“Who Gets Invited?”


Here is the “back page” for the 15 October 2017 (19th Sunday after Pentecost, year A) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Our services start at 10 and you are always welcome to come and be a part of the worship.


How many of you remember Steve Allen?  If I were to describe this talented individual in one word, I would say that he was creative.  Whether it was in the arts, the theater, or music, Steve Allen found new and creative ways to express his thoughts.  And one of those ways was through a television series he prepared for PBS, entitled “Meeting of the Minds”.  In this show, he brought together notable individuals of history (portrayed by actors) to meet and discuss ideas, common or otherwise (I first referenced this in “Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast?”)

My notes don’t give me all those who sat at his table but it would have been nice to have Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer there to discuss the nature of Christianity.

If you were given the opportunity, who would you invite to sit with you at your table and discuss topics of common interest?  And what would you do if any of the individuals you invited could not attend?  Who might you then invite?

Would St. Augustine be an acceptable substitute for Martin Luther?  Would you invite Attila the Hun, even if you knew he had bad table manners?

What if they didn’t let you know until the last minute?  Might there have been someone you overlooked because they were not famous?

Who might you invite to this metaphorical table if it meant that the course of history might change because you did.

We have chosen the path we will walk.  And who we walk with along the way tells us something about that path.  Who will you invite to walk with you today?

~~Tony Mitchell

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Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.  

Here is an opportunity of participate in the project and the 2018 Evolution Weekend.  There is a chance for a free book!

“The Rules of Life”


Here is the “back page” for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 8 October 2017, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A).


No, I am not talking about the board game of Life, where you moved through life, overcome obstacles and gaining credits until you reached a wonderful ending.  But there are rules by which we live and there are the rules that others seek to impose on us.

As Saul, Paul was determined to do just that, force others to live by a set of imposed rules.  The openness of “The Way” (as the new Christian movement was then called) was anathema to the rigid, rule-driven religion that Saul followed.

But Saul found a new set of rules when his life as a persecutor was interrupted and his new life as Paul began.  Paul understood that the rigidity of rules stifled life, not encouraged it.  It was the initial rigidity of Methodism that caused John Wesley to have an immense sense of failure.  When Wesley accepted the Holy Spirit at Aldersgate, the world-changing movement known as the Methodist Revival began.

We can be like the workers of the vineyard, bound and determined to do it our own way, by refusing to accept the Holy Spirit into our lives.  And in doing so, we doom ourselves to failure, even though we are certain we are following the rules.

But a rigid set of rules does not give us the Freedom we seek.  A rigid set of rules only limits us.  But there is that one moment in our life, our Aldersgate or our place on the road to Damascus, where we encounter the Holy Spirit and find our Freedom.

It was this Freedom, that empowerment by the Holy Spirit, that gave the Methodist Revival the ability to change the world.  Our Freedom is found in Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

And that is the one rule of life.

~~ Tony Mitchell

 

“Grace”


This will be on the back page for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for September 24, 2017 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A).  Services begin at 10 and you are welcome to attend.


For those who don’t know, I am a Level 1 Trekkie.  I like Star Trek but don’t go to the conventions or anything like that.  My interest in Star Trek comes from the common point of reference of Iowa that I share with Captain Kirk.

If I am not mistaken, Star Trek was the first television series in which there was true equality.  It remains to be seen if this world will ever achieve that point; but if we don’t try, we will never know.

Equality has proven to be a rather elusive concept in this country.  The idea of equality, first written not quite 250 years ago, has evolved and expanded over the years but we still struggle with it.  And our struggle to understand the political nature of equality does not help when we try to understand God’s Grace.

God’s Grace is given to all, equally and freely, and yet we think that somehow some should receive more than others and some should not receive any at all.  But God gave sustenance in equal portions for all the Israelites to live during the Exodus and punished those who tried to take more than their share.

And while each worker should receive compensation for their labors, the parable in today’s Gospel is really not about wages.  It is and will always be about God’s grace and that all receive it equally.

I learned a long time ago that it was God’s grace alone that allowed me to sit at His Table; who I was and what I  had done before meant nothing.  And while this doesn’t seem fair, it reminds us that God’s equality transcends all.  And as one of God’s children, my presence at His Table is cause, as Paul noted, to celebrate.

And having been given this grace, we celebrate by helping others to receive it as well. ~ Tony Mitchell

“Peace”


Here is the back page for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for September 17, 2017 (the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A).


There is, perhaps, no more contentious place than the dinner table. Sometimes it is a discussion about sports (woe be to the household where someone supports the Yankees and others support the Mets). At our house, it was the sitting arrangement. To accommodate one of my brothers being left-handed and the need for my baby sister to sit by my mother, there were only a few ways we could all sit at the table in peace.. But with the places set at the table, peace reigned and we could enjoy our dinner.
One of the first issues the early church faced was also at the dinner table. Was obedience to Jewish dietary laws a necessary component of the Christian faith. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, suggested that it was an non-issue. It wasn’t what you ate that counted but what you did with your life that mattered. If we cannot find peace at the dinner table, how can we find peace elsewhere? How can we find peace in our soul?
The world is in crisis today. The house we all live in is being battered by forces, both natural and man-made. And because of the perceived differences we see in each other, we refuse to sit at the same table. Instead of peace, we find fear. How then shall we find peace? How can we achieve that peace that surpasses all understanding?

For the Israelites, it was the light of God that guided them towards the Promised Land; it is the presence of Christ in our lives today. It is that peace that allows us to welcome all to the table, to discuss and define differences; then find ways to keep the house in order and allow all of us to move forward.