Transfiguration Sunday, March 3, 2019

This will be the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, March 3, 2019, Transfiguration Sunday (Year C)

In the years before Interstate highways, as you drove from town to town on the back roads of America you would see advertisements telling you to “Visit Meramec Caverns” or “See 7 States from Rock City atop Lookout Mt.” painted on barns.

The thing about Lookout Mt. is that without signs pointing to the specific state, you cannot tell them apart.  From atop Lookout Mt., all the states look alike.

And while the view from the mountain top is wonderful and you can see far into the distance, you cannot see the people at the bottom of the mountain.  While we are at the top of the of the mountain, awash in the glory of the intense sunlight, we cannot see what is at the bottom of the mountain, awash in the day-to-day muck and mire of daily life.  You cannot see the pain, the problems, the joys, and celebrations of the people.

I learned a long time ago that a successful program is one in which the participants were involved in the process.  This is exactly what Jesus did when he walked the back roads of the Galilee.

He, the disciples, and other followers wandered around, meeting the people, seeing them in their daily lives, coming to understand their problems and challenges they faced each day.  They also saw how the identity of the person determined how they were treated.

It is nice to be at the top of the mountain, able to see vast expanses of space.  But when we do this, we miss the things going on in life. It is not the light at the top of the mountain that brings hope to the world; it is the Light of Christ that we bring to the people in our daily encounters that brings the hope.          ~~Tony Mitchell

Is It A Question or A Statement?

Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, February 24, 2019 (7th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C). They will appear on the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill UMC.

A hallmark of many Annual Conferences is the singing of the Charles Wesley hymn, “Are We Yet Alive.”  In the past, this was sung to celebrate the completion of a year of service at a time when the lifespan of a circuit rider was notably short.

If we were to sing that today, would it be sung as a question or as a statement?

When I was working on my doctorate at Iowa, some of my colleagues were looking at what constituted a successful high school program.  Their conclusions were very similar to research about successful businesses.  Innovation is best when it started at the bottom and was supported by the top of the organization (adapted from “The Search for Excellence in the Church Today”),

Jesus did not go to the Temple and expect the people to come to Him.  Rather He went to the people.  He did not work within the structure of the Law, which prevents access; He used the Law as a framework for his mission.

Many churches are dying today because they are unwilling to step outside the structure of the church.  But the good news is that if, individually and collectively, the church welcomes the power of the Holy Spirit, they can find ways to become alive once again.

How, then, will we sing “And Are We Yet Alive”, as a question and sign of a dying and dead church, or a statement of a living and growing church?        ~~Tony Mitchell

Navigating the Fourth Day of Creation by means of Jupiter’s Moons

This is an interesting read on the nature of science and creation – (from the Catholic Astronomer).

Once, at the beginning of a semester, on the second meeting of an Astronomy 101 class, one of my students piped up with a comment.  She said that when she had told a certain person (her grandmother, if I recall correctly) that she would be taking an astronomy class, that person had responded by saying that astronomy in particular and science in general was the stuff of devil-worshipers. My student thus offered the class a wonderful comment.  She was seeking from the outset of class to engage the material, her professor, and her fellow students with a very honest comment, expressing honest fears (her grandmother’s, and perhaps hers, too).  Her comment reflected a sentiment that is not uncommon among students taking science classes—a fear that there is something about science that is contrary to their religion, and in that way there is something about science that is the work of the devil.  (This view is not limited to grandmothers of … Continue reading →

Source: Navigating the Fourth Day of Creation by means of Jupiter’s Moons

“Answering the Call of Christ”


The following will be on the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this Sunday’s (17 February 2019, 6th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C) at Fishkill United Methodist Church.

Last week was the anniversary of the beginning of my walk with Christ.  This journey has never been an easy or smooth one.

It has been a journey that, at time, has been filled with confusion and doubt, times where I felt lost in the wilderness.  I wasn’t always attending church and on a couple of occasions I almost left the faith.

I would have left because I saw a church that seemed in conflict with the words and actions of Christ.  And there were some individuals (both laity and clergy) who questioned my call from Christ.

Now, my call to accept and follow Christ as my Savior was never like Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus and my heart has never been strangely warmed.  But I have always felt the presence of Christ in my life and nothing anyone can say will ever change that feeling.

The good thing was that there were others who understood this and helped me find my way through the wilderness.

The decision to follow Christ is an individual one.  It does not matter where one is from, who their parents are, their economic status, their race, their gender or sexuality.   Yet, today there are individuals who say that, to follow Christ, you must meet a certain set of guidelines and adhere to a certain set of laws. 

Our task has never been to decide who can answer God’s call; our task has been and will always be to help others answer the call and find their path.

                                                                             ~~Tony Mitchell

Global Vs. Local Perspective. The Difficulties In Helping People Understand Climate Change.

This is one of those posts I almost dread to write. The reason I say almost is because I have come to peace with my understanding of global climate change. The reason I feel a hint of dread is because of how the people I know who live in Wisconsin will react to this post. These past three weeks, we have experience wind chills that have dropped to -51 degrees Fahrenheit, multiple snow storms that shut down local schools for days at a time, and so much cloud cover that those with seasonal affect disorder are going a little nutty. Am I simply complaining about the weather as many in the Midwest United States enjoy doing? Perhaps. However, my primary reason for reflecting on this is because NASA, the United Kingdom Met Office, and the World Meteorological Organization have found that 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record.  After reading the reports, I have no problem embrace these findings. … Continue reading →

Source: Global Vs. Local Perspective. The Difficulties In Helping People Understand Climate Change.

Boy Scout Sunday

In 1962 and 1963, I lived in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a year of many firsts for me; I began playing the trumpet and I was introduced to or at least became aware of the role of football in Southern culture. It was the beginning of my awareness that equality in this country was perhaps nothing more than words.  It was also when I began to think that God was calling me. When we moved during the summer of 1963 to Denver, I began to explore how I would answer that call. And thus I began working towards earning the God and Country award in Boy Scouts.

As I worked on this award, I was also in confirmation class and during the spring of 1965 I would earn the God and Country award and be confirmed in the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Thus I began my walk with the Lord. It has been a rough walk, done at times without acknowledging His presence in my life but perhaps more times than not knowing that His presence was a distinct part of my life.

There came a time around in 1984 when I began to think about that call and that I really hadn’t answered it completely. You have to realize that earning the God and Country award is more than simply answering some questions and do some exercises each week. It requires more than that, a commitment of heart and soul. And I needed to find a way to fulfill that commitment. So I made a covenant with God to be more active. In the churches where I was a member, I began to be a liturgist, specifically requesting that assignment on the 2nd Sunday in February, Boy Scout Sunday. And to the best of my ability, I have done so every year since then. Of course, from 1999 to 2005, on that Sunday, I was also the lay pastor of the church. And since 2005, if I was not somewhere in the district covering for a pastor, I have posted my thoughts on this blog.

The following is a summary of my sermons/messages/posts for the 2nd Sunday in February, Boy Scout Sunday.

February 14, 1999 – Neon (KY) UMC – “A Scout is Reverent”

February 13, 2000 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – “Following Directions”

February 11, 2001 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – “Two Roads”

February 10, 2002 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – not on file

February 9, 2003 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC– “A Scout is Reverent”

February 8, 2004 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC – “A Scout is Reverent”

February 6, 2005 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC – “The Mountaintop Experience”

February 12, 2006 – “Seek The Truth”

February 11, 2007 – “A Brief Discourse”

February 10, 2008 – “What Have We Learned?”

February 8, 2009 – “The New Paradigm”

February 14, 2010 – “That Transforming Moment”

February 13, 2011 – “It’s about Commitment”

February 12, 2012 – “To Leave the World A Better Place”

February 3, 2013 – “Removing The Veil”

February 9, 2014 – Sloatsburg UMC – “The Master Lesson”

February 8, 2015 –  did not post a blog for this Sunday

February 14, 2016 – “Where Are We Going?”

February 12, 2017 – “The Past Can Never Be Our Future”`

February 11, 2018 – “A Reminder” and “Find God In The Details”

February 10, 2018 – “The Path You Walk”  and “The Confluence Between Religion and Science”

Evolution Weekend

With Evolution Weekend coming up this weekend, I figured I should up date this particular piece.

As I have noted in the pieces that I list below,

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic – to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letters themselves, which have now been signed by more than 13,000 members of the clergy in the United States, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy. – “The Clergy Letter Project”

This project began in 2006 and I have participated, either with a sermon or a blog post, since 2009. The following is a list of those messages and posts. This has been edited since it was first posted to correct a link.

February 1, 2009 – Lake Mahopac (NY) UMC – “The Differing Voices of Truth”

February 14, 2010 – “That Transforming Moment”

February 13, 2011 – “It’s about Commitment”

February 12, 2012 – “To Leave the World A Better Place”

February 3, 2013 – “Removing The Veil”

February 9, 2014 – Sloatsburg UMC – “The Master Lesson”

February 15, 2015 – “Transfiguration Sunday or Evolution Weekend?”

February 14, 2016 – “Where Are We Going?”

February 12, 2017 – “The Past Can Never Be Our Future”

February 11, 2018 – “A Reminder” and “Finding God In The Details”

February 10, 2019 – “The Path You Walk” and “The Confluence Between Religion and Science”

It should also be noted that this weekend is also the weekend of Boy Scout Sunday, which has additional meaning for me.