“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

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“Transformed by Faith”


This will be the back page for the 19 November 2017 (24th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A) bulletin for the Fishkill United Methodist Church.


My favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  But why did the narrator choose the road no one else took?  Why not take the easy path?  To take the path no one else takes, to seek out on your own, requires a faith, a faith in God perhaps.

The writer of the “Letter to the Hebrews” wrote that faith was “the turning of dreams into deeds; it is betting your life on the unseen realities.” (The Cotton Patch Gospels) and goes on to point out that each story in the Bible was based on the faith of the individual in God and God’s promise.

It is our faith which gives us the ability to make bold choices.  The Gospel reading for today points out what happens when we fail to act.  It may seem safe to hold onto what we have and not risk anything, but we also gain nothing.  Each of the 12 disciples could have stayed where they were but they chose to follow Jesus when he asked them to follow Him.  Yes, it is risky, especially when the outcome is unknown.

The same was true for the people in Thessalonica.  They felt that Christ was coming back, and all was good.  But Paul warned them to not be complacent; sitting back and waiting gained them nothing.  Those who opposed Deborah’s appointment as the Judge for Israel did not have enough Faith in God to make the right choice.  But Deborah’s decisions and actions confirmed God’s choice.

Each day we must decide which “life road” we must take.  It is quite easy to choose the well-traveled road because it doesn’t require much from us.  Or do we choose the road less traveled?

~~Tony Mitchell

 

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought


Here are some interesting thoughts on the nature of stewardship.

A Grace-Filled Life

Being a Biblical Steward

Do you know the difference between being an institutional steward and a Biblical steward?  The institutional steward looks at his church as an institute with a budget and needs to be met and a place where he can be served.  Then he tries to “give his share” and “do his part” while complaining if his needs are not met.  The Biblical steward, on the other hand, looks at the gifts God has given him. He gives according to the blessings he has received, not to fulfill an obligation.  He seeks to discover the gifts God has given him and uses them in whatever way he can in service to fellow believers and others. Usually the steward who is busy using his gifts finds that his own needs are met in the process of helping others.

God has chosen us to be His own.  He has made…

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“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.

“What Does It Take?”


This will be on the back page of the Fishkill UMC bulletin tomorrow, 18 June 2017 – the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year A).

Genesis 18: 1 – 15, (21: 1 – 7), Romans 5: 1 – 8, Matthew 9: 35 – 10: 8 (9 – 23)

One of the ethos of desert living was that one never turned away a stranger, even if that stranger might be an enemy.  The desert was far crueler than any individual or group of individuals might be and there was an understanding that you helped those traveling in the desert and they would in turn help you.

That runs very much against human nature.  We do not want to help our enemies or those who seek to do us harm.  As Jesus pointed out to the Disciples in today’s Gospel reading, people were going to find fault with them because the message the Disciples presented was often in contrast to accepted beliefs.  But Jesus told them to just do what they could do and let those results show the people the future.

This can be difficult, if for no other reason that it is so often in opposition to the “get it now” mantra of society.  Put as Paul wrote, the key is patience – do what is expected of you and you will receive the rewards at the proper time.

“I Dreamed of a Church: Christ’s Representative”


This will be the “back page” for the 19 March 2017, 3rd Sunday of Lent (A), bulletin at Fishkill UMC.  The reading for this Sunday comes from Matthew 25.  I have told this story before but it speaks to the point of our participation in someone else’s baptism.

I have been fortunate to have been directly involved in the baptism of several individuals, both as a pastoral assistant and as a member of the family.  Perhaps the greatest joy was when I presented Casey, my granddaughter, and George, my grandson, to the congregation on the day of their baptisms.

But the story that strikes a chord with me is not my story but rather that of a current United Methodist pastor.  At the time of this story, this pastor-to-be was a bouncer in a local bar (which seems to be the career path of choice these days).  He was present at the baptism as the result of a direct command from his sister.  So, he came to church that Sunday morning after a rather long night at his regular job.  At the end of the service, one of the “saints” of the church saw that he was desperately searching for a cup of coffee and directed him to the church’s Fellowship Hall.

A few weeks later he found the bulletin for that Sunday in his coat pocket.  With the remembrance that someone had shown him some kindness, he returned to that church on his own accord.  Shortly afterwards, he made the decision to accept Christ as his Savior and he was baptized.

As it turns out, there was more to this than simply accepting the call to follow Christ.  It began a journey that has lead to becoming a minister in the United Methodist Church.

We all take part in the baptism of an individual.  In our participation, we welcome friends and strangers.  And while we never know how this will all turn out, we need to understand that one time someone offered a cup of coffee to a stranger and a life was changed.                                                – Tony Mitchell