A Name

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for July 28, 2019, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). On August 18th, we will be having a hymn sing so feel free to add a comment with your favorite hymn or two. I would also appreciate your thoughts on what the hymn means to you.

This is about  our collective name.  To say that one is a Christian means that one is a follower of Christ.  It has been that way for just over 2000 years now.  But what does it mean when we say we are a Methodist?

Now, if you have been attending the new member class, you know the answer to that question.  But just in case you haven’t been attending or if you forgot, we are Methodists because John Wesley, along with his brother Charles and a few of their college friends, to strengthen their faith developed a program of regular prayer and service.  This regular program, or method, was derided by their contemporaries.  But to John Wesley’s credit, he took this pejorative and made it a positive.

Instead of just being a personal plan, Methodism became the plan for taking the Gospel from inside the church to the people in the fields and factories.  Methodism changed the course of society. 

But just as Wesley proudly accepted the label, he also worried that those people called Methodists would become complacent, creating a situation very similar that lead to the rise of Methodism.

The world around us today calls for Methodists, individually and collectively, to again step forward, to make a public statement of faith and to speak out and work against injustice in all its forms.  We may be called names, just as those who came before us were, but we know that, with our faith in Christ and the method of our faith, we can change the world.  That is what our name means.                                                                 ~Tony Mitchell

Some thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing

This will be on the “Back Page” of July 21, 2019 ( 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C) bulletin for Fishkill UMC. Service begins at 10:15 and you are always welcome!

Earthrise, December 24, 1968 – a reminder that we are the caretakers of this world – some additional thoughts can be found at “Christian author sees climate change as a moral issue.”

Footprint on the moon, July 20, 1969 – In your journey with Christ, where will you leave your mark?

“String Theory”

This will be the “Back Page” for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this Sunday, July 14, 2019 – the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

String theory is an advanced theory in physics that describes our universe and its beginnings.  It does so by envisioning a system of multiple dimensions, among which are the four dimensions of space and time in which we live.  While this theory attempts to describe our universe physically, how can we describe this universe spiritually?

When you look at the two towers of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge, you can tell they are straight and they appear to be parallel.

However, that is only a two-dimensional view.  Because of the height of the towers (693 ft or 211 m) and their distance from each other (4,260 ft or 1,298 m), the curvature of the Earth’s surface had to be considered when designing the bridge. The towers are not parallel to each other but are 1 58 in (41.275 mm) farther apart at their tops than at their bases.  This line is that distance:      

Even with such a small distance, the designers had to see the world in three dimensions rather than two dimensions in order to build the bridge.

The religious and political authorities in Jesus’ time saw life in two dimensions.  There were clear lines of demarcation that told people who they were and what they can do.  Woe to anyone who dared to cross those lines.  But that is exactly what Jesus did; Jesus saw the world in three dimensions and routinely crossed the lines and challenged the definitions.

Even today, there are many who seek life in two dimensions.  Which makes living in this three-dimensional world that much harder.  And that is the same challenge gave Jesus gave the people two thousand years ago; how do we live in a three-dimensional world?         

~~Tony Mitchell

“Come to the Welcome Table”

This will be the “Back Page” on the bulletin this Sunday (7 July 2019, 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C) at Fishkill UMC.

In looking for information about the anthem that I am singing this morning (Here is a YouTube version that I “borrowed” – https://youtu.be/PNjH8rEJjDc ), I discovered a few things. 

Its roots are in the spirituals of the 19th century and was known as “Down to the River Jordan”.  Like many spirituals, it evolved over the years and became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement  (https://civilrightssongs.blogspot.com/2014/11/im-gonna-sit-at-welcome-table-civil.html

The “Welcome Table” is a possible reference to the tradition of leaving an empty seat for the stranger at the Seder. (“Welcome Table Theology, a sermon by the Reverend Phyllis L. Hubbell, 2/8/2004)

The 4th verse speaks of all God’s children sitting at the welcome table.  But even today there are some who, even on this weekend where we celebrate freedom, would deny many that opportunity.  You cannot have freedom if the status quo oppresses people.  That’s one of the points that Paul made to the Galatians; how many people enforced the law for their own benefit?

Naaman and the king of Israel found out that the cure Naaman sought was not found in the traditional ways but outside the boundaries of the status quo.

Our freedom, our true freedom is found, not in the status quo, but at the welcome table.~~Tony Mitchell

Though not related to the anthem or the lectionary readings, this sermon, “The Welcome Table Revised”, presents an interesting view of hospitality.