“The Cost of Freedom”


This will be the back page for the bulletin at Fishkill UMC on Sunday, July 1, 2018 (6th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B).  Services are at 10 am and you are welcome to attend.


If there is one common theme for this week, it would have to be freedom.  And invariably, when I think of freedom, I think of the flags Ann and I have but which we do not fly.  I also think of Richie Havens singing “Freedom” at the opening of Woodstock and Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing “Find the Cost of Freedom.”  The freedom of which CSN sang is the very freedom represented by the flags that the families, such as ours, were given by a grateful nation.  But the cost of freedom is also represented by Richie Havens singing.

Freedom doesn’t come automatically but after much effort; while Havens was improvising much of what he sang that day in August 1969, he couldn’t have done it without preparation and study.

Our own freedoms also do not come automatically but as the result of much effort by each of us and those who came before us.  To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, we can never be truly free if there are others who are not free.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul commended them on their desire to excel.  But his commendation comes with a caveat; you cannot succeed at the expense of others, a thought later expressed by John Wesley.

Our freedoms today cannot be measured in society’s terms, for society sees things unequally.  If we are to be truly free, we must be willing to help others find the same freedoms we enjoy.

Christ died so that we may live; our freedoms are found through Christ.  Are we willing to help others find that same freedom?

~Tony Mitchell

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“Pay Attention to the Details”


This will be the back page for the Sunday, June 03, 2018 (2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B) bulletin of Fishkill UMC.


For my doctoral work, I needed to synthesize two chemical compounds.  For the first compound, I was going to reproduce some work that had been done a few years before to confirm the structure of the compound.

The interesting thing about this synthesis was that one step in the process had to be done “backwards”.  Instead of adding “A” to “B”, I had to add “B” to “A”.  “A” to “B” was the traditional approach and the one taught to all students.  If you looked at the experimental method, this would have been the method you would have chosen.  But if you did this, all your work would have been destroyed in the process.  That you had to do this step in reverse order was discovered by the first group and their notes, which I had, noted the importance of changing the order.  But had I not had their notes, I would have noted there was a problem in the synthesis and worked out an alternative.  Either way, I had to be aware of what I was doing.

The Pharisees were hung up on the details about the sanctity of the Sabbath and felt that it was more important to uphold the sanctity rather focus on the meaning of the Sabbath.

For many people today, Christianity is superficial.  Some say they are Christian, but it is only on the surface and they lack the depth that shows the presence of Christ.

When we travel out into the world as representatives of Christ, we must be aware that we are showing the fullness and completeness of God’s Love.      ~Tony Mitchell

“We Are Outsiders!”


This is for the back page of the 22 October 2017 (20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) Fishkill UMC bulletin.

I once wrote that if John Wesley were alive today, he would be very old (“Seeing The Trees For The Forest”).  I also noted that I thought he would be fascinated by today’s technology and looking for ways to use that technology to better spread the Gospel message.   Because that is what his mission was, I think he would also be very angry at those people who call themselves Methodists.

John Wesley was an anachronism.  He believed in rules (which is, in part, why we have the Book of Discipline) but he also saw that rules by themselves could not bring the change he sought.  Still, until he fully accepted Christ at Aldersgate, his legalistic style of religion was failing.  But after Aldersgate, things changed.

When Methodism began in England, England was on the verge of the same bloody revolution that had just swept across France.  But because of the work of the early Methodists, there was no bloody revolution.  Methodists reached across the lines drawn by society and brought the Gospel message to the people in word and deed, alleviating much of the pain and suffering the lower classes endured.

There were those who did not like the Methodist success; those who lived in this country were barred from preaching in the accepted state churches.  Those barriers forced the Methodists to go “outside the box” and find ways to bring the Gospel message to the people.  But, in doing that, they opened the doors for the Methodist message to reach even more people.

We have inherited the title of “outsider”, of continuing a faith tradition that goes beyond the boundaries of society and law, of bringing people to Christ no matter where they might be by our words, our deeds, our thoughts, and our actions.                                    ~~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

“Love”


This will be the back page for the September 10, 2017 (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin of Fishkill United Methodist Church. Service is at 10:00 and you are welcome.

If you had to take the one thing that was most important to you, what would it be? When I was first asked that question, I replied that I would take my bowling equipment, simply because that was a way that I could make a living. But I also knew that in a few years my life would change and the thing I would take would be my doctoral research notes.

The context of Paul’s words to the Romans today was the hoped-for Second Coming of Christ. The problem was that the people were worrying so much about the Second Coming that they were not focusing on the present time and the needs of the community. Paul asked if it was worth worrying about one’s earthly things at a time like that.

Our communion has its beginnings in the Passover meal. The Passover meal is symbolic of the last minute preparations the Israelites made in leaving Egypt. They had time for that one meal and then they had to leave, taking what they could, as the Angel of Death passed over Egypt.

In light of the events of the past few weeks, what would you take? Do you take what you need or what you love? Is your love grounded in faith or in this world?

But there are other questions as well. In these times, when so many people have had to give up everything simply to stay alive, what would you be willing to share with others who have nothing? How prepared are you to welcome and help others who have lost everything?

Disaster Relieft


In light of the recent disaster in Sierra Leone and Hurricane Harvey and the resulting floods, while you have your choice of where to send relief donations, I recommend the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  Of course, I am doing this because I am a United Methodist but also because 100% of the donations go to the relief operation (and not many other relief groups can say that).  The overhead for the operation comes from other appropriations.  

Also, it is better to go the donation route (whomever you choose) than donating materials and goods (unless requested).  The people running the group have a better understanding of what is happening, what is needed, and how to get it.