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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Give us this day...

We continue a sermon series at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church that follows the Hebrew people in their journey towards the promised land. We were thinking last week about how God led the people through the Red Sea and into the desert. Our sermon “Turn of the Tide” can be found here.

This week we discover that being in the desert presented its own unique set of problems. Not least of them was finding enough to eat and drink. Such was the scarcity of natural resources that some of the people began to complain against Moses that they would have been better off if they had never left Egypt.

In the model prayer that Jesus teaches His disciples, the Lord's Prayer, we find Him using the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread.” Some commentators point out that the intention behind the phrase “daily bread” is that we ask God to sufficiently supply our needs on a daily basis... not ask God to give us so much material blessing that we don't have to really on God to provide for us anymore!

This idea of “sufficiency” is not often stressed within our culture. We want to take care of ourselves and the idea of “dependence” is not one that we easily embrace. Yet when it comes to spiritual growth, the last thing we need to seek is the kind of independence which creates a gulf between our self and God. For spiritual growth we need to totally rely on God, upon the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the direction of the Holy Spirit. We also need to travel in the company of others to learn with them, and from them, how to be a community of faith.

As they traveled through the wilderness together, the faith of the Hebrew people was deeply challenged. Could God really supply what they needed every day of their life to get them through? Even in the desert? We read the story in Exodus 16:2-15 and discover how God provided... on a daily basis... meat and bread in the form of quails and manna.

When we travel through difficult days it can be tempting to complain, or even look for somebody to blame. None of us are immune from having a “fair weather only” faith. The sad reality is that disasters and tragedy are no respecter of persons or places but a troublesome part of the fabric of all of our lives.

When we face such times, so often, all we have left is a prayer to carry us through. When everything else is stripped away only then is our true reliance and dependence on God revealed. All of which is a way of saying... be thankful for the daily bread we have already received and let us pray that God will continue to supply what we need to face tomorrow... whatever tomorrow may bring!

For some music “Guide Me Oh Thy Great Redeemer” sung in English and Welsh to the tune 'Cwm Rhondda' by the choirs and congregation of Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, Cardiff. The hymn and tune are often called “Bread of Heaven” due to a line in the hymn. Often used as the informal anthem of Wales, and sung with great fervor at Welsh rugby matches, this was from the B.B.C. program “Songs of Praise” broadcast on 16th September 2012.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Turn of The Tide

Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we continued our sermon series on “Wilderness Living.” Our sermon took a look at the celebration of Passover. (Fast Food to Go). This week we look at the topic “Turn of The Tide” basing our thoughts upon Exodus 14:19-31.

I grew up in the United Kingdom near a place called Hilbre Island. Hilbre Island (pictured above) is a wonderful tiny island situated in the middle of the River Dee between the Wirral Peninsular and Wales. Though only a tiny strip of land, it is home to many rare visiting seabirds and a colony of seals.

I have a friend that still lives in the area who often posts pictures on her Facebook page of the wildlife there. It is only accessible, from the Wirral side, by walking across the sands from West Kirby... at low tide. It was not unusual to find stories like the following in our local newspaper;

A terrified couple stranded in the Dee Estuary by a fast rising tide were rescued thanks to the quick thinking of an off-duty lifeguard. The two adults, who were trying to get to Hilbre Island, became stranded as water from an exceptionally high tide surged past their waists. They had been attempting to walk across to the nature hotspot but “misjudged” the incoming spring tide, HM Coastguard said.
An off-duty lifeguard from Wirral beach patrol spotted the pair in trouble and raised the alarm. A spokeswoman for the Coastguard today said that the lifeguard’s actions 'saved their lives'.

I remember from my own days living in that area just how quickly the tide used to come in and how easy it was to find yourself in a tricky situation! It can be a deadly mistake not to pay attention to shifting tides.

At a later date my wife worked in the administrative department of the “Department of Coastal and Estuarine Studies” of the University of Wales. One of the many jobs of the department was producing the annual “Tide Tables” - a booklet that gave the precise times of the incoming and outgoing tides all around the coastline. This was information of vital importance to island explorers, navigators and anybody who made their livelihood from the sea.

These are days when we see great shifting tides of opinion and understanding. Things we once thought of as certainties are now questioned. The role of religion is no longer such a guiding force in many peoples lives. Behavior we once considered strange is now acceptable. For sure, change isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some things need to change!

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament offer us a form of “Tide-Table” to help us through. Disciplines of corporate worship and personal prayer can help us interpret God's word to our current situation. The tide turns. Always has. Always will.

We are not called to navigate uncharted waters alone. Through community and fellowship, through the “Love of God, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit”... many believe we can find the direction we seek. May God help us all find the resources we need for the living of these days!

For some music a song by “The Fray”called “Changing Tides.” Though the song is about a romantic relationship it could equally be applied to our journey of discipleship.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Don't Forget to Chew!

Don’t forget to chew your food. It’s the first part of the digestion process. A digestive enzyme called amylase, which is found in saliva, starts to break down some of the carbohydrates (starches and sugars) in the food even before it leaves the mouth. As you chew, the saliva begins to mix with the food. Saliva not only helps make the food softer and easier to swallow, but it also helps break down the chemicals in the food. It’s a form of chemical digestion.

That may be an unusual way to start this weeks blog. But here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we are traveling through a sermon series called “Wilderness Living,” and taking a look at the journey the Hebrew people made out of Egypt. Last week we saw the important role Moses had to play in the process. God certainly gave him a lot to chew on! (Our sermon “Holy Ground” can be found here.)

This week we'll be thinking about the Passover meal. While the Passover meal was designed to be eaten “on the go,” it was certainly NOT fast food. There were significant steps that led to it's preparation and the whole experience was designed to be a memorial for all time. Something to chew on, rather than quickly swallowed down. (See Exodus 12:1-14)

This week is also our Sunday School Rally Day, when we kick off a brand new church educational year for our Sunday School. Weather permitting, this Sunday we hope to have an open air service at our beautiful amphitheater and follow it up with a picnic.

The task of Christian Education reminds us that the Holy Scriptures are not soundbites. That we need to take time to chew on God's Word if it is truly going to be a source of energy for our spiritual lives. 

Such is not a message that is particularly popular in our “I want it all and I want it now” culture. But it seems to me, that the best and most memorable things in life, are those that take time to percolate (and as a lover of coffee I know my percolation!)

So don't forget to chew. In digestive terms, you need to chew in order to properly benefit from your food. In spiritual terms you also need to pace yourself. Growth takes time. Learning takes commitment. We can't expect to know all there is to know about God in a few short sound bites. Discipleship is a lifetime journey.

We need not only a healthy diet of prayer, study and worship but also to take our time to digest all that God is seeking to show us. So don't forget to chew!

For some music to chew on... “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by Matt Redman.

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D.