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

Monday, October 7, 2019

Attitude of Gratitude



Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we took the theme, “Sir, I want to See Again!” Our sermon from the day can be found here. This week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we'll be taking a look at Luke 17:11-19 and focusing on the theme of “Gratitude.” I came across these thoughts in a copy of "Guideposts" magazine. I am not sure who the author was, but thank you, whoever you were!

"If you want to feel better physically, if you want a better outlook on life, remember this verse. “Give thanks unto the Lord,for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

Every morning when you get up, instead of fretting and complaining, instead of turning to the media to see how bad everything is, just go and look out of the window. Take a deep breath and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” It makes you feel better just to think of doing that, doesn't it? How much better it will make you feel if you follow that practice every day!

The art of thanksgiving is one of the most important skills a human being can develop. Sadly, I believe most of us are somewhat lacking in this area. But very closely related to thanksgiving is the art of appreciation. And if we develop the ability to appreciate, we also develop our capacity to be thankful.

Begin with acknowledging the small wonders of life, those little things like hot coffee or the smell of a rose, fresh sheets or bread warm from the oven. It is God’s will that we “Give thanks in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All of us have simple, beautiful things that Almighty God has given us, which we can appreciate. Open your eyes and see that God “Does wonderful things without number” (Job 5:9).

There’s another reason to be thankful for our blessings: Gratitude activates the flow of even more blessings in our life. And by the same token, ingratitude, fear, or doubt has the opposite effect. If you hold a thought—positive or negative—you create a soil that is hospitable to the germination of the fact for which the thought is the symbol. And the seed you plant, whether good or bad, “produces a crop yielding a hundred…times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23). So don't entertain negative thoughts. Fight them, with God's help. Keep them out of your mind.

One important way to do that is not to articulate, not to express such thoughts in words. Cut off the articulation and you reduce half their strength. It will then be easier to cut them off mentally. You have to practice this. And in this practicing, visualization is helpful. Each day, pray with the Psalmist, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Remember the old hymn with this refrain: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done!” How long has it been since you have counted up your blessings? When you invite a person to recount his troubles, you are likely to find he can do so all too readily. But if you can get somebody to enumerate his blessings to you, and you look at his face as he does it, you see somebody who really has light in his heart.”

Walk by faith in God's Kingdom latitude. Live every day with an attitude of gratitude. For some music, a beautiful song, “Gratitude” by Nichole Nordeman.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Lost Without Knowing It


I was traveling down the road, so busy talking to the person sitting in the passenger seat that I failed to notice that there was an intersection. The road I wanted went one way, the way I went was the other way. It was only when we came upon a shopping mall and a set of traffic lights that I realized my error. I had become so preoccupied with our conversation that I had become “lost without knowing it.”

Last Sunday we were considering the challenge of being a disciple. Our sermon “The Call and the Cross” can be found here. This coming Sunday we will be reflecting upon the dangers involved in being lost! Our text will be Luke 15:1-10, which features the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin

What are some strategies we can turn to when we feel lost?

Look at a map.
The Scriptures can be a great guide to help us through our problems. As we read of how different bible characters dealt with the issues of their day, we can often find guidance for our selves. Some of the greatest sayings of Scripture can give a framework in which to find the way. “Treat others in the way you would like them to treat you,” “Pray for your enemies,” “Be Patient”… these little nuggets can help us navigate many moral dilemmas.

Ask Directions.
You know what they say…. real men never ask for directions! Yet Christian doctrine has always insisted that Jesus was a “Real Man.” And He found it very necessary to carve out a place in His life for prayer. So have His disciples across the centuries. When we are feeling lost, we seek God for direction.

Help others.
Becoming involved in a cause outside of ourselves can often bring answers to questions we didn’t even realize we were asking. It helps us to see things from another persons perspective. It makes a difference if we walk a while in their shoes. Such experiences can provide the sort of purpose and meaning that may be missing from our day to day routines!

Prayer: Lord, when we are feeling lost help us to find our way through Your Holy Spirit being our guide. Guide us as we listen. Guide us as we serve. Guide us as we pray. Guide us through the Scriptures. This we ask in Jesus name. Amen.


The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Call and the Cross


Last week we met around a table laid with bread and wine. These symbols point us to one of the central images of our faith, the Cross of Jesus Christ. Our message from the day can be found here. This week we return to the Lectionary passages suggested for each Sunday and will be taking a look at Luke 14:25-33.

We begin our Fall season of church life. A lot things that had taken a break, now get back into gear. It can be a challenge to find folk willing to step up and commit to the many tasks that keep a church vital and moving forward.

Yet, our central image should surely remind us, that discipleship was never meant to be a walk in the park. We are called to embrace a way that is challenging, hard, difficult and demands all that we can give to it. In a world were we like to take things easy… why on earth would anybody willingly take on the kind of commitment that Jesus asks of us? Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Here are three suggestions some fellow disciples offer to us.

All is not well with our world. Whilst we enjoy the benefits of freedom, health and bountiful resources, we are the fortunate ones. The same cannot be said for many with whom we share our planet. It seems not simply a religious principle, but a humanitarian one, that we who have much should not rest easy, while many have so little. It is a scriptural principle that to those to whom much is given, much is expected.

History teaches that progress rarely happens without struggle. The great freedoms we enjoy are not accidental. Laying behind our privileges are the historical acts of those who selflessly pursued higher goals… often to the point of surrendering their own lives. The Christian road has created many martyrs. The survival of the faith is a miracle that replicates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Himself. Our faith has resonated many other struggles in wider society. Struggles against slavery, for equal rights for women, for just labor practices… the list goes on and on.

We seek a higher goal. If we dare take the name ‘Christian’ then we intimate that we are taking on the mantle of Christ-like living. We state our belief that His way of doing things is the ‘WAY,’ that His life represents what ‘LIFE’ should be, that His truth is the ‘TRUTH’ regarding what really counts for something.

Prayer:
Lord, we hear Your call to take up a Cross and follow. We may not want to hear it… but You keep calling. Help us to recognize that You call us to bring positive change to this world we share with so many others less fortunate than ourselves. Amen.

For some music, a couple called Jake and Kaylee, sing a version of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” on a windy hillside.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Vision


Our summer sermon series here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church continues. I've been preaching a series about “Jesus and Individuals,” taking a series of scriptural snapshots and observing how Jesus interacted with both individuals and groups of people. Last weeks encounter was about a woman caught in the act of adultery. Things did not turn out well for her accusers! (Sermon here.)

This coming week we hear about a man who has his sight restored by Jesus, only to be accused of deception by the Scribes and Pharisees (John 9:1-41.) In many ways the story is all about vision.

Jesus has an incredible vision. He tells His disciples in John 9:5; “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” This vision is enacted through acts that are incredibly personal. In this account a man who had been born blind receives his sight. That seems to be the way the Kingdom grows. The vision for a new heaven and new earth is mind blogging. But the way it comes into being, one person, one act of kindness and one healing at a time, does not seem to be beyond any persons reach.

The Scribes and Pharisees have a vision of life that blinds them to possibility and causes them to embrace lies as truth. Even when confronted with compelling evidence that their view has no reality to it, they continue in the darkness of self deception. Their commitment to ideology is far more important to them than their commitment to truth. One can certainly find those who parallel such blind allegiance to “their” viewpoint as being the “only one that is valid” in our current world.

The man who receives healing offers the most interesting perspective. As he is accused of being a liar and of bearing false testimony, he simply says, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (verse 25.) He then invites his accusers to accept his testimony and whimsically suggests that they could do with some of the vision Jesus had given to him. As you can imagine, this does not receive a positive response from them. He is dismissed from their presence, as though he were the guilty party.

The passage concludes with Jesus telling the man (and those around Him who were listening) “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”(verse 39.) The Pharisees get the point. Jesus is accusing them of being the blind leading the blind. Which, given the events of this passage, they were.

There are many factors that touch upon our vision. Personal allegiance and prejudices. Nurture and culture. Faith and willingness to embrace new insight. The Christian message suggests that we all have blind spots and possess a vision of life that needs modifying. It is as we bring ourselves under the influence of God's light that we have an opportunity to change. May God's love continue to lighten our darkness!

For some music “Open the Eyes of My Heart” by Michael W. Smith. Such is a prayer that we would do well to make our own.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Focus on the Future


Over the summer here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, I've been preaching a series about "Jesus and Individuals," taking a series of snapshots and observing how Jesus reacted with both individuals and groups of people. We saw a sinful woman at the home of Simon, we saw how He dealt with a group of Scribes who came from Jerusalem to contend with Him. We saw an encounter He had with a disturbed man in a graveyard and the reaction of the townsfolk when He healed the man. (Sermon Here)

This coming week we hear about a woman caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:1-11) There are many things the story does not tell us. Who was the other party involved? Who was it who felt it necessary to bring only her before the authorities? Was this an act of coercion or truly a moral failing? Was the whole thing a set up, designed to use a person who had no right to defend herself, to cast darkness on the claims of Jesus? What was the woman's name, her background, her social status? So many unanswered questions.

One thing is clear. Her accusers were without compassion. They had absolute zero care or respect for this lady and their only interest was in winning an argument. Sadly such is often the case in today's world. People will disparage others (sometimes whole groups of people) in an effort to boost their own position of privilege.

On the other hand Jesus acts with both rebuke and compassion. His rebuke is found in the words “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It is then that He stoops and begins quietly writing some words in the sand. I wonder what He wrote? Was it the names of some of those around Him? Did He doodle pictures representing some of their sins? Maybe He was writing something to the woman, words of hope or comfort. We don't know.

But we know how He dealt with the woman. He tells her, after everybody had walked away, that as nobody else condemned her, then neither did He. Her sins were forgiven. He adds the phrase “Go and sin no more.” Maybe these words are the most important in the whole passage.

You see it is easy to make our passed failings, or even our present predicament the focus of our lives. Yet the gospel message encourages us to be future focused. To not dwell on what has been or even is happening to us right now, but to look to a future where God's grace is given a rightful place. To ponder what could be, if love were allowed to reign.

To me that is the power of the Holy Spirit. God's ability to take what life throws at us and create a new opportunity out of it. The ability of God's renewing love to make something good out of our glaring failures. The whole resurrection experience; taking what is broken and making something beautiful from the ashes.

Let us all seek for the Spirit's renewal to be at the heart of our own experience of God's love. For some music Mark Shulz sings “Broken but Beautiful

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Jesus and Individuals

Jesus and Individuals

Over the summer here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, there are a lot of folk coming and going, myself included. Youth conferences, camps and vacations all take us out of our usual routine. While most of the year I preach on the lectionary passages (a selection of readings that follow a three year pattern) this summer I'm stepping away and preaching a series about the way Jesus acted with individuals, both “solitary individuals” and “individual groups of folk.”

It is interesting to see how “Up close and personal” His ministry truly was. He had a way of challenging those who were outside of the Kingdoms guidelines, while at the same time welcoming those who thought the Kingdom was beyond their reach.

This past Sunday we were looking at a passage where Jesus went to the house of Simon, a Pharisee. (Sermon here). While there, a woman, whose name we never learn, but seems to be in great need, anoints His feet with her tears and drys them with her hair. Jesus chastises Simon for not truly welcoming Him to his home. On the other hand, He offers to the woman, forgiveness and dignity. (Luke 7:36-50)

Next week we'll be thinking about encounters Jesus has with a group of religious folk known as the “Scribes” and with His own family, who seem to want Him to give up on His crazy mission and come home. (Mark 32:20-30).

The Scribes receive a stern warning. That if they take such a careless attitude towards the things of God, that they though the actions of Jesus to be rooted in evil, they were in deep trouble. They only had to look around them. To see that person restored to a right mind. To talk with that person who had now received healing. These good works were the work of God's Holy Spirit. To call it anything else put their souls in peril.

The family of Jesus are invited to see that He was who He was. He could not be limited by the constraints of family, because His mission was so much more than the redemption of any one person, tribe or nation. Foolish as that may seem right then, eventually, they would understand.

Such passages are truly a challenge to us as individuals... and as church communities. We are often influenced more by the unspoken understandings of our communities and 'tribes' than we realize. We can be blind to the implications of our actions and sometimes need the words of Jesus to challenge us in an “Up close and personal” manner.

May God continue to guide us and renew us! Wherever the summer months lead us, may we take time to discover new insights and take on fresh challenges.

For some music “Changing Me” by Anna Golden

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 8, 2019

To Mars and Beyond


Last weeks musings and music focused on Paul's letter to the Galatians and themes of faith and freedom. Our sermon from the day can be found here. This weeks blog takes us out of this world.

We are going “To Mars and Beyond.” Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian it is time for our annual Vacation Bible School program. We have a fired up group of volunteers ready to lead our youngest ones through a week of stories, songs, fun and games.

This years theme takes a look at a number of key bible figures who demonstrated a trust in God that went beyond the ordinary. Many of us are familiar with these stories from our own childhood or attendance at Sunday School.

Daniel trusts God for protection as he is thrown into the lions den. Queen Esther takes a brave stand to save her people from destruction. A Good Samaritan goes out of his way to help a man he recognized as being his neighbor. Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one actually takes the time to say thanks. Two men on a road to Emmaus have a close encounter of the resurrection kind.

One of the huge challenges facing the Christian church is that of educating children in biblical knowledge. They are not going to get that in public school. Church and State are kept at a distance. Many families no longer participate in regular church attendance. Unless parents share these bible stories within their home environment, many children will remain unaware of these great accounts of faith. Vacation Bible School offers us a wonderful opportunity to reach out and share.

I can't speak for anybody else, but the older I get, the more I treasure some of these stories. Over time they have burrowed their way into my spirit and been a source of both comfort and challenge. There have been occasions in my life when I have felt like Daniel facing the lions. Insurmountable obstacles came along that only God could get me through. Esther's story of choosing to do the right thing, rather than the easiest thing, is a constant reminder that we are to live with integrity.

In a world that continues to be torn apart by intolerance and prejudice, the story of the Good Samaritan reminds me that every person in need is a neighbor worthy of help and love. That leper who came back to say “Thank You” reminds me to daily count my blessings. Those men on the Emmaus Road who encounter Jesus, but don't at first recognize Him, awaken me to keep my eyes open to the unexpected presence of God in my daily life, particularly when I am feeling despondent or hopeless.

I often think that those of us leading these events get more out of the proceedings, than those we seek to lead. As we look together at these familiar stories, often new insights come along and we see things we had never seen before. Jesus hinted that out of the mouths of little ones can sometimes come great truths. Or as somebody else has expressed “Kids say the darndest things!” He also said that unless we became as little children we can never enter the Kingdom of God.

So we are looking forward to a busy, yet inspiring week. Following V.B.S. I'll be part of the leadership team for the Trinity Youth Conference, an event not for little ones, but for High School and College age youth. A whole different experience, but much needed and a wonderful blessing. I'll let you know how that went when I return! Wherever the next few weeks may be leading you, may you know God's love and experience God's presence.

For some music, a song that features as part of this years V.B.S. Curriculum and has been sung at many a worship time during the Trinity Youth conference...“God of Wonders.” The version posted is performed by “Third Day.”

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Faith and Freedom

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are concluding our short series of sermons on the biblical book of Galatians. Last week we were considering the topic of “Faith and Fear.” Our sermon from the day can be found here. Following the nations celebration of Independence Day, this coming Sunday we take a look at the theme of “Faith and Freedom” that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:1 &13-25.

Paul had spoken to the Galatian church about the unlimited, unmerited grace of God towards people. Jesus Christ freely gave His life as an act of sacrifice, to demolish any barriers that could prevent people from being in a heart relationship with God.

Paul is concerned that some people in the church had taken things much too far. They interpreted the freedom they had found in Christ as meaning they were free to live however they pleased. What did it matter what a person did? God would forgive them. Rather like that “Get of jail free” card in a game of Monopoly, self-indulgence was no longer an issue. Some even went as far as suggesting that the more you sinned, the more you could experience God's forgiving love. A win-win situation for “do whatever please you” living!

In verse 13 Paul cautions them, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love, be servants of each other.” He points out that if they focused only on personal passion, peoples hearts would deceive them and they would end up destroying each other.

Such was not the way that the Holy Spirit guided people. “By contrast,” Paul tells them, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Jesus who directed people in ways that imitated the works and words of the Savior, not the ways of a conflicted and self consuming society. Yes, Jesus set people fee, but free to serve, not to destroy!

As a nation celebrates freedom, it is worth pausing to reflect that freedom can be both a disabling and an enabling thing. If we express our freedoms in ways that deny others their own freedoms, then we are not walking the way of Jesus. Freedom of speech does not mean we should feel free to speak in a way that harms or belittles others. Freedom of expression does not mean that we should be accepting of expressions of hatred or prejudice. Tolerance does not mean that anything goes.

When musicians play “Free-Jazz” music, they recognize that there are boundaries that have to be observed. If somebody walks into a jam session with a Tuba and begins playing “Old McDonald had a farm” over and over and over and over again, then every other players freedom is destroyed. Tubas are great instruments. “Old McDonald” is a children's classic. But freedom only works where respect, understanding and boundaries are in place.

Such is the nature of freedom that the Holy Spirit seeks to bring to our church communities. Freedom to serve God, to serve each other and be vessels for the healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This short video titled “Free to Serve” offers a short meditation on Galatians 5:13.

If you are in the Mount Hebron area, we meet at 10:00 a.m. around a table laid with bread and wine to celebrate the freedom Christ died to give to us. Feel free to join us :-)

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Faith not Fear


Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we have reached the second in a series of sermons taking a look at the biblical book of Galatians. Last weeks sermon “Faith and Life” can be found here. In this weeks passage (Galatians3:23-29) Paul talks about not living from a place of fear but from a place of faith.

Fear grabs our attention. It gets us ready to fight or flee. Whether we mask our fear with bravado or slink away to seek refuge, it can have a powerful effect on our thinking, our decisions and our actions. A healthy fear can keep us from harm. But fear can also keep us from doing what we need to do. Sometimes it provokes us into wrong or dangerous responses.

Increasing troubles in the world and our neighborhoods can make us feel like we are living in a fear zone. People play on our fears for their own benefit. There are things that should cause us concern. Terrorism, mass shootings, violent crime, disease, natural disasters, all of these are in the news and often in our entertainment and our nightmares.

Some dangers, like fear of sharks, flying and mass shootings, we tend to overplay. Other much more common killers, such as auto accidents and germs, we tend to downplay. Many of the things we fear never happen to us, and even when they do, all our anxieties and worries generally have done nothing to protect us.

Fear can reach into our spiritual life. In Galatia teachers had come into the church who were using fear to gain control over others. Paul had come to them preaching a gospel that was all about grace. He had taught them that every person was welcome in the Kingdom of God, that old barriers of prejudice that separated people had been torn down, because of the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ.

To Galatia had come teachers who were questioning Paul's teaching and the congregations standing with God. They were insisting that they needed to submit to various practices and rules that were present in Judaism. This included everything from circumcision to dietary laws. Paul contradicts this false teaching by reminding them that, while the law had worked as a “disciplinarian” to show them their faults, faith in Jesus Christ should now be the determining factor in their lives.

He writes in Galatians 3:25-26 “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to the discipline of the law, for in Christ Jesus we are all children of God through faith.” Their faith factor was far more important than the fear factor.

As we face the things that cause us anxiety in our lives, we do well to remind ourselves that we live every day in the presence of God and are constantly subjects of God's grace. God desires what is best for us and has opened the doorway, through Jesus Christ, for us to know God's love and the guidance and comfort of God's Holy Spirit.

It is as we put our faith in what God has done... is doing... and will do... that the faith factor kicks in and the fear factor starts to diminish. We are not promised a trouble free existence, but we are promised that whatever we face, God will walk with us every step of the way, as we place our trust in God's amazing grace.

For some music, a song about having faith not fear... Greg Sykes sings “ All I Need to Know.”

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Gospel of Grace


Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we celebrated our nation and our churches Scottish heritage. Our sermon from the day can be found here. This coming Sunday we'll be beginning a series of sermons that take a look at the biblical book of Galatians, sometimes described as a letter that outlines “The Gospel of Grace.” Our first passage we'll consider is Galatians 2:15-21. It talks a lot about grace.

The life of Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, was defined by his endeavor to discover the grace of God. For many years he struggled to figure out how his life could ever be acceptable to God. He read the Bible. He offered his life in service and joined a monastery. He went on pilgrimage. He fasted and he prayed.

For a long time he felt the law of God asked too much of him. His 'good' was never good enough. No matter what he tried, he found no rest for his soul. A transforming moment came as he reflected on a verse, that first appears in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk; “The just shall live by his faith.” (2:4)

Luther suggests that this seed, sown by the prophet Habakkuk, came to full flower in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, (another disciple whose life was dramatically changed by grace) writes in the book of Romans 3:24 “All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Luther explains;“Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.

We don't need to prove to God how good we are. What a waste of effort! Because none of us is that good! Rather, God desires that we experience how good life can be when we allow Christ to live in us.

God invites us to trust that in Him our lives find their true purpose. That as we apprehend what has been done for us through the Cross and Resurrection, we will know that we are loved. We are encouraged to imagine the possibilities that a life open to and molded by God's Holy Spirit can offer us.

It's not easy to stop thinking we are in charge and let Jesus take the wheel of our lives. To live into the statement; “Not my will be done Oh Lord, but thine” is a challenge faced by every person who seeks to follow Jesus Christ. Martin Luther discovered that even becoming a monk could not give him the relationship with God he desired. Only grace could do that.

Later in life he writes “This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lends itself to be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden but its works are evident.

The hymn writer John Newton simply described grace as “Amazing.” I pray that each of us will find ways to let go of the wheel, and allow grace to guide our lives through the “Love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:14)

Having mentioned allowing God to be in charge I could not resist making our music choice this week... “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Our Scottish Heritage

Our Scottish Heritage

Last Sunday we were thinking about the day the fire came, the Day of Pentecost. Our sermon from the day can be found here. This week, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we hold our annual service that celebrates our Scottish heritage. Weather permitting we meet in the outside beauty of our amphitheater and mark the occasion with a bagpiper and liturgy from the Scottish Presbyterian tradition.

Scottish people have always had a reputation for their strong spirit of independence. When the Romans attempted to conquer the world they only managed to get as far as the border of Scotland. A recent Scottish comedian joked that when they were under threat they built a wall, named it after the emperor and then got Rome to pay for it! “Hadrian's Wall” survives to this day.

I recall leading a youth retreat in North Wales. Each year the Presbyterian Church of Scotland would send a small group to be a part of the fellowship week. This particular year three girls and one boy were there, representing their country.

When it came to the end of week Talent show, Rory (who had been relatively quiet throughout the week) appeared in his kilt, jumped onto a table and sang the Scottish national anthem at the top of his lungs, accompanied by fist pumps and with tears rolling down his cheeks. He was more than a little proud of his heritage and independence. Movies like “BraveHeart” keep in the public mind that the Scots are a people to be reckoned with.

Following the “Highland Clearances” that began in the 1750's (when many in Scotland were disenfranchised from their historic lands) many Scots emigrated to the New World to seek a home where they could continue to flourish. The history of the United States bristles with their influence. To mention just a few famous folk...

Of the 45 men who have served as President, an astonishing 33 have been of either Scottish or Ulster-Scots descent. This includes George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. President Donald Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was an immigrant from Glasgow.

Andrew Carnegie the industrialist, was born in Dunfermline, became a business magnate, and philanthropist, who led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and is often identified as one of the richest people in history.

Elvis Presley's roots can be traced back to a village in Aberdeenshire. The musical icon is descended from Andrew Presley, who emigrated to North Carolina in 1745.

In the religious development of the United States the influence of the Scottish Presbyterian Church has been profound. Born in the midst of the religious and political turmoil of the mid-1500's, Knox's influence led to the Presbyterian Church being acknowledged as the National Church of Scotland, a position it still holds today.

When Scottish settlers made their home in the United States they carried with them their religious traditions. The earliest Presbyterian ministers in the U.S.A. were of Scottish or Scots/Irish descent. Needless to say, their spirit of independence and Protestant work ethic had a huge influence on the developing nation.

Such is why, each year, at Mount Hebron Presbyterian, we celebrate our national and denominational heritage with the sound of the pipes! If you are in the area, regardless of your ancestry, you are invited to join us in our celebrations.

For some music... to set the mood... the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, June 3, 2019