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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Easter Makes a Difference

Last week during worship we followed the Passion story from Palm Sunday through to Jesus death. Our sermon can be found here.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the country, a social service agency sent out a letter to a recipient of their services: "We have received notice that you are deceased. Your food stamps will be stopped effective immediately. You may re-apply if there is any change in your circumstances."

Consider the story of Easter for a moment. The Easter message implies that there has been a change in our circumstances. Christ rose from the grave. God demonstrated that death is not the ultimate enemy or the final calamity. We are not called to “Live for today, for tomorrow we die,” but live in the confident faith that every action we make on earth is related to eternity.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes new life a possibility for every person. He died to offer to us the forgiveness of God. No longer should fear of what is past and now forgiven hold us back. He was raised that we may know that God has our future in God's hands. And that future looks bright!

For sure there will be low points in our spiritual pilgrimages, but Easter is not meant to be one of them. Easter is a time for rejoicing. Rejoicing in the eternal life God offers to all who believe. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit whom God sends to empower us for Christian living.

Rejoicing in the provision of God’s Word which records for us how God has acted in the lives of people much like ourselves. Rejoicing in the testimony of changed lives and renewed relationships where Christ’s presence has been welcomed.

During this Easter season let us pray that the Easter message is making a difference to our life. Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are celebrating the season with the following events.

Maundy Thursday, April 18 6:00 pm Fellowship Meal
7:00 pm Communion Service

Easter Saturday, April 20 1:00 pm Hosting the Mount Hebron Community Easter Egg Hunt.
(With an Easter Bunny photo opportunity)

Easter Sunday, April 21 6:00 am Sunrise Service at the Amphitheater.
10:00 am Worship in the Sanctuary.
(Easter Egg Hunt in the playground for the little ones following worship)

If you are able and in the area... do come and join us! 
For some music, a traditional Easter Hymn... “To God Be The Glory.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, April 8, 2019

From the Palms to The Cross

From the Palms to The Cross

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we were thinking about the perspective that Paul's experience of meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road gave to his life. Our sermon can be found here. This coming Sunday we begin our journey through Holy Week with our Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday service.

It is a sad reflection on human nature how quickly the cries of ‘Hosanna’ turned to cries of ‘Crucify.’ How easily public opinion can sway between welcome and condemnation. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s villain. Friar David Hirt, a spiritual director and supervisor, at St. Lawrence Seminary, in Wisconsin, offers the following reflection.

The taste of hosannas is still on my lips,
the smell of the palms as they patter against
the cloudless blue sky of Jerusalem’s day,
when David’s own scion comes riding a colt
and prophesy seems to arrive as we hoped.

While children, the children, all sing Him their psalms
and stones lying silent could echo their songs,
“Hosanna! Hosanna to David’s own son!”

When everything’s changed. The Messiah we have,
He isn’t the one that we want; not the king
who’ll ravage our foes and will raise up the House of God:
this grey temple we built with our hands.

A tremor now passes throughout the crowd,
come to celebrate Passover; start the great feast,
of Memory, held in the fullness of time,
and lived in again, in eternity Lord,
and “Crucify! Crucify,” echoes on still.

It bounces off stones and it shivers my soul.”

Such a reflection can recall to us the importance of seeking the guidance of God in both the good times and the bad times. If we go along with the voices of the crowd, we may end up cheering somebody on the way to their death. If we add our voice to shouts of condemnation we may be found accusing the innocent.

Seeking the still small voice of God amidst all the other voices that crowd in on us is never easy to do. Times in the Christian year, such as Holy Week, offer an opportunity to do some intentional “listening.” As we recall the fickle nature of the voices of the crowd we are invited to seek God’s guidance as to what is really going on!

For some music and further reflection the song “Were You There?” (featuring Andrea Thomas.)

Lord, our lives are influenced by many voices. Some cry out in fear. Some cry out in despair. Some seek to deceive us. Some come to tempt us. Amidst all the other voices, help us make time to hear Your voice. Speak to us through scripture. Speak in the silence. Speak to us we open our hearts in worship. Help us make the most of this Holy Week to discern Your will for our lives. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Paul's New Perspective

As we travel the Lenten road towards Easter, last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we heard a sermon about “The New Radical Cross” (which can be found here). This week we will be considering Philippians 3:4-14.

A persons perspective determines how they see everything in their lives. When life brings us new challenges, often our perspective changes. The things we once thought were important, become less important. The things that once never mattered, become the most important things.

That's how it was for Paul, the apostle. For most of his life he pursued the things that those around him said were the important things. He came from a good family. He received an excellent education. He was a citizen of the most powerful nation in the world.

He had a religious heritage that he honored, and became highly schooled in. He was a fierce opponent of those (particularly those who followed the 'New Way' of Jesus) who threatened his understanding of the way things were meant to be. When one of the first Christian martyrs, a man called Stephen, was put to death by stoning, he held the coats of those throwing the stones. (Acts 7:58)

Everything changed when he was on the road to Damascus and had a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ, that left him blinded, dazed and confused. He couldn't see. He lost his appeitite. He needed the help of a man called Ananias, a committed Christian, to heal his sight and explain to him who Jesus was and what the gospel was all about.

For Paul this was the turn around moment in his life. This was the experience that gave him a brand new perspective. All those experiences of life and qualifications he had obtained did not matter as much as the knowledge he had gained in the gospel. To the Philippian Church he writes, The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash – along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ.” ( Philippians 3:7 – The Message Bible.)

Experiences that change the way we see things and determine what we count as important do not always come in gentle wrapping. A life threatening accident. An incurable disease. The suicide of a close friend. The death of a loved one. People who travel through these experiences often re-evaluate what they are living their lives for. We all have moments that cause us all to pause and rethink. Moving to a new area. The birth of a child. A new job or role. A new relationship. Even these gentle nudges can be perspective changers.

That's one reason I value belonging to a faith community. It places me in the company of people who are also trying to find their way. I have an opportunity to walk with people who, like myself, are challenged daily to update their life perspective.

As I hear the scripture proclaimed and interpreted I am offered a fresh perspective to consider. And one of those characters who deeply challenges me to think about why I am even on this planet, is the apostle Paul. He tells us in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we do well to reflect upon Paul's new perspective.

For some music the “Sidewalk Prophets” sing “To live is Christ.”

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.