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“A Celebration”


Here is the back page for the Palm Sunday Bulletin (Sunday, March 25, 2018, Year B) for Fishkill United Methodist Church.


I heard a comment a while back that said that at the very moment Jesus was entering Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, Pontius Pilate was entering on the other side of the city.  The contrast in the two parades is obvious.

On one side of the city, Pilate, the Roman political and military governor, no doubt astride a beautiful white stallion, entered the city, accompanied by a massive display of military power, all designed to remind the people that they were a conquered and enslaved people.

On the other side of the city, Jesus entered on a young donkey cheered by people who saw him as the liberator from the very military and political power on display on the other side of the city.

We know how this will all play out.  By the end of the week, the political, religious, and military establishment will have exercised their power and the status quo will remain.  All those who cheered for Jesus on Sunday will be calling out for his crucifixion on Friday, seeing him as a failure to fulfill the mission they thought he was undertaking.

But Jesus’ mission was never about this day; it was about next Sunday.  Over the next few days, the status quo will be, first, challenged, and then changed.

We celebrate Palm Sunday because we know that the world is going to change in a few days.  We celebrate Palm Sunday because we understand that our lives change when we make the conscious decision to let Jesus Christ become our Savior.  We celebrate because, through Christ, we are no longer an enslaved and oppressed people.  We celebrate because we can help bring the freedom of God’s Kingdom to this world.

~~Tony Mitchell


The “back page” will be taking a hiatus during the Season of Easter.  We will be using other materials for the back page and I will be focusing on some other writing projects.

“Restoration”


This was the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for Sunday, March 18, 2018, the 5th Sunday in Lent (Year B).


While working on my doctorate, I learned the intricacies of word processing (first with Word Perfect and then with Word).  The first thing that I learned was the need to save my material and to do it often (we will save that thought for another day).

Then I learned Control-Z, the ability to undo whatever it was that I just did.  If I deleted something by mistake, then Ctrl-Z would allow me to recover the data quickly.

But, as much as we wish there was such a key, there is no Ctrl-Z key for life.  We don’t get many opportunities to “undo” something when it was a mistake.  And if you cannot fix something, where is the hope?

Perhaps the greatest single aspect of the Gospel message that Jesus brought to the people was that there was hope, that life was worth it.  But this is not automatic; we must repent of our past life.

The Season of Lent is that opportunity to restore our lives and begin anew.

~~ Tony Mitchell

Yesterday


Yesterday, March 14th, Stephen Hawkings died.  It was Pi day (π day) and Albert Einstein’s birthday.  The coincidence was that Hawkings was born on the same calendar date that Galileo Galilei died.  But you would only understand all of that and who those individuals were if you had studied science, mathematics, and history in school.  Yes, to some extent, to know the birthdates of famous people is essentially trivial pursuit but it comes with an understanding of what they did and the impact of their work on the future of mankind.

But all of that was overshadowed by the National Walkout.  Now, don’t misunderstand what I am about to say.  First, I participated in the National Walkout, in solidarity with all those students who also walked out.

But there were some who criticized the students and supporters for walking out of school, participating in the protest, or in some manner shape or form, supporting the efforts of the protestors.  Those individuals were wrong!

Making an argument that it would have been better to reach out to the disadvantaged and isolated students as a solution to the gun/violence problem in this country comes no where close to solve the problem.

Yes, in some cases, the acts of violence perpetrated against the students in Florida, New Mexico, Connecticut, Colorado, and all the other places might have been prevented if other students had tried to make friends with the shooters.  But that alone is not going to prevent the next shooting.  But the shooting in the nightclub in Florida last year or the shooting in Las Vegas this year were not done by a “loners” or students ostracized by his classmates

What the shooting in Florida pointed out that the system is broken; despite all the warning signs, nothing was done to help the shooter.  Nothing is in place to help those who cry for help is an act of senseless violence.  Nothing is in place to stop an individual who hears the words of a minister or a politician or a media pundit telling them that other individuals are less worthy and need to be removed.

There are some who say the solution is more guns, arming the teachers and placing more weapons of destruction into the mix.  I am sorry, but I do not and cannot even comprehend such logic.  If my task is to protect my students, I want to arm them with the greatest weapon of all, a free and thinking mind.  I want them to develop solutions that solve the problems, not merely push them aside for another day.

Yesterday was a celebration of life.  It should have been a celebration of the life of Stephen Hawkings and what the future holds.  That is the celebration that I, as a chemist and an educator would have preferred.  The National Walkout was a celebration of life, a celebration that I as a father and grandfather would proclaim.

It was the celebration that people, mostly students but some adults, realize that the future cannot be reached by the present path.  And the students have told the adults, so safely ensconced in their political ivory towers, that they had been lead, come along, or get out of the way.

An ancient philosopher once pointed out that a journey of a thousand steps begins with one step.  We have taken that first step with a celebration of life.  Let us continue on to tomorrow.

“Different Pictures”


Here is the back page for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for Sunday, March 11, 2018, the 4th Sunday in Lent (Year B).

In some form or another, the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” has been a part of our language for almost 150 years.  And I am sure that people have used that many words in describing the art of M. C. Escher.

Many of M. C. Escher’s better-known paintings rely on mathematical themes and test the ability of the human eye and mind to see beyond traditional perspectives.Escher cube

In the Old Testament reading, snakes represented both life and death, but life only came when the people changed their way of looking at them.

In a world where prestige was based on power, it was difficult for many to accept the notion that God would sacrifice His Only Son for the benefit of all the people.  As Paul would write to the Corinthians, our view of the world changes when we accept Christ as our Savior.

As our preparation for Easter Sunday and the Resurrection ends, we have a chance to see the world differently, a world of hope rather than despair.    ~Tony Mitchell

“Stories”


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