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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 Reflection, 5.9.19

Dear church family -

This Sunday we will be celebrating Mothers' Day. We remember that there are many faces of motherhood. Many of us will be celebrating or remembering our mothers - both those who have given birth to us and nurtured us, and those who have mothered us through any growing period of our lives. We hold close in our hearts those who have lost a mother, and those who have lost a child, through death or through distance.

In honor of Mothers' Day, I'll be looking at some of the feminine images of God that are found in scripture. It is my hope that this might invite us toward a new understanding of who God is. For instance, throughout the bible God is described as being compassionate. In Hebrew that word is Raham, which is also the word for womb. God is compassionate; God is womb-like. This is a very feminine image for God.

We'll also be doing some baby dedications at the 11:00am service. Of all the many things I do in ministry, this is my favorite! It is a time when we dedicate parents and the congregation to the nurture of young lives in the church. In doing so, we commit to love these children through affirmation, kindness, example and patience.

We also celebrate with all those celebrating graduations this weekend, as TCU sends out into the world some of the best and brightest. What an exciting time for so many!

I hope you'll join us in the Sanctuary at 9:00am or 11:00am before you take mom out for brunch. 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.

By now you have probably seen the announcement of Rev. Cyndy Twedell's retirement next month. The seeds she has planted and sown in the scope of her 32-year ministry here at UCC are vast. She has been a trusted leader for the church and trusted pastor on our personal faith journeys. We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude for all that she has done and been for our congregation, and I hope that in the next several weeks, as we prepare to send her off into retirement, you'll take the time to express your love and appreciation for her.

Here is the prayer I prayed this morning in preparation of this big weekend, :

Creating and comforting God, shine the light of your love on our lives today so that we may reflect the same light to those we encounter. Help us discover the simple joy of treating our neighbor the way we want to be treated and give us the courage to live like this every day. Fill us with compassion and empathy as we weep with those who weep; and laugh with those who laugh. I pray this in the name of the one who loved all. Amen.

It is my ongoing joy to serve as your pastor.

Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman

Senior Minister

University Christian Church

Fort Worth, TX

Weekly Thoughts 4.11.19

Dear friend ---

We are about to enter into one of the most holy, sacred weeks of the Christian year.
When you look at the gospels, you notice that they all move fairly rapidly. But when we get to the events of the final week of Jesus' life, everything slows down and we get great detail. In fact, in John's narrative, nearly half of the gospel is dedicated to the final days. It is almost as if gospels are mostly introductions to the passages about what we've come to call Holy Week.
The week ahead will be filled with great emotional ups and downs. Look at all that goes on this week. There is a parade, palms, shouts, confrontations, predictions, Passover, betrayal, denial, nails, thorns, crucifixion, abandonment, pain, death, burial, quiet, numbness, Sunday, light, surprise, hope, love, eternal laughter. It is truly a strange and wonderful time.
There will be several special services and events that will help you fully experience this sacred season. We'll begin with Palm Sunday, which marks the excitement that was created as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. We enter, as Jesus did, with songs and psalms! Soon, the cheering stops and the path to the cross truly begins. We'll celebrate the triumphal entry and I'll conclude my Lenten sermon series, From Here to There, by looking at the journey From Safe to Surrender. We'll also celebrate with the Discipleship class as they share with us their confession of faith. This is the culmination of a journey these 6th graders have taken over the past several months, preparing them to be baptized in the coming weeks!
There are several other events and services in the days ahead---such as the Agape Feast on Sunday evening and the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service on Thursday night---that I want to highlight and encourage you to join with us. Information on those offerings are readily available.
I do want to point out, too, that this Sunday, every bulletin will contain a postcard---it is an invitation to Easter Sunday. We'd like everyone to take that postcard and give it to a friend or neighbor to invite them to worship with us on Easter. This is a simple and easy way to get the word out to our community about our Easter services. There will be additional copies available at the reception desk, in the Arches and from the greeters for you to take extras for you to pass on. Thank you in advance for helping spread the news about UCC.

Easter is one of our biggest Sundays of the year and a wonderful opportunity to welcome guests to our church. We definitely want to put our best foot forward and make all those who are coming to UCC to feel welcome and at home. Would you be willing to help serve on our Welcome Team for Easter? We want to make sure that we have people in the parking lot, at every door, and in tricky spots and corners in our building to help guide people how to get where they want to be. Stacy McCoy is putting this team together. If you'd be willing to help in that way, please send her an email or give her a call.
As we enter into this Holy Week and make our way towards Easter, here is the prayer that I prayed this morning:
God of all, bless us as we follow the many moods, paths, contradictions and triumphs that make this week sacred for us. Allow us to see you in the small and insignificant moments, reminding us that all moments are significant regardless of their size. As we sing hosanna and wave our palms, let us go with passion into this week. I'm so thankful for this congregation and the privilege to serve alongside them. Let your extravagant hospitality be embodied in each of us.
With love for all of you,

Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman

Senior Minister

University Christian Church

Fort Worth, TX