“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

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“The Rules of Life”


Here is the “back page” for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 8 October 2017, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A).


No, I am not talking about the board game of Life, where you moved through life, overcome obstacles and gaining credits until you reached a wonderful ending.  But there are rules by which we live and there are the rules that others seek to impose on us.

As Saul, Paul was determined to do just that, force others to live by a set of imposed rules.  The openness of “The Way” (as the new Christian movement was then called) was anathema to the rigid, rule-driven religion that Saul followed.

But Saul found a new set of rules when his life as a persecutor was interrupted and his new life as Paul began.  Paul understood that the rigidity of rules stifled life, not encouraged it.  It was the initial rigidity of Methodism that caused John Wesley to have an immense sense of failure.  When Wesley accepted the Holy Spirit at Aldersgate, the world-changing movement known as the Methodist Revival began.

We can be like the workers of the vineyard, bound and determined to do it our own way, by refusing to accept the Holy Spirit into our lives.  And in doing so, we doom ourselves to failure, even though we are certain we are following the rules.

But a rigid set of rules does not give us the Freedom we seek.  A rigid set of rules only limits us.  But there is that one moment in our life, our Aldersgate or our place on the road to Damascus, where we encounter the Holy Spirit and find our Freedom.

It was this Freedom, that empowerment by the Holy Spirit, that gave the Methodist Revival the ability to change the world.  Our Freedom is found in Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

And that is the one rule of life.

~~ 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

“Peace”


Here is the back page for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for September 17, 2017 (the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A).


There is, perhaps, no more contentious place than the dinner table. Sometimes it is a discussion about sports (woe be to the household where someone supports the Yankees and others support the Mets). At our house, it was the sitting arrangement. To accommodate one of my brothers being left-handed and the need for my baby sister to sit by my mother, there were only a few ways we could all sit at the table in peace.. But with the places set at the table, peace reigned and we could enjoy our dinner.
One of the first issues the early church faced was also at the dinner table. Was obedience to Jewish dietary laws a necessary component of the Christian faith. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, suggested that it was an non-issue. It wasn’t what you ate that counted but what you did with your life that mattered. If we cannot find peace at the dinner table, how can we find peace elsewhere? How can we find peace in our soul?
The world is in crisis today. The house we all live in is being battered by forces, both natural and man-made. And because of the perceived differences we see in each other, we refuse to sit at the same table. Instead of peace, we find fear. How then shall we find peace? How can we achieve that peace that surpasses all understanding?

For the Israelites, it was the light of God that guided them towards the Promised Land; it is the presence of Christ in our lives today. It is that peace that allows us to welcome all to the table, to discuss and define differences; then find ways to keep the house in order and allow all of us to move forward.

“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?

The Great Question


This will be the back page for the bulletin of Fishkill United Methodist Church for September 3, 2017 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A).

The hallmark of the prophets of the Old Testament is their initial refusal to answer God’s call. Moses sought every excuse under the sun to get out of answering God’s call but God always had a response to keep Moses on track.

John Wesley was uncomfortable with the direction his new Methodist movement was going, away from the traditional church/sanctuary message and into the fields where the people were. Before World War II began, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was very tempted to stay in New York City but knew that he was needed in Germany, therefore, he left the safety of New York City and went to Berlin.

No doubt, there are those today who would rebel against Paul’s commands to feed our enemies when they are hungry or give them a drink when they are thirsty. We do not want to feed those who oppose; we want to see them suffer.

If we are who we say we are, we do not run away from the troubles of this world but rather, do as Jesus did and commanded us to do; that is, turn our faces to the troubles, just as Jesus faced His Death in Jerusalem.

Last week, Jesus asked the disciples “Who do you say I am?” This week, we are asked if we are going to follow Jesus. How will you respond?

“Finding Freedom”


This will be the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for this Sunday, 27 August 2017, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A).  Service is at 10 am and you are welcome to come and worship with us.


And the new king did not know Joseph. With that line, a story of oppression begins. And out of that oppression will come Moses, who will lead his people to freedom.

We look around us today and we want a Moses, a person who will lead us to freedom. But we don’t understand what it means to be free.

Paul warns us about getting caught up in the culture of the times, thinking that will lead us to freedom. It is a lot easier to fit the Gospel message to one’s life than fit one’s life to the Gospel. And when you rewrite the gospel to fit your lifestyle, one finds the king who did not know Joseph. And that is not the way to freedom.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote

“Freedom is not a quality of man, nor is it an ability, a capacity, a kind of being that somehow flares up in him. . . . freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means “being free for the other,” because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.”

Freedom comes when we accept Christ as our Savior. For John Wesley, that moment when he found his freedom and power was Aldersgate. For Peter and the disciples, it was that day 2000 years ago outside Caesarea Philippi.

Our freedom is not found in the places of this world but in our heart and who we place in our heart. Who is in your heart?