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

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.