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

Monday, October 28, 2019

Get out of that Tree

Zacchaeus was the little guy who climbed up the sycamore tree to see Jesus pass by. But Jesus didn’t pass by. He stopped in His tracks, looked up into the tree, called his name and told him to “Come down” as He was coming to his house that day. Zacchaeus will be our focus this coming Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, as we look together at his story in Luke 19:1-10.

Zacchaeus is a fascinating character. His name means "pure," yet the Bible tells us he was anything but pure. He was a chief tax collector in Jericho, the city where, historically, the walls had fallen down under the onslaught of Joshua and the Israelite forces.

Tax collectors were known for their habit of taking a share of the proceeds to enrich their own lives. This was far from legal, but tolerated by the Roman enforcers, as it was hard to find anybody willing to take the job. Zacchaeus was additionally disliked by the Jews because he had intimate contact with Gentiles. Decent folk did not act that way. Neither did they sell their souls to Romans.

Jesus is passing through the city of Jericho, on His way to Jerusalem. As Jesus approaches, Zacchaeus hides in a tree. We are told he was a little man, so maybe he had climbed up the tree to get a good view. Or maybe he was scared of the people, so he is hiding in order to be well out of their reach!

Jesus does not pass by. He stops and tells Zacchaeus to hurry down out of the tree he is hiding in, because Jesus was going to spend the day at his house. The religious authorities were not impressed. Jesus was spending more and more time with people who were "undesirable." Jesus explained His reasons for associating with them; “The Son of Man had come to seek and to save those who were lost.” (Luke 19:10.) Jesus cared about Zacchaeus, just as He cared about everyone, no matter their profession or status.

Zacchaeus was truly a changed man after he met Jesus. He repented of all the wrong things he had done. He understood what Jesus said about "turning around" and began following in the Kingdom's ways. He promised Jesus that, according to the laws of Moses, he would pay back the people from whom he had taken too much in taxes.

Jesus told Zacchaeus that it was his faith that now caused him to be counted among God's people. It is a biblical principle that all who come to Jesus in faith and believe in Him are saved by their faith. Jesus welcomes all who turn to Him and put their trust in Him. If Zacchaeus was an acceptable candidate for discipleship, then so are we!

For some music and reflection “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook.

Prayer: Lord, it is good to know that whoever we are and whatever we have done, You still come seeking after us. You always offer us the chance to make amends and start over again. May we welcome Your love into our daily routines this week. Amen.

(October 13 Sermon “The Attitude of Gratitude” can be found here)

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

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.