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    Entries in University Baptist Church Fort Worth (5)



    Photo Taken 10/18/15, University Baptist Church, Fort Worth, TX.


    Then Their Eyes Were Opened :: A Lord's Supper Meditation

    New Testament Reading: Luke 24:13-35

    Today we celebrate the Lord’s Meal. Earlier, we celebrated Christian baptism. In the Baptist tradition, we understand the Lord’s Supper and baptism as the two primary acts that Jesus instructed his followers to observe. These two practices are often referred to by Baptists as ordinances. An ordinance is, by definition, “a prescribed religious rite.” We believe that these two ordinances are a powerful means of remembrance, and bring to our mind central aspects of the biblical story, particularly regarding Christ’s death, resurrection, and the eternal kind of life that can now be experienced as citizens in his kingdom.

    Our reading this morning is from Luke 24. It is the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We’re going to think carefully about these two individuals. Before we do, I think it is important that I note that this text is not the first that comes to our mind, as Baptists, when we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

    For many of us, the first text that comes to our mind is found in 1 Corinthians 11. In that passage, we are reminded to celebrate the meal in a reverent manner. We are to come prepared, having repented of our sin. We are also to remember that Jesus celebrated this meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, that the bread symbolizes his broken body, and the cup brings to our mind his blood, poured out for us, that through him a new covenant has been established, and the forgiveness of sins has been enacted.

    We would do well to continue holding those truths in our mind. If any come burdened with sin, confess, repent, and lay your burden down. If any come taking the meal for granted, remember the majesty of God, and let us worship.

    But our reading for today, I believe, is appropriate for this moment in time. We are on a journey between places, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We have things to discover, together.

    Luke’s story of the two disciples takes place on the 3rd day after Jesus was crucified. These two disciples, one named Cleopas, the second--perhaps his wife, but we are not entirely sure--set out on a journey, and found themselves in deep discussion concerning all that had happened in Jerusalem in those recent days. They were reviewing the headlines, you might say, and asking what all these things might mean.

    As they walk, a third person comes alongside them. Luke tells us that it is Jesus. At first, Cleopas and his fellow traveler are kept from recognizing him. We know something they don’t.

    Jesus asks them what they are discussing.

    Luke tells us that when the question is asked, Jesus’ new travelling companions stood still, and appeared downcast, saddened. Cleopas finally speaks up, asks this stranger if there is anyone more oblivious regarding current events than him. Cleopas thinks this is a “put on.” Jesus, baiting Cleopas, asks, “What things?”

    Cleopas then gives the standard account. Let’s join him for a moment. Let’s assume we do not know what we know. Let’s assume we were in their place. In the first century, a dead messiah was a failed messiah. Resurrection wasn’t a new idea, but the notion that one man would be raised in the middle of history, making possible the resurrection that is to come--that was quite new.

    Cleopas and his companion were trying to make sense of these things. Jesus had given every sign of being the Messiah they had hoped for. The kingdom he announced had seemed so promising, and it even appeared to be breaking in. And the women, their story was so strange!

    Why would this have been the case?

    Luke’s story telling is so brilliant. Let’s again step back for a moment. What Luke has given us is the earliest pilot episode of the hit reality show, “Undercover Boss.” Luke has let us know this is Jesus all along, interacting with his followers. We know, and they do not. When Cleopas finishes his story, Jesus has them right where he wants them.

    And the lesson begins!

    Jesus says, “How foolish of heart and how slow to believe all that the prophets have written!” And from that point forward, Jesus teaches them from Moses and all the prophets what the scriptures said concerning himself, that the Messiah must suffer and die and then enter his glory.

    I would’ve liked to have been there. So much is packed in that one little sentence. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

    Luke then proceeds to tell us that the two disciples reach their destination. Jesus feigns an attempt to keep moving.

    I can’t get over the playfulness of Jesus.

    The disciples want him to stay. To join them for a meal. To rest. Also, they probably thought to themselves that a strange weekend had just gotten a lot stranger. Whatever insight this man might offer, they wanted to hear it.

    So Jesus enters, and joins them at the table. And Jesus breaks custom. It is the host’s responsibility to bless and to break the bread. Jesus is good at defying convention. He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

    When Jesus fed the five thousand, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    When Jesus fed the four thousand, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    When Jesus celebrated his final meal with his disciples, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    And just three days before Jesus met these two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it was Jesus, taken outside the city, so we could be brought in. He was cursed so we might be blessed. He was broken so that we might be whole. He gave his life so that we might live.

    The bread of life. Broken for us.

    When Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread, Luke tells us, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight.”


    One more detail. Very small. But very significant. I can’t help but think that Luke was careful in saying, “Then their eyes were opened.”

    In the garden, when the first man and woman take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eat, we are told, “Then the eyes of both were opened.”

    In the garden, this moment is one of separation and sin and fear.

    In Emmaus, this moment is one of union and salvation and hope.

    Where the first human beings failed, Jesus, greater than Adam, has been faithful.

    That is only one of a multitude of reasons that I think the two disciples then said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us!”

    I love that line.

    Then, the disciples were so enthused, so excited, that they immediately set out on the road to return to Jerusalem, to tell the Eleven what had happened, and to share the story of how Jesus had been made known to them “in the breaking of bread.”

    As we gather to celebrate this meal, may we remember the meaning of the bread: that Jesus’ body was broken, for you, for me, for us.

    May we also remember the meaning of the cup: Jesus’ blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sin, ratifying a new covenant, and making possible eternal life for all who place their faith in him.

    May we remember that the meal tells for us the story of salvation.

    By remembering, may we see Jesus, for he is here even now, and he will be with us always. And by seeing him, may we be so energized that we cannot help but to go forth and tell others of his marvelous grace.


    [Given Sunday, February 9, 2015. University Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas]


    UBC Practices :: Our Posture Toward the University

     Our congregation is called University Baptist Church.


    Like many congregations who have an established history, names reflect geography, or time of founding. One can assume Second Baptist in Houston, Texas wasn't the first Baptist congregation in that area. Arlington Heights United Methodist Church in Fort Worth is in a neighborhood of the same name.

    University Baptist Church is near a university: Texas Christian University.

    In many ways our relationship to the university, broadly speaking, has been important for our history and mission. It remains so today. TCU, our closest neighbor, has most fully shaped our understanding as a congregation in service to the university. But in the city of Fort Worth, we are also neighbored by TCCC, Texas Wesleyan University, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the Art Institute of Fort Worth, as well as Brite Divinity School and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    As a congregation, we serve all people, which includes all students engaged in higher learning. If you are a college or university student, you are welcome to join our community. 

    Our nearest neighbor, TCU was founded in 1873 in Thorp Spring, Texas, later moved to Waco in 1895, and finally relocated to Fort Worth in 1910. TCU is a private institution, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The combined graduate and undergraduate student body is just under 10,000 students. TCU employs just over 2000 people, with 527 of those serving as full time faculty members. TCU offers 130 undergraduate degrees, 61 master's level programs, and 24 doctoral studies programs.

    Naturally, because TCU is our nearest neighbor, a number of our students are pursuing their degrees across the street. But our congregation is also connected to students at UNT Health Science and TCCC. We have also sent students forth to other cities. Students who grew up as part of UBC now attend Texas Tech, Baylor University, Texas A&M, and many other institutions. We remember these students, pray for them while they are engaged in their studies, and welcome them when they return to Fort Worth.

    As we minister to all students, here are a few things we value and practice:

    1. We pray for all institutions of higher learning in our area, including students, faculty, and staff. We believe the university is a vital institution for our culture, and it is our hope that God would guide, direct, and bless these institutions in their pursuit of knowledge and its right application.
    2. We welcome every student from every university, and invite them to follow Jesus Christ. We extend hospitality to students, equip them for ministry, and send them forth to live as citizens in God's kingdom.
    3. We make our lives available to students, acting as servants. Our congregation builds relationships with students and meets practical needs. Our student adoption program pairs families with willing students. These families extend love to students, invite them to dinner, offer to do laundry, shuttle students to the airport, and more. Some students connect with adult mentors, who can help them to develop and mature personally, spiritually, and professionally.
    4. We invite students to take part in the life of congregation. We invite students to serve as Sunday School teachers, to participate in worship, to sing in choir, to give financially, and to even join as members. University students are part of the body of Christ, and we seek to discover ways they can enrich our collective life. We also create space for college students to connect with other college students for fellowship, mission, learning, and service.
    5. We seek to make a compelling and intelligent presentation of the Christian life. We welcome questions and do our best to provide sound answers. We seek to live life fully in the kingdom, demonstrating love, grace, generosity, joy, teachability, service, welcome to the stranger, passion for the lost, advocacy for justice, help for the poor, and more. As we do so, we invite students to join us as we learn from Christ. We acknowledge that each student has a vocation, a calling, and their studies are preparing them for service to the world. We value students who work in every field--the sciences, the humanities, business, education, theology, media, or the arts.

    If you are a member of University Baptist Church, you can help us by living these values. Welcome students when they join us in worship. Ask for a name, field of study, and tell students how glad we are to see them.

    If you are a student, you are invited to join us. Help us to live our values. Come learn from Christ with us.

    Join us as we build a Christian community where students are transformed by the love of Christ. That's our mission.

    Join a community group. Build friendships. Walk with us as we seek to live the story of Scripture.

    Come to worship. Sing the songs with us. Listen for the word in Scripture. Pray.

    And go forth to be a blessing to all people--your teachers, those in your dorm, your friends.

    God so loved us that he sent forth his son, Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection is sufficient, and his way is best. Let us worship, honor, learn from him, and walk in his way.

    Further Reading 

    UBC Practices :: 5 Constants for Student Ministry


    UBC Practices :: 5 Constants for Student Ministry

    1. Names. Names. Names.

    If there has been one piece of instruction my leadership team may be tired of hearing, it is this: "Learn names. Say names. Use names. Greet by name. If you don't know a name, ask another leader. Ask a student. Ask THE student. Tell them your name. Learn names."


    Someone's name is better than "buddy" or "dude" or "chica." A name is personal. God knows every name, every person, every story. Every person is loved by God, and sent to us by God. Whether they are a long time participant in our ministry or a fresh face, we are called to minister to them by name and demonstrate the love of Christ.

    Want to make a big impact in student minstry?

    Learn names.

    In worship, at midweek, at Sunday Morning Bible Study, and everywhere in between.

    2. Being Known; Becoming Known.

    Once you learn a name, build a relationship. Get to know a student. If they are in college, ask what they are studying, what they are hoping for, how class was that week. Ask where they are from, and what brought them to our community. Ask about hobbies and interests. Listen. If you see them again, you've got something to check up on.

    As you get to know the student, offer a little bit of your story and your experience.If you like the same television shows or movies, make a connection.

    Students, get to know the leaders. Leaders, get to know the students.

    And if our gathering includes some element where there is an opportunity to share in a common experience, dive in. Play the games. Take part in the discussion, but don't dominate. And be patient. Relationships take time to build.

    The character of our community lends itself to being known and becoming known. At UBC, we want to know your story, but we also want to be a part of what God is up to as you discover his intentions for your life.

    3. Following Jesus and Living an Authentic Faith.

    Everyone in our community is invited to follow Jesus and to live authentically as his disciple.

    Everyone. Students and leaders, heading in the same direction, focused on the same person, living uniquely according to God's call in their family, school, friendships, church, workplace, and wider community.

    There is unity and diversity. There is struggle and help. There is accountability and challenge. There are questions and well reasoned, honest answers.

    We live as  disciples, together. We admit we don't have it all together, but we're willing to risk and make discoveries. We confess our sin. We name the habits of heart we are trying to develop. And we hold one another accountable.

    4. Creating Space for Newcomers.

    Our gatherings and friendship circles should always be open. We plan events and other happenings with invitation in mind. We construct our environments so that newcomers feel welcome. We communicate clearly with those in our community and those who are new concerning expectations and opportunities for next steps, to increase a sense of belonging.

    In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds his hearers that they serve as "Christ's ambassadors." We engage with our neighbors and invite them to be part of our community. We make space. We come on behalf of another, Jesus.

    Christ died for all. That's good news. We help people to see that in him, everyone belongs.

    5. Calling for Conversion.

    The gospel is the center of all we say and do. It permeates everything I've mentioned, and transcends it. Jesus died for us all. For those who have never placed their trust in him, they are called to do so, acknowledging that the life he lived and the death he died is sufficient and his ways are best. In him, there is new life and resurrection.

    But for those of us a little further along the path, we too are called to ongoing growth in holiness. Every student, every leader, must change their heart, their mind, their patterns of behavior, and their way of life.

    Everyone is called to conversion.


    Preparing for Christmas :: Two Sources for Advent Devotional Readings

    Photo by himbeerbel

    I think everyone knows that the Christmas season is hijacked by commercialism and consumerism each year, but why should we be surprised? Everyone wants to get in on a good thing. But let's not allow the competing interests to crowd out the true significance of the season. Let's use this as an opportunity to grow.

    Each Advent, Christians have the opportunity to slow down, reflect, act with intention, and deepen their faith. One way to do that is through devotional readings. I recommend choosing one set of readings, and follow along faithfully for the season. If you miss a day, just skip ahead and pick it back up. Focus your energy, go deep, and give your soul room to digest the readings. Then, put the truths you encounter in practice.

    Now, two opportunities.

    First, Bible Gateway has released their list of Advent and Christmas devotions. You can sign up for a variety of newsletters here, topically themed. You can read selections from Scripture that tell the Christmas story, devotional writings based on favorite hymns, or receive links to audio recordings from The Voice Bible.

    As a second option, you might want to follow along with my church community as we move through the Advent season. Members of our congregation will generate short reflections on Scripture, and on Saturdays we will provide ideas for family activities. Follow our blog or subscribe to receive the readings via email.

    You may be aware of another option, and if so I encourage you to share in the comments. Whatever you choose, stay faithful, read carefully, and grow in Christ.