Keep Your Eyes on The Prize

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for June 2, 2019, the 7th Sunday of Easter (Year C)

I don’t know why but, for a while, this past week was not on my calendar.  In something akin to the shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, several days just “disappeared”.

As I left the church last Sunday, pondering why I kept skipping June 2nd, I remembered a song from the 60s, “Keep Your Eyes on The Prize”.

While this song was one of the anthems of the goals of the Civil Rights movement, it’s roots come from a time before World War I.

And like so many folk songs, its roots can be found in the Bible, in this case, the lectionary reading from Acts for today.

Paul and Silas were thrown into jail, essentially for disturbing the peace, but for really disturbing the status quo.  In a society where one’s place was defined, Paul and Silas argued that God’s Kingdom was open to all.

We see this today.  There are some who believe that God’s Kingdom is open to only a few and they are the ones who decide who those few are.  But the prize of salvation is not limited to a few but to all those who seek God.

As Paul and Silas found out, as Jesus told the first disciples, achieving the prize is not an easy task.  But when you keep your eyes on the prize, it is within your reach.

Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.

~~Tony Mitchell

The Vision That We Have

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this Sunday, May 26, 2019 (6th Sunday of Easter, Year C) at Fishkill United Methodist Church.

The theme of the Scriptures today, it seems to me, is one of vision.  With these readings, we are reminded of what is written in Proverbs, “if we are without vision, we shall perish”

Some years ago, I came across a quote from Joel A. Barker,

Vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action changes the world.

Paralleling that was quote by Willie Nelson,

“one person cannot change the world but one person with a message can.”

Neither Luther nor Wesley sought to create a new expression of faith; theirs was vision of how to best express one’s faith.  Wesley had a “method” for implementing that vision.

There are those today who say they have a plan for the church, but it is a plan without a vision, one beset by rules and regulations, one without concern for the people of the church and the people who seek the church.  In their plan, if you don’t meet the qualifications as set by the rules they have made, you are not eligible to be a part of the faith.

This attitude, I feel, is the same attitude religious authorities two thousand years ago voiced.  It was the same attitude voiced by their Wesleyan era counterparts.  As a plan based on rules and regulations, it was stiff and formal, with no room to be creative and no room for those outside society.  It was a plan created without love and without a vision for the future.

A sightless world is a limited one, one in which fear and ignorance dominate,

What Jesus did was change the vision of the world, to see a new future.  Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can put that vision into action.

~~Tony Mitchell

What Are You Doing Here?

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin at Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, May 19, 2019 (5th Sunday of Easter, Year C)

In August, 1739, John Wesley went  to Bristol, England to begin a Methodist revival. 

Joseph Butler, the  Bishop of the Anglican Church in Bristol and an adherent to orthodox preaching (i.e., the rule of law) told him,

“You have no business here. You are not commissioned to preach in this diocese. Therefore, I advise you to go hence.”

Wesley replied,

“My lord, my business on earth is do what good I can. Wherever, therefore I think I can do most good, there must I stay so long as I think so. At present I think I can –do most good here. Therefore, here I stay.” 

As a graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, Wesley had a commission to preach the Gospel anywhere in England.  To preach in Bristol did not, in his mind, break any human law.  He also understood that if he adhered to the orthodox and traditional view of preaching, he could not offer Christ outside the church walls.

We again hear the cry of the those who seek the church in orthodox and legalistic ways.  But as the inheritors of the Methodist Revival, are we not the inheritors of the unorthodox and irregular.  Shall we stay safe inside the walls of our sanctuary or trust, as did Wesley, that He will be there when we go into the country?

~~Tony Mitchell

Open doors

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin of Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, May 12, 2019 (4th Sunday of Easter, Year C).

While I had heard the name, Rachel Held Evans, until two weeks ago, I did not know she was.  But with her illness and death, I have come to know that this talented Christian writer and mother reached and touched the hearts and souls of many people, in and outside the church.

Raised in a conservative church environment, she began questioning her faith, I believe, during high school.  (I will be adding a link to a blog post she wrote a few years ago about science and faith later today or tomorrow). But instead of destroying her faith, as the conservative church establishment says will happen, her faith grew, widened, and became stronger.  Because of this conflict, RHE (as she was known) found it necessary to leave the church of her birth but she found a home in the Episcopal Church.

In seeing all the notes and quotes people had gathered, I saw the following:

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” ― 

Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

For many, the Book of Revelation is a violent and exclusionary book.  But the message of the Bible is just the opposite, that God’s Kingdom is open to all who seek God.  In writing Revelation, John was writing to a church under persecution by the political authorities.  His words are words of hope and a promise.

The church today is again under attack, by religious and political groups who would seek to shut the doors to all but a select few.  Our task is to remind the world that God’s Kingdom looks more like us than it does the halls of power and authority.  Our task is to open the doors to all who seek God.

~~Tony MItchell

“Overcoming the Darkness”

This will be the back page of the bulletin at Fishkill UMC this coming Sunday, May 5, 2019, the 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C)

As Howard Carter peered into to enter the tomb of Tutankhamen and saw all the treasures of the untouched tomb, he told his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, that he saw, “things, wonderful things.”

When the disciples first peered into the Tomb, they saw nothing but darkness.  And in that darkness, they saw no future.  A few years later, Saul, in his blindness, also saw no future.  John the Seer also saw a darkness enveloping his community.

Today, there are many of us who see that same darkness, a darkness created by fear, ignorance and hatred, enveloping our world and our faith.  It is a darkness that threatens our future.

But as the darkness enveloped his community, John the Seer saw God’s Kingdom, a light of hope and promise.  And though Ananias may have been afraid when God directed him to help and guide Saul, he trusted in God.

On that day on the beach two thousand years ago, with no vision of the future, the disciples saw the Risen Christ.  The reality of the Risen Christ helped them to have a vision for the future.

Just as John the Seer saw the new Kingdom as a vision for the future, we too have that opportunity.  Just as the disciples heard their mission that day, so too do we know that our mission is to bring God’s Kingdom to all, not just a few.

The Risen Christ removes the darkness of the world and brings a new light of hope and promise to it.  For us and those whom we meet on our journey, the future is filled with things, wonderful things through Christ.                                                                                ~~Tony Mitchell