Sunday, August 9, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:


It’s easy to “love” God and have faith when all is well.  When everything is good, our love and faith aren’t being tested. 

Testing that comes through human suffering tends to shake us from our safe space. But it can also enhance and refine our love and faith in God. One pastor from my youth taught me that difficult and challenging times could be very fruitful spiritually. I’ve never forgotten that.   

While it’s hard to believe at first blush, I can look back now on my own losses and difficulties in life, and see where spiritual treasures showed up even in the midst of very trying times.  

A book I discovered sometime back, called “Learning to Fall: The Blessings of An Imperfect Life”, written by Philip Simmons, reaffirms that view for me. Simmons, a young college professor, husband and father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 35. Suddenly, he was forced to see his life through the lens of dying.  

In his book, Simmons shares this: “We have all heard poems, songs, and prayers that exhort us to see God in a blade of grass, a drop of dew, a child’s eyes, or the petals of a flower. Now when I hear such things, I say that’s too easy.” 

Simmons goes on to explain that the “greater challenge is to see God not only in the eyes of the suffering child but in the suffering itself…to thank God for broken bones and broken hearts, for everything that opens us to the mystery of our humanness.”   

He continues: “Don’t talk to me about flowers and sunshine and waterfalls: this is the ground, here, now, in all that is ordinary and imperfect, this is the ground in which life sows the seeds of our fulfillment. The imperfect is our paradise”. 

Can you see God only in good times? Or are you able to see God and believe even when the going gets tough?  

Let’s pray together. Dear God, when I get down, or angry or troubled due to difficulties I endure, help me to use that struggle as an opportunity for greater trust. In Jesus name, amen. 

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

Pastor Alan    


Sunday, August 2, 2020-Pastor Alan’s Message


One of my favorite books as a child was Watty Piper’s "The Little Engine That Could", the story of tiny train engine that was able to overcome adversity and achieve success. 


Most of us smile at the story, with fond memories. We get it. But does the simplicity of the children’s story have the power to help us in our adult endeavors? When faced with a difficult circumstance, does it help if someone says, "Come on, you can do it! Remember the little engine that could"? 


Maybe. But sometimes the challenges we face are more daunting than simply pulling a heavy load over a big hill. Life for us is more like multiple heavy loads, and mountain ranges to cross. Having a "can do" attitude doesn’t always cut it.  


Jesus knew he was calling his followers to a difficult task. Living and sharing the message of the Gospel is a life-long challenge. Jesus also knew that there would be success and failure along the way for his followers. No matter how hard we try, or how skilled we are in our efforts, preaching and living the Gospel life is always a mixed bag. There will be times when we will succeed in our efforts, and there are other times we will fail miserably. 


It is important to understand this. We’re tempted to think that simply because we love and serve God that it guarantees our success, all the time. We think that by playing on God’s team and running God’s plays means we win every game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 


Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) reminds us that “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” 

We will experience setbacks in this life. Our daily lives will not always be like a "little engine that could". But understanding the truth about our situation will help us work faithfully, and with realistic expectations. And always remember that where we fail, God ALWAYS succeeds.  


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


Pastor Alan 



Sunday, July 26, 2020-Pastor Alan’s Message

 

This week the U.S. reached a grim milestone of 4 million Coronavirus cases, doubling the total number of infections in just six weeks. The U.S. death toll now exceeds 141,000 since the beginning of this pandemic in January.

 

We do not know, and we cannot know, everything about death and dying. But we do have, as Hebrews 12:1 attests, “a great cloud of witnesses”, some of whom have gone on before us and others who are still with us. Hearing what they have said in the face of, or when thinking about, death can help us in our faith. Here are two statements for us to consider:

 

The first is from Corrie ten Boom, the author of the book “The Hiding Place”, which detailed she and her family’s life in the Netherlands during the Nazi reign. The ten Boom’s actively resisted the German occupiers by hiding their Jewish neighbors to save them. The entire family was eventually arrested, and her sister, Betsie, died in captivity. Corrie survived the Nazi camp. As a strong Christian woman, Corrie had this to say about death: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

 

The second statement is from Elizabeth Gilbert, an American author best known for her 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”. Her statement is this: “Faith is walking face–first and full–speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; … it would just be … a prudent insurance policy.”

 

Even with that insight, life is still hard. Death is still a mystery. And yet we can still affirm our faith; we do so from this side of the cross, knowing that our Savior walked this road before us and invites us to follow.

 

What do YOU say about death?

 

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

 

Pastor Alan

 Sunday, July 19, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:

 Defeat. I’ve heard this word quite a bit lately. About this pandemic, about our lives, about many things. Many years ago, a spiritual mentor gave me a passage of scripture to memorize. He said if I prayed and called on God to fulfill the promise of the passage, it would knock “defeat” out of my ball park — EVERY time.  Send it packing!   

What’s that scripture, you ask? It’s Isaiah 41:10:  “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Feeling defeated can send us into a tailspin and make us feel all alone, as if nobody understands what we’re experiencing. We can sink into that trap of self-pitying, too, that quickly becomes a security blanket for us; a way of hiding out when feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s look at Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you…” God tells us that we can have courage by remembering that we are never alone. God is always there. Whatever our feelings may tell us, the truth remains: God never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Then – “…Be not dismayed, for I am your God…”  You know, it helps to consider this ever-present God that’s talking to us isn’t an amateur, and is the same God who:

  • Parted the Red Sea
  • Helped his people to overcome impossible odds
  • Restored sight to blinded eyes, made the lame walk, and raised people from the dead

Truly, is anything too hard for our Lord and God? He promises to strengthen us, helps us, and hold us up. All on his power and might. Who else could promise us that?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, pull out your Bible and read Isaiah 41:10. And thank God that, with him, nothing can truly defeat us.

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

Pastor Alan


Wednesday, July 15, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:

Romans 12:12 tells us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

 

I was ten years old and really looking forward to Christmas that year! Why? Because I’d been tipped off that I was going to be getting a 3-speed bike to replace my old, small kiddy bike. I couldn’t have been more excited.

 

And then – the bottom fell out.  I contracted pneumonia three days before Christmas. I was very sick. On top of the pneumonia, my brand new 3-speed bike that I hadn’t even seen yet was stolen off our back porch. I was crushed.

   

Disappointments and losses are a part of everyone’s life. I know that. You know that. Unexpected happenings come along and kill our joy, and threatened to dampen our spirits entirely. This Coronavirus has been a game changer for ALL of us. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus. Many folks are out of work, and unable to find replacement positions. Our lives are hampered and turned upside down. And fear of contracting this virus is always present.

 

For me, the hardest aspect has been not having worship together. I miss seeing everyone. Your council members and I had met recently, and even established a date in July to resume worship – carefully, of course, under this new normal. And, then – the COVID case numbers started going up again. And up. And still up.  It became clear to us we would not be able to open in July. 

 

I know that it is frustrating for all of you who wish to resume meeting together as a church family. I want that, too. But for the time being, amid these rising numbers, we all need to continue doing what we have been doing, but always with that hopeful eye on the calendar, Our day of gathering together again WILL come.

 

I encourage all of you to stay up-to-date and knowledgeable about this virus. Governor Dewine will hold a COVID update today at 5:30 pm on our local channels. Please watch.

 

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

 

Pastor Alan


Sunday, July 12, 2020: Pastor Allan's Message:

A recent article in a magazine sparked the thought in my head that after what we have all been through these past four months, there’s no going back to normal. We may want to be back to normal, and pretend everything is back to normal.  But, it isn’t. Nothing is normal, and nothing WILL BE normal. Not now, not later. Maybe ever.

 

This thought may make us a little crazy, because we LIKE normal. We WANT normal. We don’t like change and being forced into new ways of having to exist and think and – well, you know. We want what we’re comfortable and familiar with. How it USED to be.

 

We’re kind of like the Israelites in the book of Exodus, chapter 16 who complained about their deliverance from slavery. Pulled from what they were familiar with, used to, and now out in the wilderness they began to long for the good ol’ days back in Egypt.  

 

Never mind that our own personal upheaval here has enlightened us in ways, maybe made us see things from a different view point. Recognize changes that need to happen. In the world. In our lives.

 

Becoming too comfortable.

 

You know, our appreciation for “comfort” and "familiarity" is sometimes the problem with us. Being comfortable and familiar means not having to think outside the box. We can keep focused on ourselves. The NORMAL routine. No outside factors to consider.  

 

But, this virus-experience has changed things. We’re aware now. More aware that we might have been before. Shaking up our “normal” causes us to see how distracted we’ve become from important things. Like family time. Like taking better care of ourselves, and our loved ones. We’ve had time to sit quietly in a remote place and watch a sunset, or sunrise, instead of rushing off to work. Taking us out of the daily grind for a while. Giving us more time with God. And prayer. A respite from being pulled deeper and deeper into an abyss of, truthfully, unimportant activity and focus.  


This pause, this rare opportunity to reset, has given us a chance come to a halt, re-examine our priorities, maybe even rearrange them. After all this, nothing can be or should be “normal” again. Because, normal and comfortable are NOT beneficial to us. Not really.


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


Pastor Alan Hicks


Sunday, July 5, 2020: Pastor Alan's Message:

This weekend, Americans celebrate freedom. The Fourth of July, our Independence Day — a day which marks the signing of our Declaration of Independence. Breaking free from the rule of England. Freedom is a blessing we hold dear and defend boldly.

In a country which is still to this day grappling with the concept of “freedom for all”, we as free people need to be reminded that freedom isn't free. In this world, someone always pays the price for people to be truly free. Consider the signers of the Declaration of Independence, all 56 of them. Did you know how much they risked for your freedom as an American?

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few survived long enough to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the Revolutionary War which continued to rage on until 1783. All 56 signers learned that liberty is so much more important than security, and for that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They fulfilled their pledge; they paid the price, and freedom in America was born.

It's hard to imagine paying such a price so that others might be free. But then, we're reminded of the price Jesus paid for our freedom; not just politically for the moment, but eternally for all time. God in the form of his son literally came into our earthly predicament, to live our life perfectly, to die a horrible death, and to give us the eternal life he earned as a gift, received by grace alone, through faith.

When it comes to freedom, I pray that you yearn for the freedom that comes in Christ alone, more than any of the other freedoms combined. No other greater blessing is there. No greater freedom, either.
  
I love you, St. Paul family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan





Sunday, June 28, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message

Hello, St. Paul family and friends.

Even though we're only halfway through it, 2020 has been such a stormy year for many of us. Family deaths, a global pandemic, social imbalance and upheaval, and an economy thrown into turmoil. A world without peace.


Many of us have hearts filled with unrest and anxiety. An article I recently read said, "The dark side of human experience, and a global culture of hatred and chaos…have left many of us with post-traumatic stress symptoms…disrupted sleep patterns, irritability, difficulty sustaining attention, hyper-vigilance, and a general sense of vulnerability."


Everything happening at once. One big global societal meltdown.  We try to block it out. But we can’t escape it or wish it away.


It’s important to remember in these stormy times that we are God's children. Of course, that doesn’t make any of us immune to trouble or bad things. Not by a long shot. But, when I feel my heart is overwrought with turmoil, I silently tell myself that God is still in control. And in that moment of prayer, a sense of calm and peace will envelope me, reminding me that God loves me and has not forsaken me.


Psalm 91:4 (NIV) is one of my favorite scriptures for such a moment: "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  


I remember a story I heard once about an art contest in search of artist who could best represent peace in the midst of uncertainty.  The winning entry was a painting depicting a raging storm, trees bending in the wind and rain. And in the center of the picture, on a tree branch, was a tiny bird's nest, and a mother bird with her feathers of protection spread over three tiny birds who were oblivious to the storm.


That, I think, is my favorite mental image of God’s peace. As God's children, we can face the storms, knowing that we are sheltered by the Almighty no matter how strongly the wind blows.


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


Pastor Alan

 

Sunday, June 21, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message

Hello, St. Paul family and friends. Happy Father’s Day!

Scripture tells us in Psalms 68:5 that God is a father to the fatherless.

I’ve learned through years of ministry that not everyone can say they were fortunate or blessed to have a great father.  I personally DID have a great father. But his father (my grandfather) was another matter altogether. My father left home at 16 and lied about his age in order to join the Navy. That’s about all he would ever say. I later learned from my aunt Ethel that their father had been very, very strict, not one to openly show compassion.  

If you didn't have a father growing up; or you had a difficult father, or an abusive father, maybe a cold father who didn't provide the right kind of love or guidance; or if YOU are a father who is hurting today, not feeling particularly appreciated, I want to remind you of something. Our God is a great Father! He has promised that he will take care of you and that he will never leave you.

Psalm 103:13 (NIV) says that “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.”  Now, this isn’t “fear” as in the sense that he will beat us or abuse us. This is “fear” as in respect. He desires our love and respect. God wants to comfort us in our pain and trouble and hardship. When our hearts are broken, God the Father is our heart fixer.  

I’m an orphan now. My dad has been gone 31 years.  And yet, I know that I am not without a father. None of us are. Today, on this Father's Day, let's all celebrate our eternal God who is the father of the fatherless, and the fixer of broken hearts and dreams.

Happy Father's Day, St. Paul family. I’ll talk with you soon.

Pastor Alan

 




Sunday, June 14, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message

Black Lives Matter. That’s a phrase we have all heard quite a bit lately. In rallies across the country, in television interviews, and in news articles.

Some people take exception to the phrase. Not because they dislike black people, necessarily. They just feel that ALL lives matter, not simply black ones. As a Christian I think I understand what they’re trying to say. We should not put importance on one life over another, kind of like “God loves all people”. Right? ALL Lives Matter.

Growing up in Miami, Florida many of my childhood friends were brown skinned. This was normal to me. I saw my friends as equals. No less important than I. They were just as smart, just as energetic, just as funny, and loved by their families just as much as I was loved by mine.

Becoming an adult. though, shattered that innocent view of equality. I soon realized that my brown-skinned friends weren’t seen by the world around me as my equals, but as my inferiors. Less-than. Not as smart intellectually. This new-found awareness drove a wedge between me and my friends – for a time.

Romans 2:11 tells us that God shows no favoritism. All lives DO matter to God. That’s a no-brainer. But the world doesn’t always agree with God. Old prejudices die hard, too. Even today, in our society black lives are still regarded by many as not of equal value. Lower on the scale of importance. Oh, we may not personally feel that way. But our society does, by and large. Black lives continue to be discounted and disregarded, looked upon suspiciously more often than whites are, and given less opportunities to succeed. To many, black lives are expendable.

So, when we hear the chant of “Black Lives Matter”, we shouldn’t assume it means All Lives DON’T Matter, or that Black Lives Matter MORE. We should hear it, instead, as a cry for help – because in reality that’s what it is. Black lives are in danger.

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

Pastor Alan

Sunday, June 7, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:

My neighbor Tom and I talked last evening about all of the happenings of this past week; the justice marches and protests, the looting and destruction happening everywhere. Tom asked me if there was a particular Bible verse that came to mind as I watch the news.

Several, actually, I answered. All scriptures that I had memorized as a child.

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  (Psalm 34:14)  

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)  

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)   

And then there is: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:5)  

These, I told him, were the scriptures instilled in me, the passages that come to me now as I watch cities burn; as I pray for peaceful protest; as I sympathize with people washing their eyes with water to remove tear gas, sharing pain remotely with families who have lost loved ones killed unmercifully. Yes, these holy verses represent for me the key to healing, to rebuilding, to reconnecting with others, remembering that God will in his time level the playing field so that we are all on one ground; all of us, no matter our race, our heritage, our faith.  God’s children.

They stop me from acting out with vengeful intent. They remind me that seeking God’s peace is paramount in importance, that we will only succeed in destroying God’s creation if we insist on having a divisionist mindset.

As I started to leave him, I remembered one more. From John 3:17; “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

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

Pastor Alan

Sunday, May 31, 2020-Pastor Alan's Message:

The events of this past week have been horrifying and heart-breaking. As if our world didn’t already feel as if we’re in a tailspin, something else happens that grabs our nation by the throat and threatens to crush our spirit as a united country, and divide us EVEN MORE than we already have been.

As the riots in downtown Columbus and around the nation raged on Friday evening, I expressed to Scot Ashton by telephone our need to be praying hard as a united people. My words of prayer as he and I joined together in spirit were: God, give peace to the whole of your creation, as well as to each of us a right spirit of empathy and concern for others, and not just for ourselves.  

We have a choice. We can either allow the current climate to rip us apart, separating us not only from each other but from God’s intentions for his creation – or we can agree to band together in spirit, body, and mind to see beyond our differences of race, of culture, of political opinion, in life experience, in ALL the ways that evil powers utilize in an attempt to bring our human house crashing down. Let us all join together and pray for God’s peace, a HOLY peace, that will calm and soothe the anger, the fears, the suspicions, the hate, the divisive intentions that exist today. Let us believe, as God’s children, holding tightly in faith that God will hear our pleas for the healing of our wounds.  

Let’s pray together: Dear Gracious God, let the hearts and souls in your blessed creation agree to see that a right spirit of empathy and a compassionate concern for others is what you have always intended for this world.  Make us one, in you and in each other.  In Christ Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen. 

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

Pastor Alan  

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










 






 
 
JOIN US:
Pastor Alan Hicks


Worship Service
Suspended indefinitely 

CONTACT US: 
St. Paul United Church of Christ
225 East Gates Street
Columbus, OH 43206
P (614) 444-1311
email: stpaulucc@live.com

To donate on Zelle or PayPal use: stpaulucc@live.com