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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Easter Flowers

 
 The message of Easter is one of resurrection, renewal and rebirth. We celebrate this great festival as winter turns to Spring. Those who first sought to integrate Christian faith into already existing festivals found fertile ground and symbolism in this season of new beginnings.

We know the Easter story. Jesus travels to Jerusalem where He is at first welcomed, then rejected and then betrayed. Following a week of lies, torture and injustice, He is sentenced to crucifixion. He dies in agony on Golgotha's hill, abandoned by even His disciples, some of whom flee for their lives.

Jesus had taught His disciples “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24) On Easter morning the unimaginable happens. The tomb is empty. The realization of resurrection impacts those who had been closest to Him. The message begins to be declared. “Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!”

We meet on Maundy Thursday evening, around a table laid with bread and wine, to recall the connection between Jesus and Passover. He speaks of His body being broken and His blood poured out to establish a new covenant of love. He washes His disciples feet to indicate that love and service were two sides of the same coin.

Early Easter Sunday morning, we gather to greet the rising sun and remember the promises of God. Later that day we meet to sing Easter hymns and celebrate. The hope of resurrection is all around us in this special time of the year. Even the Easter flowers can speak to us, as this poem seeks to share....

“What Wants to be Born In You, Beloved?”
(A poem by Hollie Holden)
I have become grateful for the moments when I remember to stop,
In order to listen to what the earth has to tell me.
This morning it was a flower who took me by surprise and shared her secrets with me.

She told me of her journey. How it began in darkness,
In the quiet, cool embrace of the quiet, generous earth.
She told me how the light called to her, and how, slowly but solidly,
She began to unfold towards the simple inevitability of her calling.

She told me of the exquisite cracking-open of all she knew herself to be;
The opening that felt like death until she realized it was her birth.

And then, with her open petals, she asked me
In the way only a full-bloomed flower can ask,
“What wants to be born in you, beloved?
What does the light want to call into being
From the quiet, generous earth that waits patiently,
In the cave of your heart?”

For some music, a reflection on the song “You Raise Me Up”.
May we be aware of Easter blessings all around as we celebrate holy week!

EASTER SERVICES AT MOUNT HEBRON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Maundy Thursday Communion Service @ 7:00 pm
(Preceded by Meal in Fellowship Hall at 6:00 pm)

Easter Sunrise Service at the Amphitheater 6:30 am

Easter Celebration in the Sanctuary 10:00 am.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Barabbas

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we are continuing our journey through Lent along the Easter Road. Last Sunday we were considering how Jesus was “Riding into the Storm.” This coming Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, is often known as Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem, on a donkey, and is greeted by cries of “Hosanna!” But in only a short time those cries of welcome are turned to cries of condemnation and “Crucify.” Mark 15:7-15 gives us an account of how significant that turn around of events would be for the life of one condemned prisoner. A man called Barabbas.

It appears that Pilate followed a custom during the Passover week to release a prisoner from jail. The prisoner could be anybody that the crowd asked for. Having had his wife warn him of the innocence of Jesus, Pilate feels that the crowd will be shouting for him to release Jesus from jail. It doesn't turn out that way.

It seems that, at first, there was sympathy towards Jesus. But then, among the crowd, spread agitators speaking on behalf of the powers that had caused Jesus to be arrested. Instead of shouts for “Jesus of Nazareth,” the crowd shout for “Jesus Barabbas” to be set free. Though he is not happy at the turn of events, Pilate feels that if he doesn't respond to their request, he will have a riot on his hands. Barabbas is freed, but Jesus is sentenced to death by crucifixion.

Matthew's Gospel refers to Barabbas only as a "notorious prisoner." Mark and Luke suggest Barabbas had been involved in a riot against the Roman power and had committed murder. He may well have been seen as something of a “freedom fighter” to downtrodden Jews suffering under the might of Imperial rule.

We don't know what happened to Barabbas after his release. We can say though, that if Jesus had not  “... humbled Himself and become obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross” (as Paul writes in Phillipians 2:8), then Barabbas would never have been set free.

Barabbas is a character whose life reminds us of the New Testaments claim, that because of Christ's death, we can live free and forgiven. For one of the thieves, who died on a Cross next to Jesus, it only took a moment of recognition, of who Jesus truly was, to receive an assurance; “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Our Christian freedom is an act of God's amazing grace. We don't enter life with a “Get out of Jail Free” card. As we enter into Holy Week, it is worth reminding ourselves, that all the things Jesus will face, are taking place, so that we may know God's love can make us... as free... as Barabbas! 

For some music, a song called "Barabbas" by Jimbo Whaley and Greenbrier .

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Riding into The Storm

Riding into the Storm

Maybe you have seen programs on the T.V. about “Storm Chasers.” Crazy people, who instead of trying to get away from the storm, ride straight into it and try to get as up close to the action as they can. Sometimes they are trying to gather data, or maybe do a news report, but at other times they just want to take some good pictures!

There are times when you can't avoid the storms that life brings our way. Some of us quite recently were affected by the “Nor' Easter” storm that rolled through the area. We had trees down and a lot of folk had power outages. Storms come in many forms. Tragedies. Illness. Crime. Accidents. No matter how much insurance you have, you still can't stop the storms coming!

Last week as we traveled towards Easter we took a look at a classic verse of scripture and mused how we were “Surrounded by Love.” This Sunday we reach a point when Jesus speaks about the terrifying ordeal of suffering that would lead to His death by crucifixion. He seems very much aware that the storm that He is about to face would cost Him everything. It is not a route that, humanly speaking, He wishes to follow. We read of Him explaining to His disciples in John 12:27 “My soul is troubled. And what should I say-- 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

In Matthew's gospel (26:39) we read of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying and pleading in great anguish of soul; "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what You want."

The amazing thing is that He followed that prayer “Not what I want but what You want” to its terrifying conclusion. Paul writes in Philippians 2:7-8 “Being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.”

I attended recently a seminar at which some first responder's were speaking. They mentioned how it was their job to run into danger, not away from it. If there was a fire, they went in to put it out. If there were shots being fired they moved towards the person firing, in order to apprehend them. That's what they had to do in order to save people.

Jesus was on a mission to save the world. That was His whole purpose. To reveal to us that the love of God could not be thwarted by danger or disaster or even by death. God wants us to know that whatever we travel through, be it suffering or disease or tragedy, Jesus walks that road with us. He knows how it feels. He experienced the agony of pain and abandonment to such a depth that He cried out on the cross “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

There is no God-forsaken place that we can not be redeemed from by the love of Jesus Christ. After three days God raised Jesus from death. That is the Easter story. But before we get to the empty tomb, there had to be the Cross. Jesus rode into the storm so that we may know that God walks with us through every storm of life that we can ever face.

For some music, Casting Crowns sing “Praise You in this Storm.

The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Surrounded By Love

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about “Clearing The Way” as we travel the Lenten road towards Easter. This week we are taking a look at probably the best known verse in the Bible.

Years ago you would see a guy at a football game wearing a rainbow-colored wig holding up a John 3:16 sign. Back in the 1970’s, there was a man in St. Petersburg, Florida, John Michael Cook, who legally changed his name to “John 3:16 Cook.” He operated a mission downtown and ministered to the homeless, alcoholics, and drug addicts.

John 3:16 has been called “The gospel in miniature.”
One preacher called it “The greatest sentence ever written.”
So what does Jesus say in John 3:16?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life.

An unknown writer called John 3:16 “The heart of the gospel” and wrote this tribute.

God” … The greatest lover
So loved” … The greatest degree
The world” … The greatest number
That He gave” … The greatest act
His only begotten Son” … The greatest gift
That whosoever” … The greatest invitation
Believes” … The greatest simplicity
In Him” … The greatest person
Should not perish” … The greatest deliverance
But” … The greatest difference
Have” … The greatest certainty
Everlasting Life” … The greatest possession

John 3:16 is the heart of the gospel because it is all about love. The love of God in sending God's Son. The love of Jesus in dying on the cross. The divine love that reaches out to all people. As we travel towards Easter we gain the additional benefit of hindsight. We know how the story ends. God raised Jesus from death. Love conquers hate, evil and even death. Such love is beyond our full comprehension!

When we fret and worry about the state of the world it is good to have the reminder that as Christian people we walk through our lives surrounded by “John 3:16” love. One of the best ways we can bring that to mind is by worshiping God. As we hear readings, participate in liturgy, sing hymns and offer up prayers, we can be lifted from introspection and into the light of God's presence.

Take time this Lenten season to join others in worship and celebrate the love of God that can be found in and through Jesus Christ. For some music, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings; “God So Loved the World.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.