Category Archives: Pondering with the Pastor

A Reflection about Lent and the Easter Season

“Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run,

but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize”

1 Corinthians 9:24

Who is ready for the Olympics this summer? I was flipping channels the other day and found the Olympic trials and qualifying race for the Marathon. I must confess, the only thing I like less than running long distances is watching a long distance race. This time I was intrigued by it. The runners, the way they were persevering, some holding up well, others struggling mightily. Two women, training partners, were running side by side encouraging one another. This time it seemed the mentor being encouraged by the other runner. The mentor talked about hitting that famous wall. The time when the body just says quit and give up. She didn’t quit. They both finished the race. It reminds me of the journey of life and faith. I have often said life is a marathon, not a sprint. How often in life do we hit those walls and want to give up on life, faith or both.

It leads me to think about the race our Lord and Savior Jesus ran for us. He ran for 33 years. He overcame obstacle after obstacle. The toughest part of the race was the end. He was abandoned, betrayed or denied by almost all, just a few standing by him to the end. He was tired, he was thirsty. He said, “It is finished” and like the original runner who made it to Marathon with the message, Jesus collapsed and died. As the Apostle Paul said and did, “He fought the fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. Paul also said there was in store for him the crown of righteousness, eternal life, heaven waiting.

The author of Hebrews, some say Paul, also wrote that as we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses”,( an audience of supporters and believers in us and the faith), we can overcome anything that slows us down or holds us back. We can persevere and overcome and finish the race. Just as Jesus endured, even carrying a cross, we can rise above and burden, any opposition. He said we don’t have to get tired, lose heart and give up.

Just as Jesus rose above even death at his resurrection, we too can rise above and obstacle, and stumbling block. Just as Jesus’ heavenly Father performed Spiritual CPR on his Son and Raised him back to life, Jesus can breathe life, new life into us, as we run the race.

Are you tired? Are you weary? Are you just trying to survive and stumble across the finish line? Are you striving to give it your best? Or are you thriving? Are you trained and prepare to run this race of life and faith well?

Some barely crossed the finish line that day at the Olympic trials, qualifier for the Marathon. The first three got to go on to the Olympics. The fourth place finishers and after did not. In Corinthians, Paul said to run the race to get the prize. Come join us as at Akron First UMC as we run the race of life and faith together. As we journey on this Believe Series together, we will spiritually train to run the race of life and faith. How well are you trained? How well trained are your children? Grandchildren? Parents, Grandparents?

May all generations come and run this race together, as we do, may we embrace the prize Jesus has set before us, eternal life and as we do, may it help us to thrive and run the race well until we cross that finish line.    Amen.

 

Pastor Dave

 

The Rock

I sat on a Rock in a garden
and pondered over my life.    rock
There were times of sadness
and times of joy,
times of tears and times of laughter.
Yet it seemed just like
every time my life
was starting to come together,
It would all come crashing down around me.

A man came up to me and said,
“You know there is someone who can truly make a difference in your life
One who can help you
weather the storms.

I asked who that was,
“Joshua, he replied”.
“Really?”, I asked
“Really” he replied.

He can help you to find
what you are looking for.
Like that rock you are sitting on,
Solid and stable.

“Where can I find this Joshua?”
I asked
“I wish I could tell you.”
The man replied.
“You will have to find him
for yourself”

So I set out on a journey.
I was even bold enough
to knock on every door I could find.
Some doors were pretty plain.
Others were fairly fancy.

Plain or fancy didn’t seem to matter.
Some heard of this Joshua,
Some knew him well,
some not at all.

I would look past
and around the doors
and see their homes.
Again, some were plain, some fancy.
Though all the homes I went to,
seemed a bit battered and worn
by some storms
that had passed through

The homes of those who knew Joshua
seemed pretty solid.
Those who did not
seemed to have some pretty damaged homes.

Windows were shattered.
Walls that were cracked.
Roofs tattered and torn.

Then I looked toward the ground
and noticed something strange,
All the people who knew Joshua
had solid foundations
beneath their homes
There was little or no foundation beneath the homes of those who knew Joshua little or not at all.

After all this walking
and knocking on doors,
I began to get pretty tired.
I decided to go back to the garden
And think about my day.
I found the Rock I had sat on before
And sifted through all I had encountered that day.
The man I saw earlier came back
And asked if he could sit with me.
I thought for a moment
and decided it was ok.

He began to speak…
“I had a good friend,
very much like you,” he said
His name was Simon,
but we all called him Sandy.
He wrestled and struggled,
stood and stumbled.
He often jumped into situations
and got himself
into some pretty big messes.

As we got to know each other,
He began to pull his life together.
He learned how to
weather the storms of life.
He even got mad at me one day.

During one of these storms
that rolled through,
He was all upset and worried.
He found me almost sleeping
right through it

As he began to pull his life together,
we started calling him “Pete”
then “Rocky”
He really learned how to
weather the storms
and deal with the battle and fights
that life can and will bring.

Then he looked at me and asked,
“Would you like to learn how to deal with the storms and battles life can and will bring?”
I knew the answer right away,
But I couldn’t get the words out.
I began to try to nod my head

Then something strange happened.
He looked deep into my eyes,
into my soul.
Then he called me by name and said.
“Would you like me to help you?”
“Tears began to well in my eyes”
Joshua? Is it you?
It is.

Let me talk with you
Let me walk with you
Let me show you.

Then he pointed across the garden
I saw my home.
It was battered by the storms.

He pointed to the left
and I saw two pieces of wood
not destroyed by the storm.
The first pointed toward heaven,
The second piece connected to it
Balancing upon the horizon.

Then he pointed to the right
and I saw a cave
There was a large Rock by the cave
I saw some pieces of cloth inside,
But nothing else.    tomb

He walked me over to my home
He pointed to the rock and I nodded.
Brick by brick, board by board,
Together we rebuilt my home
on that rock

We walked, we talked
He showed me
how to rebuild my home
And my life.

The storms still came.
My home managed to
withstand any storm
That came after that
And I spent many days on my porch,          lighthouse
At my kitchen table
and in my living room
Getting to know Joshua better
And listening to him teach me
how to live.

Happy New Year Everyone!

12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  14  In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.       Philippians 4:12-14(NRSV)

What a year it has been! There were Weddings and Funerals. Our church family decided to worship together and learn to worship hand in hand, respecting and celebrating different ways to worship. We are learning how to share and pass on our faith to our younger generations. We celebrated one of our strongest financial years, being able to fulfill all of our financial responsibilities. I am inspired by all the people who put their individual feelings aside to look towards what is best for the church family.

Personally, I dealt with a mother whose memory continues to fade, but a spirit as vibrant as ever. Dad made it through a green mold infection with a 106.5 fever overnight the previous fall. After weeks in the hospital and a month in the nursing home, he was able to come home again. He went from being a caregiver to needing care. Yet even after a kinked colon, a couple of hernia’s and a broken hip and getting a new hip, I see a father whose determination and positive attitude being an inspiration to even those helping provide care for him.

Both my sisters have moved into my parent’s home and continue to do a wonderful job dealing with a very difficult situation.

Our daughter is still discerning God’s calling for her life, exploring working with youth and young adults, counseling, while pursuing her gift of photography. Even while numerous physical and health conditions continue to knock her down, she keeps getting back up.

Our Son is in his senior year of high school , preparing to graduate and finding a gift in the field of graphic arts, getting the highest grade in the Harkness/BOCES program in that area. After a summer of working hard at Darien Lake in the food services area, He would be blessed with an opportunity to work t Schmitt’s garage. His work ethic getting him praises from his bosses. Even after a sudden, emergency appendectomy, He is back on his feet within a week.

My wife continues to be the rock of our family, holding it all together and dealing with all the challenges of being a wife, mom and spouse of a preacher, she deals with it all, continuing to have a positive attitude and outlook.

I continue to be humbled by the attitude and perspective of family and friends. I look around and see people I love find the ability to be content whatever the circumstances are around them and yet see a God who can help them overcome anything in their path. I have been inspired by them as I deal with my own health and other challenges.

I have also looked back and see how far God has brought me in my life and how much I have been humbled and matured, even in these last three years since I have been here. I also see how far I have to go to see the perfect reflection of Jesus as I look in the mirror, inside and out. I am challenged and encouraged by Paul’s other words as he realized he has not attained, but he reminded us to not look back, not be trapped or held down by our past, but put the past behind, to look forward and see all we can become in Christ. The key is not trying harder to be like Jesus, But to invite Jesus to be more and more at work in our lives so there is more and more of Jesus in us.  As we started the New Year as a worshiping community,  we shared in John Wesley’s covenant prayer. My prayer for myself and for each of us is I, we can allow God to be more and more at work in our lives, and as we do, I, we will see more and more of Jesus in and at work in each of us.   Amen.

Pastor Dave

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[a] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[b] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[c] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14 (NRSV)

 John Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

exalted for you, or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty,

let me have all things,

let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

“Strive to Thrive”

                           4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.                   Treeof40fruit         John 15:4 (The Message)
(Found on Syracuse.com)

“A Syracuse University art professor is getting worldwide attention for his Tree of 40 Fruit, an idea that ripened more than half a decade ago.

Sam Van Aken designed the stunning, multi-colored tree that can bear 40 different kinds of stone fruit — those with pits. The artist and sculptor, who teaches at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, creates the trees through grafting.

Syracuse University told The Post-Standardin 2011 that he designed the “living art” as a symbol for the Central New York school’s 9/11 memorial service. The tree was planted on the SU quad three years ago, and tended to by Van Aken in hopes of growing various types of cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots.

“It’s a metaphor for a lot of things,” Van Aken told the newspaper then, though he specifically chose 40 because it’s a number that appears often in the Bible. “It’s a number that represents bounty.”

“Van Aken chose 40 because it’s a number that appears often in the Bible, he said. It rained 40 days and 40 nights, and after the rain stopped, Noah waited another 40 days before opening the ark. Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, and Christ spent 40 days on earth after the resurrection.”

I have learned that the process of grafting is simply to take a branch from one tree and attach it to the branch and trunk of another tree. What strength does a branch have on its own? How much fruit can one branch produce on its own. Even the most vibrant of flowers wither and fade once they are cut off from the main plant. Yet attached and together, each branch can produce far more than they ever could on their own.

It is like that in our own lives. How much can we accomplish on our own, one single branch. What happens when the storms of life come? What happens when droughts hit our lives? Together, attached, connected to God, we are far stronger, can produce far more and be more fruitful and thrive than we ever could on our own.

Come join us this fall as we share a sermon series and worship experience that will teach us and allow us to “Strive to Thrive”. We will discuss practical and spiritual ways we can overcome obstacles and adversities that daily life brings and do more than just survive.

There is a line from the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns that I mentioned in my last article, It says:

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive.

We were made to thrive.”

 

In the bridge of the song, it speaks of:

 “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, Love unstoppable, anything is possible”

 

Would you like to find unspeakable joy in life, a faith that is unsinkable and an unstoppable love? Would you like to live life in a way that “anything is possible”?

Come join us at Akron First UMC this fall, we will be learning how to experience these things in our lives on Sunday mornings and during the week. Follow us on Facebook for events and opportunities.

I look forward to seeing you this fall.

Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

(John 15:5-8 The Message)

 

Pastor Dave

Beginning to blossom and thrive

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Galatians 5:22b-23a

 

Hello everyone! If you don’t know by now, this is what is called my “life verse”. It is the verse I fruitbase my life around. If I am in harmony with God and If God and God’s Spirit is at work, this verse is the result. Without God, earlier verses point to bitterness, envy, strife, jealousy, anger, quarreling, dissensions, etc being the center of our lives.

 

There is a place in the bible that says we reap what we sow. I do believe we are often the victims of circumstances beyond our control, but We can often find these good things in our lives. In my teens and early twenties, I often found myself the victim of “sour grapes” in my life. That bitterness was all consuming. In one version of the bible, it talks about what our life can be like without God, God’s spirit, God’s help: “a stinking accumulation of mental garbage, frenzied grabs for happiness… loneliness, competition, never being satisfied, temper, etc.

 

In another place in the bible, Jesus talked about sowing seeds. He talked about our lives being like a garden or a field. Jesus talked about sowing good things in our lives. He also said that sowerimagepaths, rocks, and thorns affect those good things God wants to sow in our lives. He said the path is like the times we allow the good things to be quickly or easily taken from our lives. The rocky ground is the troubles and burdens life can bring, scorching the good things God wants to give. The thorns are the busyness and worries and burdens of life. Jesus said God’s spirit is like the gardener that can help us deal with the busyness and burdens of life so we may reap a great harvest of fruitfulness that God wants us to have.

CastingCrownsHow do we allow God to be that Gardener who can help us reap the good things in life? It is the time of year we can look around and see the gardens and fields that have become overrun with weeds or choked by rocky ground. We can also see the flowers, crops, and fruit that are beginning to blossom and thrive.

 

From time to time, I have asked the question, “Are you, I, we: surviving, striving, or thriving? There is a popular song out there by the Christian group Casting Crowns. It speaks of how we can be like a tree that thrives in a dry and thirsty land.

Thrivelyrics

“Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable, anything is possible”

It is too easy to allow the rocks and thorns to steal the fruit God wants to give. Starting the final Sunday of July and during August, we will deal with what that can steal the good things from our lives. Come and hear how you can reap a great harvest with God in our lives and how together, we can thrive

Pastor Dave

 

Reflecting Love in all we do

Christ_Washing_Feet_Giovanni_Agostino_da_Lodi1500_smallSome Thoughts from Pastor Dave

(Jesus final prayer and greatest desire…)

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name- the name you gave me so that they (the disciples) may be one as we are one…”

“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them they glory that you gave me, may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me.”

John 17:11b, 20b-23 (NIV)

 

The bread has been broken. The cup has been shared. The disciples’ feet have been washed. Jesus shares of the coming betrayal, abandonment and denial. He offers his disciples, his friends’ final words of comfort, advice and encouragement as He nears his final hours. He promises the same spirit that gave him wisdom and strength; power and peace would be with them. He told them the world will often hate them, and that many would persecute them and think they are doing God a favor. He told them in this world they will have troubles, but take heart, He has, will overcome the world.

After Jesus shares his final words of comfort, He looks up toward heaven and prays. He prays that he may bring His heavenly Father glory. He prays for his disciples. He prays the words they have accepted and followed will not keep them separated from the world but protected from the world they will immerse themselves in for His sake. He prays they may find joy in tribulation, triumph over tragedy, in peace in the adversity. He prays they may find purity in a putrid world.

Jesus prays above all that they may find strength and unity in one another. He prays that all who believe may be in unity and love with one another and that this unity and love may speak more powerfully than any words uttered.

Psalm 133 speaks of how pleasing it is to God when we are one in unity and love with one another. In the book of Acts, the early believers truly embraced this and became one. They focused on Christ and put God’s needs and others’ needs above their own.

Jesus taught us to love one another. The disciple John, in his first letter chapter four, says we cannot love God and hate another. We are called to love, family, friends, and enemies alike. O how we may go beyond tolerating at best but not loving all we are called to love.

As a church family, we are not called to be alike, to agree on all things or even to like one another. We are called to love one another. As the Rabbi who walked in the woods taught the monks, the messiah, Jesus is among you. As we treat the least, as we treat one another. So we have treated Jesus.

May the love and unity we show one another shine like a light and a beacon to all who are in darkness God’s marvelous light and love. May people watch and see our testimony and be drawn to the one who has shown his light and love toward us.

As we seek to become one, may our Sunday morning worship, our fellowship, our discipleship (learning and teaching) and our service toward one another and the community reflect this love and unity for all to see.

Amen.

Opportunities available to help us draw closer to God

It’s that time of year.  New Year’s resolutions are often made (and quickly broken).

Recently someone commented to me about our United Methodist history and tradition.  I realized what a wealth of resources we have in The United Methodist Church to draw us closer to God.

One of my favorite worship services is a service called John Wesley’s Covenant service.  It is a service at the beginning of the year that allows people to renew their commitment to God each year.  I have included the prayer below.

We also have something called means of Grace.  These are opportunities to draw closer to God.  These opportunities include individual actions, such as prayer, fasting, reading the Bible and healthy living.  There are group practices which include: communion, baptism, and fellowship.  There are actions and practices which involve helping others: doing good, visiting the sick and those in prison, feeding and clothing those in need, earning, saving and giving all you can.  Other group actions, practices include seeking justice and helping other who can’t help themselves.

Our church family at Akron First UMC is going to strive to offer as many of these opportunities to help people to draw others and each other closer to God and each other as possible.

We will look to be the hands, lips, and heart of Jesus and see how we can separately and together draw closer to God in the coming year.

Tired of making (and breaking New Year’s resolutions?)  Come be an active part of our church family in the coming year and see how your faith will soar and you will draw closer to God and others in amazing, incredible ways in the year ahead.

Amen.

Pastor David Wickins

John Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own,

but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt,

rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee

or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have

made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

From John Wesley’s

Covenant Service, 1780

 

 

 

“Where’s the line to see Jesus?”

Christmas is creeping into our lives earlier and earlier each year, this year, even before Halloween arrived, signs of Christmas were not hard to find. It seems to me more like signs of “Xmas” are everywhere, not signs of Christ.

inlineOne song I heard written a few years ago really caught my attention and touched my heart. It was the song, “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” Here are some of the words…

Christmas time was approaching, snow was starting to fall
Shoppers choosing their presents, people filling the mall
Children waiting for Santa, with excitement and glee
A little boy tugged my sweater, looked up and asked me
Where’s the line to see Jesus? Is He here at the store?
If Christmas time is His birthday, why don’t we see Him more?
…Where’s the line to see Jesus? He was born for me
Santa Claus brought me presents But Christ gave His life for me

The season of advent is to be a time of preparation for the “comings” of Jesus. God has touched my heart to prepare for his “comings.” Not just his coming 2000 years ago. Not just for the time he will come back and make all things new.

I am committed to prepare for him to come into each person’s heart and life, not just Christmas day, not just on Sundays, but all day, each day, every day.

Come join us on Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Come Join us on Sunday mornings, as we prepare our hearts and lives not just to remember he came.

Not just to prepare for his coming, but to prepare for God to come into our hearts and lives each day every day.

I can guarantee God will be coming to join us Christmas Eve. Will you join us? God and I hope to see you there.

I guarantee God will be coming to join us Sunday mornings during Advent. Will you join us? God and I hope to see you there.

The congregation and I are making all the preparations. Come join us at Akron First UMC and join the line to see Jesus this season we celebrate and remember the “comings” of Christ.

Amen.
Pastor Dave.

Under Construction

Akron First UMC is building. Literally, as we develop a new website and construct a community patio and public restroom project at the C. Dee Wright Center, and figuratively, as we design Christian Education, Worship, and other ministries for the upcoming year.

My firm belief is church should be an opportunity, not an obligation.

If you are already part of the process with your faithful prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness we say THANK YOU! And hope you will continue to help us build.

If for any reason you have pulled back in any of these areas or have never visited, we hope you will check out all that is happening and join us as we answer God’s call to put into practice those things scripture outlines for Kingdom living.

Looking forward to building together,
Pastor Dave Wickins