“What I Am Not Giving Up for Lent” (4) – Scripture

This will be on the “Back Page” of the bulletin at Fishkill UMC this coming Sunday, March 31, 2019 (4th Sunday in Lent, Year C).

It has long been a mantra in science that something didn’t happen if it wasn’t written down.  The owner of a patent or a scientific discovery has been decided on the information written in someone’s research notebook.

The philosopher Joseph Campbell noted that there is an element of truth in every myth.  It is up to the reader to search out the truth behind the myth.

The Scriptures are a written record, not of history or science, but of  humankind’s relationship with God.  The book of Genesis may have come about as a means of explaining who we are and how we came to be.

It is our responsibility to understand that there is a story behind what has been written down and it is our responsibility to find out what that story is.  Why, for example, did Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek?  Only through study do we understand that this was not an act of passive submission but a major act of defiance.

The Scriptures tell us of our relationship with God and others.  We must use the ideas presented in the Scriptures in conjunction with our reason, tradition, and experience to have a lasting faith.

I will not give up the Scriptures nor will I give up my faith but I will use the Scriptures and what they tell me about my relationship with God to better help others find their relationship with God.       ~~Tony Mitchell

“What I Am Not Giving Up for Lent” (3) – Experience

This will be the “Back Page” for the bulletin at Fishkill UMC on March 24 , 2019 (3rd Sunday in Lent, Year C)

The nice thing about the Season of Lent is that we know where it leads us.  Because we know that, we can, should, and do reflect on our experience with God.

Was your first experience with God like that of Saul on the road to Damascus, a bright flash of thunder and light?  Or was it like that of John Newton (“Amazing Grace”) where the storms of life caused you to consider the direction of your life and change it?  Even our own John Wesley’s life began to change when he could not find God on a ship crossing the stormy Atlantic.  The episode at sea would lead Wesley to the Aldersgate Chapel where he would find his heart strangely warmed by the knowledge that Christ was a presence in his life.

Each of us has experienced God in our own unique way.  But, no matter how we came to know God through Christ, there was someone who, by their words, thoughts, deeds and actions, helped you to find Christ.

But today there are too many Christians whose words, thoughts, actions, and deeds give the message “we don’t like your kind here.”  Too many Christians today echo the words of the inn-keeper  when he told Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in the inn that night.

During this time of Lent, as I reflect on my own experience so many years ago, I know I cannot give up my faith or my church because, even though some would have closed the door, there were those who opened the door.  And I need to be there to open the doors for others.

In the remaining days of Lent, are you , through your words, thoughts, deeds, and actions helping people experience God?

~~ Tony Mitchell

“What I Am Not Giving Up for Lent” (2) – Tradition

This will be on the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill United Methodist Church this Sunday, 17 March, 2019 (2nd Sunday in Lent, Year C)

As I wrote last week “What I Am Not Giving Up for Lent” (1), I am not giving up on my faith or the United Methodist Church for Lent.  Now, if Lent is a time of preparation, perhaps we should consider how we can prepare our faith for the coming days.

In “The Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye points out we do things because of tradition but we don’t always remember on what the tradition is based.  We tend to see tradition in terms of laws and regulations, some written, many not .

But the tradition of Methodism is to do those things that have not been done, to reach out to those beyond the walls of the sanctuary.  Our ancestors in the church were the ones who reached out to the forgotten and disenfranchised, the very sinners that Jesus reached out to (much to the consternation of many church elders).

Our traditions have been to never say who could not come into our church but to welcome all who sought Christ.

As we move closer to Easter, we need to cast aside the attitude that only certain individuals are welcome and revive our tradition of saying to all who seek Christ that you are welcome here.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What I Am Not Giving Up for Lent” (1)

This will be on the “Back Page” of the bulletin of Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, March 10, 2019, the 1st Sunday in Lent (Year C)

And the Preacher wrote, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”  Our primary purpose for Lenten season is to prepare for Easter and the Resurrection.  Typically, this preparation includes giving something up, as a sign of sacrifice and repentance.

But I want to focus on what I am not giving up for Lent this year.  As much as I am tempted to do so, I am not giving up on the United Methodist Church and I am certainly not giving up my faith.

There was, as you may know, a time when I would have done just that.  Like Isaiah, I saw a world in chaos and trouble and a church which was more of a contributor to the chaos and the problems than a solver and a healer.  And as much I wish it were different today, the church still seeks to divide and exclude rather than bring everyone to Christ.

It seems that many people find their security in demeaning the worth and value of others.  But when we do that, we demean our own worth as well.  And the church, or its public persona, is complicit in this act.

As a United Methodist, our faith is based on the Wesleyan quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.  If we take any of these out of the equation, our faith will collapse. 

Through reason the individual Christian brings to bear on the Christian faith discerning and cogent thought.  Through reason, we can begin to understand what is written and, perhaps just as important, what is not written in the Scriptures.

If we do not use the power of reason as a part of our faith, we cannot understand what Jesus meant to the people two thousand years ago nor what he means to the people today.  Without the power of reason, we will find it impossible to reach for the future.

So, I am not giving up my faith or my church for Lent.  I will use the gift of reason that God gave me to find solutions, to work against fear and ignorance, to bring justice and righteousness to a world crying out in pain.         ~~ Tony Mitchell