“For All the Saints”

These are my thoughts for this coming Sunday (November 04, 2018, 24th Sunday after Pentecost (B)).  This is All Saints’ Sunday.

Through the efforts of my cousin, the Reverend Paul Schüessler, we can trace one branch of the family tree back to 18th century Germany.  We also know that my great-great-grandfather, John, and his twin brother, Nicholas, came to American in 1840 through New Orleans.  John would move up the Mississippi River and eventually settle in the St. Louis area.

We do not know why either John or Nicholas sought to come to America.  Others left for economic reason, others left to seek political freedom and others sought religious freedom.  Whatever the reason, we do know that it was their faith that sustained them through this journey.

If there is a hallmark for being a saint, it is the role of faith in their lives.  No matter whether the journey is through time or through space, it is their faith that has sustained them.  It is their faith that we remember, it is how they shared their faith that strengthens and sustains us.

You need not be someone’s family member to be a saint; all that is asked of you is that you share your faith in such a way that helps others on their own journeys.

~~ Tony Mitchell

“The Lessons of Wittenberg”

Here are my thoughts for this coming Sunday, October 28, 2018 (23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B).

Today is Reformation Sunday.  It is the Sunday nearest to October 31st, the date when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.

One outcome of this event was to transform a hierarchical church structure into a more direct relationship between humankind and God.  Martin Luther’s protest was that we, as individuals, can meet with God directly and that our fate, as it were, was not dependent of someone else.  Throughout the Book of Job, Job has desired to meet with God and discuss what is happening.  Job understands that God is, to borrow a phrase, an awesome God, awesome beyond imagination.  In today’s Gospel reading, the healing of the blind man also illustrates the direct connection between God and mankind.  This is illustrated by the fact that Jesus did not have the blind man go to the authorities after he was healed.

I sometimes think that we have forgotten the lessons of Wittenberg and the freedom we gained that day.  Our faith is found in what we do, not what others do for us.  When we accept Christ as our personal savior, we find our freedom.                                              ~Tony Mitchell

“Where Is the Position of Power?”

Here are my thoughts for the back page of the bulletin for this Sunday, October 21, 2018 (22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B) at Fishkill UMC.

I am editing some correspondence between my grandfather and my father at a time when my father was beginning his military career. My grandfather (who was a Colonel) keep reinforcing the point that the focus must be on the men under my father’s command.  There was also a discussion about those officers who were only interested in their career and did not understand the nuances of their position.

In one sense, these conversations presage conversations that would take place in the 1980’s about the nature of excellence in business, education, and even the church.  If you do not understand the field you are working in and/or you are only interested in the bottom line and how you will personally benefit, the odds are you will fail.  Even today, may do not understand this.

God asks Job who has the power and can Job match it.  Jesus points out that the potential power that comes with being a disciple is meaningless unless the disciple is willing to forgo that very power.  It will take the disciples many months to understand this point.

We see a world today where power is sought for power’s sake, even in the church and not for what it can do for the people.

Where do you see the position of power?  It is for you or is it for others? ~~Tony Mitchell

“Questions for God”

Here are my thoughts for the back page of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this Sunday, October 14, 2018, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

To understand what Job is thinking, one needs to understand the mindset of society at that time.  Then, having wealth, power, and prosperity were signs that God was pleased with you.  Sickness and poverty were signs that one had sinned and the degree to which one sinned was reflected in one’s poverty and pain.  It is a view held by many today.

Everyone is telling Job that he should just accept his punishment and curse God.  But Job knows that he is being punished unjustly and he wants to know why.  But to ask God “Why?”, he must know where to find God.

If we keep reading, we see that, in the next chapter, Job complains about those who take advantage of the poor and helpless and yet God doesn’t seem to do anything.  “Where is the justice,” Job asks.

How can there be a just God when God doesn’t seem to care what the rich and powerful do; how can there be a compassionate God when the poor, the displaced, and the oppressed are forgotten?

Some ask such questions but don’t get the answers they seek, and they turn away.  But it is our faith that allows us to seek these answers and it is in our faith that we will find the answers.                           ~~Tony Mitchell

“The Alternative View”

This will be on the back page of the bulletin at Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday (October 07, 2018, 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B)

My interest in the Book of Job has ranged over the years from antipathy to curiosity to a desire to understand.  And I think that is one of the reasons that it is incorporated in the Old Testament canon; there is a need to understand who God is and our relationship with Him.

In the opening chapters of Job, as his fortune and life disappear, all of Job’s friends, and even his wife, tell him that he had to have done something to displease God.  For that is the traditional view of life – you do good things and you are rewarded; you do bad things and you are punished – there is no alternative.

Job suggests that there is an alternative and, in the coming chapters, will seek an audience with God to understand what that alternative is.

The writer of Hebrews and Mark point out that traditional view has been changed with the presence of Jesus.  It is a view that we have been presented with this past week and which is going to challenge us in the coming days.

The question that we must ask ourselves is very simple.  Will we stay with the traditional view, knowing that it does not lead us to Christ?  Or shall we endeavor to open our minds, our hearts, and our souls to Christ and see the alternative view that is offered?

~~Tony Mitchell