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

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.