UCC Blog

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

Weekly Thoughts 4.18.19

Dear friend ---

It is almost here! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I can't wait for Easter Sunday to get here. The music, the pageantry, the lilies... all of it! 

If ever there is a day worthy of pulling out all the stops, this is it. For Easter is a reminder that there is a new way that the universe works. The old boundaries have been torn down and in their place are the limitless characteristics of hope, promise and love. 
So we will gather on this first morning of the week to peer into the tomb, only to discover it is empty! He has been raised. This is the first day of the rest of our lives! 

On Easter, there will be energetic crowds and joyous worship. I encourage you to join us for one of our four Easter services.  We'll gather in the courtyard for a Sunrise Service at 6:45am, led by our Executive Minister, Rev. Renee Hoke.  And then we'll gather in the Sanctuary for our traditional worship services at 9:00am and 11:00am. There will also be a Simple Worship service in the Chapel at 9:30am led by Rev. Shannon Moore.  This is a simple, come-as-you-are service.

My sermon title for Easter Sunday will be "Beyond Belief." In my experience of 25 years of ministry, I've discovered there are two kinds of people: those who believe Easter is true, and those who desperately WANT it to be true, even if they don't believe it! Regardless of how we come -- believing a little or believing a lot -- we all want for it to be true! 

The truth is, everybody believes in something. The invitation on Easter is to believe in resurrection: to believe that people can change, marriages can be mended, addictions can be overcome, that compassion matters, that God is still acting in this world, that the final word of the story has not yet been written.

All that being said, you can't have a resurrection without a death. I hope you'll join us tonight as we gather for our Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service.  This will be a very moving, dramatic service in which we'll hear the story of the final moments of Jesus' life and death.  We'll gather around the table to share, too, in events of the upper room in which Jesus gave his followers a new commandment: to love one another.  That service is at 7:00pm this evening in the Sanctuary.

We'll be expecting big crowds on Sunday, so I would encourage you to arrive early! Since there will be a lot of guests, if you are able, park farther away than normal to save parking spots up close for our guests and for those who may be arriving late. We'll have extra greeters and folks directing traffic in the parking lots.

Finally, I hope you've invited someone to join you for worship on Sunday.  The invitation cards we had printed up are just for that!  And don't just invite them to come, offer to drive them if you can!
It will be a day beyond belief!

I'll see you Sunday.

With love for all of you,

Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman

Senior Minister

University Christian Church

Fort Worth, TX