“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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“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

“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.

“That One Line”


This will be the back page for the August 20, 2017 bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  It is based on the lectionary readings for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A.


Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will. A paraphrase of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s principles by Eric Metaxas, his biographer.

If there was one line in the Bible that defines my life, it is Matthew 15: 27.  Oh, there are other lines that have meaning but this verse defines my life.

In 1969, I met with my pastor for communion before going home for spring break.  This was not the formal communion of Sunday morning but more of a conversation between a young student and his pastor.  

In our conversation, I expressed an objection to the words which are found on page 12 of our hymnal, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table”, words that echo the words of the Canaanite woman whose faith was rewarded that day.

I came into the chapel that day with an understanding of faith but not of God’s grace.  But when I left, I understood what God’s grace meant and what that meant for me as a Christian and an United Methodist.

What I do with my life does not get my God’s grace or mercy but are the duties of a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

By God’s grace and mercy and through faith, we have been given a great gift.  It is what we do with that gift that will define who we are.

“Who Do You See?”


This will be the “Back Page” of the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for 6 August 2017 (9th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A).  The Scriptures for this Sunday are Genesis 32: 22 – 31, Romans 9: 1 – 5, and Matthew 14: 13 – 21.

This is a continuation of the idea that I wrote last week.  Each of today’s Scripture readings has one thing in common and it is perhaps something you didn’t realize was a need of life.

John Wesley recognized that there were certain basic needs of life – a place to stay, food to eat, and adequate healthcare among them.  If these basic needs are not met, then the Gospel message has no meaning.  These needs are discussed in the Old Testament and Gospel readings for today.

But each of the readings for today also discusses the need for one’s own identity.  It is quite clear that Jacob wanted his own identity and it is quite clear that Paul worried about the split between the Jews and Gentiles and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And we know that there were at least 20,000 people eating the meal that Jesus blessed that day.  In the society of Jesus’ day, not everyone was counted.  Some 15,000 individuals were invisible to society that day.

But they were not invisible to Jesus and they have never been invisible to God.  Jesus constantly went out of His way to make visible the invisible, to give identity to those without identity.

Ours has become the society of the invisible and the visible and some people are quite happy with that.  But what does it say when we see, or rather do not see, groups of people?  Who are we like when we do this?