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Tom’s Turn — Sunday! Sunday! Be There!


The Kansas City radio station I used to listen to as a kid broadcast
regular commercials for a local auto racetrack. The announcer was always
very excited as he read through the various races coming up for the next
weekend. The ads always ended with the sound of roaring motors and squealing
tires and the voice-over screaming, “Kansas City Raceways! Sunday!
Sunday! Be There! Be There!” It's one of those tapes that plays in my head to
this day. I have thought many times since that it would be nice for us to be
that excited about coming to church—not the noisy engines roaring, but
maybe just a little bit of the voice – the “Sunday! Be There!”

You and I are made from communion and for communion. That's not
an original thought with me, but it's the truth. It's one of those First Things,
that set of priority notions that make us who we are. God has made us in and
for communion. All that we do in our lives is all about how we live in communion,
in relationship to one another, and, we in the faith community would
add, in relationship to God. Every one of us lives and moves and has being
because God has knit us together. And we are not whole unless we attend to
the communions into which we have been knitted.

One of those, my friends, is our community worship. It is not a mere
option among all the “stuff we gotta do” for the weekend. It is putting life
together—or maybe back together. We are given, it's important to remind
ourselves in this week of Earth Day, stewardship of all the creation. We are
tenders thereof. As a species, we humans together pursue creation's prospering.
We do it through caring, loving, and tending—all relationship activities.
It is an ancient chore, given us at the dawn of time. But it is only done well
when we order things rightly. Worship is the right ordering of things. It's not
essentially a learning opportunity. It's not essentially a re-fueling. It's a social
affair—social in the sense that God and We form a society. It's a communion,
a right ordering of things, a rehearsal—or better yet, a reflecting back—into
the cosmos and to its Creator the relatedness for which we were created.

All of that is a fancy way of saying, “Sunday! Sunday! Be There! Be
There!” Through summer's long weeks, with all their temptations to do the
opposite, we need to remember. Our worship is the right ordering of things.
So don't miss out!

I'll see you and your guests under the dome Sunday. Remember to
share rides when possible, to wash your hands often, and to share the love of
God always, even if only with a smile. To prepare for Sunday, please read
Acts 11.1-18.

Peace, Tom


Tom's Turn — Making Disciples


How do we talk about our church? It is important, you know, to do so. We didn't gain 34 new members in 2012 by sitting on our hands, service-wise, or by stifling our tongues about who we are and why we choose to worship God among this special group of people called First Christian Church of Fort Worth.


Tom's Turn — Easter Season Challenge


As a congregation and as a whole church, the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ), we have been quite blessed during this year by the attention the women of our church are paying to human trafficking. Gradually, over several years, this modern
plague of slavery has been brought more and more into the open. I wrote in this spot
about it some three years ago, I think. But now, with more attention from outside the
church, and with trafficking being the study focus of Disciple Women internationally,
all the horrifying statistics are becoming well known, and consciences are being
moved to action among us.

Just this morning, one of our former elders sent me information about Traffick911,
a local effort to fight slavery in Tarrant County and abroad. Our friend Phil
Shepherd, of the Eucatastrophe congregation which has a special missional emphasis
on stopping trafficking, says Traffick911 is a good organization made up of good
folks. So I want to pass on to you the info this elder sent me. It's not only about the
$32 billion a year industry of buying and selling children for sex and free labor. But
it's also about a fund-raising golf tournament for the organization. Go to Traffick911.
com to learn more.

Sex-slavery is the fastest-growing crime in the world, with even drug cartels
turning to it because the “product,” unlike a consumable drug, can be sold over and
over and over again, can be transported more easily, and can be exchanged for any
number of things of value besides cash. But human beings are bought and sold in nonsex-
related industries as well. Our Faith Keepers Sunday School class is already active
in encouraging us to make wiser, justice-based purchases at the store, lest we support
with our dollars industries which use slave labor. The bottom line is to open our eyes.
Slavery in America was not ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. There are
currently more people in slavery in the world and in the United States than in any
other time in history.

Preach the Good News of God in Christ. Tell of Christ resurrected from the
dead. Do it at church, sure, and do it to bring people to church. But also do it by helping
bring people out of the literal darkness, out of the shadowy world in which little
girls are exchanged for, well, just about anything, and are kept in absolute fear and
seclusion, filth and hunger, abuse and more abuse, often for the rest of what turn out
to be very short lives.

For this Easter season 2013, I challenge you—learn more, then in prayer do
something about what you've learned. Get together a foursome for the Traffick911
golf tournament (It's April 29 at Fossil Creek.). Talk to your friends in the Faith Keepers
class about how you can make more just purchases. Call the folks at the Euc and
ask how you can get involved in what they're doing to stop trafficking. (Phil's number
is 612.226.0217.) Even if you do it only for this season, between now and Pentecost,
you will have done something important. How many of you will accept the challenge?
Let me know at

I'll see you and your guests under the dome Sunday. Remember to share rides
when possible, to wash your hands often, and to share the love of God always, even if
only with a smile. To prepare for Sunday, please read Acts 5.27-32.

Peace, Tom


Financial Peace begins & we wish the class much success!

Financial Peace University Home Study Kit

Learning basic financial concepts and God's way of handling money… then applying these concepts, brings big success!

So last night was the end of the 9 week class of Financial Peace University (FPU). I thought the newly revised class was amazing and seemed easier for the class to take action and start applying these concepts to their lives. Although the concepts are basic (7 steps), it is the habits of actually applying these steps that can be hard. They are all easy to do, but they are just as easy not to do. This is where having a fire in the belly comes in. Without the fire it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the credit card advertising and society's thoughts on instant gratification.

Tom's Turn — Holy Land


The Second Commandment (not to be confused with the Second Amendment,
which it supersedes – and perhaps even countermands)--the Second Commandment,
of the big Ten from that tablet Moses brought down from Sinai way back when,
says, “You shall not make any graven image, in the form of anything in heaven or on
the earth, and you shall not bow down to such things and worship them.” (Exodus
20.4-5, Plumbley translation). Pretty strong. Pretty direct in ordering our relationship
to all created things. Right? Well, it's not so easily kept!

The first time I was in the Holy Land I was younger than my older son is
now. I was thoroughly Protestant in regard to “holy” things, which is to say I was
pretty much appalled at the notion of tangible holiness, or holiness in things that are
made and can be destroyed. Holy people I understood. Holy relics, holy spots, holy
objects, not so much. I remember being taken aback by the whole notion of an entire
land that bore the title “Holy.” And when I arrived there I remember being irked—no,
really offended—the first time I saw someone get down on her knees, bend forward
and kiss a spot in the floor which someone said covered a place something special in
the Bible had happened.

Nine of us just returned last Wednesday from Israel. It was a great trip, full
of important, interesting and enjoyable relationship-building, marvelous sights to see,
and wonderful people to see and meet. Yet Israel is, at one and the same time, both the
most religiously inspiring and religiously problematic land on earth. There are more
places to point to and say “something wonderful once happened here” than perhaps
any other place on the planet. That, in itself, makes it a dangerous place—and I don't
mean dangerous in the sense that some terrorist might try to kidnap you, I mean dangerous
in the sense that one is tempted to idol worship.

Forgetting altogether the unreliability of claims a thing or event actually happened
in any particular spot two or three millennia ago, there is a deeper theological
problem at work. Holiness is an attribute of God, and God is not locatable. God cannot
be trapped in a box, stone, log or building. God is not ever to be identified with a
piece of wood, a rock, the sun, the moon, a body of water, a building. Our source of
security and our ultimate allegiance is never a piece of cloth, a document, a weapon,
or any other thing, place or system. That Second Commandment makes that pretty
darn clear.

All that notwithstanding, it is undeniable that all of us have fond memories
that are connected to objects, places and people. Sometimes this “fondness” can even
take on qualities of sacredness. This is particularly true when the object, place or person
is associated with something we believe to be an act of God or a time of God's
palpable presence or particularly evident grace. In such a case the object, place or person
may become dear to us. We may properly take action to preserve or protect it (or
them). It (or they) may become a part of our story of God's work in the world. But it
(or they) must never become god for us, and we must never behave in a manner toward
it (or them) that is reserved only for God.

This is why we do not bow before human beings. It is why we do not kiss
stones or paintings or flags or sticks of wood. It is why we grieve, but we do not venerate
our relatives when they die. And it is why we are able to move on when great
changes happen to very dear things and places. It is because God is God, and none of
these lesser things. And we trust the dynamic, living God of all creation to continue to
act, to continue to move, to continue to bring life in new people, in new places, even
in us!

I'll see you and your guests under the dome Sunday. Remember to share rides
when possible, to wash your hands often, and to share the love of God always, even if
only with a smile. To prepare for Sunday, please read 2Cor. 5.16-21.

Peace, Tom

CHRISTY’S TURN - Memories and Spaces


I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that ministering to poor and homeless men and women would be a major portion of my ministry. Not when I was 18 and serving on the Regional Youth Ministry Council or when I was 25 and getting my Masters degree in something I thought would take me in a very different direction. Or even just a few years ago when I walked into Tom's office and “told” him what I wanted my ministry to look like. And yet, now that I am 36, I find myself right in the middle of the most awesome opportunity for the men, women, and children of the greater Fort Worth community. It is amazing what happens when you open yourself up to God. You find yourself in a place you never thought you would be! Unfortunately, this openness is not pain free. There have been many bumps and bruises along the way, but they seem minute when I look at where I am and where I am going.

Tom's Turn — Fast from Social Media?


The American Religious Town Hall will air a TV show in about six to
eight weeks concerning the growth of Face book, Twitter, Linked In,and the mountain of other social media that are out there. These give us, our children, almost everyone
who can afford a phone plan, immediate and in some ways unlimited access
to each other. The issue we talked about when the Town Hall panel taped that show
last Monday was whether or not such immediate access was or was not watering
down the meaning of friendship. The basic point I tried to make was that the jury's
still out on the dangers my Lutheran colleague across the table was laying out for
us. He said that these social media systems are diluting friendships, increasing our
exposures dangerously, and allowing people to speak without thinking and to say
hurtful things they would otherwise not say, and to do so with relative impunity. He
also spoke of the addictive qualities of these media. And this was the youngest
member of our panel, the dean of a Lutheran college. As a frequent user of these
media he knew from whence he spoke.

In my response to him I granted that every one of the dangers he cited was
real and even widespread but that these media are a given in modern society. What
we need, I said, is a new set of social standards for use and behavior on Face book
and the rest. Someone else on the panel spoke up to say that many of the same critiques
and fears of Twitter and the like were echoes of critiques and fears expressed
about the first widespread use of telephones. And that was an excellent point.
I remember that part of growing up, in my day, was learning telephone
etiquette—how to answer politely, what to say and what was not appropriate to say,
even what times of the day were appropriate to be calling someone. Those are lessons
we've learned and kept for a long time in our culture. Even today I'll have people
call and say, “I'm sorry to call so late,” or so early, or to call at home about business
matters. I think we're at a point where a similar etiquette needs to be developed
(and, indeed, is evolving already) for use of social media. I suggest the church lead
the way.

Already we hear public service announcements about not posting certain
types of pictures, and we hear a lot about the dangers of sexting and about the availability
of youthful indiscretions to potential employers years down the line. All of
these are things parents need to talk with their children about. But what about the
whole matter of the loss of private time and the inability of some simply to be unhooked
from the flood of data stimulation around them? What about the coarsening
of all discourse because we can be “anonymous” or at least think we are? How does
the availability of social media affect the face to face interactions? My wife caught
one of my sons and his wife spending “private time together” sitting on the couch
tweeting and checking texts. She challenged them on it and learned that they actually
appreciated spending that sort of time “together” that way. On the other hand,
social media enable the renewal and expansion of relationships in some very helpful

The main point is that social media are transforming the ways we relate. I
don't want us to be judgmental. But I do think the church has a clear and definite
stake in that. I'd like your ideas—especially those of you reading this on the church
blog. Can we work together to define standards, to create an etiquette, to teach manners,
to enable a new social media civility? Perhaps this will be the next entrepreneurial
step for the church.

Your thoughts?

Tom's Turn — Disciples and Moral Injury


The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), through our largest
seminary, Brite Divinity School here in Fort Worth, has moved to the front
of the line in the provision of real assistance to those who have served our
nation in war. A couple of months ago, on Veterans Day, our seminary at
TCU officially dedicated a brand new program called the Soul Repair Center
to do research and to support recovery from moral injury for those who
in war have witnessed or carried out acts that have profoundly challenged
their own moral conscience and moral identity.

In the wake of every war in our nation's history there has been an
extraordinary but clearly identifiable wave of psychiatric problems, domestic
abuse issues, post-traumatic stress disorders, suicides, and other profound
disruptions in the individuals and in the families of the individuals who have
served. To cite only one statistic, veterans account for twenty percent of this
country's suicides, an average of eighteen per day. Scholars began studying
these problems as far back as the Civil War. But the issues themselves were
often ignored, explained away as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue,” and the
soldiers, sailors and airmen involved were often shamed, belittled or worse.
These moral injuries sometimes last for a brief time. But often they will,
without attention, affect our service personnel for the rest of their lives.
They particularly affect the combat veteran's efforts to return to civilian life
and employment.

Moral injury is not a neurosis, nor is it PTSD (though it may lead to
these). Moral injury is the questioning or abandoning of faith following
upon one's remorse or shame based in memories of war or even other occasions
of the infliction of profound injury or the crossing of long-established
moral lines.

The Soul Repair Center at Brite is one of a kind. Its goals are to provide
research, develop curricula, create training programs for seminarians
and congregations, and work with colleges, seminaries and veterans organizations
to create large-scale training programs in moral injury recovery. We
look forward to great things from such an ambitious and cutting edge effort.
I'm pleased to be able to say that our church and our seminary are the first to
step out in this way not only to recognize but to seek to heal some of these
very difficult and profound wounds. Founders and co-directors of the Soul
Repair Center are well-known professor and ethicist Rita Nakashima Brock
and retired Colonel Herman Keizer, Jr., both ordained Disciple ministers.

To learn more, go to, or read the Huffington Post
article on the center.

I'll see you and your guests under the dome Sunday. Remember to
share rides when possible, to wash your hands often, and to share the love of
God always, even if only with a smile. To prepare for Sunday, please read
Lk. 4.21-30.


p.s.-- Regarding last week's article about the old Rock Church pews, we've
had interest from both TCU and the Tarrant Historical Commission, plus a
few individuals. Please, if you have concerns about these old pews leaving
the building, call or e-mail me (or Adrian Park) now. See the larger article
on another page for more on the pews.


Last night was a GREAT first class of Financial Peace University!


FCC just kicked off the the New and Improved Financial Peace University class.

Dave Ramsey has had over a million people go through this class and over the years they have improved the class. I'm sure this will make people going through the class more successful.

Tom's Turn — Pray for Our Leaders


The Bible, both New and Old Testaments, encourages us to pray for
leaders. In many places that command means for us to hold up our religious
leadership before God. But it also, in other places, means we need to remember
to pray for leaders like the king and folk who translate into our current
culture as politicians. And it does not mean to pray that they drop dead
or go away!

You all know I'm as political as the next guy. I try not to show partisanship,
but the Christian life itself motivates us to get things done in the
social order, and that's politics. So we are, by definition, political. That
means I have my opinions about what things should and should not happen
in Washington, in Austin, at City Hall, at FWISD, etc. I get really frustrated,
just like you do, when partisanship seems to be more important than actually
governing. And I get really tired of, well, let's not get started on our lists of
grievances. That could take all day. And none of those are my point. May
point has to do with what I see some Christians doing in relation to people
who, regardless of what you think of their decisions, have devoted a portion
of their lives to service of our nation, state, or city. I really am appalled at
some Christians and their bitterness toward individual leaders and cynicism
about the system itself. Our command is to pray for our leaders, for their
wisdom, for their courage, for better performance. And remember that it's
really difficult to hate someone for whom you're praying. If Christians
would try that just a little more, perhaps we could play a role in reducing the
vitriol that today passes for public discourse both on Pennsylvania Ave. and
on Main Street.

Now to our church leaders. They certainly need your prayers too.
Peggy has printed elsewhere in this newsletter all the names of people serving
this year as officers of the congregation, elders, deacons, junior deacons,
and emeriti. Add to that list the department heads listed below, and you have
a great group of folks to remember regularly in your prayers. We thank them
all for their willingness to serve. But we also lift them up before God in
prayer. I hope you'll join me in that.

Department Heads for 2013:

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