“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

 

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“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.

Our Letter to Our Congressman


The following is a letter that we just faxed to our Congressman (who happens to be a Democrat).


We are asking you to join with other members of the House of Representatives and present a Bill of Impeachment against Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

His pardon of Mr. Joe Arpaio for a state crime is an act which is not stated in the Constitution. The President, per the Constitution Constitution, may only pardon Federal crimes. In addition, while Mr. Trump did this on his own, which is his prerogative, he ignored the laws and regulations set by the Justice Department.

This action is another example of the disdain Mr. Trump has for the Constitution. His ownership of real estate properties, in the United States and overseas, is both unethical and in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution.

Additionally, he has failed to carry out the duties of his office as outlined in the Constitution by failing to fill positions in the Executive Branch and then by appointing individuals who are woefully unqualified and whose goals are to destroy the objectives of the departments. This is not a time to discuss the role of said departments but to recognize that what is being done by this individuals, with the support of Mr. Trump, to bring harm and injustice to the people of the United States.

He has brought a state of chaos to the United States government and shame to this country.

The preamble of the Constitution outlines the role of the Federal government. But when you look at the budget Mr. Trump has proposed, you see again that Mr. Trump has no concern for the people of the United States.

Congressman Maloney, it is quite clear that Mr. Trump does not have the ability to serve as the President. More importantly, his temperament and questionable mental stability only reinforce the need for this Bill of Impeachment.

We are asking that you present this Bill and that you use all the parliamentary procedures at your disposal to make this the first priority of the House of Representatives. It is quite clear that Mr. Trump’s actions to dates and the actions that he is likely to take in the coming days only foresee a major Constitutional crisis.

The House of Representatives must act now!

Sounds of Freedom


These are my thoughts for this week.  They are based on the Scriptures for Sunday, July 2, 2017, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A) – Genesis 22: 1 – 14, Romans 6: 12 – 23, and Matthew 10: 40 – 42.

What are the sounds of freedom?  What sounds or words do you associate with freedom?  Granted, there are many choices one could pick but the first sound that I thought of was Richie Havens singing “Freedom” at the Woodstock Festival back in 1969.

The story is that Richie Havens was the opening act for the festival and only scheduled to sing a few songs.  But, for whatever reason, the next couple of acts had not arrived and the organizers asked Richie to keep playing.  So, he played and he played.  And after playing virtually all his material, he began to improvise on the song, “Freedom.”

The ability to improvise is not as easy as it might seem.  If one is not versed in the fundamentals of one’s trade, it is literally impossible to improvise.  So, when I hear this song, I am reminded that freedom is more than a word and that we must work on the fundamentals upon which freedom is based.

And there is another song which reminds me of the fundamentals of freedom, “Find the Cost of Freedom” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash.  As the words of the song state, the cost of freedom is buried in the ground.  Unfortunately, there are those who see the way to freedom through war and are quick to go to war when other means can achieve freedom as well.

I am reminded of the closing lines of Patrick Henry’s speech on March 23, 1775.  We all are aware of this speech for the closing line, perhaps echoing Joshua’s proclamation from Joshua 24: 15, “As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”

“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

But it is the line that precedes this is just as important when considering the words and sounds of freedom,

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the prices of chains and slavery?”

Those who heard that speech that day were probably well aware that Patrick Henry’s wife, Sarah, was mentally ill and there were those who felt that the best solution was to have her committed to the public hospital in Williamsburg.

If Patrick Henry had agreed to this treatment, his wife would have been locked in a windowless cell and chained to the wall with leg irons.  Rather than accept this, he chose to keep her home, in a well-lit and well-ventilated two-room apartment with 24-hour attention.  It should be noted that when Sarah died, she was died a Christian burial or religious funeral service because it was felt her mental illness was caused by possession by the devil.

The cost of freedom goes beyond the sacrifice of a few and to finding a way to maintain freedom.  Sadly, in today’s world, there are those who wish for others to die for their country while ignoring the wounded and maimed.  And when the wounded and maimed come home, they are quickly forgotten and monies that could be spent on building freedom are spent on additional weapons of war.

The next words of freedom come from Jesus.  In John 8: 32, we read that we are to seek the truth and the truth will set us free.  It is interesting to note that some of those who heard those words felt that they were already free because they adhered to the laws, rules, and regulations of the time.

But those laws, rules, and regulations gave freedom to those who wrote the laws, rules, and regulations; for the rest of the population, all they did was to enslave and entrap the population.  When people began to seek the truth for themselves, instead of relying on others, then freedom became a possibility.

And that leads to the last words of freedom.  When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, he spoke of people working together to seek the common goals of all humanity.

The words and sounds of freedom are many and various.  They echo through the ages and presage the future.  And while individuals speak the words of freedom, they require the work of all the people, working for all the people and not just a select few.  One cannot be free if someone else is not free.

So as you celebrate freedom, remember what you are asked to do.