June 30, 2019

This will be the “Back Page” for the Fishkill UMC bulletin this coming Sunday, June 30th, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C).

This past week has been a week of moving.  Pastors and friends moving to new locations and new assignments; students moving up and graduating from high school and college.  Today we celebrate those in this congregation who graduated from high school and college.

We celebrate this process of moving.  And we morn when our friends move away. 

Normally, we don’t like moving; it disturbs the stability we seek in our lives.

As a student of the history of science, I can only imagine how people felt when they were told that the earth was moving through time and space.  Such information disturbed our understanding of the world around us.  We don’t move through space; all one must do is observe the sun and stars as they move across the sky to know that we don’t move. 

But when we looked beyond the edges of the world, so did our understanding of our world.  And when we discovered that even the stars and galaxies were moving through the universe, our understanding of the universe was challenged.  As our knowledge of the universe expanded, so too did our ability to move into the future and beyond the limits of this planet. 

If we are to move into the future, we must push the boundaries today.  We must cast aside the view of the world we had yesterday.  The young man in the Gospel reading for today did not understand this.  He was unwilling to leave the comfort of the present time to follow Jesus.  And even though it may have been one of the most frightening things in his life, Elisha was willing to see beyond his fears in order to receive Elijah’s mantle and carry on the work that Elijah had begun.

The future can be frightening but it will be decided by what we do today.  We can be like the young man who is locked into the past, unable to move forward.  Or we can follow Christ, picking up His mantle and gaining our freedom. 

~~Tony Mitchell

“To Try Our Souls”

This will be on the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill UMC this coming Sunday, June 23, 2019, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

To borrow a phrase from Thomas Paine, these are the times that try our souls.  We see a world becoming enveloped by a cloud of darkness created by ignorance, hatred, and violence.  And the church, long a beacon of light against the darkness is slowly becoming a part of the darkness.

Many individuals in the church, fortunately not all, are like the Gerasenes in the Gospel reading for today.  The Gerasenes sold out their faith for economic and political security.  Today’s Gerasenes have sold their faith for glory and power.  Echoing their Old Testament counterparts, they worship at the altar of Baal and say that those who do not do likewise are not welcome in the church.

Elijah was forced into an exile because he dared criticize the followers of Baal; many of us today are faced with the same prospect.  But as Elijah discovered, God is more likely to be found outside the walls of the church than the inside .  And to force us from this church means that we have more opportunities to spread the Word.

As Paul wrote, God’s Kingdom is made of many individuals from different walks of life.  The modern day Gerasenes, following the false God of Baal, will suffer the same fate as those who sought to challenge God in Elijah’s time.  Those who feel they are in exile will find, freed from the constraints of walls that constrain and constrict, more and greater opportunities to share the Gospel message.   ~~Tony Mitchell

“Civis Christianus Sum”

This will be the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, June 9, 2019, Pentecost Sunday (Year C).

On 26 June 1963 President John Kennedy spoke to the people of Berlin.  In his memorable speech, in which he spoke against a wall that separated families and stopped people from seeking freedom, he said that the proudest boast two thousand years ago was “civis Romanus sum” or “I am a citizen of Rome”.  It was a claim that allowed Paul, as a Roman citizen, to move around the Mediterranean, preaching the Gospel message.

I was born in 1950 in the hospital on the post known as Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  As such, I am a United States citizen.  Had I been born one hundred years before, in 1850, I would have been considered a citizen of Virginia first and a citizen of the United States second.  It would take the Civil War to change the meaning of “the United States” from a plural meaning to a singular meaning.  I have noticed that there are many today, North and South, who still identify themselves with their home state rather than this country.  And had I been born 200 years before, in 1750, I would have been born a British citizen, though many in Britain at that time would have considered me a 2nd-class citizen.

And while my citizenship may be a factor of my birth; by baptism, confirmation, and choice, I am a follower of Christ and, thus, a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

Citizenship in God’s Kingdom does not depend on where you were born or who your parents were or how much money you might have or your sexuality; it simply depends on whether you seek God.  As a Citizen of God’s Kingdom, my duty is not to select those who can enter but to help those seeking God find their path.

The people who gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost two thousand years ago were many and varied, yet surrounded by the Holy Spirit, they become one.

Pentecost did not shut the doors to God’s Kingdom; rather it opened it up.  Our challenge is to say to those who, this day, would seek to close that the doors that the doors will be opened and we will be there to open them.

~~Tony Mitchell