We Are The Experts!


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, February 9, 2020, 5th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A). This is also Boy Scout Sunday.

When the disciple Nathaniel Bartholomew was first told about Jesus being the Messiah, he asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  This question reflected the rather unfavorable and common wisdom of the time about the inhabitants of Nazareth.

There are times when we are no different than Nathaniel.  As I mentioned to Pastor two weeks ago, some of the people I know from high school 50 years ago still hold onto ideas more suited to the 18th century rather than the 21st century.  And rather than trying to bring their minds, they rely on “experts” to tell them what to think.  And in their view, woe to those who might question such out-of-date ideas.

Paul, when he was Saul, was one of those “experts”; like so many then (and today), one did not question the Scripture and those who did were to be punished.  But after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he understood that there was more than just an adherence to the Law.  This is what Jesus told the authorities when he said that He was the fulfillment of the Law.  Life is more than just a rigorous adherence to the Law; it is about how one lives, a thought echoed by Isaiah when he told the people of Israel God was more interested in seeing what they did rather than knowing they simply adhered to the Law.

There is a need for experts but not to tell you what to do or what to think.  They can show you the way but you have to make the decision to travel in that direction.  In a sense, we are each an expert, for by our actions, we will show others who the Messiah is and we will be able to help them meet the Messiah on their own.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What’s That Sound?”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, February 2, 2020, the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A)

In 1966 Stephen Stills wrote and then, with the group he was in, “Buffalo Springfield, recorded a song entitled “For What It’s Worth.” 

Perhaps the key phrase in the song is, 

It’s time we stop 
Hey, what’s that sound? 
Everybody look – what’s going down? 

For me, this phrase echoes the thoughts of the prophet Micah written 3000 years before, “Look around and see what God has done.  And tell me how anything you may have done matches His work.”

Paul makes the point that our perceived status be it political, economic, or religious,  counts very little to when it comes to receives God’s blessings.  As Jesus points out, our blessings come from what we do, not who we are.

One thing that I learned a long time ago is that, no matter how hard I might try, I would never reach the perfection of Christ. 

Nothing I do will ever outdo God and I should never try. But such perfection must be my goal. Anything that I should do should not be seen as a “trophy” in the pursuit of perfection but as a step along the way. 

Today, God is calling on us to listen to the sounds of the world, to hear the cries of the people, and then empowered by the Holy Spirit, bring the Gospel to the world through our words, deeds, thoughts, and actions.

~~Tony Mitchell

Does Your Room Have an Exit?


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, 26 January 2020 (3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A). Service starts at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

At first, I couldn’t understand why the Old Testament reading for this Sunday began by focusing on the Birth of Jesus.  But the passage was also about a new light shining in the world.

The first to visit the Baby Jesus were the shepherds, the outcasts of society.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus reached out to the outcasts, the misfits, the “outsiders”.  His was a light in a darkened time.

Then came the Magi.  Strangers from a different country, they represented the light of the mind.  They sought to understand the light they saw in the sky.  Their  heritage was teaching and exploration.  The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry would be teaching and healing.

A few years later, when He was 12, Jesus would be in a dialogue with the Elders  in the Temple.  Think very carefully about this; in the society of that time, what 12-year-old boy would have even been allowed to be in the temple, let alone discuss the Scripture with the Elders?

Jesus’ ministry was a different ministry, one that saw the world differently.  And yet today, many individuals want to build walls  to keep out the strangers and keep new ideas from entering our minds.  But  they do not realize that building such walls creates a dark prison for them, a room with no exit.

We can build these rooms; they are quite easy to make.  But you cannot grow, you cannot, by any imagination, you cannot be free.

But if we tear down the walls and let the light in, we can grow, we can have a future, and we can be free.

~~Tony Mitchell

Now it is your turn!


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A)

. . . it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not the object of our knowledge but the cause of our wonder — Based on Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, author 0f The Orthodox Way  

When I was in college and on my own (as it were), I figured that I would be able to sleep late on Sunday mornings and skip out on church.  But then I discovered that I needed to be in church.  College brought up a lot of questions, some about chemistry, some about calculus, one or two about English and history.  But there were also a lot of questions about who I was and I found that the answers to those questions came when I was in church. 

I was lucky.  The pastors that I meet and worked with in college didn’t give me the answers to those questions.  They showed me the way to find the answers on my own. 

There were some pastors, of course, who will tell you what the answers to the questions are and that you are not to question those answers.  I truly believe that had these individuals been my guide, I would have, as so many are doing today, left the church and the faith.

The invitation was and is always to “come and see”.  John the Baptizer told Andrew, Andrew told Peter, they told others.  We don’t know how many were invited and we don’t know how many accepted the invitation except to say that enough did so that some two thousand years later, someone invited you. 

Isaiah notes that we are given a set of skills.  Today, in the midst of all the troubles in the world, when there are so many people telling us that there is only one way and it is their way and that only a select few will be allowed to take that path, we stand here, with our skills and our knowledge, able to help those with questions find the answers. 

Many years ago, the Disciples told others to come and see what they had found. that they have found the Messiah and you should come and see for yourself.  Today, two thousand years later, it is our turn to say, “we have found the Messiah; let us help you find Him for yourself.”

~~Tony Mitchell

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

“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