“Transformed by Grace”


This will be that back page of the 12 November 2017 (23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) for Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Services begin at 10 am and you are always welcome.

On these pages and on my blog (see “The Changing of the Seasons”), I have written about that day when I truly came to understand what it means to receive God’s grace.  It is a day that, perhaps more than any other day, transformed my life.

For John Wesley, grace in all its forms was and is a gift from God and a sign of His active presence in our lives.  There is nothing we can do to earn this grace because it is freely given by God to us.  What we can do is seek a better understanding of what grace is, what grace does, and what we can do as a result.

The concept of grace in Methodism is defined by three words: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying.  Prevenient grace is the grace that allows us to seek and find God, know the difference between good and evil and to seek good.  Justifying grace is the grace that restores our relationship with God.  Through Christ, our sins are forgiven and our relationship with God restored.

Sanctifying grace is not a one-time event in our lives.  It is what helps us grow and mature, to live as Jesus lived.  It allows us to seek perfection in our love of God and for others and removing our desire to sin.

Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God through a life of service.  We are active in the world through mission and service because our Love of God is tied to our love of our neighbor and our commitment to seek justice and renewal in this world.        ~~Tony Mitchell

Notes on grace from “Our Wesleyan Heritage”

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Mid-Week Stewardship Thought


Here are some interesting thoughts on the nature of stewardship.

A Grace-Filled Life

Being a Biblical Steward

Do you know the difference between being an institutional steward and a Biblical steward?  The institutional steward looks at his church as an institute with a budget and needs to be met and a place where he can be served.  Then he tries to “give his share” and “do his part” while complaining if his needs are not met.  The Biblical steward, on the other hand, looks at the gifts God has given him. He gives according to the blessings he has received, not to fulfill an obligation.  He seeks to discover the gifts God has given him and uses them in whatever way he can in service to fellow believers and others. Usually the steward who is busy using his gifts finds that his own needs are met in the process of helping others.

God has chosen us to be His own.  He has made…

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“Follow Me”


This will be on the back page of the 5 November 2017 (22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin for Fishkill United Methodist Church.  We will be celebrating All Saints Day this Sunday.


All Saints’ Day is not normally associated with Methodism (see Who Are Your Saints?).  But when you consider that tradition and experience are as important to our faith as Scripture and reason, it makes sense that we think about those who walked this journey before us.

Our saints are the ones who showed us the way through their work and their efforts; their lives exemplified their faith.

The Israelites only entered the Promised Land when the faith leaders took the Ark of the Covenant before them into the River Jordan, stopping the flow of the river and allowing the people to cross.

The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ time put on a great show but were never willing to go beyond the show.  They found it very easy to set the rules and tell others what to do but were unwilling to do it themselves.  Jesus’ leadership model was unlike anything they had ever seen; it was about taking on tasks rather than telling others how to do them.  Our saints were the ones who took on the tasks so that our journey with Christ was possible.

Do I tell people how to come to Christ or do I, through my life, my words, my deeds, and actions, show Christ so others can find Him?

On this day, we remember those who through their words, actions, thoughts, and deeds earned the title “good and faithful servant.”  In the coming years, will we be the saints remembered? ~~Tony Mitchell

“Continue the Journey”


This will be the back page for 29 October 2017 (21st Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin for the Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Service is at 10 am and you all are welcome to attend.


In my collection of sayings are the following quotes:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Lewis Carroll)

“If you found a path with no obstacle, it probably does not lead anywhere.”  I found a reference that indicated someone named Frank A. Clark said this, but it didn’t say why he said it or when he said it.

These quotes reflect the paradox of life.  We want to know where we are going but we certainly do not want any obstacles to get in our way.  But journeys without obstacles often do not lead anywhere.  But if we prepare for a journey, even if we do know where it goes, we can deal with the obstacles and difficulties we might encounter.

Moses never reached the Promised Land but the work he did would allow the Israelites to do so.  But Moses left a leadership group to continue the work he began.

Paul focused on two things during his missionary journeys – bringing the Gospel message to the people and doing it in such a way so that others could continue after he left.

Throughout all the time in the Galilee, Jesus did the same thing – bring the Gospel message to the people and teach others to do the same after He left (even if they did not know that at the time).

As the hymn goes, we have decided to follow Jesus.  No matter what difficulties we may have, no matter what obstacles we encounter, we do know where we are going, and we work and prepare to reach that point.

And along the way, we help others to begin and continue their own journey, knowing that in the end, we will share in the Glory of God.

~~Tony Mitchell

“We Are Outsiders!”


This is for the back page of the 22 October 2017 (20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) Fishkill UMC bulletin.

I once wrote that if John Wesley were alive today, he would be very old (“Seeing The Trees For The Forest”).  I also noted that I thought he would be fascinated by today’s technology and looking for ways to use that technology to better spread the Gospel message.   Because that is what his mission was, I think he would also be very angry at those people who call themselves Methodists.

John Wesley was an anachronism.  He believed in rules (which is, in part, why we have the Book of Discipline) but he also saw that rules by themselves could not bring the change he sought.  Still, until he fully accepted Christ at Aldersgate, his legalistic style of religion was failing.  But after Aldersgate, things changed.

When Methodism began in England, England was on the verge of the same bloody revolution that had just swept across France.  But because of the work of the early Methodists, there was no bloody revolution.  Methodists reached across the lines drawn by society and brought the Gospel message to the people in word and deed, alleviating much of the pain and suffering the lower classes endured.

There were those who did not like the Methodist success; those who lived in this country were barred from preaching in the accepted state churches.  Those barriers forced the Methodists to go “outside the box” and find ways to bring the Gospel message to the people.  But, in doing that, they opened the doors for the Methodist message to reach even more people.

We have inherited the title of “outsider”, of continuing a faith tradition that goes beyond the boundaries of society and law, of bringing people to Christ no matter where they might be by our words, our deeds, our thoughts, and our actions.                                    ~~Tony Mitchell

 

“Who Gets Invited?”


Here is the “back page” for the 15 October 2017 (19th Sunday after Pentecost, year A) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Our services start at 10 and you are always welcome to come and be a part of the worship.


How many of you remember Steve Allen?  If I were to describe this talented individual in one word, I would say that he was creative.  Whether it was in the arts, the theater, or music, Steve Allen found new and creative ways to express his thoughts.  And one of those ways was through a television series he prepared for PBS, entitled “Meeting of the Minds”.  In this show, he brought together notable individuals of history (portrayed by actors) to meet and discuss ideas, common or otherwise (I first referenced this in “Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast?”)

My notes don’t give me all those who sat at his table but it would have been nice to have Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer there to discuss the nature of Christianity.

If you were given the opportunity, who would you invite to sit with you at your table and discuss topics of common interest?  And what would you do if any of the individuals you invited could not attend?  Who might you then invite?

Would St. Augustine be an acceptable substitute for Martin Luther?  Would you invite Attila the Hun, even if you knew he had bad table manners?

What if they didn’t let you know until the last minute?  Might there have been someone you overlooked because they were not famous?

Who might you invite to this metaphorical table if it meant that the course of history might change because you did.

We have chosen the path we will walk.  And who we walk with along the way tells us something about that path.  Who will you invite to walk with you today?

~~Tony Mitchell