshing! How do we do that? Through prayer. Through meditating on God’s Word. Through worship. Through reminding ourselves that, every day we live, we live in the shadow of an Almighty God whose love is available to us through the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our Shepherd and our Savior.

For a musical interlude a version of the song “Spirit of the Living God.” Although we'll be singing this song as we approach the communion table I doubt it will be as spirited or dramatic as this particular version, performed by the wonderful gospel singer Vickie Winans, from her CD "Live In Detriot II."

May God grant us all a fresh anointing of His love!

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Family Thoughts

This week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we are taking a break from our series “Peter's Perspectives.” (Our most recent sermon on that topic “Christ's Example” can be found here.) This coming Sunday is Mothering Sunday, or in some traditions “Christian Family Sunday.” I'm not sure Hallmark have begun producing cards with the latter inscription upon them, but I guess it will only be a matter of time before they catch on.

Without a doubt one of the biggest changes in society has been that of family structure. The statistical home of two parents and 2.5 children in no longer the norm. As the nuclear family has changed, so also has the extended family structure. Grandparents may or may not be in the picture. Aunts and Uncles can be next door neighbors or folk in a far away places.

It is a good that we have a Sunday to honor those who nurture our lives. I'm not sure that we need a different Sunday to honor every single relationship that can possibly exist. But to have a time set aside to focus on the many blessings that we have received at the hands of those who over the years have cared for us and guided our steps is a positive thing.

Honoring all those who nurture us is also a way of recognizing that not everybody finds “Mother's Day” a time for blessings. Some are unable to bear children. Some have lost children under tragic circumstances. Some have had terrible family relationships or not even known who their parents were.

Yet we have all had those people who helped form the people we have become. Be that foster parents or surrogate parents or same gender parents or grandparents or single parents... or even two parents with 2.5 children, we are thankful for those that encouraged us to grow, showered us with love and never gave upon us.

When we read about the life of the earliest church in the Book of Acts we discover that they took a special interest in caring for the needs of widows and orphans. Many in the earliest church appear to have been those who were not part of what we might describe as “traditional families.” Surely this teaches us that there is a welcome for all people in the family of God!

Indeed, when many are in places where they are struggling to find exactly where home might be, the church has a role in inviting people to find their home in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. When He died upon the Cross He broke down the barriers that separated us. In His teaching He encouraged us to see each other as the brother's and sisters of One Universal parent.

Jesus used images of God that included God as a Mother Hen who wished to gather chicks together under her wings (Matthew 23:27) and encouraged us to pray to “Our Father, Who art in heaven...” (Matthew 6:9). Traditional Christian doctrine has spoken of the Church as “Our Mother in the faith.”

This weekend, take the time to honor your mother. And if that's not possible, then honor any who have played a motherly role in your life. We would not be the people we are today without those who came before us and guided our way. And if you are in the vicinity feeling thankful... join us at 10:00 a.m. for our Mothers Day/Christian Family celebration.

For some music... a song (with lyrics) from the movie Ice Age 4... “We are Family.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, May 1, 2017

WDJD “What DID Jesus Do?”

Father Charles Erlandson shares a story about teaching freshman English at All Saints Episcopal school in Tyler, Texas. He had noticed a few of the students were wearing armbands with “WWJD” (What would Jesus do?) written upon them.

He had his students compare and contrast Christianity and the Greek religion. He asked the class if they thought anyone in Athens 400 B.C. went around wearing armbands and bracelets that said “WWZD - What would Zeus do?”

His point was that no one in his right mind would want to pattern their life after the Greek God Zeus, a hot-headed, skirt-chasing, fickle god who made more mischief than good fortune!

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we have been following a series reflecting on the insights of Peter's first letter. Last week we were thinking about “Precious Blood.”  In our upcoming worship service we'll be taking a look at 1 Peter 2:18-25.

In this passage Peter invites us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who left an example for us. He prompts us to ask not so much WWJD – “What would Jesus do?” but to consider WDJD – “What DID Jesus do?” and WSID – “What should I do?”

One of the things that Peter talks about is the patience of Jesus. How when He suffered He did not retaliate. Among the original audience that Peter addressed were many slaves, some of whom were not treated well and suffered unjustly. Peter urges them not to store up resentment or nurse a desire to get even. To do so would hurt them far more than their overseers. Instead they are urged to cast their cares onto Jesus who Peter describes as the “Shepherd” and “Overseer” of our lives.

While none of us endure the tyranny of slavery, we all have times in our lives when we feel we have been treated unjustly. Relationships can turn toxic. The world has too many folk who take advantage of others. Life isn't always fair. Disasters befall both the guilty and the innocent.

How do we deal with such events in our own lives? If we take Peter's advice we turn to God in prayer and seek to leave all our hurts in God's hand. He offers to us some powerful scriptures. "He (Jesus) Himself bore our sins" in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by His wounds you have been healed."

Peter wants us to know that whatever trials we pass through, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows how we feel and will walk with us. That God is indeed the God of Psalm 23 who walks with us by the clear cool waters and holds us close when we travel through the valley of the shadow of death.

We can't make the hard times go away. There will be occasions when life or others treat us wrong. But we can make a choice how we travel though those times. Because that's what Jesus did. He prayed that trials might not come His way, but when they did He stayed close to His Father.

So it's not so much about “What would Jesus Do?”... more about trying to replicate “What DID Jesus do?” and build such principles.... with the help of God's Holy Spirit... into out own lifestyles. Nobody ever suggested that was an easy task. Thankfully we do have a Shepherd to guide us!

For reflection and music... a version of Psalm 23 with backgrounds reflecting the beauty of creation. Take a moment and allow God's Creation and Word to speak to your soul.

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.