Reasons to Praise God: The 10 C’s

Psalm 146    Rejoice, give thanks and sing!       9.9.18

Hallelujah!  What a joy it is to be gathered in this historic place sixty years after this Moller organ was first installed, listening to its pipes shout out praises to God.  We are grateful that so many of you who have been a part of this church family in the past are able to celebrate with us today.  We are grateful to those who made the current renovations to our organ possible earlier this year, including a special gift from the Hokusei Gakuen School System in Sapporo, Japan, with whom Hunting Ridge formed a bond in the 1950’s through a missionary school teacher named Dorothy Taylor.  At Dorothy’s insistence, our church donated an organ to their school’s chapel many years ago, and now they have made a gift toward our organ renovation project!  We are grateful to be a diverse, energetic family of Jesus who call Hunting Ridge home so that we can be Christ’s hands and feet out in the world.

Our text for today kicks off the last five psalms in the psalter which are called the “hallelujah psalms”.  Each one begins and ends with Hallelujah—when we translate the Hebrew  into English we get:  “Praise the Lord.”  How fitting for us to begin and end with Hallelujah today!  Today we praise the Lord for what God has done and will do in and through this community of faith.  Today we praise the Lord for the use of an organ which has been provided for us by our ancestors, an organ that is being preserved and cared for so that future generations will enjoy it’s sounds.

Several years ago, when I spoke with Michael Britt,  who is the organist at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian, about the need to refurbish our 1958 organ, he seriously encouraged us to not let this musical treasure go to waste by deferring necessary maintenance.  He offered to help us raise funds by giving a concert with a silent movie, which he does periodically at Brown Memorial.  Continue reading

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness:  Pruning the Plants

July 1, 2018                                                                       John 15: 1-17

We are continuing along in our summer series of Faithfulness and Fruitfulness… We started with tilling the ground of our old ways of measuring success.  Then we planted the seeds of ways to be mutually accountable.  We are moving today to consider how pruning is healthy and enables us to produce better fruit.  We had a fascinating discussion on Friday morning around the question of “What do you need to prune in your life?”  Some said my growing intolerance, my tone of voice, the clutter in my house.  Some said my impatience or eliminating some battles that are not worth fighting.  I am assuming we all have practices, habits, attitudes tangible items that could be pruned to make our lives healthier and more productive!  It is never a bad practice to take stock of where we are and what might need pruning!

Our focus this morning is more on us as a congregation, as a family of Christ gathered in this particular place at this particular time. If we are going to be evaluating our fruitfulness as a family of Christ, are there activities that need pruning around here?  Have we gotten burdened down by doing things just because we have always done them—tradition—or, on the flip side, just because someone has a great new idea and it sounds good?  When do you tell your pastor, “No, that is too much, we can’t add anything else to our plates right now?”  How do we decide which activities to prune and which activities need more space and attention to grow?  Where do we set limits so that we can be as fruitful as possible?

I have learned something from the Baltimore Orchard Project, which is helping us with our mini orchard on the grounds out by our offices.  It is the practice of thinning the fruit.  If you look carefully at our fruit trees, you will see that sometimes there are multiple fruitlets growing right together.  It looks productive, but none of them will be able to grow to maturity because the plant is not strong enough to support all of them.  When they are small, we need to remove some of the fruitlets, leaving plenty of space for one of them to grow. Continue reading