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

Monday, March 2, 2020

An Open Invitation


This past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, as we gathered around a table laid with bread and wine, one of the things we thought about was the invitation of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). These words are an open invitation towards anybody who is struggling to get through the day or facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. (The full sermon can be found here.)

You may not be familiar with Joseph Scriven, but I am sure you will know one of his compositions. Joseph Scriven was originally from Ireland. He received a degree in theology from Trinity College, Dublin in 1842. In 1843, the night before he was going to be married, his fiancée accidentally drowned.

In 1845, at the age of 25, he left his native country and migrated to Canada, settling in Woodstock, Ontario. There he again became engaged. Tragedy struck once more. His fiancée died of pneumonia He received news from Ireland of his mother being terribly ill. He wrote a poem to comfort his mother called "Pray Without Ceasing."

It was later set to music and renamed by Charles Crozat Converse, to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." In the midst of his grief and desire for consolation, he shared his deepest thoughts. He did not have any intentions that his poem would be published, let alone become a favorite hymn for millions of Christians around the world. Knowing the story behind these words gives to them an added depth.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.

When we go to Jesus in prayer and hand over to Him all that burdens us, He is ready and willing to graciously and generously wrap His arms around us, support us, and carry us if necessary. There is no problem in our lives that He cannot help us with. All authority and power have been given to Him.

It is as though He says: “Here let me take that. Let me take that burden of sin and shame and guilt and fear. Let me take it to the cross with me. I’m going there for all those who are weary and burdened. There are no limits to my love for you and I am happy to put all your sin and trouble on my shoulders.”

“Just trust me! Have confidence in my love for you, and you will come to realize that at no time will you walk through any of life's traumas alone. When the time comes I will even walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” with you. I will always be with you.”

For some music, Paul Baloche sings “What a friend we have in Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, our God we thank You for the open invitation of Jesus that we come to Him and find rest. What a friend He truly is! Today, grant us the courage to share our burdens, that we may find release and that the empowering of Your Holy Spirit's presence is with us. Amen. ”

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