“And A Child Shall Lead Them’

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC Bulletin for this Sunday, 29 September 2019 (the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C).

On January 20, 1960, John Kennedy stood before the American people and the world as the youngest President ever elected,  His inaugural address put forth a vision for the future and also served as a rebuttal to those who thought that he was too young to serve as the President.

Earlier in the campaign, he addressed a gathering of pastors in Houston, Texas, who felt that his being a Roman Catholic denied him the right to serve as President.  In this speech, he pointed out that no one asked for the faith or nationality of those who died at the Alamo in the fight to gain freedom for Texas.

There are also many who will recall how the elders in Jerusalem sat in wonder, awe, amazement, and probably fear as a 12-year-old boy explained the nuances of the Scriptures and the Law.

Our society today is a society governed by the elders of the society; mostly white men who seem to be out of touch with society and seek to only serve the desires, needs, and wants of a select few.  They respond to the fears of the people and ignore the cries of the needy, the downtrodden, and the persecuted.  Theirs is a god of money and power, not hope and salvation.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul warns against pursuing riches for the sake of riches, for one cannot take them with you when you die.  He encourages Timothy to continue the walk with Jesus that they have shared.  In the alternative Old Testament reading for this Sunday, the prophet Amos warns the rich and the elite that they will be the first to be taken into captivity and driven into exile; that their riches and exalted lifestyle will not save them in the coming days.

And Jesus notes that they will not have the chance to warn their friends in the later days because they did nothing in the present time.

A week ago, the youth of this country and this world spoke directly to the leaders of this country and this world.  The future does not belong to the elders but to the youth.  Why did Jeremiah speak of buying the land?  It was not for now but for the future.  Two thousand years ago, the elders of society heard the voice of a young boy teaching them.  We know today that many of them ignored that young man; can we risk ignoring the voice of the youth of today?

~~Tony Mitchell

“The Paradox of Creativity”

Here are my thoughts that will appear on the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 22 September 2019 (15th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C).

For me, there are two paradoxes involved in the Gospel reading for today.  The first involves the owner and the manager.  The owner fires the manager for doing a bad job but praises him for what he then does.  This would suggest that what the owner was doing was wrong to begin with.  But as I have only the back page of my church’s bulletin for expressing my thoughts, I looked at the fact that the manager was being creative in his work and that Jesus speaks of using our creativity in a positive manner.

To be creative, one must have a place to be a creative and a time to be creative (which are the same requirements for regular prayer).  And therein lies the second paradox.

But the world today, just like the world of which Jeremiah wrote, has made it very difficult to set aside such a time and a place.  So we must be attuned to the world around us and correct those things that might distract us.

“When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: “Only stand out of my light.” Perhaps someday we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light.”— John W. Gardner

We are much like Jeremiah, trying to get away from the world but we are also hearing Paul reminding us to pray for those involved in changing this world. 

And in the end, we are like the manager, working to correct things in this world.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What Will You Leave?”

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this coming Sunday, September 15, 2019 (14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C) at Fishkill UMC. Service starts at 10:15 and you are most certainly welcome to be a part of worship.

The lectionary is a collection of readings that repeats every three years.  I have used the lectionary readings for this Sunday six times over the past twenty years and yet, each week I find something different.

This week, I have a sense that we need to be looking to the next generation.  What will be giving to the next generation?  Are the words from Jeremiah written so long ago, speaking of a lifeless and barren world, destroyed by the actions, attitudes, and practices of humankind, spoken to us today?

Are we so concerned about today that we have failed to look to tomorrow?  What happens if we leave the next generation a world in which there is no air to breathe or water to drink?  What happens if people must struggle to live each day?

Time and time again, God speaks to us and let’s know that our concerns must be for others who share this world with us.  God makes it very clear that to do otherwise is a path to doom.

The Good News is that we can change this doomsday direction.  Paul is focused on his legacy, on what he is going to pass onto the next generation.  As Paul points out, God gave him a second chance and God  us that same opportunity.

What will you leave for the next generation?  Will it be a dead and lifeless world, divided by fear and hatred?  Or will be a world of life and hope?

~~ Tony Mitchell

“Our Max Yasgur Moment”

Here are my thoughts which will be on the “Back Page” of the Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, 8 September 2019, the 13th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C).

I am pretty sure you know who Max Yasgur was and what he said to the multitude gathered on his farm that Sunday some 50 years ago (In case you didn’t, here is a link to his speech).  But I am more interested in what he said to his neighbors before that Sunday that interests me.

He faced opposition in many forms to the idea of renting out his farm.  But he wanted to give the organizers a chance.  While we would, as he himself would, say that he was a conservative, he also had a different view of things.

Another farmer with a different view of things was Clarence Jordan.  In addition to a degree in agriculture, he also had a Ph. D. in the Greek New Testament.  His agriculture background and commitment to the Gospel lead him to begin what we call the Koinonia Farm.  His doctoral work led him to write the “Cotton Patch Gospels”.

Because the farm was in Georgia and integrated, there were numerous encounters with the Klan.  After one incident with the Klan, Mr. Jordan asked his brother Robert  to be the community’s attorney. Robert declined, saying that such an effort would ruin him politically (he would later become a Georgia state senator and justice on the state Supreme Court).

Clarence asked his brother if he was a Christian and reminded him how they had both stood at the altar of their church and accepted Christ.

Robert said that he followed Jesus but that he was not willing to go to the Cross.  Clarence said that he wasn’t a disciple of Christ but rather a good admirer of the man (https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/hold-on-now/),

This is where we are today.  Are we willing to stand before the world and say, “I am a Christian!  I may not want to do the work before me, I may not want to feed the hungry; I may not want to find shelter for the homeless or clothes for the needy; I am in no position to give comfort or support for those in pain and I certainly do not want to fight oppression and persecution.  But that is what I am called to do and that is what I shall do (see the remarks made by Will Campbell in https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/let-us-finish-what-we-started/).

This is, if you will, our “Max Yasgur moment.”

~~Tony Mitchell