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

“Transformed by Love”

This will be the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for 26 November 2017 (Christ the King Sunday, Year A).  I will be singing a solo this Sunday (hence the references to “Come Sunday” by Duke Ellington; I hope to have a video of that to put in on Sunday).

The back page writings will take a break during Advent to allow others to share their gifts and resume after the first of the year.

Music has always been, in some form, a part of my life since I was in Junior High School.  Now, it should be noted that that I am not the best musician in my family.  That honor goes to my brother Terry and my youngest daughter Meara.

I started playing in the band and then moved on to the church choir.  When I began lay speaking, I was fortunate to have ministers who showed me how to include music in the service, both with the hymns and combined with the written word.  And I am equally blessed to have music directors who pushed me to expand my skills and go beyond my boundaries.

In picking “Come Sunday” as a piece today, I was first thinking of the jazz it represents but then I discovered some things about the piece.  When Duke Ellington wrote this piece, he was pushing the boundaries of jazz.  Ellington always characterized his music as “beyond category”, a point he made about life as well.  We are all one people (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/come-sunday).

Too many individuals today say that they are Christian but theirs is a religion defined by exclusion and division.  They see Christianity as a convenient label, something one can wear and take off when done but not something that is a part of their life.

If God is a part of your life, you find ways to express that.  As I worked on this piece, I came across the thought that everyone worships in their own language and that there is no language God does not understand (http://nepr.net/post/duke-ellingtons-eulogist-fr-gerald-pocock-rip-1925-2017#stream/0).

To paraphrase Paul, some of us are writers and some of us are musicians.  But we all have some talent, a talent that we can use to express our own love of God.  And no matter what your talent may be, the expression of your love of God will transform the world.                         ~~Tony Mitchell


“Continue the Journey”

This will be the back page for 29 October 2017 (21st Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin for the Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Service is at 10 am and you all are welcome to attend.

In my collection of sayings are the following quotes:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Lewis Carroll)

“If you found a path with no obstacle, it probably does not lead anywhere.”  I found a reference that indicated someone named Frank A. Clark said this, but it didn’t say why he said it or when he said it.

These quotes reflect the paradox of life.  We want to know where we are going but we certainly do not want any obstacles to get in our way.  But journeys without obstacles often do not lead anywhere.  But if we prepare for a journey, even if we do know where it goes, we can deal with the obstacles and difficulties we might encounter.

Moses never reached the Promised Land but the work he did would allow the Israelites to do so.  But Moses left a leadership group to continue the work he began.

Paul focused on two things during his missionary journeys – bringing the Gospel message to the people and doing it in such a way so that others could continue after he left.

Throughout all the time in the Galilee, Jesus did the same thing – bring the Gospel message to the people and teach others to do the same after He left (even if they did not know that at the time).

As the hymn goes, we have decided to follow Jesus.  No matter what difficulties we may have, no matter what obstacles we encounter, we do know where we are going, and we work and prepare to reach that point.

And along the way, we help others to begin and continue their own journey, knowing that in the end, we will share in the Glory of God.

~~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



“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



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