“The Sounds of Life”


Here are my thoughts for March 29th, the 5th Sunday in Lent (Year A).

We can believe that God is present and still be either six feet away or in the safety of our homes on Sunday morning. The church will always be the church, no matter how physically close its members are. God isn’t just found in the confines of a physical church building — God meets us where we are.   – Miguel Petrosky

As I read the notes on Facebook and look outside my window, I notice that the sounds are different.  I hear the birds a little more clearer.  It isn’t because they have gotten louder but there are no other sounds of life.  As people stay home, the world outside has grown quiet.

Our daily routine has changed and, as a result, the sounds of life have grown quiet.  And as we stare out our windows and we listen to this new world, we wonder, “Can life return to this world?

I think this was the same thought that Ezekiel had when he looked over the valley of the dry bones.

But it is more than just the silence; it is the separation.  We have become separated from our children, our siblings, and our parents.  We worry about those who have taken an oath to heal the sick and protect the weak, some of whom may be our children or friends.

We feel the pain that Mary and Martha felt when their brother Lazarus died and Jesus was not there to comfort them.  In their pain and grief, they felt separated from the world.

Alone in a quiet world, separated from the world, we wonder what we can do.

We know that when Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he dropped everything and headed to comfort Mary and Martha.  And then, presaging HIs own Resurrection, he brought Lazarus back to life.

We know that God should Ezekiel that life could return to a seemingly dry and lifeless valley.

And we know that we, individually, cannot do anything.  Paul reminds us that those who seek to achieve success for themselves, for those who seek glory for themselves will always fail.

But we are not alone.  Even in our solitude, we are a part of a much larger community.  And through that much larger community, we reach out to other members to make sure that they are doing well.  We reach out to our community to share our prayers and our thoughts.  We may be separate from others but it has not stopped us from worshipping.

And as we bring our community together in spirit, we have discovered that there are many who society has forgotten.  And when the time comes that our physical separation ends and we gather together in celebration, we must begin to rebuild the community as well.

As the sounds of life have grown silent, we have begun to hear the cries of pain and grief from those who are often forgotten or overlooked by society.  We have, in the silence of the sounds of life, heard the voices of greed.

God has said that life can be restored and the sounds of life restored.  It will be because we have heard the voice of God that we know there are many whose voices have been silenced and we must answer those calls.

The sounds of life will return; will they be the sounds of all life?

The WesleyNexus Newsletter


The new WesleyNexus newsletter is now available.

In this issue:

God’s Will and the Coronavirus by Tom Oord

Model of God’s Action by Tom Oord

Poem: Pandemic by Lynn Ungar

Signs of Decline & Hope Among Key Metrics of Faith in Barna: State of the Church (Barna)

What Would Happen If Everyone Truly Believed Everything Is One? By Scott Barry Kaufman

Darwin in America by David Masci

JOHN WESLEY AND EASTERN ORTHODOXY: Influences, Convergences, and Differences by Randy Maddox

How do you see the world around you?


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, 22 March 2020, the 4th Sunday in Lent (Year A). As will others, Fishkill UMC will be broadcast services on Facebook on Sunday starting at 10:15. Find the church on Facebook and be a part of the services.

One thing is for sure, our view of the world has changed in the past couple of days.

We are finding that there is more to the world than what we actually see, both in terms of who is in the world and what goes on in the world.

Many of us want to live in a box that the world cannot penetrate.  We wanted to be in the world but not part of it.  We know that there is dangerous stuff in the world but if we don’t know about it, it really isn’t there.  (We know there is stuff under our beds but we don’t even want to look to see what it is.)

Our view of the world has been disturbed and we want to know why.  Who do we turn to for the answers to these questions?

We have always seemed to live in a society where we picked our leaders because of their perceived power and prestige.  We expected that power and prestige lead to wisdom.  This was the trait that the Israelites wanted for their kings; because it would be their kings that brought fame and glory to the country.  But when God told Samuel to find a replacement for Saul as king of Israel, God lead him to David, who as his father characterized him was the runt of the family, and not one of his older, more powerful brothers.

Leadership is as much a mental quality as it is a physical quality.  And when we think about it, thinking about solutions is just as important as the physical act of solving the problem.

In one sense, that was the problem with the community authorities in the Gospel reading today.  Their positions in the community were based on the old view of power and prestige; Jesus’s solution contradicted what they were telling the people.

Time and time again, the solutions that Jesus offered provided comfort for the people and went against the perceived concept that leadership was based on power and prestige.  Leadership is perhaps more about caring for the people, not just leading them.

Paul told the Ephesians to climb out of the box and see the world as Jesus saw the world.  As we look at the world today, even with all of its changes, this will give us the vision that we need today.

~~Tony Mitchell

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available online.

In this Clergy Letter Project update you’ll find the following seven items:

Dealing with the Despair Brought on by the Coronavirus Pandemic;

Astrobiology News for March 2020:  

Ideas from the Zooniverse;

The Climate Crisis Letter;

Coronavirus Resources from Sinai and Synapses;

Evolution Weekend 2020;

Two Reviews of Some Assembly Required; and

The Origin of the Hawaiian Islands.

“Patience”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this Sunday, 15 March 2020, the 3rd  Sunday in Lent (Year A). We will be conducting services online for the next couple of weeks; I will try to post a link to the services when it becomes available.

It seems to me that we measure information in two ways, the bit and the bite.

The bit is the smallest piece of information that we can store on a computer.  Eight bits becomes a byte and over the years, the amount of information that we have had to store now approaches the terabyte  (Tb) or  1012 bytes.  When I started working with personal computers, our information storage capacity was on the on the order of 540 Kb, a mere fraction of what our computer hard drives hold today.

The other measure of information is the bite, or rather the “sound bite” and over the same years that information technology has increased, the “sound bite”, or unit of information that we are willing to accept has decreased, rather dramatically.  It was said that President John Kennedy was the last President to convey ideas in complete sentences.  Now, the ideas that must be presented must be done in 10 minutes and sometime 5 minutes or less.

Deluged in information, we seek the quickest possible answer to our problems.  Deluged in information, we let others do our thinking for us.  We are quite willing to sacrifice our own ability to analyze and think about things because it takes too long.

But analysis and thinking require patience.  It requires time to gather all the information, work out the order it should be in, and what it all means.  During the Exodus, the Israelites were constantly testing God.  It was like they expected to arrive at the “Promised Land” the day after they left Egypt.

I think that is one  reason that Lent takes 40 days.  It takes time to prepare because you have to think about what it all means.  Even in those moments in life where decision must be made right now, you need to have prepared for those moments.  As Louis Pasteur once stated, “chance favors the prepared mind.”

So, instead of rushing through Lent, let us pause and consider what it is that we want during this period of time.  It will be there and when we arrived, we will also be ready.

~~ Tony Mitchell

“Do You Get It?”


8 March 2020 – 2nd Sunday in Lent

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 8 March 2020, the 2nd Sunday in Lent (Year A). Services start at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

There is a moment in each person’s learning process, often called “The “Aha! Moment”, when something very complicated suddenly becomes very simple.  But two conditions must be met for this happen.

First, it needs to be the correct environment.  You cannot make any sort of change if the environment won’t allow it.  The Season of Lent is a time for contemplation and thought.  It gives you the opportunity to consider the possibility of change.

Second, one must be open to the moment.  Too many times, despite being in the right environment, individuals don’t change their thinking because they are comfortable with the “old” way and don’t want to change.

Nicodemus’ problem was that he was tied to the “old” ways; he could not see or comprehend what Jesus was saying about being born again. 

Abram could have easily stayed in Ur; he had no apparent reason to move to a new land.  It may have been that he had a better understanding of who God was and it was this understanding, or trust if you will, that allowed him to move to an unknown land.

The season of Lent is a season of preparation.  It gives one an environment to prepare.  And in this environment, one can focus on one’s life, where it has been, where it is now, and where it might be headed.

During the Season of Lent, we are given an opportunity.  But to do so, we must open not only our hearts but our minds in order to receive that change that comes. ~~ Tony Mitchell

“What Will You Give Up?”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this coming Sunday, 1 March 2020, the 1st Sunday in Lent (A), at Fishkill United Methodist Church. Service begins at 10:15 and you are welcome to make your Lenten journey with us.

If Lent has a secular tradition, it is the practice of giving up something during the 40 days.  Some people quit watching a particular TV show, others quit chocolate; some give up posting on Facebook.

I once suggested whatever you give up, you should give it up for good.  That did not go well for those who were giving up chocolate though there are some who think that giving up Facebook wouldn’t be a bad idea.

But Lent is not be about living without chocolate for 40 days or forever; it is not about posting or chatting with your friends on Facebook.  It is about preparing.  It is about preparing for a Life in Christ.  It is about preparing for the freedom found in Christ.

In a world without sin, Adam and Eve gave up that freedom.  For 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus struggled with the very idea of freedom, freedom from sin versus the perceived freedom of power.

Lent is about the decision you must make.  Do I keep the life I have, secure in the knowledge that you have your chocolate and Facebook posts, but open to the temptation of earthly power.

Or you can choose to follow Christ, giving up all pretentions of earthly power but secure in the knowledge that you have true freedom.

This Lent, you have to answer the question, “What will you give up?”

~~Tony Mitchell