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

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.