“Where Are You From?”


This will be the back page for the bulletin of Fishkill UMC on Sunday, July 15, 2018 (8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B).


Every time someone asks me where I come from, I tend to ask, respectfully, “what year?”  As the son of an Air Force officer growing up in the 50s and 60s, I tended to move around a lot.  In fact, the longest that I have ever lived in one place has been these past 19 years in New York.

One result of all this travel was that I attended 10 different schools.  And because I attended so many different schools in so many different settings, I saw things that conflicted with what I was being taught.

It’s not that hard when you hear people sing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” and then see them profess support for segregation and the hatred of others.  As you may recall, from what I said a couple of weeks ago (“Generations”), because of these conflicts, I began to question “the powers that be.”  It also becomes very easy to see where one’s heart lies.

Herod very much wanted the people of Israel to like him as their king.  He initiated the rebuilding of the Temple and other massive public construction projects, all designed to win the hearts and minds of the Israelites.  But when John the Baptizer publicly rebuked him for his marriage, his heart began to harden, and it became quite easy to accept the request of his daughter and order the execution of the Baptizer.  His mind was there but his heart wasn’t, and the people knew where he was coming from.

And even though Paul had an academic background and phrased much of his arguments for accepting Christ from that background, you knew that he spoke from the heart as much as he spoke with his mind.

We live at a time when we must deal with many of the matters as much with our hearts as with our minds.  And the response of too many people shows that Christ may be on their lips but is not in their heart.  Is Christ in your heart?

~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

“How Many Ways?”


Here are my thoughts for the back page of the Fishkill United Methodist Church for Sunday, May 27, 2018, Trinity Sunday (Year B)


The author Laurie Beth Jones once wrote that she encountered Jesus meeting her in blue jeans.  And when she asked Him why he was wearing blue jeans, He replied that it was because she was in a similar attire.  Mother Teresa said, essentially, that the people we see are often Jesus in disguise.  Samuel heard God’s voice but did not see Him.

The common image of Jesus is one of someone in a robe surrounded by a shining light.  But often, that shining light blinds us to the reality of Christ’s presence.

Today is Trinity Sunday, the day in which we recognize the three identities of God.  Just as Jesus was the physical presence of God, the Holy Spirit is the fullness and joy of God.

How do others see the presence of God in this world?  Do you see Jesus calling to you or do you just walk on by?  Do they see Him in you as you walk among the people?

 

The Music We Hear


This will be on the back page of the Sunday, April 22, 2018 (4th Sunday of Easter, Year B) bulletin for Fishkill United Methodist Church.


If you haven’t figured out by now, music is very much a part of my life.  Music, however you may choose to do it, is a cooperative effort.  Looking at the Scripture readings for today, I should be referencing Jefferson Airplane.  But since I used that reference a couple of weeks ago, I will settle for the Grateful Dead!

Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, wrote:

“To fall in love is to fall in rhythm.” It is love for each other by which we know we are followers of Jesus, the ever-attentive shepherd. In the face of societal rules and attitudes that strive to foster “everyone for themselves,” they will know we are Christians by our love. How can we listen to the music that draws us together, “falling in rhythm” with neighbor to build up the whole?

We must understand that we are a part of a world and what we do in this world affects others.  Our lives are lived in a rhythm with others, whether we want to or not. If we live in a world in which we are only for ourselves, how can we even care about others and then call ourselves Christian?

One of my favorite hymns includes the line, “my life flows on in endless song.”  Our lives are in rhythm with those around us and our lives are a song of love and hope.  As Christians, how can we not keep on singing?

~ Tony Mitchell

“Finding One’s Faith”


This will be on the back page of the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for Sunday, April 08, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year B).


In one episode of “The West Wing” (“In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part Two”), Leo McGarry tells Jed Bartlett, “Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given to you.  Put another way: “Fake it until you make it.” Now, this biblical sounding quote is only biblically sounding; as stated, it does not exist in the Bible.

Biblical or not, it sounded very Wesleyan to me.  Once, in March 1738, Wesley told new preachers, “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”

Now, not all of us are preachers, so preaching faith may not necessarily be an option. But we can live our faith in so many ways.

I cannot recall when I first heard the Jefferson Airplane’s singing “Good Shepherd” but when I did I could not help but think about it’s relationship to the Gospel.  The dominant line in the song is “o, Good Shepherd, feed my sheep.”

When you trace the roots of this 1969 modern rock/folk song, it leads you back to a hymn written around 1800 by John Adam Granade, a Methodist minister.

Jorma Kaukomen, who wrote the version that the Airplane played and sang, said that singing songs such as this offered him new doorway into scripture.

During this season of Easter, look around for signs of faith and you will probably find them.  And don’t forget to offer signs of faith for those who are also looking.

~~Tony Mitchell

 

“Stories”


This will be the back page for the Sunday, March 04, 2018 (3rd Sunday in Lent, Year B) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Services are at 10 and you are always welcome.


I had just begun thinking about this piece when I received the news that Billy Graham had died.  I do not believe that there has been anyone who has touched as many souls in their lifetime as Reverend Graham.  I will admit that even though I am properly a Southern evangelist, I was often uncomfortable with his style of evangelism.  But he was an open and honest preacher, telling you what he believed and what he felt people needed to do.  I sometimes wish that those who have taken on his mantle of leadership were as open and honest as he was.

I don’t think he ever judged anyone and while he might offer some glimpse of the future if you did not accept his offer, he didn’t make you accept his offer.  Unfortunately, too many evangelists today do just that; they condemn and ostracize you if you do not accept their view.  And we wonder why today’s church struggles.

Reverend Graham told a story that has been told for some 2000 years.  It is a story of hope and promise, of victory and celebration.  (And here you can start humming UMH #156.)

Each one of us is an evangelist.  It is part of our heritage as United Methodists.  We are here today because someone told us a story, perhaps not in words but in their actions.  And we wanted to know more about that story.  It is the same story that began at a well in Samaria when the woman told her neighbor about Jesus Christ.

Accepting Christ as one’s personal Savior is a personal choice.  But someone for to accept Christ, they must know who Christ is.  Our challenge is to keep telling the story through our words, our deeds and our actions so that others will know Christ as we do.

~~Tony Mitchell

“And What Do You See?”


This will be the back page of the February 4, 2018 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, year B) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.


Of the twelve disciples, Nathaniel must be my favorite.  Perhaps it is because he was, by tradition, the scholar of the group.  But then again, he, along with Thomas, went to Georgia.

I suppose that Thomas should be one of my favorites as well.  While he has been labeled “doubting”, his request to see Jesus’ wounds was, in the classic sense, the mark of a scientist, of not making a decision until the observations were completed.  Of course, Jesus pointed out to Thomas that there would be many who would believe without the visual evidence that he requested.

But how was it that those individuals came to believe?  They had to see for themselves what it is that Jesus Christ could do.  From the very beginning of His ministry, people heard the Good News that Jesus was preaching and saw the miracles that He performed.  Time and time again, the people saw what He did.  He did not tell them to believe; he gave them the reason to believe.  Paul did not simply tell the people they had to believe; he, too, gave them reasons through his own life and actions to believe.

All we need to, as Isaiah reminds us with the Old Testament reading for today, is look around and we see the works of God.  Each discovery we make, be it here on this planet or deep in space, shows us the grandeur of God’s work and encourages us to seek more knowledge, more knowledge about the world and the people who live on this planet, more knowledge about God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our job is not to tell people about Jesus; our job is to live the sort of life that indicates the presence of Christ in us.  Our job is to live the sort of life that will cause others to seek Christ.

~Tony Mitchell