“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

“The Mountains of Our Life”

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 23 February 2020, Transfiguration Sunday (Year A). Our services start at 10:15 and you are welcome to come and worship with us.

When I moved here in 1999 from Whitesburg, KY, I traded one part of the Appalachian Mountains for another and the headwaters of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Big Sandy Rivers for the aforementioned Hudson River.

If you stop and think about it, there have always been mountains and rivers in your life.  Some are physical (Mt. Beacon and the Hudson River, for example); others are more ethereal (raising a child, taking a new job).

Sometimes mountains are a challenge.  When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he replied, “Because it’s there!” 

Other times, mountains are an obstacle.  Until Daniel Boone and others developed the Wilderness Road as a passage for settlers to transverse the Appalachian Mountains, the mountains were an obstacle to the expansion of this country.

Sometimes the mountains in our lives are more ethereal than physical.  For a long time, completing my dissertation was a mountain I had to climb.  When it was finished, it like standing on the mountain top, basking in the sunlight of completion and success.

Sometimes the mountains can give us a sense of what lies before us.  As I drove back to Whitesburg after a business trip, I contemplated the path my professional life was taking.  During the drive, I could see the Appalachian Mountains rising before me in the east and I heard the voice of God quoting the Psalmist,

I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I had to climb the mountain to find the answer; I had to go to the mountain top.

As you leave today, consider the mountains that you have climbed and the mountains that rise before you today.  Know that the answer lies on the mountain top. 

~~Tony Mitchell

“The Prime Directive”

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin of Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, February 19, 2020 (6th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A). Our services start at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

Can Science and Religion Work Together to Deal with the Problems of Climate Change?

In the beginning, God charged humankind with one directive, to take care of the earth and all that was in it.  In one sense, this affirms that science is as much a part of our life as faith, for it is through science that we can find the ways to take care of this world on which we live and with whom we share its resources and space.  And while the Bible should never be seen or taken as a science text, it can be seen as help us to think and even take us outside the box, as it were.

In Deuteronomy, we read of God telling us to look at what He has done for us.  But when we do look around, can we say that we have taken care of what we have been directed to do?

For a long time, humankind has thought that it could do whatever it wished with this planet and its resources; recent events have shown the fallacy of that thought.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus speaks of the Ten Commandments and our relationship with others.  Does this not extend to how we care for this world that we share with so many others?

Despite the claims of some, the problem of climate change is a man-made problem and it will be up to us to solve.  Science can give us the solutions but it will be the church which provides the moral imperative to seek the solution

~~Tony Mitchell

Information about Evolution weekend can be found on my blog at  https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/evolution-weekend/

We Are The Experts!

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, February 9, 2020, 5th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A). This is also Boy Scout Sunday.

When the disciple Nathaniel Bartholomew was first told about Jesus being the Messiah, he asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  This question reflected the rather unfavorable and common wisdom of the time about the inhabitants of Nazareth.

There are times when we are no different than Nathaniel.  As I mentioned to Pastor two weeks ago, some of the people I know from high school 50 years ago still hold onto ideas more suited to the 18th century rather than the 21st century.  And rather than trying to bring their minds, they rely on “experts” to tell them what to think.  And in their view, woe to those who might question such out-of-date ideas.

Paul, when he was Saul, was one of those “experts”; like so many then (and today), one did not question the Scripture and those who did were to be punished.  But after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he understood that there was more than just an adherence to the Law.  This is what Jesus told the authorities when he said that He was the fulfillment of the Law.  Life is more than just a rigorous adherence to the Law; it is about how one lives, a thought echoed by Isaiah when he told the people of Israel God was more interested in seeing what they did rather than knowing they simply adhered to the Law.

There is a need for experts but not to tell you what to do or what to think.  They can show you the way but you have to make the decision to travel in that direction.  In a sense, we are each an expert, for by our actions, we will show others who the Messiah is and we will be able to help them meet the Messiah on their own.

~~Tony Mitchell