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

Monday, March 25, 2019

The New Radical Cross


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were offered “Traveling Instructions” to guide our journey through Lent. Our sermon from the day can be found here. This week we are considering the central Christian message of the Cross and taking a look at 2 Corinthians5:16-21.

A favorite hymn for many folk is “The Old Rugged Cross.” It is a wonderful hymn, but can lead us to forget that, though always rugged, there is nothing old, ancient or “outdated” about the message that the Cross represents. The love offered to us at Calvary is always new and always radical. It is at the Cross that all barriers are broken down.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) “Confession of 1967” speaks about how Christ's reconciling death on the cross is pictured in different ways. “It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd's life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of a debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory, in the depths of God's love for man. They reveal the gravity, cost, and sure achievement of God's reconciling work.

In a world where people conflicting opinions appear to be sufficient cause to tear each other apart; this message of reconciliation is one that we do well to pay attention to. Jesus tells us that when we apply ourselves to the making of peace we shall be blessed and known as “Children of God” (Matthew 5:9.)

In 2 Corinthians 18 and 19 Paul talks about how the call to reconciliation addresses our lives through the Cross. ”All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

Theologian Henri Nouwen writes “What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people – in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task? Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another. As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?”

The ministry of reconciliation is rooted in what God has done for us, in Christ, at the Cross. Because Jesus died for us, to forever remove our separation from God, we are to work at removing all the barriers that separate people from experiencing the love of God.

Such a task is always new, because it brings the renewing life of God's Holy Spirit to bear in situations that are old and tired. Such a task is always radical, because our world so often chooses the way of confrontation over the way of reconciliation.

Another favorite hymn speaks of “The Wondrous Cross.” The second verse reminds us of our call to put self aside, and be reconcilers.

“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.”

For some music here is Fernando Ortega singing that majestic hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.” Take some time to find a quiet place and meditate upon these timeless words of Isaac Watts,. They were first published in 1707, but like the Cross itself, their message remains fresh and radical and these words have spoken to many hearts across the centuries. Allow them to speak to you today.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Traveling Instructions

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were considering the implications of being “Citizens of Heaven,” a phrase Paul uses in his letter to the Philippians. Our sermon from the day can be found here.

This week, as we reach the third Sunday in Lent, we will be thinking about God's direction and looking at 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. When you are trying to get somewhere it is always helpful to have some traveling instructions. There are many different options open to us today.

We can ask somebody the way. I know some folk have a problem to stopping to ask directions and I partly share that hesitation. I heard about an American tourist on vacation in Ireland who stopped to ask a local how to get to a certain place. They were advised, “Well sir, if you want to be going there... you don't want to be starting from here.” That's not exactly helpful.

We can use a physical map. Remember those? I used to have the side pocket of my car filled with a variety of state maps and have even more on my bookshelf at home. Often when I entered a state on the interstate I would stop at the Tourist Information and see if they had a recent map. Usually they gave them away for free. You can build up quite a collection after a while!

In the U.K. the “Automobile Association” used to offer a service for their members that would provide you with a route map to wherever it was you were headed on holiday. Often it would include recommended stops along the way and adverts for hotels you could never afford to stay at!

These days we can “Google” directions. There are numerous sites that offer us multiple routes to reach our destination. In many vehicles are built in Satellite Navigation Systems that speak to us as we are driving along, giving us turn by turn directions. My wife has complained that I listen more intently to that ladies voice in my car than I sometimes do to her. Ouch!

Various“apps” (as well as the good old car radio) offer us up to the minute details, alternative routes, weather reports and numerous other items of information to digest and consider as we make our way to our destination. There is no shortage of ways to find advice for the journey. The same applies to our spiritual lives.

We have each other to guide us. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:1 tells us “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” So we are invited to take notice of Christ like behavior in people around us and imitate it. We have our personal spiritual road map in the 66 books of the Bible. Scripture covers the vast terrain of human experience and God's revelation, culminating in the coming of Christ, who described Himself as “The Way.”

We have times of worship when we can seek together the guidance of God upon our lives. Just as the internet is a world wide community, so the church provides an international interface of faithful folk. When we are unable to be in worship, many faith communities offer ways to connect online... such as our Mount Hebron Presbyterian website “www.mthebronpc.org”.

Through prayer, through worship, through following good examples and seeking God's guidance over our lives... there are many ways to find traveling instructions for our spiritual lives. For some music Don Moen sings “God Will Make A Way.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Citizens of Heaven


Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we began our Lenten sermon series by looking at a passage from the book of Romans and had a message titled “Don't Miss It!” (which can be found here.) Our Scripture passage for this coming Sunday comes from Philippians 3:17 - 4:1.

In this passage the apostle Paul speaks about citizenship of heaven. He is concerned that in the world around him, many were acting as though the only thing that mattered in their lives was their self. He is scathing in his assessment. “Their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.” Christian people were called to live to a different standard, one related to the teaching Jesus had given them. They were to demonstrate that they were citizens of heaven.

Citizenship of any nation carries with it various rights and corresponding responsibilities. According to the official website of the “Department of Homeland Security” American citizenship grants such rights as freedom of expression, freedom to worship as you wish, trial by jury and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With these rights come corresponding responsibilities. These include to;
  • Support and defend the Constitution.
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
  • Participate in the democratic process.
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
  • Participate in your local community.
  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
  • Serve on a jury when called upon.
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.
When a person becomes a member of a church they are given certain privileges. They have a right to worship. They are allowed to vote in meetings of their church. They are invited to be an active part of the decision making process in the congregations life. What should the corresponding responsibilities be? Maybe to;
  • Support and defend the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting both your Church and the wider world.
  • Participate in the democratic process of your congregation and denomination.
  • Respect and obey the ethos of the Kingdom … as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
  • Participate in your local community.
  • Be faithful in matters of prayer, personal spiritual growth, tithes and offerings.
  • Serve on a committee or board of your church when called upon.
  • Defend the integrity of your congregation by living as a faithful member, regular in attendance service and support.
Be a good citizen... both in your nation and in your faith community. I'm sure Paul would approve that message!

I had a challenging time finding a song to go with these thoughts. There are many, many songs about God's faithfulness towards us, but not so many about our faithfulness to God. One exception is the song “Find us Faithful” by Steve Green, which resonates with a number of verses in the Book of Philippians.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Don't Miss it!


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we celebrated 'Transfiguration Sunday.” Our sermon from the day, “Faces Without Veils” can be found here.

Now we travel down the road towards towards Easter. Even though it is Lent, I want to share some thoughts from an Advent devotional, by Paul Tripp titled, “Come Let Us Adore Him.” He begins his meditations with a warning about familiarity.

I’ve thought a lot about the danger of familiarity in our lives as the children of God. It is good to be familiar with the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It means that God has met you by grace. It means that He has opened the eyes of your heart to what, without Him, you would not see or understand.

He has drawn you close to His side. He has pulled back the curtain and shown you the deep mysteries of His redeeming plan. He has blessed you with the presence of His Spirit, who continues to illumine His truth for you. You are familiar with the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ because the love of God has been lavished on you.

But familiarity often does bad things to us. Often when we become familiar with things, we begin to take them for granted. When we are familiar with things, we tend to quit examining them. Often when we are familiar with things, we quit noticing them. When we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder.

One of our readings for the first Sunday in Lent is Romans10:8-13. In this passage Paul speaks about the danger of being so close to something, that you actually miss it. In verse 8 he writes “The Word is near you, on your lips and in your hearts.

As the years roll by … and particularly if we attend the same church every week... our expectations can sink. We have heard sermons like that one before. We have studied this passage in the past. The preachers voice is the same as it ever was. We sing the same old hymns. For goodness sake people even sit in the same seats year after year.!

While we resist change with every fiber of our being, the “Same old, same old” has a habit of dulling our senses. We don't pay attention as we once did. We are not as diligent in arriving on time, in attending each week, in encouraging others to join us, as we once were.

As Paul Tripp writes in his devotion, “When we are familiar with things, we quit noticing them. When we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder.

Wake up. It's 2019. We are about to walk the Lenten Road to Easter. The gospel has lost not one iota of it's beauty or meaning. Christ Died. Christ has Risen. Christ will come again. God's love is as strong towards you as you read this, as it was the moment you first believed. Do not allow familiarity to steal your joy, rob your enthusiasm or quench your spirit. For some music, Matt Redman sings “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)

On Wednesday March 6th we begin our journey towards Easter with an Ash Wednesday Service in our Historic Hebron House. Anybody and everybody is welcome to join us. “The Word is near you, on your lips and in your hearts.” Don't miss it!

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Faces Without Veils


In 1691 a semi-opera, titled “King Arthur,” written by Henry Purcell and John Dryden, was released and performed. One of the songs, “Fairest Isle” imagines, Venus, the goddess of love, choosing the Isle of Britain as a better place to dwell than her native Cyprus. The words declare;

Fairest Isle, all Isles Excelling,
Seat of Pleasures, and of Loves;
Venus here, will choose her Dwelling,
And forsake her Cyprian Groves.”

You may never have heard of the semi-opera “King Arthur” but, if you regularly attend a church that sings hymns composed by Charles Wesley, you will be familiar with the words of one his most famous compositions;
Love Divine, all Loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven to Earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble Dwelling,
All Thy faithful Mercies crown.

Wesley took the metre and the idea of the song “Fairest Isles” and pictured that, rather than Venus leaving her native land to inhabit the Isles of Britain, such was an act of love that was enacted through the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The hymn pictures how Jesus chose to leave the heights of heaven and inhabit the human hearts of those needing salvation, in order that their lives may be completely transformed by His love. That theme is reinforced in the hymns final verse;

Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.”

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were thinking about the sermon on the mount. Our sermon, “The Impossible Dream” can be found here. This week, like many other churches who follow the Lectionary, we will be celebrating “Transfiguration Sunday.”

Transfiguration Day focuses on events recorded in Luke 9:28-36, in which Jesus travels up a mountain with a select group of His disciples and is there “Transfigured” before them. In a blaze of glory, He is seen speaking with Moses and Elijah. This mountain top experience was a moment of transformation for the disciples. They literally saw Jesus in a new light!

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3, writes of how, when Moses came down from meeting with God on the mountain, Moses was so transformed by the presence of God that he had to cover his face so that others could even look at him!

Paul speaks of how because of Christ's work, we have unprecedented access to the love of God. In verse 18 Paul writes “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

We are all “Works in progress.” Whenever we spend time in prayer or bible study, whenever we can attend a worship service, whenever we perform some act of kindness or public service, then we are opening our lives up to being transformed by the love of God.

Having mentioned Wesley's hymn, it would surely be remiss not to share a version for us to enjoy. This one, sung to the Welsh tune composed by Rowland Hugh Pritchard called“Hyfrydol,” is from a worship service at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Impossible Dream

In Man of La Mancha, a musical about the eccentric Don Quixote, he sings of the Impossible Dream, and in words composed by Joe Darion tells us he desires ...
“To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ... “

Sometimes living the Christian life in the way Jesus invites us to in the Sermon on the Mount seems like an impossible dream. We started reviewing that sermon last week with our message "Inside Out and Upside Down."  We'll be taking a look this coming Sunday at Luke 6:27-38. Do good to those who persecute us? Love our enemies? Turn the other cheek? C'mon Jesus, You can't be serious! His message has been described as the “Most quoted, least acted upon sermon, ever preached.”

It could be that He is telling us that we never set our sights high enough. It is a fact that the lower you set the barrier, then the easier it is to reach it. God sees our complacency and encourages to do more.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians writes, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." And James was quite stern about it: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead… As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

One of the joys of belonging to a Christian community is that you can work together with others to achieve things that can not be done alone. I've known people drop out of church involvement, complaining that their needs were not being met. 

I wonder sometimes if they understand, that one of the things God is inviting us to do, is meet the needs of others. When we do that, and we see the difficult lives many people have, then we realize we are blessed beyond our wildest dreams... and somehow our needs seem less needful!

We can't always solve the big issues of the day. We can't stop all wars. We can't force people to be truthful. We can't feed every hungry person. We can't single handedly clean up the oceans.

But we can seek to live at peace with those we share our lives with. We can be careful about the words we use. We can volunteer to help and donate towards causes that are blessing others. We can recycle and be aware of environmental problems.

Great changes are usually achieved by the combined action of many much smaller actions. Embracing problems as opportunities. Seeing challenges as things to rise to. Showing kindness. Paying it forward. Being a mentor. Offering forgiveness. Seeking to understand rather than judge. These little changes are not beyond any of us. These things help impossible dreams come true.


Prayer: Dear Lord, help me not try and save the whole world, but simply do the next loving thing You are asking of me. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Inside Out and Upside Down


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were considering the call the Jesus gave to the first disciples to be His followers in turning the world upside down. Our sermon “Fishy Business” can be found here. This weeks lesson, from Luke 6:17-26, goes into the details of how Jesus saw that radical transformation taking place.
Have you ever seen people get something they didn’t deserve—while someone else didn’t get what they did deserve? Ever seen the right person passed over for a job, just because they “played the game,” or were a particular gender, or lied? Ever see people succeed even more because they were already successful? Ever seen a poor or vulnerable person slip even further into difficulty—or get picked on by someone who should know better?
There are so many power structures which seem to reward all the wrong people. “It’s the way of the world,” you might say, and that may well be true. But it’s not the way of the Kingdom of God.
We know this because Jesus made the point, again and again. Not only did He confront those who maintained the power structures and attitudes of the day, but He also lived out what’s called the “Great reversal”—turning inside out and upside-down people’s values and understandings about who mattered and what success was and who God wanted to bless.

Here was a man who spent time with society’s “worst” outcasts: the lepers, the mentally ill, the crooks, the prostitutes, the adulterers. A man who talked endlessly about the poor, and about children and widows. Who didn’t invite Himself into the homes of the rich and famous, but the hated tax collectors.

No wonder people around Jesus were confused! Those who were willing to listen to Jesus and think about what He said and did, began to understand that the Kingdom of God isn’t like the world at all. They started to see that it’s the poor, downtrodden and vulnerable who are particularly of interest to God (until then, it was assumed that these people must be being punished by God).

It is those who see themselves as successful (by worldly reckoning) who struggle to accept this reversal, as did the rich young man in the Bible—who wanted to follow Jesus, but couldn’t give up his material wealth. Jesus Himself said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

In the Kingdom of God everything will be turned inside out and upside down. This is especially true when it comes to power, privilege and wealth... in God's Kingdom those who struggle in life now, those who are at the bottom or on the edges of human society, will suddenly find themselves at the top and in the center.

So if you’ve ever been vulnerable, or struggled, or seen others rewarded for doing wrong, remember that it’s not Jesus’ way. There is a special place in God's heart for you.
For some music, a modern version of a classic hymn, “Near to the Heart of God.”

Prayer: “Lord, when I feel that I don't meet up to the standards of this world, I know you love me and welcome me with open arms. Thank You for seeing and using my weakness, and making me strong in the ways that really count. Amen.”
(Parts of this article adapted from Church of England Website “Church in the Net”)

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Fishy Business



Some people are expert fisherman. They have to be. It's their job. People are depending on them. For others it's a leisure pastime. Yet many pursue their particular brand of fishing, be it deep-sea adventures or fly-fishing on a gently rolling stream, with great passion and commitment.

Jesus calls us to be disciples with a high level of commitment. Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian church we were considering “Misplaced Pride.” Our sermon from the day can be found here.

Our reading this week is from Luke 5:1-11. In this passage Jesus displays His fishing skills. Having demonstrated His knowledge of the craft, He then invites the fishermen in the boat to join Him in a mission that involves catching, not fish, but people, with the “Good News” of the Kingdom of God. 

In common with disciples of all times and all places following Jesus involves leaving something behind. In the first fisherman's case it was their work and home. For ourselves it can be our habits and ways of thinking that need changing. What kind of things might Jesus be calling us to leave behind at this point in our spiritual journey?

Discipleship also involves taking on something new. The first disciples had to become "Fishers of men." Allowing our lives to be embraced by God’s love adds a new dimension to our daily life. Are there any “New things” that God is calling us to embrace this year?

For the first disciples following Jesus meant they had to go somewhere else. They had to move beyond the comfort zone of their familiar surroundings. Where might God be inviting us to reach beyond our comfort zones?

To succeed at any venture takes not only inspiration, but also determination. Catching fish, be it on a trawler out at sea or by a gently meandering stream, requires learning the craft, a whole lot of patience and a willingness to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. It is no different with the journey of discipleship.

Jesus calls us to follow Him. We have a lot to learn. Disciple means “Learner.” We need to be patient. Not only with others, but even more with ourselves. We need to be aware of the shifting currents in the world. What worked in yesterday’s world might not be what God is calling us to embrace for tomorrow’s world.

Some things remain the same. Prayer is needed. God's Word needs to be applied to our situation. And we need God's Holy Spirit to strengthen us for the task. So let's go fish!

Here's something a little more up tempo then I usually post... Newsboys sing “Fishers Of Men.

Prayer: “Lord help me to respond to Your love with determination and allow Your love to change me. And when I fail, pick me up again and remind me that Your love is stronger than my weakness. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Misplaced Pride



In Luke 4:14-21 we read about Jesus preaching in His hometown. Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we began looking at Jesus's statement of purpose last week, in a message titled “What's It All About?” Following the sermon that He gives, the people are not impressed. Particularly when He had concluded it by saying “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Who did He think He was? What was He talking about? After all wasn't He just Joseph’s son? They knew His brothers and sisters. They knew Mary, His mother.

Some commentators describe it as a situation of “Misplaced Pride.” There is a right sort of pride to have in ones self or ones community. Sadly that same pride can become influenced by familiarity and block any expectation for the possibility of change.

Misplaced pride is the sort of pride that sees only the positives and ignores the negatives. It is “rose-tinted glasses” pride. The kind of pride that looks back at the past, declaring “Wasn't it wonderful?” but refuses to entertain the thought that the best may yet be to come. We must caution ourselves against being so proud that we fail to recognize the potential in the familiar.

Jesus sought to work wonders. The home-town crowd just couldn’t accept that wonderful things were meant to happen in their ordinary day to day to experience of people and places. They couldn't accept that this person, whom they knew so well, could offer them anything new or do a single thing to change the way things were. They couldn't accept, that through the people around them, miracles could happen. And the result? Nothing happened!

Misplaced pride can be a tremendous barrier to spiritual growth. It refuses to acknowledge that there can be room for improvement or any need of change. Most disastrously of all it blocks out grace from having free reign in people's lives.

Ultimately it places limits on the love of God. Misplaced pride suggests that the love of God has limitations. That love cannot work through the people and the systems and the actions of people that we are familiar with. Misplaced pride is always subtle and not always easy to detect.

Do not join the people of Jesus in their unbelief. Do not allow misplaced pride to prevent your spiritual growth. Believe. Believe that the Kingdom of God is still happening. Believe that God's Holy Spirit can impact your daily life. Believe that God has supernatural plans for your ordinary life. Believe that God has plans for your local church or faith community. Don't limit what God can do because of your lack of expectation. Don't say “That can't happen here.”

For some music, the worship song “Purify My Heart.”
Prayer:
“Lord I believe. Help thou my unbelief! Help not to exclude my daily, familiar and routine life from the sphere of Your blessings. Amen.”

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What's it all about?


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we asked the question "Did you see that?” and contemplated how sometimes we miss out on what God is doing in our world. Our sermon from the day can be found here.

No matter where we are in our life journey, most of us, at some time pause to ask ourselves the question; “What are we here for?” Sometimes asking that question will lead us to develop our own personal “mission statement”... or at least decide on what our priorities are going to be for the upcoming year.

In the very first sermon of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Luke, (Luke 4:14-21) Jesus gives us His personal mission manifesto.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

Central to this proclamation is the idea that Christ’s coming was the dawning of the time of the “Lord's favor.” The poor would have some good news. The struggling ones would find release. The ones who couldn’t see would receive vision. The ones who felt like they were being walked all over would walk free.

We can apply this text to our own lives. Where do we feel impoverished? What are we seeking to be released from? In what areas do we feel life is trampling all over us? Where in our life are we seeking direction?

To believe that Jesus Christ is a Savior means allowing Him to be our Savior. To prayerfully seek His perspective on the struggles of our lives. To seek to apply the scriptures’ teaching to our daily dilemmas.

The promise remains the same. The Holy Spirit is still the Counselor, Comforter and Guide. Christ’s living love has not lost any of its power to renew and refresh our lives.

We only get one shot at life. As we travel through 2019 let us continue to prayerfully seek God's guidance for our lives and allow the teaching of Jesus to define our personal aspirations and hopes. Of course, we will sometimes fail to live up to even our own aspirations. Thankfully the love of Jesus is always there to forgive us and take us to a better place.

For some music, a worship song composed by Eddie Espinosa “Change My Heart Oh God.
Prayer: “Lord help me today to apply Your love to the situations I am struggling through. Remind me when I give up on myself that You never give up on me. May this day be a day of the Lords favor! Amen.”

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Did You See That?


Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we joined many other congregations who had to stay at home because of the snow event. Such an event reminds me of a post I saw on Facebook that said; “Sometimes when we make plans, God laughs out loud.” A snow related sermon was posted on our web page (here).

This week, weather permitting, we hope to take a look at John 2:1-11, a passage which records for us the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine. As you read through the account you become aware that a lot of the people present at the wedding feast missed out on the fact that any miracle had taken place. All they knew was that for some reason the host had saved the best till last. We can so easily miss out on what God is doing around our lives. Miracles can happen and we miss them.

Sometimes we sing a hymn or hear a piece of music and we may think ‘Well that’s nice."  But so often there is a story behind a song that can take our appreciation to a new level. Consider a hymn such as Frances Ridley Havergal’s "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee." Follow this link to a version by Brian Doerksen.

Frances Havergal was the daughter of a rector in Worcester, England… who was in his day one of the finest church musicians around. She, like her father, was exceptionally gifted but prone to periods of doubt and depression. Though constantly in a religious atmosphere she struggled for many years to accept herself as a child of God. It took a real act of surrender for her to allow Christ to take His rightful place in her life. Having struggled personally to break through into a living faith she was anxious to share her journey with others.

The hymn "Take my Life" came out of an experience that she had staying with a family where religion was on the back boiler. Aware of her hosts low spiritual expectations, when she arrived she prayed "Lord, give me all in this house." Over a period of five days she led every member of the household into a deeper faith, with the exception of two daughters.

Retiring to her bed on the last night she was awoken by the governess who told her the daughters were in great distress. She counseled them and led them to faith in Christ. When she returned to her room she was too excited to sleep. She records in her diary "I passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another …"

She speaks elsewhere in her diaries of how writing, for her, was praying. Rather like she had, as a child, asked her Father when composing a poem, "What do you think I should say next?" so her hymns came out of her relationship with God who gave her, in her own words; ‘Not merely thoughts and power, but also every word, even the very rhymes. Very often I have a most distinct and happy consciousness of direct answers."

It’s easy to sing a hymn with the mindset of those who saw no miracle at the wedding feast when Jesus turned water into wine. It is only human to think… well that’s a nice tune or pleasant little rhyme… without realizing that behind the words are often some wonderful stories of the grace and love of God. 

As we go through our lives it is easy to take so much for granted and miss out on daily miracles taking place all around us. It is the work of God to take the common place and make it into a special place of blessing and wonder. Keep the eyes of your heart open because you don’t want to miss a thing!

Prayer: "Lord forgive me for my low expectations. Help me to be awake to the daily miracles all around my life. Amen"

The Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Be Prayerful

The Holiday Season seemed to come and go all too quickly. The festive decorations are back in their boxes, the new calendars are upon the walls and we get back to business as usual. In the Lectionary calendar, that many denominations follow, the focus becomes the gospel of Luke. The second Sunday of the year is known as “Baptism of the Lord Sunday” and our reading here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian this coming Sunday will be from Luke3:15-22. (Our sermon from the last Sunday in the year can be found here.)

There’s a little detail in Luke's account of the baptism of Jesus that is easily missed. He tells us that the Holy Spirit did not alight upon Jesus at the moment He was baptized, but that the heavens opened as He was praying. Luke 3:21 reads; "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven opened."

In religious life there are things we need to do together and things we can only experience for ourselves… on a one-to-one with God basis.

Baptism is one of the together things. So are Communion and corporate worship. There are many mission adventures that we cannot embark upon alone. From the start “Church” has been all about community.

But there is also a very personal side. On a personal level we need to develop a living faith in Jesus Christ that is energized through prayer. Time and time again Jesus withdraws to lonely places to recharge His spiritual batteries one on one with God. If such a practice was necessary for Him, how much more so for us!

A wonderful New Year resolution to make is "BE PRAYERFUL." It is as we pray, that the Holy Spirit transforms our life journeys. It was when Jesus prayed that the Spirit came and empowered Him for the journey ahead.

If we want to be a real treasure to our church, to our family, to those we love, to our community, and we value our own personal growth and our own well-being, then let 2019 be a prayerful year.

This is a win-win resolution to make. We are not being asked to give anything up. We are being invited to deepen our relationship with God. We are being invited to a deeper fellowship with God and a deeper experience of God’s love.

For some music Tauren Wells sings "When We Pray."

Prayer: "Lord, help me to make 2019 a year of prayerful journeying. Amen."

The Reverend Adrian J.Pratt B.D.