A Call to Worship for Laity Sunday

I will not be posting a “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, October 20, 2019, We will be celebrating Laity Sunday and this is the call to worship that I prepared for the service. It is based on based on Micah 6: 8, Corinthians 12: 4 – 11 and Ephesians 4: 7 – 13.

On this day, we honor the tradition and the history of the United Methodist Church.

As United Methodists, we are called to act with justice, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with God, and serve one another.

In answering the call, we offer an expression of our faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives each day.

In the tradition of the United Methodist Faith, we answer that call in many ways.

Some are called to be preachers, others to be teachers.

Some are called to be comforters, others to be healers.

Some are called to lead, others to organize.

Some are called to sing; all are called to pray.

We give thanks this day for the laity that have come before us and in the tradition of the United Methodist Church, we affirm that we will use our skills, talents, and gifts to continue what they began.

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter

The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line.

In this Clergy Letter Project update, you’ll find the following seven items:

  1. Evolution Weekend 2020:  You’ve Selected a Theme;
  2. Astrobiology News for September 2019:  Helping Life on Earth from Your Home;
  3. The Teaching of Evolution Is NOT Responsible for Gun Violence;
  4. Too Little Too Late:  Zen and Climate Change;
  5. Naturalism – As Religion, Within Religions, or Without Religion?;
  6. In Defense of the Endangered Species Act; and
  7. The Teaching of Evolution in Wales.

The WesleyNexus Newsletter

The new WesleyNexus newsletter is now available.

In this issue:

Christ The Heart of Creation by Rowan Williams

Event: God Can’t Stop Evil Singlehandedly with Tom Oord

Scientists Create A Device That Can Mass-Produce Human Embryoids by Rob Stein

Why science needs the humanities to solve climate change by Steven Allison and Tyrus Miller

Where is God in Mental Illness? By Bruce Epperly

Silence the Violence: A Concert Against Gun Violence – at National UMC

Second Annual “Cosmotheandric” Conference at the Omega Center, Dec 6-8, 2019

John Wesley, Early Evangelicalism, and Science

Wesleyan Theological Society – 2020 Annual Meeting

What does a Christian do?

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, October 13, 2019, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C). Services start at 10:15 am and, as I wrote last week, “You all come”.

One of the ideas that popped in my head when I read today’s lectionary was the question as to what Christians do?  Jeremiah tells the Israelites in their Babylonian exile that even though they are far from home and under great stress they should continue their normal lives.  It is one way to maintain the connection to their far away homeland.

But what does it mean to continue one’s normal life?  For us today, it would be things like attending church regularly, reading the Bible on a similar regular schedule and taking time for prayer each day.  But is there anything else we can do?

One of the things about faith that John Wesley wrote about was the need to seek perfection.  Lead the life that exemplifies what Jesus taught us two thousand years ago and seek to make each day better than yesterday.  Lead the life that tells those around you that you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus.

But how do we do that?  When Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue in Nazareth, He said He had come to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and free the oppressed.  He set the guidelines for what Christians should do.

And therein lies the rub.  Our history as Christians tells us that, in the words of the prayer of  confession,  we have not always done what we should have done but done what we should not have done.  In the 1930s, Christians in Germany turned their back on the plight of the Jews.  In the 1960s, Christians in this country sanctioned the repression of blacks who sought the same rights as their white counterparts.  Even today, there are many Christians who sanction the repression of many simply because of the color of their skin, their lack of income, or where they came from.  Despite their claim to be Christian, it is quite clear that their allegiance is to a more political god.

This is more than a theological question.  Can a person support repression and terrorism and still be considered worthy of the name Christian?  Can a denomination which sanctions (quietly or openly) repression of individuals because of the color of their skin, their lack of financial status, or even their gender or sexual identity be worthy of being a Christian denomination?  It leads us back to the beginning question, “What does a Christian do?”          

~~Tony Mitchell

“Grinder’s Switch United Methodist Church”

Here are my thoughts for the ‘Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, October 6, 2019 (17th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C). This is also World Communion Sunday.

Yes, I know that Grinder’s Switch*, like it’s northern counterpart, Lake Wobegon, is simply the product of the fertile imagination of its most famous inhabitant.  But just as I have found towns that could replicate the life of Lake Wobegon, I have also found towns that could replicate Grinder’s Switch.  The main difference is that while there are only two churches in Lake Wobegon, there are probably several churches in Grinder’s Switch.  The United Methodist Church has been a part of Grinder’s Switch since the first settlers came through the Cumberland Gap and settled into the rich heartland of Tennessee.

It is a church that has survived its share of war (there is a rumor that several Union soldiers are buried in the church’s cemetery) and hard times.  For a while, the church relied on lay speakers and the monthly circuit rider but they now have a regular pastor, Pastor Lucy.  Oh sure, there were some who don’t like that their pastor is a woman but they do admit she does know the Bible and when she preaches the Gospel, you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Society’s lines were always clearly drawn in Grinder’s Switch but, while some still try to draw them, they have faded.  Even when the lines were almost walls, the people of Grinder’s Switch knew who needed help and how to get it to them.

There is always a sense of welcome at the GSUMC.  That’s not to say all is perfect but the people know that the future is theirs to behold.

And while Pastor Lucy will never share  the pulpit with her counterpart in the local Southern Baptist church, she and the other pastors are putting together a community Thanksgiving service and potluck dinner.  And the choir at Grinder’s Switch UMC has even challenged the choir of the local Pentecostal church to a Gospel sing-off.

There is a peace in Grinder’s Switch, not the peace that blocks out the distractions of the world but the peace that comes when one builds  God’s Kingdom in this time and in one’s own little corner of God’s world.

 As just as the lay leader at the Grinder’s  Switch is likely to  use “How – dee!” as part of the call to the worship, so too does the invitation that “you all come!” come from the heart and the soul.

~~Tony Mitchell

“Grinder’s Switch is just outside Nashville, TN, and is the fictional home of Minnie Pearl of the Grand Ole Opry.  If I am not mistaken, this is how Garrison Keillor got the idea for Lake Wobegon.”  ~~ Tony

“And A Child Shall Lead Them’

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC Bulletin for this Sunday, 29 September 2019 (the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C).

On January 20, 1960, John Kennedy stood before the American people and the world as the youngest President ever elected,  His inaugural address put forth a vision for the future and also served as a rebuttal to those who thought that he was too young to serve as the President.

Earlier in the campaign, he addressed a gathering of pastors in Houston, Texas, who felt that his being a Roman Catholic denied him the right to serve as President.  In this speech, he pointed out that no one asked for the faith or nationality of those who died at the Alamo in the fight to gain freedom for Texas.

There are also many who will recall how the elders in Jerusalem sat in wonder, awe, amazement, and probably fear as a 12-year-old boy explained the nuances of the Scriptures and the Law.

Our society today is a society governed by the elders of the society; mostly white men who seem to be out of touch with society and seek to only serve the desires, needs, and wants of a select few.  They respond to the fears of the people and ignore the cries of the needy, the downtrodden, and the persecuted.  Theirs is a god of money and power, not hope and salvation.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul warns against pursuing riches for the sake of riches, for one cannot take them with you when you die.  He encourages Timothy to continue the walk with Jesus that they have shared.  In the alternative Old Testament reading for this Sunday, the prophet Amos warns the rich and the elite that they will be the first to be taken into captivity and driven into exile; that their riches and exalted lifestyle will not save them in the coming days.

And Jesus notes that they will not have the chance to warn their friends in the later days because they did nothing in the present time.

A week ago, the youth of this country and this world spoke directly to the leaders of this country and this world.  The future does not belong to the elders but to the youth.  Why did Jeremiah speak of buying the land?  It was not for now but for the future.  Two thousand years ago, the elders of society heard the voice of a young boy teaching them.  We know today that many of them ignored that young man; can we risk ignoring the voice of the youth of today?

~~Tony Mitchell

“The Paradox of Creativity”

Here are my thoughts that will appear on the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 22 September 2019 (15th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C).

For me, there are two paradoxes involved in the Gospel reading for today.  The first involves the owner and the manager.  The owner fires the manager for doing a bad job but praises him for what he then does.  This would suggest that what the owner was doing was wrong to begin with.  But as I have only the back page of my church’s bulletin for expressing my thoughts, I looked at the fact that the manager was being creative in his work and that Jesus speaks of using our creativity in a positive manner.

To be creative, one must have a place to be a creative and a time to be creative (which are the same requirements for regular prayer).  And therein lies the second paradox.

But the world today, just like the world of which Jeremiah wrote, has made it very difficult to set aside such a time and a place.  So we must be attuned to the world around us and correct those things that might distract us.

“When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: “Only stand out of my light.” Perhaps someday we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light.”— John W. Gardner

We are much like Jeremiah, trying to get away from the world but we are also hearing Paul reminding us to pray for those involved in changing this world. 

And in the end, we are like the manager, working to correct things in this world.

~~Tony Mitchell