“Transformed by Love”


This will be the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for 26 November 2017 (Christ the King Sunday, Year A).  I will be singing a solo this Sunday (hence the references to “Come Sunday” by Duke Ellington; I hope to have a video of that to put in on Sunday).


The back page writings will take a break during Advent to allow others to share their gifts and resume after the first of the year.


Music has always been, in some form, a part of my life since I was in Junior High School.  Now, it should be noted that that I am not the best musician in my family.  That honor goes to my brother Terry and my youngest daughter Meara.

I started playing in the band and then moved on to the church choir.  When I began lay speaking, I was fortunate to have ministers who showed me how to include music in the service, both with the hymns and combined with the written word.  And I am equally blessed to have music directors who pushed me to expand my skills and go beyond my boundaries.

In picking “Come Sunday” as a piece today, I was first thinking of the jazz it represents but then I discovered some things about the piece.  When Duke Ellington wrote this piece, he was pushing the boundaries of jazz.  Ellington always characterized his music as “beyond category”, a point he made about life as well.  We are all one people (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/come-sunday).

Too many individuals today say that they are Christian but theirs is a religion defined by exclusion and division.  They see Christianity as a convenient label, something one can wear and take off when done but not something that is a part of their life.

If God is a part of your life, you find ways to express that.  As I worked on this piece, I came across the thought that everyone worships in their own language and that there is no language God does not understand (http://nepr.net/post/duke-ellingtons-eulogist-fr-gerald-pocock-rip-1925-2017#stream/0).

To paraphrase Paul, some of us are writers and some of us are musicians.  But we all have some talent, a talent that we can use to express our own love of God.  And no matter what your talent may be, the expression of your love of God will transform the world.                         ~~Tony Mitchell

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Thanksgiving Memories


Here are my memories and thanks for this Thanksgiving.  I hope that your memories are good and that you have much for which to be thankful.


My memories of Thanksgiving are many and diverse.  But all in some way or another involve food, travel, and/or my family.

Growing up, my family meant my parents, grandparents, brothers and sister.  Then it meant my wife and my children.  And since Ann has been so much of my life, her children, grand-children, and great-grand-children as there as well (and thank God for Skype).

If one thinks of Thanksgiving, one must think of food and travel.  I have the memory of my mother using an electric roaster every year for almost thirty years and remembering that every time we used this roaster the dials on the electric meter spun almost out of control.  There were my attempts to roast a turkey on the grill (it works but you need a spit).  And then there was the one dinner where our chihuahua, Pepe, decided he wanted one of the turkey legs, the one bigger than him, for his own personal Thanksgiving treat.  I also remember one post-Thanksgiving trip where I got stuck in Colorado during a massive snowstorm.

But one year, I was alone and unable to get to Memphis and my family as I would like to have done.  It was looking like it would be a bleak and dreary Thanksgiving.  In the loneliness of that moment, I found another family, the family of Christ.  A local church was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and I was able have a very simple meal.  It may have been a simple meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans but, as Arlo Guthrie might sing, it was a Thanksgiving meal that couldn’t be beat.

A few years later, I was part of a church which opened its hearts and doors to those who were lost, forgotten, or alone and provide another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.  This would later lead to a wonderful feeding ministry.  (See Thanksgiving, 2006 for details about these two dinners.)

I have plenty of memories and much to be thankful for each Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is about being with one’s family, enjoying the food (especially Ann’s apple pie).

But more than anything else, I am thankful that I am part of Christ’s family and that we can share God’s Grace in so many different ways.

“Transformed by Faith”


This will be the back page for the 19 November 2017 (24th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin for the Fishkill United Methodist Church.


My favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  But why did the narrator choose the road no one else took?  Why not take the easy path?  To take the path no one else takes, to seek out on your own, requires a faith, a faith in God perhaps.

The writer of the “Letter to the Hebrews” wrote that faith was “the turning of dreams into deeds; it is betting your life on the unseen realities.” (The Cotton Patch Gospels) and goes on to point out that each story in the Bible was based on the faith of the individual in God and God’s promise.

It is our faith which gives us the ability to make bold choices.  The Gospel reading for today points out what happens when we fail to act.  It may seem safe to hold onto what we have and not risk anything, but we also gain nothing.  Each of the 12 disciples could have stayed where they were but they chose to follow Jesus when he asked them to follow Him.  Yes, it is risky, especially when the outcome is unknown.

The same was true for the people in Thessalonica.  They felt that Christ was coming back, and all was good.  But Paul warned them to not be complacent; sitting back and waiting gained them nothing.  Those who opposed Deborah’s appointment as the Judge for Israel did not have enough Faith in God to make the right choice.  But Deborah’s decisions and actions confirmed God’s choice.

Each day we must decide which “life road” we must take.  It is quite easy to choose the well-traveled road because it doesn’t require much from us.  Or do we choose the road less traveled?

~~Tony Mitchell

 

“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”

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