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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Anybody Home?

Last week our Pre-christmas service took the theme “Wow!” (sermon here). After the craziness of Christmas comes that quiet week when we await the arrival of a New Year. Life slowly turns back to some form of normality and we start to think about the future. For anybody involved in the ministry life of a church Christmas (like Easter) can be a little exhausting! People’s expectations can be difficult to predict at any time of the year, but during the churches special seasons, it seems everybody has their own traditions and ways they would like things to be done.

This year here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are using the week in between Christmas and New Year to look at an often glossed over part of the ministry of Jesus, namely His boyhood. Scripture gives us only one account, in Luke2:41-52, of any things that Jesus did as a child.

In many ways He seemed to have been a lad who fulfilled all His parent’s expectations of Him. So when the family took a trip to Jerusalem they were not expecting Him to go walkabout. In fact they trusted Him so much that it was only when they were well on their way home that they even realized He was missing. They are worried. They set out looking for Him and find Him in the temple, asking questions of the religious teachers and astounding them with His knowledge of the ways of God.

When His parents take Him to task for His actions, He appears a little confused. He seems to have thought that they would know exactly where He was. “His mother said to Him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety. "He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

His parents really did not comprehend what He was saying to them. They were simply relieved that they had found Him. Jerusalem, then as now, wasn't the safest place for a 12 year boy to be left unattended. Yet Jesus appears to feel safe and completely at home. He describes the temple as “My Father's house.” We witness in His young life a deep connection with God and a dynamic sense of purpose.

For many of us, we can go through our whole lives never really feeling at home. At home with ourselves. At home with God. At home with each other. Yet when we come together as a community to worship God, our perspective can be drastically changed. We see each other through different eyes. We know ourselves to be beloved children of a heavenly parent. We catch a glimpse of possibilities that had previously been hidden from us.

One of the traditional things to do this time of year is think about New Year’s resolutions. On the basis of this passage a great one to make would be, “2019 is the year I will seek to find my true home in God's love!”


May 2019 be a homecoming year. To God be the glory!

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Wow!

 

Luke 1:37-55 tells us about Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. It was a ‘Wow!” moment. It causes Mary to break into song. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior!” Life brings along ‘Wow!’ moments to us all.

As we approach Christmas, reflect on some of the “Wow!” moments in your own experience. Think about your earliest Christmas memories, your first job, your first kiss or your first car. Remember those times that have taken your breath away. An unexpected surprise. A precious gift. A milestone that has helped you be who you are today.

Think of the way people around you have blessed your life and helped you through the difficult times. Be thankful for the mentors, the teachers, the family members and friends… who often never realized they were having such a profoundly positive influence on your life.

Above all be overwhelmed for a moment as you consider God’s greatest gift… Jesus Christ. Consider the influence that small baby in the manger was to have, the lessons He brought that have changed the world for the better, the teaching He gave that we still strive to follow.

Think on His sacrifice and the promises Scripture makes regarding His death securing our salvation. Reflect on the mystery of His resurrection and the empowering of the Holy Spirit that can be born into your daily life.

And, as you reflect, pause for a moment to consider the ‘Wow!’ factor in all of the blessings that God has invested into our lives. It’s Christmas.

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we have a number of special services to mark the season.

December 20, Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m, we have a "Winter Solstice Service of Remembrance," a time to recall those we have loved and lost and seek comfort for the difficult memories the season can sometimes evoke.

Sunday December 23rd will be an Advent themed worship service at 10:00 a.m. Christmas Eve we have a service of “Lessons, Carols and Candlelight” at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary and at 11:30 p.m. a “Christmas Communion” service in Hebron House.

For some Christmas music... the Mormon Tabernacle sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Christmas Blessings to you all!

Prayer. “Lord, You truly are an awesome God. Thank You for every blessing that has transformed my life and shaped my destiny. Help me never to take such things for granted, but out of thankfulness may I seek to be a means of blessing and joy to others. Amen.”

Rev. Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wild West Christmas

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we celebrated the second Sunday of Advent and took the theme “Outlasting the Energizer Bunny. (sermon here). This coming Sunday, December 16, will witness the annual miracle of the Christmas Nativity play.

It has been my experience, that no matter how prepared or unprepared a church may be for this annual event, there is always an element of surprise and wonder when it all actually comes together. Families and their children are so stretched between the many events and seasonal happenings, that even finding a time to rehearse is a major accomplishment.

On the day, those involved sometimes feel that herding cats may have been a more realistic enterprise than coordinating exactly who does what and wears what and takes the different parts, particularly as it always seems there are numerous last minute changes. A major player comes down with a seasonal bug, a family's travel plans change and now all their children want a part, the costumes for the angels have mysteriously disappeared and nobody knows where they may be. Organized chaos.

Our script this year has a Western theme and features characters such as “Wild Bill Hiccup” and “Claire the Calamity Kid.” And of course there will be much singing of carols and appearances by Joseph and Mary as we celebrate a very special birth. There may well be shepherds and wise folk... you just never know!

When you consider what Scripture tells us about the very first Christmas, the chaos that surrounds the annual Nativity play can remind us that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, from a human standpoint, was certainly not a carefully orchestrated affair.

An unexpected census. The disruption of having to travel across the country to register in your home town. An imminent birth. No room at the Inn. Bedding down for the night and placing a new born baby in an animal's feeding trough. Shepherds traveling through the night talking about hearing angels songs and welcoming a Savior. Wise guys from afar bearing gifts. Crazy!

Yet from a heavenly perspective the timing was perfect. This was how the Savior was to be born. This was when the Savior was to be born. This was where the Savior was to be born. God planned it. The angels announced it. Every nuance of the story reflects God's concern for those that the world often fails to see. What appears to be just another birth in some random corner of creation turns out to be a revelation of God's glory.

My Christmas prayer for all the Nativity presentations that will take place in sanctuaries across the globe is that they may achieve the same purpose. That they may reveal afresh the love of God. As it says in the script of our particular play... “Y'all have a very merry Christmas, ya hear?”

For some seasonal music a children's choir sing “Away in a Manger.”

God Bless.

Rev. Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Outlasting the Energizer Bunny


The Christmas season. So much to do! Extra responsibilities to deal with. It is easy to become exhausted by it all. Last Sunday, on the first Sunday of Advent we were thinking about “Looking Down the Road.” (sermon here). On the second Sunday of Advent we'll be thinking about about Isaiah 40:1-11, and taking as a theme “Outlasting the Energizer Bunny.”

My adapted version of Isaiah 40 verse 8 reads; "The Grass Withers, the flower fades, the energizer bunny eventually runs out of gumption; but the Word of our God will stand for ever."

Our mortality cannot be avoided. The clock keeps ticking. Even the energizer bunny has a battery that eventually dies. How do we build stuff into our lives that has a lasting quality? Here's a few suggestions gleaned from Isaiah's words of wisdom.
Welcome life’s seasons. We are all just passing through this life. We need to make the most of every step of the journey. Embrace every stage of life for what it is! Each season carries its own special beauty. Every day brings its particular challenges. We recharge our batteries by acknowledging that “This is the day that the Lord has made."
Build on God’s Word. According to Isaiah the only thing that really lasts for ever is not the Energizer bunny, but the Word of God. There is all sort of stuff we can build our hopes on, but a lot of it ultimately leaves us flat. When we seek to apply the principles of God’s Word to our daily lives then it really makes a difference.

If we seek for our lives to be molded by the teaching of the One, who came to us as a baby in a stable in Bethlehem all those centuries ago, then we are allowing principles and forces and dynamics, with eternal reverberations, to shape who we are and what our life will be and where our lives will take us.
Accept the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to make this journey alone. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send His Holy Spirit to be their helper and their guide. We fall and fail time after time. By God’s love we are forgiven and renewed. By God’s Spirit our batteries are recharged and... we… saved by grace through faith… can outlast energizer bunnies!

For some music, the Advent Carol “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” sung by Red Mountain Music.

Prayer: "
Lord in this season of Advent we can become over tired and down hearted. Our strength and patience can run out. Help us to take the time to build into our lives the eternal principles of Your Word and to turn to You for the renewing power of Your Holy Spirit to refresh and renew our lives for Your Service." Amen.
 
Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Look Down The Road

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are on the road to Christmas and travelling through the season of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent we'll be looking at Jeremiah 33:14-16.

Jeremiah is a forward looking prophet who was travelling through some difficult days. He realized that things would get worse before they would get better. When we are in such situations, where can we find hope? Here are a couple of Jeremiah’s suggestions.

Realize that God never gives up on us.

The people were well aware that their desperate circumstances were the result of their own failure. God had spoken but they hadn’t listened. God had directed them and they had headed in the opposite direction. God had called and they had searched for another voice to follow. What they had not realized was that God never gives up on God’s people.

It is the same for us. We mess up time after time. We know the right, yet do the wrong. We get ourselves into situations where we can point the finger of blame at nobody other than ourselves. At such times it is good to remember that though we may just about be ready to give up on ourselves, God never gives up on us. God is always ready to restore us and renew our lives.

Rely on God, not on our own efforts. 

Recall Jeremiah’s words of hope to his hopeless ones. 'Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safely. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” '(Jeremiah 33:16)

Salvation would come to the people, not because of their own efforts, but because of what God would do. Though they couldn’t see it, the time they were travelling through was not their final destination. They are to look down the road and anticipate God’s deliverance.

Likewise, as we travel through difficult days God calls us to look down the road and see the possibilities that form if we allow His Spirit to lead us and guide us. No instant fix is offered, but through sticking with God real change can come. We can join with Jeremiah in declaring “The LORD is our righteousness.”

For some music the traditional Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” sing by Pentatonix.

Prayer: Lord when times are hard, or we have messed up once again, we find it hard to trust in You. Remind us that You never give up on us. Teach us to rely on You, not on ourselves for our salvation. Be our righteousness and so help us to look down the road of our lives with anticipation and hope. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thanksgiving

 
 Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church the pastor is taking some time out to be with family and is very thankful for visiting ministers who fill the pulpit while he is gone. This Sunday we welcome a return visit from Commissioned Lay Pastor Ledonia Kimball!
 
Rather than our usual reflection here are some quotes... and some music to enjoy while you browse through them.

Music... Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "Come Ye Thankful People come"

And here's some quotes...

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” (Oprah Winfrey)

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

“Our rural ancestors, with little blest, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain.” (Alexander Pope)

“He who thanks but with the lips, Thanks but in part; The full, the true Thanksgiving Comes from the heart.” (J.A. Shedd)

“Drink and be thankful to the host! What seems insignificant when you have it, is important when you need it.” (Franz Grillparzer)

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” (Melody Beattie)

“Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!” (Henry Ward Beecher)

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” (E.P. Powell)
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John Fitzgerald Kennedy)

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” (W.T. Purkiser)

“Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life… a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year — and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God.” (Ray Stannard Baker)

Happy Thanksgiving to all...

Rev Adrian Pratt.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Don't Be Alarmed


There is a song by the band “The Eagles” that speaks about how "In a New York minute, everything can change.” If you have ever visited the 911 Memorial site in Manhattan you will know that it is a poignant reminder of the truth of such a statement.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we talked about a Widow's mite. (Sermon here). This week our bible reading is from Mark 13:1-8. Jesus speaks to His disciples of how even the great temple that they were admiring would one day soon be nothing but rubble, a prophecy that came true when the Romans ransacked Jerusalem in AD70.

Holding onto faith in the midst of a world that often seems to spiral out of control is a challenge for believers of any generation. But Jesus suggests a way through.

Don’t be led astray. In every age there are those who seek to provide us with the answers that will save us all. Atheists suggest religion is the problem, politicians blame each other, economists blame the market, and everybody has an opinion! The challenge for anybody seeking to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to allow His truth to be the lens through which we view all other beliefs.

Don’t be alarmed. There has yet to be an age that has not been characterized by wars, rumors of wars and other such disastrous events. Such has always been the way of the world, and will continue to be so. Reformed theology relates the chaos to the inherent sinfulness of our human condition.

Notice how when a crisis comes along there is always somebody to say; "Here’s yet another sign that the end is near!" Jesus strongly suggests that we need to take care interpreting signs of the times lest we reach the wrong conclusions. The amusing series of books by Douglas Adams; “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” offer a great perspective. Every volume is marked with the words "Don’t Panic!" Panic is not helpful. Trusting that God is in control is a better option.

Do be alert. Whilst encouraged to find our peace in God, we are also cautioned to be awake to the changes that are around us. If we are going to put our faith in something, better put it in something that is tried, tested and true.

The Christian gospel has proved remarkably resilient. A personal faith in Jesus Christ provides resources that cannot be found elsewhere. God’s Spirit can bring to the center of our existence a hope that transforms our worldview and helps guide us through the maze.

For sure others will come suggesting they have a better way.
For sure there will be wars and rumors of wars.
For sure nothing stays the same. Even temples turn back to dust.
In the midst of a changing world Jesus invites us to hold fast to His love!

For some music Vertical Worship sing “Yes I Will

Prayer: ‘Lord let us not be led astray, let us not be alarmed. Keep us in Your love and guide us through the changing circumstances we encounter each day. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Widows Mite


It’s one of those stories that whenever you hear it you can’t help but be challenged. The one where the rich person drops some money in the collection box, then along comes a poor widow who puts only two pennies in. Jesus asks the people who gave the most? The answer is found in Mark 12:38-44, the biblical passage and we'll be looking at together in our worship service this coming Sunday. (Last weeks sermon “The Most Important Thing” can be found here)

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are in the middle of our Stewardship season. The lectionary passage for the day reminds us that however we give, it's not about portions. So what it is about? Well… … mostly... THANKSGIVING! (Which conveniently is also the next celebration that will gather families together across the nation). And most of us have a lot to be thankful for.

Even if we didn’t have a lot to be thankful for;
  • as may have been the case with the widow…
  • or certainly was the case with the prophet Habakkuk who declared the crops had failed and the cattle had died… (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)
  • and even those hardy pilgrims who after sailing on the Mayflower faced trouble, trouble and more trouble… still we are invited to join with the prophets prayer...
"Yet, I will exult in the Lord, I will be thankful, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength."

Giving is a spiritual practice and an expression of a life that knows itself touched by the Grace of God. It is not a duty but a delight. It is not a requirement but a heart response to the love of God. It’s not about ‘making a donation’ but has everything to do with ‘overflowing with thankfulness.’

November 11 2018 also marks the one hundreth anniversary of the first World War which came to an end "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month." In many countries they will observe a minutes silence at 11:00 a.m. to remember the end of the war and to honor those who died. We also will observe a time of silence to honor veterans of all conflicts during our prayer time in morning worship.

A part of many remembrance services in the U.K. are words from the poem “For the Fallen” written by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), and published in “The Times” newspaper on 21 September 1914. “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.” 
 
The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force suffered great casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army. 
 

Jesus once said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) As we recall the sacrifices others have made for our freedoms, the tenacity of pilgrims and the example of the widow Jesus spoke of in the temple, surely we have cause to overflow with thanksgiving!

Prayer: Lord, in my heart of hearts I know I have so much to be thankful for. Help me to express my thanksgiving in ways that bring joy to others and which help to grow Your Kingdom. Teach me to be a faithful steward of all that You have blessed my life with. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, October 15, 2018

What Do You Want?

I spent some fruitful days this past week, taking some time out for study leave, with a group of worship leaders and contemporary writers, some older, some still in college days, in the wonderful Tennessee countryside. Some were just trying to improve their skills to do a better job at what they already do. Others were setting their sights high and wondering how to get publishing deals and have their material more widely known.

It was inspiring to talk with them about their hopes and dreams. I have no doubt some will do very well in their given fields. They certainly seemed to have the energy and drive to achieve what they want. It all raises questions, such as “What do we want out of life?” “How do we get there?” and, maybe most importantly; “Is what we want... really the best thing for us?”

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian our reading from Mark was all about camels and needles. (Sermon here). Our reading this coming Sunday will be from Mark 10:35-45. It’s a passage in which James and John make clear to Jesus what they would like to see happen in their lives. They are aiming high. They request to be seated at Jesus side when He comes to reign in power and glory. That's high! This passage speaks to us about a number of things.

1. It speaks to us about prayer. Our prayers can be self-focused rather than God focused. We tell God what we think God should give us. Sometimes we are even “James and John-like” in that we have a sense that we deserve to have our requests answered in the way we feel they should be. That is not really praying. Prayer is seeking what God desires for our lives and seeking the strength to achieve it. Of course we pray about our needs, but we need to first discern the difference between needs and wants.

2. This passage speaks about perseverance. Jesus asks the disciples if they are capable of drinking the cup that He will have to drink. His life is about to be submerged into deep suffering. They desire a crown, but fail to see that Christ’s glory came through a Cross. The Christian life does offer great things. But they do not often come easy. Spiritual life is the long haul option.

3. This passage is also about pride. There was a song some years ago that proclaimed; “Everybody wants to rule the world.” (Or at least their small corner of it.) Jesus us calls to the abandonment of our quest for personal gain and towards embracing a servant lifestyle that keeps the needs of others always in our minds eye. Now... that is not easy. It doesn’t grab the attention in the way winning a race or gaining a promotion may do. But such is our calling as disciples.

For some music a song by Cory Asbury titled “Reckless Love.” The song has the line in the chorus “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God” and reminds us that when our ambitions are harnessed to the love of God, God promises to be with us, wherever the journey may lead.

Prayer. “Lord Your Word invites us to consider what we want from You. By asking the question it challenges us to consider our motives. Teach us how to pray in a way that sets our life on the path You wish us to follow. Through Your Holy Spirit preserve and protect us on our journey. Save us from the kind of misplaced pride that takes away our desire to serve others. All these things we ask in our Saviors name, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D

Monday, September 24, 2018

Who's In Charge?

 
Last Sunday during worship here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were thinking about the question “Who's the Greatest?” Our sermon can be found here. This week we are asking “Who's in Charge?”

In Mark 9:38-50 the disciple John comes upon a group of religious people doing the work of God. He has never come across them or heard of them before. He overhears them praying, and they are using the words; “In Jesus name.” This makes him mad.

Who did they think they were? He was the disciple! What right did they have to be doing disciple stuff? How dare they use the name of Jesus to work miracles, when they hadn't been through the kind of training he had been through! Preposterous!

Some Musings.

1. Today we’d probably call John’s problem a control issue. Somebody was in his space, operating in his personal domain and he did not like it. Maybe we can identify areas or issues in our own experience where we feel threatened because we feel that the particular area is all about us. Jesus suggests to John that it is never all about us. That it’s all about God and God’s purposes being done.

2. This passage also gives us what critics suggest, are some of the harshest words ever spoken by Jesus. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” Plainly this is not a passage to be interpreted literally! A less dramatic way of interpreting these verses, about cutting off hands and gouging out eyes, would be to say; “If something is damaging your life, cut it out!” As I will suggest in our sermon this coming Sunday, Jesus is here saying, ‘John, if you want to control something, then work on controlling your self!”

3. The passage closes with a call for Christians to ‘Have salt in themselves, and be at peace with one another.’ Salt back then was used for seasoning and preservation. When a person has a sense of their own worth before God and a desire to live in the will of God they exert a positive influence on those around them. They are not afraid to seek peace. They look for the image of God in others. That's how the Kingdom grows and changes the world. It's the little grains, the little things we do, that make a huge difference. Who's in charge? Sometimes we just have to let go and “Let God.”

Prayer: “Lord we all have control issues. Help us to realize that it’s not all about us and allow You greater room to move in and through our lives. Where we are involved in practices that may be damaging to ourselves or others, help us to take Your advice and ‘cut it out. Teach us what it means to be ‘salt’ in our world and live at peace with one another. Amen.”

For some music Stuart Townend and Keith Getty offer a song called “Jesus is Lord.” (Which includes some tasty lead guitar... never a bad thing in my book!) This little blog will be taking a couple of weeks break as I'm taking some study time away from home. But I shall return! God Bless.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.




Monday, September 17, 2018

Who is the Greatest?


Fans of the boxer Muhammad Ali would be familiar with his catch-phrase "I am the greatest." And maybe he was the greatest boxer whoever entered the ring. He was certainly one of the most charismatic and memorable.

In the world of popular music it seems there is an obsession with greatness. Some say Elvis Presley was the greatest singer to ever grace the stage, others say the Beatles were the greatest band to ever have a musical career, but others point to different megastars and other styles of music in defining their greatest hits.

If we were to get into a debate about who the greatest actor or actress was, what the greatest movie ever made might be, what the greatest car ever manufactured could be, we would come up with a multitude of conflicting opinions.

If we delved into politics, and asked “Who is the greatest president to have ever served the United States?” we can already hear rumbles of disagreement across the landscape! It all begs the question of what criteria we should even use to measure greatness. Is there a “Rule of Greatness”or “Scale of Success” upon which we can balance and quantify conflicting claims of supremacy?

We often measure greatness in terms of personal achievement. The great ones are the ones who have become noticed and the ones whose names we all remember. Even in our own lives we can fall prey to seeing our own greatest moments as those when we were the center of attention or the most noticed. Jesus seemed to suggest that greatness was none of the above!

Last week here at Mount Hebron we were thinking about Jesus as being the Messiah, the “Great one of God.” Our sermon can be found here. This week we are musing about greatness and looking at Mark 9:30-37. In this passage the disciples are arguing about “Who is the greatest?” Jesus overhears them.

He then redefines the notion of greatness by placing a child before them, and telling us "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." Such an action can direct our thoughts in new directions.

1. Think of the people you most admire. What are the qualities that inspire you about their lives? How do those qualities match up with the qualities of greatness that Jesus spoke of?

2. We are called to have a childlike (but not a childish) faith in God. Where in our life are we living like a child of God? Where may we need to make some changes?

3. "Then Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "
If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35.) What might it mean to place our selves last of all? In what ways are we expressing our service to God both in our personal life and in the life of our community? 
 
For some music “How Great is our God” by Chris Tomlin.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What Sort of Messiah?

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were looking at an account where Jesus ministered to a man who had been born blind. Our sermon from the day “Touched by God” can be found here. This week, we'll be considering how one of the consistent ways that the New Testament speaks of Jesus is to describe Him as the “Messiah.” This was a loaded term, filled with expectation.

In Mark 8:27-38 the expectations that the disciples have for Jesus, as the Messiah, appear very different to those that Jesus lays before them. They seem to be expecting somebody to take away all their woes and bring them to some significant position of worldly prestige. Instead Jesus proclaims; "The Messiah must go through great suffering. Even the elders and religious authorities will reject Him. He will be killed and in three days rise again."

In an age where there are a host of T.V preachers who proclaim a gospel of personal prosperity and blessing, the idea that the Kingdom may involve something more than making a donation and receiving a blessing, certainly needs re-iterating. We easily forget that most of the first disciples followed the example of Jesus and became martyrs for the cause they believed in.

That there are benefits... real benefits... from embracing the message of the Kingdom is true, but those blessings are not in terms that can be measured from the standpoint of the values of this world. I suspect that is always the case when love comes into the picture. People will do unexpected things for the cause of love, and the love of God seems no exception to that rule.

Time after time Jesus goes beyond our expectations, throws us a curved ball and everything becomes pear shaped! Things do not become easier when He lays down the requirements for true discipleship.

Take a moment to think on each of these invitations Jesus offers. Maybe we could prayerfully seek for God to show us how these verses apply to our own situation.

"If any want to be my followers let them take up their cross and follow me." "Lord, what does taking up a Cross look like for me in my life, right now? What are the things I need to do today that will enable me more faithfully to follow You?"

"For those who seek to save their life will lose it, yet those who lose their life for me and the Gospel will save it." "Lord… help me discern the things I need to let go of in order for Your love to truly be in charge!"

"For what do you gain if you gain the whole world and lose your life?" “Lord… teach me to place greater value on the things that outlast this life, rather than be consumed by the passing things of the moment.”

For some music the Maranatha Singers offer us "The Servant Song

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ephphatah

 

Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about matters of the hearts. Our sermon from the day, “Heart of Righteousness” can be found here.
We are following series called “Mark My Words” and in worship this coming Sunday our reading will be from Mark 7:24-37. This passage features two stories about individuals ... touched by God. The first story concerns an interaction with a Gentile women’s daughter, that reveals her to have a deep faith. The second story is an account of Jesus healing a man born deaf and mute. Jesus uses the unfamiliar phrase “Ephphatah” (meaning "Be Opened") to speak to the mans condition.

The first account is an encouragement for us to be open to find faith in unexpected people and places. The woman is described as a Gentile. Jesus plays on this fact, even using for her a derogatory term that some Jews used for such folk, calling her a “dog.” She totally turns the phrase around and reminds Him that even the puppies under the table were able to enjoy the crumbs! Acknowledging her as a lady of great faith, Jesus responds, and healing comes into the situation.

The second passage concerns the healing of a deaf/mute man. Jesus takes him aside, and prays (with a sigh) "‘Ephphatah,’ which as we’ve seen means, "Be opened." Once again healing comes into the situation.

In an age when spiritual concerns are often marginalized and many church congregations have witnessed more prosperous days, we would do well to "Be opened." To stretch our faith and believe that this is a time when God is still working in unexpected ways through unexpected people in unexpected places.

I find it comforting that Jesus makes His prayer with a sigh. We all have days when we look around and sigh! How much easier things would be if there were a comprehensive, one size fits all blueprint to follow. Even a cursory reading of scripture reveals that the spiritual quest has never worked that way.

Should we wish to apply this passage to our own lives, there are a number of questions it raises for us.
  • Are there situations where we have very little expectation of God working?
  • Where are we in need of ‘being opened’?
  • What is there in our lives that would cause Jesus to “sigh?”
  • To what or to whom are we blind?
  • Where should we be speaking out instead of remaining mute?
For some music “Open the Eyes of My Heart” by Michael W. Smith. A Prayer: “Lord, in our lives together and in our individual journeys of faith, guide us to be opened to the possibilities of change and renewal that Your love can bring. Amen.”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Heart of the Matter

Life always places before us a whole panorama of choices. We sometimes make the right choices, for all the wrong reasons and can also make the wrong choices for what seemed to us to be the very best of reasons! In 1941 the author Graham Greene wrote a book titled “The Heart of the Matter.” It tells the story of Scobie, a flawed, yet religious man, haunted by his choices and who wrestles with how his own actions touch upon the happiness of others.

He loses his son and is overcome with grief. He embarks on an affair with another woman after his wife Louise moves away. In the end he takes his own life. One suspects his suicide is because he feels that the world would be a happier place without him. At the end of the novel Scobie's priest, Father Rank, says of him, “It may seem an odd thing to say—when a man’s as wrong as he was—but I think, from what I saw of him, that he really loved God.” His spurned wife Louise replies: “He certainly loved no one else.”

It's the kind of novel that raises many questions about faith and life and human failings. Ultimately it leaves you to make your own conclusions. When I read it I couldn't help but think of the relationship Jesus had with the Pharisees of His day. Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about persevering in our faith journeys. (Our sermon “Winner or Quitter?) can be found here.

Our bible passages for this coming Sunday (Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23) talk about a confrontation Jesus has with the Pharisees that begins with a conversation about hand washing. The Pharisees suggest to Jesus and His disciples they were not doing things the right way.

It seems they were the sorts of folk who really wanted to do the right thing. But somehow, by focusing on rules and regulations, they lost sight of the most important law of all, the rule of love. They picked on the outward details of a persons life, like hand washing rituals, but ignored the pressing needs of folk around them who really needed help, including their own families. Their quest for righteousness had actually led them away from God, rather than to know God.

Their religion had subtly allowed self interest to overcome their concern for others. Maybe of them it could also be said that, though they appeared to love God, they “Certainly loved no one else.” Jesus, teaching the crowds who thronged around Him, tells them; “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” It is these evil intentions, all of them in some way related to self gratification, rather than another persons good, that defile a persons life.

Righteousness, it seems isn't just about doing the right thing, it's about being in a right relationship with both God and neighbor. When asked to sum up the law of God Jesus clearly stated that the two foundational commands were to “Love God” and “To love our neighbor.”

We are all flawed individuals. We all seek acceptance and love but fall prey to compromise and messing things up! Jesus offers us a wonderful sense of balance in suggesting that loving God and each other should always be held together.

For some music... a song called “Purify my Heart,”written by Eugene Greco.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Never Give Up!


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about “Real Meat.” (The sermon from the day can be found here). In our bible passage for this coming Sundays service, John 6:56-69, Jesus offers the people some difficult teaching.

Many, who came flocking when free bread was on offer, are now turning away from Him. Jesus continues to lay down the challenge, asking those closest to Him if they also were going to hit the road and quit! Peter gives the reply: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.

We may have to travel through days of decline before we see growth.

It seems crazy that somebody seeking followers would be acting in such a way as to drive people away from Him! Yet with hindsight we see how Jesus was sorting out the true followers from the fair weather ones. Stormy days were ahead and disciples whose faith was not genuine would be lost.

Spiritual growth has those times when we seem like we are taking more steps backward than we are forging forward. God has to weed out of our lives habits or tendencies that further down the road may cause us to lose our devotion. Times of dryness or struggle are not necessarily a sign of a lack of faith. There are times when faith only grows by being put to the test.

Knowing who and what we believe is so important

Peter’s confession reveals that he had truly grasped the significance of who Jesus was:- the Holy One of God who gave to his life an eternal dimension that he could never find anywhere else. The routines of bible study and prayer are a discipline to help us deepen our relationship with God. They remind us of who God is and what we are called to do. When we let such disciplines go by the wayside, our faith suffers and we start searching for other things to be our ‘daily bread’.

Our calling is to be faithful.

In a culture where everybody has more of everything than they could ever need, being a disciple (and calling others to discipleship) is never going to be easy. Yet we must persevere. Why? We have the words of eternal life. We have the message of Jesus Christ’s love for all people. We have something to offer that people can’t find anywhere else.

When Jesus started to make discipleship a challenge there were some who decided to call it a day. Yet scripture reveals story after story of folk who understood that 'You'll never be a winner, if you are going to be a quitter.” 

From Old Testament stories, like that of Noah, whose whole family thought he was crazy to act upon the idea that a great flood might be coming, to New Testament disciples like Paul, who spent so much of his life headed in the wrong direction that you'd think he could never be turned around... we see time after time, the importance of sticking at the business of discipleship!

For some musicNever Give Up” from the album 'Stir A Passion' recorded live at The Gathering 2017 conference.

Prayer “Lord, we would like our spiritual journeys to be plain sailing. Yet we are very much aware that it doesn’t work that way. You want to dig deep down into our motives and desires and we don’t always want to go there! You call us to depend on You for all things, yet we go seeking other sources of daily bread. Help us never to quit our spiritual journey. Bring us to that place of confession where we can say with Peter “Lord, To whom else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. Amen”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Real Meat

 
As a child growing up in the United Kingdom, there was always a great choice in food that we could eat. Chicken, Lamb and Pork were regular features on the dinner plate. Beef, though a traditional dish (often served with something known as 'Yorkshire Pudding') was seen as something of a luxury we saved for special occasions. We very rarely had steak. A driving factor in that decision was simply the fact that, at that time in the U.K, beef was expensive!

I recall, after we moved to West Virginia over 20 years ago, being invited to a neighboring ministers house for a Barb-Q. We were astonished when he pulled out, what to us, were these huge steaks of beef and proceeded to cook them on the grill. Honestly, we had never seen steaks that size before in our lives. In addition, not long before we left the U.K., there had been a health scare that had made beef even less available.

A visitor from the homelands, after I had described the experience to him, said that it sounded like I was getting some “Real Meat.” 'Real Meat' in the sense that here was something to get your teeth into and chew down upon.

Last Sunday, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we were thinking about Jesus being “The Bread Man” (sermon here). This coming Sunday we'll be looking at a passage from John 6:51-55, in which Jesus uses the phrase “For my flesh is meat indeed.” (King James Version). These are strange words if you take them out of context! Most bible commentators see this phrase as being related both to communion and to the message that Jesus gave to His disciples.

There is something about the gospel message that needs to be chewed upon and digested, before it starts making a difference in our lives. Part of the process happens as we meet with others in worship to break bread and share a communal cup. The other part takes place as we individually seek to apply to our hearts and minds the gospel message.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews complained that he couldn’t give those he wrote for “Real Meat.” “You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Understanding the message Jesus has given us takes time. It's not something that comes to us in a single serving. It's deep. It's meaty. It's a life long journey. The challenge is to discover the “Real Meat” of the gospel, in such a way as we no longer see the need to feast upon the shallow things and empty messages that often surround our daily lives.

Only Jesus claims to be able to fully satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts and lives. So for some music; “In Christ Alone” by Adrienne Liesching and Geoff Moore. “Real Meat!”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bread of Life

 

As I write this our Vacation Bible School program “Shipwrecked” is in full swing. The mornings have been filled with songs, games, activities and a host of lively children and attentive leaders. My thanks go to each and everyone of them.

Last Sunday, during worship ,we were thinking about “Every Day Miracles.” Feels like we are witnessing many during our week of VBS. (Our sermon can be found here). This coming Sunday, August 12, we will be looking at John 6:35,41-51, a passage where Jesus speaks of Himself as being “The Bread of Life.”

As the activity of the week has rolled by, we have been aware of our need for food to fuel our activity. The energy level soon drops if we sense a need to eat! Thank goodness snacks are a part of the morning VBS routine, so our needs have been well catered for.

Bread is such a staple of our diets. It has been that way for many, many years. Bread makes up a significant part of the daily diet of people around the world. Every culture seems to have their own unique take on bread: baguettes, pitas, naan, challah, matzo, tortillas, biscuits, focaccia…even mass-produced, pre-sliced, American white bread lining the grocery store shelves in branded cellophane.

Bread symbolizes our need of sustenance, and features regularly in Scripture. The Israelites in Egypt, were instructed to bake their bread without yeast at the Passover when God saved them from slavery. God provides them manna—bread from heaven—as they wander through the wilderness Bread demonstrates God’s love and care for people: God knows what we need, and God provides for us.

Jesus uses bread in His teachings, parables, and miracles. When tempted by the Devil to turn stones into food, Jesus responded by quoting scripture: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

We are familiar with the phrase in His model prayer... “Give us this day our daily bread.” We were thinking a few Sundays ago about how Jesus broke bread and provided enough for 5,000 hungry folk to be satisfied.

In this weeks passage Jesus refers to Himself as bread; “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus—God in human flesh—knows our physical and spiritual hungering. Jesus knows that we need bread for sustenance: He is our Daily Bread, the Bread from Heaven.

When we are hungry, bread satisfies. God provided bread for God's people throughout their history, supplying for them in their need and when they could not provide for themselves. At the last supper, Jesus speaks to His disciples “This is my body…take and eat.” We are encouraged to feast our lives on the love God provides.

It's been a busy week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian. God has provided everything we needed and there has been a sense of satisfaction in what we have achieved. That's how it is when we trust God to lead us and guide us! May we continue to grow in the knowledge of our wonderful God, who sustains us and feeds us for the adventures of God's kingdom. That way, spiritual life never becomes stale!

For some music Steve Angrisano sings “Bread of Life”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Shipwrecked!

 

Beginning Monday August 6 Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church hosts their annual Vacation Bible School. The theme this year is “Shipwrecked” and the curriculum looks at the many ways that Jesus rescues us from the troubles of our lives. VBS is always an exciting week, that brings us together as a church and reaches many in our community.

The theme song for this year declares 'Through every storm of life, I know You're by my side, so I'm holding on to Your promises. You are the God who holds my future, all my dreams, so I am holding on. You never let go of me!” These are encouraging words for both participants and leaders. We never know exactly what life is going to bring our way, but we can know that God can be trusted to guide us and lead us.

Last week during our worship service we were thinking about thankfulness. Our sermon “5000 Thankful Folk” can be found here. On August 5, before VBS week starts, we will be gathering around a table laid with bread and wine and thinking about a passage from John 6:27-35. In this passage Jesus reminds the crowds of the miracle their ancestors had witnessed in the wilderness, when God provided for their hunger and manna came down from heaven.

The crowds are anxious for some new miracle to be performed before their eyes, but Jesus is telling them that miracles were all around them, if only they could open their eyes and see them. The greatest miracle of them all, that of Jesus Himself, was right in their midst, but they seemed unable to comprehend that He truly was the answer to their searching.

Last week some of our youth attended the Trinity Youth Conference at Camp Living Waters in Pennsylvania. From speaking with them, I know that every day they were there, they experienced God's blessings through the staff and through interaction with their peers. It's always an amazing week where the presence of God seems to break through in unexpected ways.

My prayer for all our gatherings of worship, and for our VBS program, is that we will be very aware of God's presence in our midst. That this discovery will enable us to be more awake to the every day possibilities that God opens up to us.

For sure we have those times when we feel 'all at sea', or even feel totally shipwrecked. There are times when we feel we can't be of much help, but that we need to be helped ourselves. At precisely such times we are reminded that the mission of God, through the love of Jesus and the presence of good people around us, is to rescue us and help us through.

Wherever the coming days find us I pray we will try and remain open to the possibility of every day miracles. For some music, our VBS theme song written by Jay Stocker and titled, “Never Let Go Of Me.”

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Not Accepted in the Homelands

Last week in worship here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about “Jesus the Healer.” This week we'll be taking a look at Mark 6:1-13, a passage in which Jesus preaches to His home crowd... and does not receive a good reception. The text tells us that He could do no “works of power” among them and that “He was amazed at their unbelief.

There is a saying that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The oldest known use of the phrase comes in 'The Tale of Melibee' one of 'The Canterbury Tales' written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1386. Over the years the phrase has had a number of applications.

The most common one is when we don't recognize what an amazing person somebody is, because we happen to see them every day. Such a sentiment can even apply to things we own. Our close acquaintance blinds us to the value of what we have. As Jesus explains in our passage from Mark, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country.

When applied to things we own, such as tools, or engaging in dangerous activities, we discount the danger, because we are used to it. We fail to remain safe by forgetting to be respectful of the harm that can come from our familiar tools or our familiar activities.

An example I read about was the farmer who raises corn and shreds it before blowing it up into the top of the silo. The shredder frequently gets jammed. Routinely un-jamming it every day makes the farmer careless, until they, or one of their worker,s gets a hand caught and shredded. Apparently in rural communities this is not a rare occurrence. Over-familiarity can be dangerous.

If a boss is over-familiar with his workers, (or vice versa) they may lose the necessary degree of respect that makes the working environment work! In Nazareth that day, Jesus could not do the work He was called to do among the people. They dismiss His authority by saying, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James....(and all the rest of the family)?

Maybe the most dismissive place of all to place limits on what God can do, is the arena of our own lives. We simply can't believe that God do anything wonderful in the heartlands of our daily activities. We limit the work of God's Spirit because we dismiss the possibility of any real change happening in such a familiar place as our every day experience.

Because of familiarity, Jesus was not accepted in His homelands. He couldn't work wonders because they assumed that nothing good ever happened in their neighborhood. Let us try not to make the same mistake in our own lives. Let us be open to the possibilities that exist, even in the midst of the familiar. Let us not dismiss our lives, our families, our church, or our community as being a place where Jesus can work the miracle of Kingdom building. 

For some music Hawk Nelson sing “He Still Does (Miracles)

Note: Blog is taking a months vacation. Musings will resume in August

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Healing

 
Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we were thinking about stormy days and had a sermon titled “With Jesus in the Boat...” (Sermon here). This week we move onto consider one of the most significant aspects of the work of Jesus … His healing ministry.

It is a ministry that the church has sought to continue, through prayer, through establishing and supporting medical services and being a community where mutual support can be experienced. Many hospitals recognize the importance of a spiritual dimension to the healing process and employ chaplains of various religious traditions to assist in their work.

I was reminded of the advances that science has made during the time my daughter was recently pregnant. When the baby tried to come early, they were able to slow things down. When baby did decide he could wait no longer, my daughter experienced a traumatic delivery, losing a couple of pints of blood in the process.

The medical team and doctors successfully managed the whole procedure and daughter and baby are both fine. I couldn't help but reflect, that had this been thirty or forty years ago, the outcome could have been much less favorable, and the possibility of losing both a daughter and grandson would have been real. I feel very blessed to be living in age where miracles take place daily in our hospitals. Who knows what advances we may yet see in the future!

I am blessed to live in a nation that has such wonderful medical facilities. Recognizing and supporting those who seek to bring such blessings to those less fortunate than ourselves is an ongoing mission of the church. Many Mission organizations exist, such as the PC(USA) Medical Benevolence Foundation, who have supported healing ministries and programs in over 100 hospitals and clinics throughout the world since 1964.

Likewise, in this nation, working for reform and change in the healthcare system, so all receive adequate access to the best care possible, whatever their ability to pay or their demographic location, remains a concern of the whole Christian community.

I am also a great believer in prayer. I truly don't know how it works. In the reading that we will be looking at on Sunday, (Mark 5:21-43) a woman, who is described as having “suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years, receives healing when Jesus declares “Your faith has made you whole!

Scripture encourages us to lay all our needs before God and trust that God will meet us in the midst of those needs. Such does not grant to us immunity from disease, nor is a guarantee of everlasting youth. St Paul talks about how the physical body ages and the tent in which we dwell eventually passes away. He also encourages us to see our bodies as temples of God's Spirit and care for them like they were sacred places.

Over my years in ministry I have witnessed some truly miraculous changes in peoples health, that the doctors were not able to fully explain. I've also known that for some, their true healing was to depart this life in the hope of an eternity where tears and pain and suffering are no more.

So... be thankful for this age in which we live. Take care of your physical self, your emotional self and your spiritual self. Pray for another. Trust that God knows our needs and the needs of those we pray for. Trust that faith can make us whole. Trust God, that at the end of all things, God's love has the last word.

For some music, Michael W. Smith sings “Healing Rain.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Facing The Storm

 
Gil Fronsdal, a spiritual director and teacher, invites her readers to contemplate the following story.

“Imagine two people setting out to cross a large lake, each in a small rowboat. The first sets out on a clear day with the lake surface still and flat like a mirror; a gentle breeze and a steady current push the boat from behind. Each time the oars are dipped into the water, the boat shoots across the lake. Rowing is easy and delightful. Quickly the person reaches the far side of the lake. The rower may congratulate herself for being quite skilled.

The second person heads out across the same lake during a great storm. Powerful winds, currents, and waves move in the direction opposite the boat. With each pull of the oars, the boat barely moves forward, only to lose most of the distance gained when the oars are raised out of the water for the next pull. After much effort the second rower makes it to the far side of the lake. This rower may feel discouraged at his lack of skill.

Probably most people would prefer to be the first rower. However, it is the second rower, who though discouraged, has become stronger from the exertion and is thereby better prepared for future challenges.”

Often in life we don't get to choose to row into the storm... the storm finds us anyway. That's a message sadly reinforced by recent events in downtown Ellicott City which, for a second time, experienced such devastating flooding. Traveling through the storm, can make some stronger, but for others it is not only discouraging, but defeating.

Seeking to maintain a positive outlook during a time of crisis is never easy and sometimes impossible. It is at such times we realize that we function best when we are connected to others. That none of us can go it alone. That there are days when we have to to admit defeat, let go and let God!

In the face of adversity “letting go” is not the same as “giving up.” I had a friend who always tried to face any crisis, major or minor, with the question; “So?” “So what do we do next?” “So, now this has happened and that has ended, we are faced with two choices. So which one do we make?”

Returning to our illustration of the rowers. The one who rowed across the lake and exited the boat feeling rather pleased with themselves, had done nothing wrong. They did what they needed to do. And when we have days like that, we can be thankful.

The one who crossed the lake in the storm and exited the boat feeling discouraged, is in a good place to ask themselves the “So?” question. “So what did I just learn? That going out in storms isn't always a good idea? That when I'm under stress I tap into resources I never knew I had? That I can make it through to the other side, even when I'm not sure I can do it?” You feel that the second one has gained more than the first. Next time a crisis comes along, they are in a better shape to face it.

Life will bring storms. Some of them will leave us feeling defeated and discouraged. But we may also discover that it is the tough times that strengthen us in ways we are not even aware of. We are not alone. We have others around us to lift us when we fall. We have a God who takes what is broken and creates beautiful things from the wreckage.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were thinking about how little things can become big things. Our sermon “Seeds of Faith” can be found here. This coming Sunday we are looking at a passage from Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples of Jesus find themselves caught up in the middle of a storm.

For some music (a song which may well feature as part of our Sunday worship) “Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church Junior Choir” sing “With Jesus in the Boat wecan smile through the Storm.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.