The WesleyNexus Newsletter


The new WesleyNexus newsletter is now available.

Please follow the link below in order to see the current newsletter available today. It is now on the WesleyNexus website, and we hope you will take a moment to read it.

In this issue:   

  • Kent H. Weaver – October 8, 1947– May 24, 2020: A Tribute
  • IRAS – Science, Religion & Society: A Virtual Series – beginning June 29-30
  • How Nobel winner balances physics and faith
  • Reflections of a Religious Scientist by Dr. Grace Wolf-Chase
  • What are we really doing when all we can do is pray—or not even? by Debra Dean Murphy 
  • The Exodus Is Not Fiction  An interview with Richard Elliott Friedman
  • The Bible is Not a Prop  A message from Westar Institute

The Newsletter can be found here: https://wesnex.org/June-2020-newsletter/. It can also be found at www.wesnex.org

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 nine items:

1.  Religious Courage in Troubling Times (read on the web);

2.  Update on Grace Wolf-Chase and Astrobiology News (read on the web);

3.  Covid-19, Religion and Higher Education (read on the web);

4.  Evolution Weekend 2021: Input Requested (read on the web);

5.  The Climate Crisis Letter (read on the web);

6.  Scientists in Synagogues Program Accepting Applications (read on the web);

7.  Francis Collins Wins Templeton Prize (read on the web);

8.  Encouraging News about the Teaching of Evolution (read on the web); and

9.  Environmental Learning and Covid-19 (read on the web).

Some Post-Pentecost Thoughts


 I am once again reminded that I don’t like open time.  Even with the thought that Isaac Newton developed his ideas on gravitation and calculus during one episode of the Black Plague in England (which is perhaps ironic for me as my first major scientific work dealt with Newton’s Law of Gravity) and William Shakespeare did most of his best writing in similar periods, for some reason I do not find the same spark of creativity. 

But that is not to say that I haven’t been thinking and in the coming weeks, I will have to not only be thinking about what I am going to be writing but I will have to put some effort into the research phase of writing as I look at the history of our favorite hymns. 

But, let’s step back a day or two on think about Pentecost and what it means for the coming days. There were three points made in the Lectionary for Pentecost – common languages, skills, and community. 

When I was in high school, I planned on taking three years of German.  But this plan was quickly cast aside when we moved from the Denver area to the St. Louis area and then to the Memphis area.  The high schools I attended in Missouri and Tennessee did not offer German and I was not interested in taking Spanish, French, or Latin.  So, the plans of my freshman year were cast aside. 

That’s not to say that I don’t have a “foreign language”.  My interests in computer programming would provide the basis for meeting the language requirement for my doctorate at Iowa as I used my proficiency with SPSS to meet the language requirement (and produce my first set of professional papers). 

The idea of a foreign language being part of one’s doctoral program goes to the idea of being part of a community.  For many years, German was the language of science and mathematics because much of the ground-breaking work was done in Germany.  But over the years, the language of the lab became English and the demand for German dropped.  But the development of computers suggested a new language, that of computers, as the means for communication. 

There is still a need in science and mathematics for traditional methods, but computers offer ways to assist those traditional methods.  And it was through computer-based communication that several of the papers that I wrote with Marcin Paprzycki and George Duckett were produced. 

On Pentecost, many individuals, from various places around the Middle East, had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Harvest.  One can only imagine the chaos of that time and place as people found it impossible to communicate with each other.  But when the Holy Spirit came, it suddenly became possible for the visitors to Jerusalem to understand the Christians and each other.  And though there were many different individuals, from many different lands and backgrounds, through the Holy Spirit, a new community was built.  It was a community of believers, using the skills and abilities to meet the needs of the community. 

If we fast forward to today, we find that the idea of the community of believers is being tested, tested perhaps to the breaking point.  Can Christianity or any of its denominations, survive a time when many who identify themselves as Christians demand that believers accept what they believe as the absolute truth. 

Can society survive when the search for truth, a process that requires many different skills and, often, people working together, is questioned.  It strikes me than the greatest resistance to the search for truth often comes from people ensconced in their self-contained bubbles, impervious to change and new information? 

Can society survive when, while we speak one common language, are unable to understand what others are saying?  We see the same object but, at the same time, we do not see the same object. 

We are at a crossroads and we must decide which way we are going to turn.  One way leads to the Kingdom of God and the other leads away.  What Pentecost tells us is that we must turn as one community, working together, using all the skills we have, finding many ways to communicate.  If we declare that our way is the only way, we may find ourselves going in the wrong direction.  But if we see that we are a community of many believers, then we will find the right path. 

“Who Is Your God?”


Here are my thoughts for 17 May 2020 – 6th Sunday of Easter (Year A)

In our first reading for this Sunday, Luke notes that there was a monument to an unknown god; a simple statement that even the people of Athens had a “god of the gaps:”, the god they could turn to when none of their regular gods was available or could solve the problem at hand.

Some years ago, one of my students suggested that as humankind became more intectually capable, it eliminated the need for gods.  Unitl Abraham, society had always had created gods to deal with the problems of the world.  If rain was needed to water the crops, we prayed to the god of rain.  We prayed to a goddess of fertility if we wanted things to grow (or if we wanted to have children).  There was gods for the wind and rain and it was clear that we, humankind, had to have done something wrong when our society was beset by a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or some other natural disaster.

But as we began to understand the world in which we live, the needs for these gods diminished and ultimately disappeared.  But, as I suggested, to my student then, this approach could not provide an adequate explanation for why there is good and evil in this world.  And despite the suggestions of some, a better understanding of science does provide answers for the “why” questions of life.  Science cannot explain why mankind is created or even why there is good or evil in this world?

It could be that we have a gene that determines whether we will be good or evil but that begs the question of what we will do if this is the case.  We have seen what has happened when society has sought to remove those deemed less desirable.

So if good and/or evil are not an integral part of our lives, then there must be something else.  Throughout the history of mankind, we have sensed the presence of another God, one above all the minor gods, the gods that we can explain through our experience in this world (from https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/a-particular-moment-in-time/)

I have sensed the presence of God in my life many times and in many ways.  It is that same sense that allowed Isaiah to know that God knew him before he was born; it was the same sense that allowed John Newton to write “I once was loss but now I am found.”

These are times when we might feel lost.  Our daily lives have been interrupted and there is a sense that we will never return to that routine.  It is a time when we might feel lost or at least confused.

It is at times like these when we remember that Jesus said that He would not leae us, that we would not be alone.

Thomas Paine wrote of the times that tried our souls.  They were times where the struggles of the world were clear and the choices to be made perhaps clearer.  These are the times that try our spiritual souls; our struggles are not perhaps as clear.  

But in these times, in our moments of solitude, we have the opportunity to reconnect with Christ.  We are not bothered by outside noise so we can, in this earthly peace, find the moments to reconnect with Christ.  And in this time with Christ we can begin to think of those moments when we will again be a part of this world.

Poet, novelist, and environmentalist Wendell Berry writes in What are People For?:

“We enter into solitude, in which we also lose loneliness.

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. 

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. …

After having returned from the woods, we remember with regret its restfulness. For all creatures there are in place, hence at rest. 

In their most strenuous striving, sleeping and waking, dead and living, they are at rest.”

This season we can cultivate a healthy practice of solitude in creation and recover our humble place in the communion of all creatures. A solitude practice can be especially challenging when you already may feel isolated. But remember, solitude is not a lack of connection; it is a deliberate spiritual discipline that allows us to become fully attentive to other lives – to God’s voice, to the voices of other beings.   (from Sojourners e-mail, 15 May 2020)

The thing is the world in which we will go tomorrow is not the world we left behind yesterday.  Which means that the way we may have connected with Christ may not be there when we go back out into the world.  But in these times of solitude and contemplation, we will find ways we never knew to be better disciples of Christ.

“Our Falling Apple Moments”


These are my thoughts for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, 26 April 2020 (Year A).  Even when you normally work from home as we do, things can get piled up, pushed around, and buried on the desktop.  And that later point is a fairly good trick when your desktop is your computer screen.

I think that the Gospel reading came at a time when there is talk about getting out of the house.  We certainly would like to be outside, especially as the weather gets warmer and we begin to see the changes in the world that tell us spring is arriving (you all can post photos of the flowers blooming in your garden if you want.).

I sometimes think that we feel that we have a better chance of being with God if we are outside.  We sing of being in the garden alone with him or seeing all that is there as “Our Father’s World”.

And we are, perhaps, getting a little tired of staying inside.  It is okay to stay inside when it is winter and the weather is hardly conducive to rambling walks in the garden or forest.  It is getting warmer and the days are getting longer.  There is something inside us that says we must go outside; we must be with others.

It hurts when we cannot be with others; it hurts when we see people we know suffering and we cannot do a single thing to comfort them.

But common sense, that intuitive nature about life that we were given by God, tells us that perhaps now is not that time.

From the moment we began our own journey with Christ, we have known that we must set aside a time and place where we are with Him.  Many years ago, I was wandering the campgrounds of Perkins Scout Reservation north of Wichita Falls, Texas.  In this wandering, I came across a clearing with a tree stump in the middle.  On that tree stump was a hawk, resting, I suppose, from his day’s labors.  There was something about that image that gave me a sense of calm.

Four years later, I would find another tree stump, this one on the edge of the campus of NE Missouri State Teachers College.  I was there to begin another part of my journey and on those days when the journey seemed a bit rocky, I knew that I could come to that place on campus to once again find my focus.

I do not know if that clearing on the campgrounds is still there.  I know that work on the sidewalk took out the tree stump but the spot is still there.  Still, I cannot go to those places of focus but they are imagines in my mind and I can use those images to help me refocus.

There is evidence to suggest that Isaac Newton came up with his ideas about motion and gravity during a period when the bubonic plaque had closed Oxford University and he had returned to the family farm.  While there is no evidence to suggest that a falling apple was the impetus for his thoughts of motion and gravity, he was able to envision the experiment and its results.  Similarly, the evidence suggests that much of Shakespeare’s works were done during periods of plaque that had closed the theaters of London, forcing the Bard to return home to a more contemplative mode.

These are “our falling apple moments”; times when the way we would like to focus has been take away from us and we find it necessary to find a new way.

In this way, we remember that our journey with Christ continues.  In these moments of quiet reflection and solitude, we can refocus our lives.  When the time comes that we can journey out into the world once again, we will be refreshed and able others to continue or begin their journey.

“Theory or Experiment”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” on this 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year A), 19 April 2020.

Tradition has it that Nathaniel Bartholomew was the scholar of the disciples.  In John 1: 48, he asked Jesus how he knew him and Jesus replied that He had seen him sitting under the fig tree.  Tradition has it that Nathaniel was studying the Scriptures and it was that knowledge that allowed him to respond that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

One might say that Nathaniel was engaging in a bit of inductive reasoning – making a generalization from a set of specific observations.  The Scriptures of that time would have held many references to the identity of the coming Messiah and, in knowing what had been written, would have been about to conclude that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  To some extent, then, Nathaniel was theorist, basing his ideas and conclusions on what others had done.

I think that Nathaniel’s friend and compatriot, Thomas, was more of an experimentalist.  He needed to see the evidence before making any sort of conclusion.  His conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead comes not from what others said but on what he saw for himself.

But what does this all mean for each of us?  Are we theorists or experimentalists?  And what does how we see the Resurrection help others?  I think that if we are who we say we are, we are experimentalists because it is by what we do that others see that Christ is alive.

Those who say that the only path to salvation is through Christ offer a theory without evidence (and too often, it seems, live lives that belie the notion of Christianity).

But by actively living a life with Christ, we can offer the evidence of what is to come.

So, do you lead a life of Christ that is theory based or experimentally based?

“Keep Your Eyes on The Prize”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this Palm Sunday, 5 April 2020 (Year A).

The title for this piece is based more on April 3rd and April 4th than it is on April 5th.

Still, when I think of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the First Palm Sunday, with the crowds cheering and celebrating, I cannot help but think they had their eyes on a prize.  It was just that Jesus’ eyes were on a different prize.

The crowds were cheering that day because they saw Jesus as a sectarian messiah who had come to overthrow the religious and political authorities and replace them with a new set of authorities.  No doubt many in the crowd saw Jesus’ entrance as the means for them to take over the power structure.

And we know that many in the crowd this Palm Sunday will be in the crowd on Good Friday calling for the execution of Jesus.  Their eyes were on another prize and they were not going to recieve it.

There is no doubt that with one word, Jesus could have established a sectarian kingdom.  He was given that opportunity three years before by the Evil One but turned it down.

On that first Palm Sunday, JEsus had his eyes on another prize, The Kingdom of God that would be open to all, no matter who they were.  But Jesus knew that He had to go to Calvary for everyone to receive that prize.

On Friday of that first Holy Week, the disciples felt that the prize had been taken from them.  But on that First Easter Sunday, they saw the Prize.  It would take them time but the disciples would take the prize into the world..

I wrote a piece for my blog a few years ago entitled “Where Were YOu on April 4, 1968?”  I was a senior in high school at Nicholas Blackwell HIgh School that year.  I may have been aware that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers’ strike but my eyes were on another prize, graduating from high school and returning to my college studies at Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University).

If my classmates or their parents were aware of Dr. King’s presence, most of them would have seen him as an outsider and an interloper who had no business getting involved in Memphis’ affairs.

I do not recall if Dr. King’s speech on the evening of April 3rd was covered by the local media.  But when he told the people who did hear him that night that he had been to the mountaintop and he had seen the Promised Land, you know that his eyes were on the prize of equality and justice.  Whether he knew that he would be assassinated the next day is a matter of conjecture but Dr. King knew that there were many who did not want to see him succeed.

Even today, there are those who would seek to establish a religious and political system that separates the people.  They seek a society where the door to God’s kingdom is closed, where entrance is denied because of their race, their gender or sexaual identity, or their economic status.  Their vision of God’s kingdom looks very much like that religious/political establishment that opposed Jesus two thousand years ago.

Sadly, the events of the past few months have shown that Dr. King’s vision of the Promised Land has become enveloped by a mist and perhaps clouds of hatred and violence.  What the pandemic has shown us is that the world is now even more separated by economic and political status, by geography and class.  The dream, the prize of equality may still exist but it is now far off in the future, covered by the mist and clouds.  

Tony Campolo noted that,

. . . if you think being religious, being Christian, being spiritual is getting ready for the next world, you’ve missed the message of Jesus.  Jesus didn’t come here to get you ready for the next world, He came into this world to transform you into people through whom He could do His work in this world.

In 1968 my eyes were on another prize but one year later, in the chapel of 1st United Methodist Church I came to realize that the door to God’s kingdom was opened to me when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.  And as I walked through that door, I set my eyes on the prize.

This year there will be no cheering crowds, no groups of children parading up and down the aisles of our churches waving palms as the congregation shouts “Hallelujah!”  But that does not mean that the prize is not there.

In a few weeks, we will be able to come together as we once did.  But all that has taken place over the past few months has given us a new understanding of the Prize that we have claimed and now must share with the world.

The world in which we live today may be separated by illness but it was separated by ignorance, hatred, and violence before that.  We have been given a new vision of the Prize and we know that when we are allowed to gather together, one of the things we will do is share the Prize that we received.

So on this Palm Sunday, keep your eyes on the prize and hold on

“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/

Does Your Room Have an Exit?


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, 26 January 2020 (3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A). Service starts at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

At first, I couldn’t understand why the Old Testament reading for this Sunday began by focusing on the Birth of Jesus.  But the passage was also about a new light shining in the world.

The first to visit the Baby Jesus were the shepherds, the outcasts of society.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus reached out to the outcasts, the misfits, the “outsiders”.  His was a light in a darkened time.

Then came the Magi.  Strangers from a different country, they represented the light of the mind.  They sought to understand the light they saw in the sky.  Their  heritage was teaching and exploration.  The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry would be teaching and healing.

A few years later, when He was 12, Jesus would be in a dialogue with the Elders  in the Temple.  Think very carefully about this; in the society of that time, what 12-year-old boy would have even been allowed to be in the temple, let alone discuss the Scripture with the Elders?

Jesus’ ministry was a different ministry, one that saw the world differently.  And yet today, many individuals want to build walls  to keep out the strangers and keep new ideas from entering our minds.  But  they do not realize that building such walls creates a dark prison for them, a room with no exit.

We can build these rooms; they are quite easy to make.  But you cannot grow, you cannot, by any imagination, you cannot be free.

But if we tear down the walls and let the light in, we can grow, we can have a future, and we can be free.

~~Tony Mitchell

The Legacy of the Wise Men


January 5, 2020

Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of this Sunday’s (January 5) Bulletin at Fishkill UMC. We will be focusing on Epiphany of the Lord (Year A). Services start at 10:15 am and you are welcome to be a part of a new year of worship.

As you may know, I am a chemist and a science educator.  If you were to trace the lineage of my profession backwards in time, sooner or later you would end in some obscure laboratory in 17th century Europe.  More importantly, if you continued the travel back in time, you would also end up in an equally obscure laboratory outside 16th century Baghdad.

The wise men are the intellectual ancestors of today’s mathematicians and scientists.  While we call what they did alchemy, it was still a study of matter and its reactions, the basic definition of chemistry.  The driving force behind these studies was to gain a better understand of who God was and what God was doing.  It should be noted that Robert Boyle, considered the father of modern chemistry, was also a prolific writer of religious manuscripts and Sir Isaac Newton, in the preface to his most famous work, Principia Mathematica, wrote that he hoped that what he presented would lead the reader to a better understanding of God.

Did not Jesus, when asked if He was the expected Messiah, tell the questioners to look at the evidence before them?

The evidence before me tells me that the universe is not quite 14 billion years old and not, as determined by some quirky and faulty calculations, 10,000 years old.  But the evidence does not tell me why it was created.

If nothing else, that I am both a Christian and a scientist dispels the notion that one cannot be both or that one must sacrifice one for the other.  When I look at the processes of creation, I can understand how it occurred but it is though my faith that I begin to understand why it was created.

And in doing so, I continue the legacy of Boyle and Newton and those who saw the Star in the East and sought to understand the meaning of what they saw.

In including the wise men in the Christmas narrative, Matthew suggested that, like the wise men, we must seek our understanding of God.  In looking at the world around us, in trying to understand the world around us, we can better understand who God is and what our relationship to Him through Christ might be.

~~Dr. Tony Mitchell