What Does Advent Mean?


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, December 1, 2019, the 1st Sunday in Advent (Year A). I will be taking a brief sabbatical and allowing others to share their thoughts for Advent on the back page. I plan to return for January 5, 2020.

First, my thanks to Pam, Tom, Herb, and Jane for helping with the “Back Page” for this Advent season.  When I was asked what one should write, I just said, look to the Scriptures and tell others what they mean to you.  For me, Advent is the time of certainty in a time of darkness and fear.

Advent is always about preparation, preparing for the coming of Christ.  The thing is that we know how the story begins and how the story ends.  But what about those who have never heard the story?  What about those who came to the stable where Jesus lay that First Night?  The shepherds knew because the angels told them what to expect. 

Did the innkeeper know who that husband and wife seeking shelter were?  All he knew was he had no room, except for a space in his stable.

Did those who came to help Mary with the delivery of her first child know who this Child would become?  They only knew that this young mother needed their help.

There is, perhaps, a certain degree of uncertainty in our lives.  The times we live in almost guarantee that.  It seems to me that when we seek only certainty in our lives, we cannot move forward.  But with the certainty that Christ is coming into our lives, the fear that keeps us from moving disappears.

So, as we begin Advent, we begin preparing for Christ’s coming into our lives and the certainty that comes from his presence in our lives.

~~Tony Mitchell

“A Better Place”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, November 24, 2019, Christ the King Sunday (Year C). Services start at 10:15 and everyone is welcome to attend. If you feel up to it, come around 9:15 and practice with the choir.

For the record, I have probably written more on the idea of stewardship these past four weeks than I have in the previous twenty years.  This is due, in part, because I haven’t had to write on the topic, and in part because, as Pastor Micah noted a couple of weeks ago, it is not a popular topic.

In a “perfect” world,  we would not need to address the topic because it would be second nature to us.  But we do not live in such a “perfect” world and by our proclamation as Christians and as United Methodists, we must find ways to strive for such perfection.

Stewardship takes on many forms, from caring for this world on which we live to caring for those who live on this planet, no matter who they are or what they believe.  Stewardship, in its many forms, is one of the many ways that we can express our faith.

So, for a brief period of time each year, we focus on how we shall be good stewards of this place on which we live and the people with whom we share this place.

~~ Tony Mitchell

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line.

In this Clergy Letter Project update, you’ll find the following seven items:

Evolution Weekend 2020:  Free Book Offer;

Astrobiology News for November 2019:  Exoplanet Hunting Around the World;

Why Should Christians Care for Creation?;

Review of Climate Church, Climate World;

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Sensei Tony Stultz Discuss the Universe – and More;

A Climate of Hope:  Scientists and Faith Communities Addressing the Climate Crisis; and

Genesis, Environmentalism and Diversity:  A Rabbi Explains.

“24/7 Stewardship”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this coming Sunday, 17 November 2019 (the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C). Services start at 10:15 am and you are welcome to attend.

When I first looked at the Scriptures for this Sunday, I wondered how I was ever going to focus on the topic of stewardship.  But Isaiah’s words that we were building a new world reminded me that we, God’s children, have been tasked with stewardship from Day 1.

From its very beginning, humanity has been charged with care of this world.  Yet, even today, with the warnings of climate change echoing in our ears, there are some who ignore the call and think that the Earth is theirs is to do as they please. 

It is just as important that we understand that in the passage right before today’s reading from Thessalonians, Paul is complaining about those who are convinced that the 2nd Coming of Christ is imminent and have quit working.  It is not the poor and disadvantaged, as some would have you believe, that Paul is yelling at; it is those who put themselves above the needs of their community.

Jesus warns us to beware the false prophets and teachers, the long-tongued liars who preach hatred and exclusion, who preach that all that is in the world is for a very few and not to be shared.

Our stewardship of this planet goes beyond simple gardening duties; it involves caring for all the people, no matter who they are or where they live.  It has been our task from day 1 and continues on, 24/7, until we all reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What’s Inside?”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this Sunday, 10 November 2019, the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C. Services begin at 10 but you can come early and practice with the choir!

I always wondered why so many United Methodists churches in the Midwest look alike but then I found out that there was a collection of blueprints church designers and builders could pick from when building a new church.  Still, seeing the outside of the church really doesn’t tell you what is going on inside the church.  Does one feel the presence of the Holy Spirit or is it just another building?

Cynthia Bourgeault, in The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind, wrote

“Jesus never asked anyone to form a church, ordain priests, develop elaborate rituals and institutional cultures, and splinter into denominations. His two great requests were that we “love one another as I have loved you” and that we share bread and wine together as an open channel of that interabiding love.”

Haggai reminds the people of Israel that they were not simply rebuilding a building; they were building a home for God, a place for the Holy Spirit.  In doing so, they were able to better discern God’s presence in their lives.

Stewardship is about finding ways to make God’s presence in our lives through the ministry of the church.  It is not found in the old ways but in the new, of considering what Jesus did and how we can best continue to do that. ~~Tony Mitchell

“Seeing the Future”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday’s (November 3, 2019, 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Year C) bulletin at Fishkill UMC. This and the next couple of weeks will be a focus on stewardship.

In the classic story, “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a new man after seeing his future.  It would be interesting to know if Charles Dickens was thinking of Zacchaeus when he created this seminal literary character.  In one sense, Zacchaeus sees the future when he seeks Jesus that day two thousand years ago.

The prophet Habakkuk writes of concern for his people and is given of a vision that one can assume would be the coming of Christ.  As Paul notes, our future is found in Christ.

We set a path for our future when we decided to follow Christ.  In our decision to be a United Methodist, we accepted the ideas first proposed by John Wesley some 250 years ago.  Ours is a faith motivated by the desire to bring hope to the hopeless, bring healing to the sick, and find sanctuary for the homeless, the goals set forth by Jesus Himself that day in the synagogue in Nazareth.

There are those in this world who would qualify as a Zacchaeus or a pre-Christmas Ebenezer Scrooge.  One can only hope that they will find Christ or see the future as it lies before them and change their ways.

In the meantime, the rest of us are faced with a quandary.  We see the same desolation, pain, and suffering that Habakkuk saw.  But we know what he could only envision; we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a change in this world.  Evil can only exist if we allow it to exist.  Through the gifts we have been given, we have the resources to make the changes.

Stewardship is about using the gifts that you have been given so that the Word of God can be expressed, so that the homeless find shelter, the hungry get fed, the sick are healed, and the oppressed find justice.  Over the course of the next 30 days, take the time to think about how your future will look and what you can do to make it the better for the Kingdom of God.

~~ Tony Mitchell

The WesleyNexus Newsletter


The new WesleyNexus newsletter is now available.

In this issue:

In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace” Pew Survey

Parachurch Ministry and the Gospel Ecosystem

Graduating Students Share Their Journeys of Faith

Special Project: Understanding Generation Z from the Pacific Standard

ISSR program at American Academy of Religion in San Diego

Non-scientific Creation Stories by Rev. Henry Schwarzmann