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Weekly Reflection, 6-13-19

Dear church family -
 
I hope you have had a good week and are enjoying this incredible, mild weather we've been having!
 
This Sunday, I'll be continuing my sermon series looking at the Lord's Prayer. I'm calling it, Lord, Teach Us: The Lord's Prayer & the Christian Life. We've been walking through the prayer that Jesus gave his disciples, paying attention to what this prayer has to offer us, what Jesus is asking us to pray and how it helps us think about what it means to be Christian.
 
In the first sermon, we talked about how Jesus invited the disciples---and us---to approach God in a very personal, intimate way and to make God's name holy (hallowed) in the way we live out our lives. Last week, we talked about how Jesus invites us to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven down to Earth. If you missed either of those sermons and want to catch up, you can find them here.
 
This week, we are going to look at the third part of the prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." In the original Greek, the prayer here would be "for the bread we need to survive." Now, I'm fairly confident that most of us in our community of faith don't have to worry about where our next meal will come from. But if you are poor, the bread you need to survive is real bread.
 
When we pray the Lord's Prayer, some are praying for food---real food---that is needed to survive. But for those of us who have enough food, this becomes a metaphor for something else. We'll talk about what we might truly be hungry for; what might satisfy our hungry hearts.
 
We'll also be celebrating another successful week of Vacation Bible School. There has been so much energy and excitement each morning as our building has been teeming with excited kids---over 150 children and countless volunteers. They'll be sharing some of their excitement and the songs they've learned this week at the 11:00am service.
 
I hope you'll join us this Sunday. But if you can't be there in person, I invite you to join in via the livestream on our website or on Facebook live for both services. Or join us for the Simple Worship service at 9:30am in the chapel led by Rev. Shannon Moore. This is a short, simple, come-as-you-are service that includes communion.
 
Finally, I hope you are planning to join us on Sunday, June 23. It will be Rev. Cyndy Twedell's final Sunday with us before she retires. There will be a reception in Walker Hall following both worship services as we express our gratitude for Rev. Twedell's years of service and ministry and to wish her well in her retirement. At that time, we would love to surprise Cyndy with a love offering. If you wish to contribute, checks should be made payable to UCC and designated "Love Offering" and forwarded to the Business Office. Gifts also can be made online by visiting www.universitychristian.org/giving. In addition, if you'd like to bring a card or personal note to give to Cyndy, we encourage you to do that as well. 
 
As we make our way through this series on the Lord's Prayer, I am encouraging us to all say the Lord's Prayer every day this week. So, I hope you'll pause whatever you are doing in this moment, take a deep breath, and say with me...
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever.
Amen.
 
As always, it is my sincere joy to serve as your pastor. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
  
Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman
Senior Minister
University Christian Church
Fort Worth, TX

Weekly Reflection, 6-6-19

Dear church family -
 
This Sunday we will be celebrating Pentecost. According to the book of Acts (Acts 2: 1-21), it was the day in which the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus' disciples, and is therefore regarded as the birthday of the Church. All of this took place at a Jewish festival set 50 days after Passover. The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning "fiftieth" (50th). Many folks like to wear red on Pentecost in celebration of this day.
 
I'll be continuing my sermon series looking at the Lord's Prayer. I'm calling it Lord, Teach Us: The Lord's Prayer & the Christian Life. We are taking a few weeks to walk through that important prayer that Jesus gave his disciples, unpacking what it all means, how it helps us think about what it means to be Christian, and how it might expand our prayer life.
 
The argument could be made that while most of us "know" the Lord's Prayer - which we pray every week - that we don't fully understand or comprehend what we are praying. There is much more to this prayer than first meets the eye. So, we are looking at what these words really mean.
 
Last week we talked about how Jesus invited the disciples - and us - to approach God in a very personal, intimate way, and to make God's name holy (hallowed) in the way we live out our lives. If you missed that sermon and want to catch up, you can find it here.
 
This week we are going to look at the second part of the prayer: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
 
Daniel Harrington is a Jesuit scholar who suggests, "this one phrase is the central concern of the entire Lord's prayer."
 
I might take that a step further and say that it was the central concern of Jesus' life and ministry. It is what motivates Jesus. It was what he was trying to do and teach. This one line, you could say, summarizes his entire ministry.
 
I hope you'll join us in the Sanctuary at 9:00am or 11:00am. I think you'll be glad you did. But if you can't be there in person, I invite you to join in via the livestream on our website or on Facebook live for both services. Or join us for the Simple Worship service at 9:30am in the chapel led by Rev. Shannon Moore. This is a short, simple, come-as-you-are service that includes communion.
 
There are couple other things that I want to make sure you are aware of.
 
First, did you know that we have created a new, weekly podcast of our sermons? In case you miss a Sunday, or want to hear it again, or perhaps share it with someone. We are calling it Living Out Faith and you can subscribe today through iTunes or Google Music, or go to www.universitychristian.org/podcast.  
 
Secondly, next week is our annual Vacation Bible School. We are calling it To Mars and Beyond and there are still a few slots available for certain age groups. We've already got 151 kids signed up! If you'd like more information, visit our website or contact Robin Doyle. And we can always use more volunteers as well!
 
Finally, I hope you are planning to be join us on Sunday, June 23. It will be Rev. Cyndy Twedell's final Sunday with us before she retires. There will be a reception in Walker Hall following both worship services as we express our gratitude for Rev. Twedell's years of service and ministry and to wish her well in her retirement. Please plan to be here on that special Sunday.
 
On Sunday I encouraged us all to say the Lord's Prayer every day this week. So, I hope you'll pause whatever you are doing in this moment, take a deep breath, and say with me...
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever.
Amen.
 
As always, it is my sincere joy to serve as your pastor. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
 
Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman
Senior Minister
University Christian Church
 

Weekly Reflection, 5-23-19

Dear church family -
 
I hope and trust you are having a good week, or at least finding moments of peace and grace in the midst of an otherwise hard week.
 
I am working hard today to finish up my sermon for Sunday. I'll be preaching on an interesting story from the book of Acts. Acts, or sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles, is the sequel to the gospel of Luke. The book of Acts tells us what happened after the resurrection, as the disciples-turned-apostles and the new converts tried to take the message of Jesus and put it into action--living out the teachings of Jesus and creating the type of world that he spoke of. As we see from the story, and know from our own lives, that is not always as easy as we'd wish.
 
The story that we will be looking at all centers around a controversy in those early days about whether the Gentiles (read: non-Jews) would need to become, essentially, Jewish before they could become Christian. It is a story, ultimately, about who is in and who is out.
 
We are quick to do that, aren't we? Draw lines and choose sides, determining who is worthy and who still needs a little work. We distinguish between us and them. But in this story, Peter has a bit of an awakening through an interesting vision that takes place. And he discovers that the family of God is a little bigger and wider than he originally thought. As he recounts this vision that converted his heart, he begins to convert other hearts as well.

I hope you'll join us in the Sanctuary at 9:00am or 11:00am. I think you'll be glad you did. But if you can't be there in person, I invite you to join in via the livestream on our website or on Facebook live for both services. Or join us for the Simple Worship service at 9:30am in the chapel led by Rev. Shannon Moore. This is a short, simple, come-as-you-are service that includes communion.
 
I'm sure you've seen the devastation that has taken place this week due to the terrible storms in the Midwest. I have a friend who pastors the Disciples church in Jefferson City, MO, which was devastated last night by a tornado. He reported this morning that his church building was unharmed (though there was a lot of damage in the surrounding community), but that Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Jefferson City sustained extensive damage from being hit by the tornado. This is just one of countless stories that will be told in the days ahead. If you would like to support the relief efforts, I would encourage you to do so by giving to Week of Compassion (www.weekofcompassion.org), which is our denomination's emergency relief organization. They do wonderful work on our behalf and through our efforts. Please give generously.
 
Here is the prayer I offered this morning:
 
God of grace and love, we thank you for all the blessings in our lives and for the chance to renew ourselves each day. Inspire and instill in each of us a capacity for compassion and love, that we might serve you in all that we say and do. Remind us that faith is a gift, not something to hold onto tightly, but to live out and give away to a world in desperate need of your healing grace. Amen.
 
As always, it is my sincere joy to serve as your pastor. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
 
Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman
Senior Minister
University Christian Church
Fort Worth, TX

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