From Pastor Jeff
From Pastor Jeff
“"God of change and glory, God of time and space, when we fear the future, give to us your grace. In the midst of changing ways give us still the grace to praise"
Many Gifts, One Spirit
United Methodist Hymnal 114
arr. Al Carmines
Dear Church Family,
The year was 1956, gas prices were 22 cents a gallon, the average cost of a new house was $11,700.00, the average cost of a new car was $2,050.00, and Ground Coffee was 85 cents per pound. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office. Elvis Presley entered the U.S. music charts for the first time with Heartbreak Hotel. General Electric introduced “The Snooze Alarm”, first snooze alarm clock ever. Bob Barker makes his TV debut as host of the game show Truth or Consequences. A lot has changed since 1956. In case you are wondering, 1956 is the last time Easter Sunday fell on April 1st—April Fool’s Day.
Change surrounds us. We are no longer the same person we were 50 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago, or even yesterday. I had a professor at Ashland who always said, “If you’re not changing you’re not growing. Change is the cornerstone of growth and all great breakthroughs in life.” As you read this, some of you are probably thinking to yourself, Thank God, I am not the same person I was ____ years ago.
Even with God’s creation, things change—the blossoms sit on trees, bringing the promise of life and the beauty in what has for so long seemed asleep and lifeless. The sun and the snow rain join together bringing the promise of what is to come: warmth and lush greenery. This is the time when we welcome in spring. And this is the season when we welcome Easter.
I love this time of year, it’s like we can hear the earth joining our cries of hallelujah on Easter. After death comes life, out of darkness comes light, out of hopelessness comes hope. We see this truth played out in the earth around us as we prepare to hear the holy stories once again.
N.T. Wright, a retired Anglican bishop reminds us—Easter is always something that plays out in the earth around us, not in some other distant world or in some far-removed heaven. He writes, “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
At Easter we don’t just celebrate our hope for life after death, we celebrate our hope for life now, for new life filled with the hope and love of heaven now. We celebrate our hope for change and transformation. At Easter we are surprised by hope, surprised by God’s insistence that nothing, not even death itself, can defeat our hope for newness and for tastes of heaven here and now. Every time we pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” we voice Easter hope for touching heaven and changing earth.
Where do you need some hope? What feels like a tomb in your life, like a tree in winter seemingly lifeless and asleep? We lift those places up to God with prayers that remember God’s faithfulness.
Where do you see hope? Where do you see signs of God’s newness, signs of love, signs of heaven here and now? We hold those places in our heart as we fully live into the newness of being Easter people. Thanks be to God for change!
In case you are wondering, 2029 is the next time Easter Sunday will fall on April Fool’s Day.
Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
Love in Christ,
Rev. Jeffery R. Harrison
an open invitation for all
an open invitation for all
First United Methodist Church hosts free monthly community dinners open to the public.
These events focus on reaching out to our local area, sharing the grace of God and building a more united church family.
Our next Community Dinner will be April 26.
We hope to see you there!
West Austintown First United Methodist Church offers a group bible study open to the community called Supper, Study & Service in which participants gather to share a meal and explore a book that helps us reflect on our role as Christians in our community.
This study culminates in a Service project in which the group gives back to the local community by way of creating Blessing Bags from donated items, making a meal, and serving it to those in need.
We have partnered with Our Community Kitchen to serve these meals to the less fortunate.
During 2017 Summer, West Austintown First United Methodist Church offered Supper & Study for a second time. The book covered was A Grace-full Life by Wes Olds & Jorge Acevedo which seeks to answer the questions: "In what ways is God an ever-present God?," "Why does God want to have a personal relationship with me?," "How can I fully experience and respond to God's grace?," "How can I die well '"surrounded by God's grace?"'.
Our group connected with Our Community Kitchen to serve a meal and deliver Blessing Bags.
If you would like to attend our next Supper, Study, & Service group, it will begin September 12th. You can find more information for these meetings and others on our church calendar.
During the 2017 Lenten season, West Austintown First United Methodist Church offered a Supper & Study in which members gathered together, reading and discussing Tom Berlin's book Restored which helps us to see our mess through the eyes of Christ to find redemption and restoration. This Supper & Study group finalized their study with a Community Outreach program. They connected with Our Community Kitchen in downtown Youngstown & were invited to serve soup & give Blessing Bags to our unhoused brothers & sisters. Our next Supper & Study will begin mid-July.