Sunday, May 24, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message


A professor of mine in Bible college used to warn us, “Don’t pray for patience unless you are prepared to learn them God’s way.” 

Most of us are lousy when it comes to waiting, whether it’s standing in long grocery lines, or finding ourselves stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  

Waiting can be miserable. A child waiting for Christmas to come. Or those long road trips that seem to take forever – with very few rest stops! Or teenagers counting down the days to get their learner’s permits to drive. Waiting can be a real test. Especially when it’s waiting for something we really care about.

For example, I’ve not exactly been a model of perfection in waiting for us to resume worship services. My closest pastor friends will tell you I’ve been downright unpleasant to be around.

Psalm 130, verse 5 says this about waiting: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (NIV)

My whole being waits! Boy, I can relate to that. Totally invested, longing for a sign from God, seeking that flicker of light in a dark unknown. That’s Faith-Wrestling, as my professor would say. The psalmist pivots back and forth between crying out to God, then being reminded of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Yep, waiting is hard. Especially if fear creeps into our waiting. That makes our wait even more unbearable. We have to remind ourselves, like the psalmist, to keep our eyes fixed upon God who the source of our hope. Nothing is out of God’s reach. Especially the things we most care about.

I know we’ll get back to worshipping as a church again. It’s going to happen. I just have to -- wait a bit. What are you hoping and waiting for?

Let’s pray together.

Dear God, we cautiously pray for patience as we wait for those things most important to us. Keep us firmly grounded in your love and promises.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

I love you, family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan



Sunday, May 17, 2020-Pastor Alan's message:

Hello, St. Paul family and friends.

Well, after months of isolation and sheltering-in-place, life is about to change again. Businesses that had been closed are starting to reopen. Restrictions are loosening up a bit. I’m already getting inquiries on when worship services at St. Paul will resume.

Everyone feels differently about this re-engagement in our world. Some are a little apprehensive, some are grateful. I must admit that I am cautiously guarded – but hopeful. It’s true that I would love nothing more than to throw open the doors of the church and resume life as it was. RIGHT NOW!   

So many people in our world seem to be throwing caution to the wind, forgetting all that we have experienced and learned in recent months. But, I know we can’t do that. There is still so much we don't know about COVID-19. We must be thoughtful and prayerful about reopening, careful to consider many details we’ve never had to consider before this pandemic. Life cannot be as it was, and neither can worship.

A passage from Romans caught my eye the other day. It said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Soon, your church leaders and I will be meeting to discuss how to accomplish reopening, giving consideration to all the critical aspects of bringing our spiritual family back together. Social distancing will be a factor. Facial masks will be expected on all attending worship. Frequent hand-washing and hand sanitizer an absolute must.

Yes, change must happen. But, I know we can do this.  And we will need all of you to be a part of that new way of gathering and worshiping our Lord and God.

Please keep your church leaders and I in your prayers as we try to find a way forward. To all of you, in the meantime, we continue to say:  Be safe!   

Let's pray together:  Father, as we move to venture out into a different world, give us wisdom and caution in all things, remembering that wherever we go you will be right there with us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 

I love you, St. Paul family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan







Sunday, May 10, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:
Hello, St. Paul family and friends.

May 3rd would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. It hardly seems possible that she has been gone since 1998. I can still hear her laugh, and her soft but reassuring voice. I can feel her touch. But most importantly, I remember her heart and spirit.  

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Proverbs: “Her children rise up and call her blessed...” (Proverbs 31:28, ESV) 

As a child, I didn’t always appreciate my mom. Her blessedness is most certainly more obvious to me now as an adult. Billy Graham once said that only God could fully appreciates the influence a mother can have in the molding of character in her children. He said, “The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They come to know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry.”  That influence mothers have over us is often missed in the moment.

So today, we honor our mothers – or maybe it is someone who has been like a mother to us. Maybe a grandmother, or a foster mother. An adopted mother. Maybe it was – or is – a woman who lives outside of our home, who God has blessed our lives with. Someone who serves as a mentor, an affirmer, a loving guide who helps mold our character and sets us on right paths when we need it.  

Let us think about these amazing women and their examples; their support, their humor, their counsel, their humility, their hospitality, their insight, their patience, their sacrifices. Most importantly, their faith, hope and love.

Yes, we rise and call our mothers blessed – because we realize how blessed WE ARE to have them in our lives.

Let’s pray together.  Dear God, thank you so much for our mothers who love us and bless our lives. May their influence be felt throughout our lives and throughout our world. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

I love you, St. Paul family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan



Sunday, May 3, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:
I’m easily touched by examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Our television and computer screens are filled with images these days, from first responders, doctors and nurses, risking their lives to help others in this pandemic, to people of all ages using creative ways to reach out, to give of themselves to family or neighbors – even strangers.

My mother use to say that facing times of trials makes us stronger, that difficulties build character, boldness, and allow us opportunities to help others. She was right. There is something fulfilling about stepping up and facing the challenges in order to “do the right thing”.  

Scripture is full of examples of giving to others who are poor and needy.

But Jesus took it a step further, by showing us the ULTIMATE in giving:  In the Gospel of John 15:13 (NRSV), Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The Message translation puts it this way: “This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.”

How in this pandemic are we giving of ourselves? Are we actively putting aside our own interests in order to come up with ways to help others?  Like sewing masks? Or maybe cooking a meal for someone?  How about sending greeting cards or making phone calls?

There are a plethora of ways we can all contribute. Let’s get creative. I can’t think of a better way of dying to self than offering a gift of love to someone affected by this pandemic. What will you choose to do?

I love you, family. I’ll talk with you all soon.

Pastor Alan


Sunday, April 26, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message

Hello, St. Paul family and friends.


These days can be worrisome, wouldn’t you say? I love that our holy scriptures can provide a salve to ease that wound. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

 

This scripture has been especially comforting to me this past week as I was diagnosed with the sudden onset of Bell’s Palsy.

 

These are strange days we are living in, enough to jar us from a place of security, and give us pause to maybe even question our God’s devotion to us. The Coronavirus pandemic seems all too real to us by now, especially since it has taken one of our family, a lifelong church member, from us. We can feel helpless, as if we have no control over what is happening day in and day out. Facing the dark unknown is intimidating and spiritually challenging.

 

That is why I say was are blessed to have the testimony of saints that have preceded us; writers who compiled holy inspired words we now call our Holy Bible. Promises from God that assure us this world and all that is in it, whether light or dark, is under the power of the Great Creator who cares for us so very deeply.

 

How remarkable! How glorious! No matter where we are in this world, no matter how helpless we may feel, no matter how removed from God’s protection we may think we are, God is forever there.  Present.  Loving us, guarding us, holding us in gentle faithful arms.

 

With that simple, short passage comes the reassurance I need to resist crazy thoughts of giving up or giving in. I hope you, too, will choose to hang on with me.

 

I love you, St. Paul family. Thank you for your prayers. I’ll talk with you soon!


Pastor Alan   

Sunday, April 19, 2020-Pastor Alan's message:

Hello, St. Paul family.  Have I got a little story for you!

 

A shopper at the local mall decides to stop for coffee. In addition, she buys herself a little bag of cookies and puts them in her shopping bag.   

 

Finding a seat in the crowded food court, she sits down, takes out a magazine and begins to sip her coffee. Across the table from her sits some man reading a newspaper.

 

After a minute or two she reaches out and takes a cookie. As she does, she notices the man reaching out and taking one, too. This put her off a little, but she doesn’t say anything.

 

A few moments later she takes another cookie. Once again, the man also takes a cookie. Now, she’s getting a bit upset.  But she still chooses not to say anything.

 

A couple more sips of coffee, and she takes another cookie. So does the man!  Now, she is fairly bursting with indignation. How dare this guy! Especially since there was now only one cookie left!  The man must’ve realized there was only one cookie left, too, because he takes it, breaks it in two, and gives half to her, eating the other half.  He smiles, tucks his newspaper under his arm and leaves. What a nerve!     

 

Boy, is she irritated.  What as obnoxious man. This has absolutely ruined her day!  She’s already thinking ahead of how she will tell her friends and family about this.  She hastily folds her magazine, opens her shopping bag to shove it inside and – what do you know? There, in her shopping bag, is her own unopened bag of cookies.

 

I like that story - it makes me think how I, sometimes, don’t always notice or appreciate God’s grace in my life.

 

Romans 5:8 describes God’s grace this way: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Long before we are even aware, God’s is already loving us, extending his mercy and care for us. AND his grace.  

 

So, what have you taken for granted today? Maybe a little "thanks" is in order.   

 

I love you, family. I’ll talk with you soon. 

 

Pastor Alan

Sunday, April 12, 2020-Easter Sunday message from Pastor Alan:

Well – it’s Easter. Resurrection Sunday. A day when Christians everywhere exclaim with joy and authority, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Honestly, I have to admit that I am lacking a bit of that joy this morning. It’s an Easter that’s Easter, but not really Easter. You know?  It’s Easter, but not Easter yet. I just can’t seem to get worked up about Jesus’ resurrection when, frankly, I feel he’s still missing. (Or maybe it’s me that's missing.) There’s been no worship services to get me here. I guess I’m just one of those that needs the visuals.       

Actually. if we were characters in that first Easter story, what would our reaction be to finding an empty tomb and a stranger sitting there, telling us not to worry?

The gospel of Mark, chapter 16, tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb: “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.”

This is kind of how I’m feeling now. A resurrection I’ve somehow missed.  I hear it’s happened, but I can’t witness it. No worship services. No music. Just me, myself and I – alone.  

I know many of us feel trapped in a place where Easter isn’t Easter yet.  Our Lenten/COVID-19 wilderness walk isn’t over. But to believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, regardless of when it happens on our liturgical calendars, is timeless. There’s no set schedule. We can celebrate yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever.  

So maybe our resurrection from this pandemic is still down the road bit. That’s okay. You can still celebrate. Right now. Right where you are. By yourself, with your family, or a friend.  

CHRIST HAS RISEN!

He has risen, indeed!

Happy Easter, St. Paul family! I love you all! 


Saturday April 11, 2020-Holy Saturday Message from Pastor Alan:

It’s Saturday. I am sitting in silence in our darkened sanctuary. No one else is here.  

What an odd Holy Week this year. This virus has taken away our getting together for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday. It’s heartbreaking. I’m still trying to adjust to this new normal filled with absence and isolation.

Holy Saturdays are traditionally spent reflecting on how the world would be without the hope of Christ’s resurrection. I find myself doing exactly that.  

Indeed, without the resurrection of Jesus, where would we be?  1st Corinthians 15:17 says: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…”  The disciples most likely spent their first Holy Saturday hiding in fear. Their world was now upside-down and uncertain.

This pandemic has changed our lives, our church life so dramatically.  “Easter doesn’t seem like Easter this year”, one member shared with me.  I agreed.  Yet, in a way, I know that this Easter is probably closer to what Jesus’ followers experienced in their day. We’ve been yanked from our comfort zones and forced to experience life and faith in a new way. With raw feelings. With different eyes. 

I think of Psalm 62:5: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.”  But, I can’t help asking, “Will Easter come? Will we see resurrection?  When does this present darkness leave us and the light of a new day come?  When can we stop being afraid? When?”

A voice inside me quietly says, “It’s coming, I promise. Resurrection is real. God hasn’t left you. The story of Jesus isn’t finished. Not then. Not now.” 

I know we all feel we’ve lost so much. And, yet, have we truly lost what is most vital and important?   

Keep hanging in there, family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan



April 10, 2020-Good Friday Message from Pastor Alan:

I can remember my last Thanksgiving dinner with my mother. The woman who had nurtured me, feed me, taught me, shaped my thoughts and faith and, oh, so much more. And then, suddenly – she died. Gone. I remember that feeling of disorientation. That emptiness. That feeling of utter loss and devastation. I didn’t know at first how I would navigate my life.
 
I wonder if that is how the disciples felt at the sudden turn of events.  Jesus, there one day, sharing the Passover meal with his “children”, his followers, and then suddenly apprehended, arrested, and crucified on a wooden cross like a criminal. Gone. Gone too soon. How did the disciples deal with his sudden death?  How did they feel at the loss of a valuable friend? Brother. Father-figure. Teacher. Did they miss his voice? His words? His wisdom? His loving presence? How did they survive their loss? How do we survive after our losses? 

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 4, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.  I’ll tell you, mourning sure doesn’t feel much like a blessing in the moment. Good Fridays are hard stuff. Good Fridays are sudden, dark, and seem anything but GOOD.  

But Good Fridays also remind us that death is not the final chapter in life. For Jesus, for our loved ones, for ourselves. Because Jesus ultimately triumphed over death. And because of that, we can be assured that one day we too will live in a world without disease and sickness, without mourning, without cemeteries. Knowing that Jesus has overpowered death offers us comfort when we mourn.

I love you, St. Paul family. 
Have a blessed Good Friday!
Pastor Alan

Sunday, April 5, 2020- Pastor Alan's Palm Sunday Message:

Lent began just six weeks ago with ashes, and the remembrance that we are dust and to dust we shall all return. Palm Sunday marks our transition from Lent into Holy Week. 

As Christians we treasure our memories of church celebrations when palm branches were waved, songs of cheer sung by the choir, all to proclaim us followers of this great King. 

We all know the story. Jesus, this anointed king of David, enters the royal city of Jerusalem on a donkey. No powerful war horse, no king’s wardrobe of armor and fancy duds. No, he comes impressively.

His worldly monument to his victories would be erected a week later – not a stone arch, but a wooden cross.

With this COVID-19 virus, our Palm Sunday has become more than just a party of celebration and song; this pandemic has actually given us the opportunity to live into the story Jesus. We can all welcome him now with a more personal awareness of his love and humility – and his vulnerability.

In a recent message, Pope Francis noted that this pandemic crisis has exposed our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily lives, along with our habits and priorities.

If there is one truth that comes out of Palm Sunday, it is this: The path to salvation is most certainly not one of self-assertion, of relying on our own greatness, but instead through acknowledging our absolute dependence upon God.  Jesus revealed this by example during his final week upon this earth.

Let’s all remember Jesus’ example of humility and trust in God this Palm Sunday, and going into Holy Week. For it is ultimately our only way of surviving in this time of COVID-19, a tiny microbe that has effectively brought the world to its knees.

Keep well, family. And keep following the recommended precautions. Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Pastor Alan


Friday, April 3, 2020

In times when I am afraid of what lies ahead in life, I will often go back to the writings and thoughts of wise and learned Christians of the past. One of my favorites is Charles Spurgeon who lived and preached in the 19th century. Listen to these words of his that I found, so appropriate for our current times:

The joy of the Lord in the spirit springs from an assurance that all of the future, whatever it may be, is guaranteed by divine goodness; that being children of God, the love of God towards us is not of an inconsistent character but abides and remains unchangeable. The believer feels an entire satisfaction in leaving themself in the hands of the eternal and unchanging love. However happy I may be today, if I am in doubt concerning tomorrow, there is a worm at the root of my peace; although the past may now seem sweet in retrospect and the present fair or bearable, yet if the future be grim with fear, my joy is but shallow. If my salvation is still a matter of hazard and jeopardy, unbridled joy is not mine and deep peace is still out of my reach. But when I know that He whom I have rested in has power and grace enough to complete that which He has begun in me and for me, when I see the work of Christ to be no halfway redemption but a complete and eternal salvation, when I perceive that the promises are established upon an unchangeable basis and are in Christ Jesus, ratified by oath and sealed by blood, then my soul will have perfect contentment.

Family, our future is known by God. Completely. Sealed by His promises and unwavering in His devotion for us. Relax, and be at peace.

I talk with you all soon.

Pastor Alan

Wednesday, April 1, 2020-Pastor's Message:

According to an article in the Washington Post this morning, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.  The new guidance would make clear that the general public should not use medical masks — including surgical and N95 masks — that are in desperately short supply and needed by health-care workers.  Instead, the recommendation under consideration calls for using do-it-yourself cloth coverings. It is thought this effort would be a way to help “flatten the curve”. 

 

With that in mind, here is a link to a cute and very brief video on YOUTUBE showing how to make a no-sew face mask made out of a handkerchief and two rubber bands. If you are even the slightest bit crafty, this should be a breeze! Even Pastor Alan thinks he can do it!  Enjoy!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE0EuDHMfZ4


Tuesday, March 31, 2020-Pastor's Message:

In the book of Philippians chapter 1, verses 3-6, the Apostle Paul writes: “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” 

Three weeks ago, we announced that St. Paul would temporarily suspend our worship services and church meetings through the end of March. But with this pandemic, change seems to happen daily. As the expected peak of this virus is still several weeks away. we are slowly accepting the fact that we will in all likelihood not be meeting for worship until sometime after the month of April. This is a bitter pill to swallow.  Still, I know the day will arrive when we shall all gather in warm embrace, welcoming each and every member and friend back through the church doors. I encourage all of you to continue to find alternative ways in gleaning spiritual nourishment, through online streaming worship services as well as printed devotionals.  And I am hoping each of you is maintaining contact with your brothers and sisters in faith.   

I also need to say thank you to those of you who have faithfully continued your tithing. I encourage everyone to do your very best in keeping up with your financial support of St. Paul.  Your gifts and tithes help to keep our doors open so that the work of serving this community will continue.

Thank you for prayers and for supporting one another in these challenging times. And thank you for your generosity and participation in being the hands and feet of Christ to our neighbors.  I miss each and every one of you, and I look forward for our glorious reunion in the near future.

God bless you all!

Pastor Alan 

Friday, March 27, 2020 Pastor Message:

I’ve been working out of the church office this past week, and had the chance to visit with some of the pantry volunteers.  (Oh, yes, our faithful pantry workers are still at it!  Can you believe it? Even during this Pandemic. I am so proud of them!)  I must admit that I am a little amazed at how many volunteers, especially in these days of uncertainty and fear, chose to be here to serve our pantry clients. I know I personally move with a little more caution these days, always wondering in the back of my mind if I’m doing anything that might be “unprotective”. I asked one volunteer if she gave any thought as to whether or not she was putting herself at risk, being out in the public and all. She smiled, and without a word she reached into her pocket and pulled out this small prayer card with a picture of Jesus on it. On the flip side these words were printed, in BOLD letters:  

TRUST ME!

Honestly, the words nearly knocked me off my feet. How beautiful and powerful those words were. I have thought of that moment several times over the past few days, and I wondered how many times I have feared and doubted in these early days of confinement and not knowing what is coming next. How about you?  

The truth of the matter is, these are very dark and scary days. Feeling as if we have no control over something can absolutely petrify us and shut us down.  But as those words “TRUST ME” immediately reminded me, we CAN trust Jesus and his words. Because he trusted our Almighty God, in whose hands we all rest.

If you are feeling anxious or alone in this time of darkness, FEAR NOT (as Jesus often said!), for we are neither alone, defenseless or without God’s love and protection.

I’m praying for all of you.  Pray for me also, and for your church family and friends. Remember, do not fear or be troubled. Our faithful God is still in control, even if it doesn’t appear to be so.

I love you family. I’ll talk with you soon! 

Pastor Alan


A MESSAGE FROM ST. PAUL UCC REGARDING THE COVID 19 VIRUS

 

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 1:5 that “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel…”

 

Dale Patterson, your council president, and I have struggled the past few days to acquire wise counsel regarding the COVID 19 virus, trying to determine our next WISE steps together as a faith community.

We have sought the wise counsel of folks connected to the Ohio Department of Health and various governmental agencies. And we also have sought the advice of our fellow churches within and outside the UCC. And we listened carefully as our Gov. Mike DeWine updated us at a press conference Thursday afternoon. After much consultation and prayerful deliberation, your leadership at St. Paul has made the difficult but (we feel) necessary decision to not hold public worship services for the remaining Sundays in March. Those dates would be this coming Sunday, March 15th, as well as March 22nd and March 29th


As much as we treasure and enjoy worshiping our gracious God with all of you, we must also look out for the safety of each and every member and friend of this congregation. It is my sincere hope that we will resume worship on Sunday, April 5th, Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy week leading up to our celebration of Easter. Our church office will continue to operate, and Heather and I will be available to answer any questions you may have.

 

I invite all of you during this downtime of Lenten reflection and self-care to utilize your devotionals for Lent, and to keep the citizens of this earth, as well as your immediate church family, in your prayers as we move through this unusual experience together. Remember, God is Still Speaking.  Keep heart, and know that you are loved.  God bless you.

 Pastor Alan   




All Are Welcome!
 
Photo Credit: Tracy Doyle Photography



Past Events:


Bagging of Blessing Bags

June 12, 2016

Pictures to come!

Pentecost Sunday 2016










 






 
 
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Pastor Alan Hicks


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