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

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.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Seeds of Faith

 
Seeds. Such small, tiny things. Yet within every seed is all the potential for growth that is needed. Of course there has to be the right environment for growth to take place. And there are things, such as disease and unexpected uprooting, that can prevent growth taking place. But within the seed, the potency is all there.

Jesus used the image of a seed to talk about faith. He seemed to suggest that within each of us was all the potential for spiritual growth that we require. He indicated that faith could do amazing, unexpected things... like removing mountains and casting out demons. Faith is viewed as something powerful and world changing.

Such a picture can make us feel that our personal faith is lacking in potency. Maybe the environment in which we live today is not the best for nurturing faith. There is a distrust in things we cannot measure, quantify or truly explain. “Faith” is sometimes viewed as simply wishful thinking or misguided dreaming.

To counteract the view that “faith is beyond us,” Jesus speaks about the quantity of faith that we need. He tells us only a “mustard seed” worth. A mustard seed is an exceptionally small seed. He talks about how mustard trees grew out of all proportion to the tiny seed that they came from.

Little things. Little things that lead to big things. Is that the way it works? It often seems that way. That “seed” of an idea, that is mentioned in casual conservation, takes root and becomes the launching point for something we had never imagined. That little gesture of helpfulness or friendliness from a stranger, becomes the most uplifting moment of our day.

Those few moments we took out of our day to pray, or to practice meditation or mindfulness, became the framework for a day when we overcame obstacles we hadn't even known were going to arise. That slight change in our daily schedule meant we met somebody who had an impact upon us that would never have otherwise happened. Little, seemingly insignificant, “things” with big results.

Every persons journey is a combination of smaller steps. There is a beauty in small things that we should never dismiss or ignore. Every step is important. Every seed has potential. Every little thing that we do is part of the process towards what comes next.

It has been said that “God is in the details.” I would want to add that no detail should be considered too small for God's involvement. That there is an intimacy to faith that should be recognized and embraced. In a loving relationship, you notice the little things. The little things are often the big things.

Scripture teaches us that “God is love.” It is within loves embrace that we are called to grow. It is the knowledge that our lives are infused with unknown potential, that encourages us to take risks and face new challenges and attempt to move forward.

Do the little things. That seems to be the way faith works. That is how things grow. Small steps. Little Seeds. Growth is always a work of grace. And the result is always in God's hands.

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we celebrated our Scottish heritage with an outdoor service that took the topic, “Drovers, Cowboys and Pilgrims.” This week we return to a series called “Mark My Words” and will be looking at Mark 4:26-34, a passage all about seeds. Come and join us if you are in the neighborhood!
For some inspirational music Cece Winans & Andre Crouch sing “Through it all.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Tenacity and Tartan


This coming Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we celebrate our Presbyterian (and National) Scottish heritage. Our plan is to meet outdoors in our amphitheater. There will be a bagpiper to help lead our service, as well as a Scottish theme to the whole occasion. Should the weather prove unfavorable, we may have to head indoors. (As we did last Sunday when we thought about the theme "Celebrating the Sabbath")

In recent days the weather has not been kind to Ellicott City. The historic downtown area has, once again, suffered terrible devastation from flooding. It is unclear how the town will recover from such an impact, coming as it has, just two years after a similar event. At the time of writing many residents and business owners are disheartened and not sure how to face the future.

Historically, one of Scotland's most revered leaders was Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, from 1306 to 1329. He is credited for freeing Scotland from the English rule of Edward I, and ultimately confirming Scottish independence, with the Treaty of Northampton.

Legend has it that after a humiliating defeat by the English, and finding himself described by the English as a traitor and outlaw, Robert the Bruce had to flee for his life. He ended up hiding in a cave and seriously considered abandoning his attempts to liberate his nation.

Lonely, despondent, and fearful, he hid in the damp and the darkness. Looking up he saw a spider attempting to spin a web across the corner of the cave. Every time, the spider had nearly managed to spin a web across the gap, a drop of water would fall and break the strand.

Robert watched as, time and time again, the spider sought to complete it's task. And time and time again, the water frustrated the spiders web building efforts. But finally, as the Bruce looked on, the spider managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave wall and began to weave a web.

It is said that Robert the Bruce was so inspired by the spiders perseverance that he immediately left the cave and began recruiting an army, who went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. The moral of the story became “If at first you don't succeed - try, try again.”

When everything seems to conspire against us, the temptation is to give up and just stop trying. It is unclear how downtown Ellicott City can recover from another setback so soon after the previous one. It is truly heartbreaking. Maybe some structural changes and flood protection will have to be put in place before any rebuilding can be attempted. The road to recovery is uncertain, long and difficult.

The story of Robert the Bruce and the spider reminds us that there are those times when we just have to go forward in the hope that our efforts will result in shattered dreams being reborn. It took a small spiders determined web weaving, to revive his courage. 

Let us pray that those seeking to rebuild shattered livelihoods will find similar moments of inspiration and encouragement as they seek to discern what is next for them and their town. We will receiving a special offering the next two weeks in an effort to raise some funds to help with rebuilding.

Come and join us in our Scottish celebrations! But in case that proves impossible, here's some pipers playing “Amazing Grace”.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.